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May 10, 2020

Sermon Ephesians 5:25 . . .“Paul said:  ‘Husbands, love your wives’”

“Paul said:  ‘Husbands, love your wives’”

Ephesians 5:25

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

One day, or so the story goes, three men got to talking.  And while they were talking, two of them bragged that they had complete control over their wives.  They said they had them wrapped around their little finger.  The third man, however, was quiet the whole time, until finally, one of them asked, “What about you?  Do you have complete control over your wife?”

He answered, “Let me tell you!  Just the other night, my wife came crawling to me on her hands and knees!”

The first two men were amazed.  They asked, “Then what happened?”

“She said, ‘Get out from the under the bed and fight like a man.’”

Then there was a speaker at a woman’s club who was lecturing on marriage.  She asked the audience how many of them wanted to “mother” their husbands.  One woman in the back row raised her hand.

The speaker asked, “So you want to mother your husband?”

“Mother?” she said.  “I thought you said smother.”

And last, but not least, soon after their last child had left home for college, a husband was lying on the ground, resting his head on his wife’s lap.  Carefully, she removed his glasses.

“You know, honey,” she said, “without your glasses you look like the same handsome young man I married.”

“Honey,” he replied with a grin, “without my glasses, you still look pretty good too!”

For all the ups and downs, and the joys and challenges that it brings, there is no human relationship more powerful, more important, or more endearing than marriage.

As one author put it, “Marriage is a journey toward an unknown destination--a discovery where people share not only what they don’t know about each other, but what they don’t know about themselves.”

Please turn with me to page 1245, as I read the words of our text.  Ephesians chapter 5, beginning at verse 22:  “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of His body.  ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:22-33).

As far as we can tell, Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians at the very same time he wrote three other letters--to the Philippians, the Colossians, and to Philemon--some thirty years after Jesus died and rose again.  Commentators call these letters his “Prison epistles,” since he wrote them while he was in prison in Rome.

And while this letter is in many ways similar to his other epistles, it’s different too, for it’s here that he deals with topics that lie at the very heart and center of what it means to be a Christian, both in faith and in life.

It’s where we find words like these--in chapter 2:  “For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  Chapter 3:  “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think...be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.”  And chapter 4:  “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Now here in chapter 5, Paul gets very practical, very personal, as he speaks to both husbands and wives.  In fact, this section, verses 22 to 33, is the longest and most detailed passage anywhere in the Bible on the roles and responsibilities of a husband and wife.

And after admonishing all Christians in verse 21, to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,” he writes in verse 22, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior.”

What’s it mean?  One author put it like this--“Even if the husband is the leader, the head of the home, it’s the wife’s calling, or gift, to set the emotional tone of the home.  If the wife is depressed, the home will be depressed.  If the wife is encouraged, the home will be encouraged.  If she’s wild, the home will be wild.  If she has a quiet spirit, there will be a quiet gentleness there.”  To put it another way, while the husband is the head of the home, the wife is the heart of the home.

And while Paul speaks to wives for two-and-a-half verses, he speaks to husbands for nine-and-a-half verses.

And notice he doesn’t say, “Husbands, be the head of your wife, just as Christ is the head of the church.”  Instead, he says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.”

What’s it mean?  It means that if a wife is not the kind of wife the Bible tells her to be, most of the time, it’s the husband’s fault.

As one author put it, “Love your wife more than your most prized customer.  Treat her with as much care as if she were the Ferrari that you always dreamed of owning.  Understand the depth of her emotion more than your emotion when your team wins the Super Bowl.  Love her as tenderly as you would nursing your broken arm.  And forgive her more than the policeman who gave you a warning instead of a $150 speeding ticket.”

In his book, This Momentary Marriage:  A Parable of Permanence, pastor and author John Piper writes that husbands and wives should picture their life together as a large, grassy field, something you enter full of hope and joy.  You look into the future, and you see beautiful trees and flowers and rolling hills.  And that beauty is what you see in each other and in the life ahead of you.

