Big Idea: The Key to a Healthy Marriage is Unconditional Love & Respect
Intro: Well morning friends and visitors. My name is Matt Johnson and today we continue our study of Ephesians – thinking about what it means to walk in God’s wisdom. Particularly, how does God’s wisdom shape Christian marriage? So let’s pray…
Well my big idea today is that a healthy Christian marriage requires unconditional love from husbands to wives and unconditional respect from wives to husbands. (PAUSE) Now one of the great things about being in lockdown is that I can’t see you all frowning at me. So, I can just go on in blissful ignorance, thinking you are still listBut truly, explaining what God says about marriage is a loaded topic these days. (Slide 2) Erika Nieto (commonly known as Kika) is a youtube influencer in Columbia. She has more than 8 million followers and she recently did a segment where she invited her viewers to “Ask her anything” and she promised to answer honestly. One of her followers asked Kiki whether she supported gay marriage? So Kika responded (ENTER); “God created man and woman so that they could be with each other. I don’t consider men being with men or women being with women as good, but I tolerate that.” Immediately, complaints were made by the cancel culture regime. Thankfully, YouTube did not automatically react. Thank you – YouTube for upholding freedom of speech. So instead, Kika was taken to the national court of Columbia, where she was ordered to remove the offending video. Kika has been censored for simply articulating a traditional view of marriage.
So this week a human rights group called the Alliance Defending Freedom of Speech have taken up Kika’s case. But sadly, Kika’s situation is no longer rare. ADF International is also defending a member of Parliament in Finland. Paivi who is a medical doctor and mother of 5 recently made a tweet in Finland where she defended traditonal views of marriage and family. How dare she? So Paivi now faces three criminal charges and each carries a sentence of two years imprisonment.
Friends, our world is now so far removed from God’s intentions for marriage that simply reading Ephesians 5 will seem strange. Even though we may be Christians we are not unaffected by the philosophies of our post-Christian world. So, however you feel reading Ephesians 5 – I want you to pause and not automatically react. Remember, God’s Word is actually good – for both men and women – who take the time to understand why God is saying what He says…
Point 1: Wives are to show Unconditional Respect to their Husbands
Show: Eph.5:22-24 (READ)
Explain: Well as you can see for yourself – God gives men and women slightly different instructions about walking in wisdom. Just as Jews and Gentiles need to find unity in Christ, so men and women need to find unity in Christ. But this is often hard because men and women are different…
Now in the history of the world – human beings have traditionally focussed on the differences between men and women. (Slide 3) For instance we’ve all heard of patriarchy. Patriarchy is a system that acknowledges men and women are different. But patriarchy then deems that the differences mean: men are somehow superior to women.
(ENTER) But there have also been matriarchal societies that have favored women. Sociologists believe Vietnam was a matriarchal society (before China introduced patriarchy). We also know that Ephesus was a city founded on a form of matriarchy. The goddess Artemis in Ephesus was worshipped by the Amazons – who kept a matriarchal society. Now what both patriarchy and matriarchy acknowledge is the real differences between men and women. But sadly, both patriarchy and matriarchy tend to downplay the equality of men and women.
Now in recent times an alternative to patriarchy and matriarchy has been proposed called egalitarianism. Egalitarianism is the belief that men and women are basically the same. Egalitarianism says let’s not focus on the differences (because that causes problems) – lets just recognize that we are all more or less the same. The problem with egalitarianism is that it tends to celebrate men and womens equality, at the expense of acknowledging our differences. Now feminism began with an egalitarian framework as women fought for equal rights. But egalitarianism then also laid the foundation for the LGBTQIA movement because we downplayed the differences between men and women. We’re all basically the same means who you marry and who you have sex with doesn’t really matter.
(ENTER) Now a further option is biblical complementarianism. Complementarianism says men and women are all equal because we are made in God’s image. But the Bible also teaches that God made men and women a little bit different so that we would complement each other. For instance, it requires both a man and a woman to have a baby naturally. This is something that two men or two women can not do naturally because they lack this complemntarity. Now the Bible teaches that this complementarity of man and woman extends beyond biology, to marriage, the family, the church and even society. Now of course, it’s not politically correct to say this. But the Bible teaches what has been called biblcial complementarianism; equal, but different.
That’s why the passage that is before us today has slightly different instructions for women and men. So have a look again – at Ephesians 5:22-24 (READ). Now wives as we begin I want to do some theory (that you may not like), but then I’m going to give you some basic application – that will be a blessing. So first theory and then simple application.
In theory, this passage says that the husband is meant to be the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. Now that basically means that the husband is meant to be a leader of sorts. But what this leadership looks like in day to day life is never really spelt out in the Bible. What we do know is that the husband’s leadership is not meant to be like the boss at work. The husband is meant to be a leader like Jesus. (Now give me a few moments and I’ll get to the husbands. Trust me). But in principle Christian husbands are meant to lead like Jesus. Now I know many wives are thinking “if only…” And as husbands lead like Jesus, wives are told to “submit”. Now please notice – it does not say “husbands make your wives submit.” Wives you are in control and like other parts of the Bible you have to decide whether you will trust God’s Word or not. As I understand it this is simply asking you to recognize that God has placed upon husbands a special responsibility to lead like Jesus.
Now you may think – why does anyone need to lead? Why can’t we lead together? Well, whether you agree with leadership or not – throughout the Bible God calls certain people to lead. Moses had to lead God’s people out of Egypt. Joshua had to lead God’s people into the promised land. And in Judges – Deborah had to lead the Israelites into battle – because the men all lost their courage and confidence.
Illustrate: Similarly, God has called Michael Stead to be Bishop of South Sydney. Now I don’t always like that and yes, I admit I have a problem with submission too. In fact, 9 times out of 10 I’m sure I would be a better leader than him. That’s probably my pride. But God in his wisdom made Michael Stead bishop of South Sydney. Now does God have the right to make Michael Stead bishop and not me? (Well, yes! He does!) So I can either arc up against Michael’s leadership OR I can respect that God has given him this special responsibility. Now Bishop Michael is meant to be with us on the 15th August, so when he comes you can ask him yourself whether I am a good and submissive wife (I mean pastor?) (PAUSE) Let me assure you I’m not always good. But as I’m getting older – I am slowly learning that I need to respect his leadership, even if I don’t always agree with his decisions. And that brings us to the application of respect!
If you look down to verse 33 you’ll see that it says (Eph.5:33; READ). This is like a summary statement for wives and husbands. So all the instruction to wives about headship and submission boils down to the word – respect. Notice, wives it says respect your husband. (PAUSE) That is a powerful word. Women if you want to know a way to a man’s heart – it’s not love. Its not food and its not even sex. It’s respect. Indeed, that’s what women usually show men when dating. Women show men respect – for their sporting skills. Or they tell men how much they admire their business acumen or their physical strength. And men then interpret this