But before long, guess what?  You begin to step in cow pies, what sometimes seem to be everywhere.  They’re sins and flaws and idiosyncrasies and weaknesses and annoying habits in you and in your spouse.  You try to forgive them and endure them with grace.

And what makes them so challenging is that they’re everywhere, and they have a way of dominating your relationship.  In fact, sometimes it seems that that’s all there is--one big field with lots and lots of cow pies.

So what do you do?  He says, you pick them up and you throw them in the compost pile.  Then, every once in a while, when you have to, you go there and smell it and deal with it the best that you can.  Then you walk away from that pile, and set your eyes on the rest of the field.  And be thankful for the rest of the field that’s sweet.

Then he said, “Our hands may be dirty, and our backs may ache from all the shoveling.  But one thing we know--we will not pitch our tent by the compost pile.  We will only go there when we must.”  And he said, “This is a gift of grace that we will give each other again and again and again--because we are chosen and holy and loved.”

Think, for example, of a man named Robertson McQuilkin, once president of Columbia International University.  And after serving as its president for twenty-two years, he resigned with the words, “My dear wife, Muriel, has been in failing mental health, Alzheimer’s, for about eight years.  So far, I’ve been able to carry both her ever-growing needs and my leadership responsibilities.  But recently it’s become apparent that Muriel is contented most of the time she’s with me, and almost none of the time I’m away from her.  It’s not just ‘discontent.’  She’s filled with fear--even terror--that she has lost me and always goes in search of me when I leave home.  Then she may be full of anger when she cannot get to me.  So it is clear to me that she needs me now, full-time.”

And he said, “This decision was made, in a way, forty-two years ago when I promised to care for her ‘in sickness and in health...till death do us part.’  And while she has cared for me fully and sacrificially all these years, if I cared for her for the next forty years, I would not be out of debt.  She’s a delight to me--her childlike dependence and confidence in me, her warm love, occasional flashes of that wit I used to relish so, and her happy spirit and tough resilience in the face of her continual distressing frustration.  I do not have to care for her--I get to.  It is a high honor to care for so wonderful a person.”

And while the world tells us to climb the corporate ladder, to earn more money, more power, and more possessions, God calls us to forget all that, and love our wives.

As Paul wrote to the Ephesians:  “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church.”

In 1501, a young apprentice sculptor, trying to make a living in his world, set foot in Florence, Italy.  And though he had so little money, his first goal was to find a piece of marble suitable for sculpting.  But since there were so many wealthy and famous sculptors already in that city, good pieces of marble were very expensive and very hard to find.  Finally, he had to settle for a discarded block he found in a scrap heap behind a recently completed cathedral.

Several other sculptors had already looked at the piece and rejected it.  It had several obvious flaws.  One sculptor had even bought it, and tried to carve a statue of Hercules out of it, but a serious defect in the stone caused a large chunk to break off from one side.  So he gave up and left it to sit for the next ten years.

But this young sculptor had few options, so he carted it off to his workplace.  And there he sat and looked at it, studying it from all angles.  And as he did, the shape of the stone began to form an image in his mind.  And he realized that if he worked around the defects and the large gouge on one side, he could carve the statue of a man.

If he would turn the man’s head just so, and raise one of his arms to his shoulder, he could carve a beautiful work of art.  So that’s just what he did.  Little by little, bit by bit, he began to chip away.

Finally, three years later, in 1504, he unveiled the fourteen foot, three inch statue which has ever since become one of the great masterpieces of the artistic world.

The young artist’s name was Michelangelo.  The statue was “David.”

And that’s just what our God does with each and every one of us.  He takes what’s as flawed and useless as can be, and through His rich, unfathomable, unending grace, He makes us into His most beautiful work of art.

As Paul wrote to the Ephesians:  “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

 

You have blessed us, dear Father, with the gift of marriage.  Help us, by Your grace, to be the husbands and wives You’ve called us to be, that we may share in Your love and blessing, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen

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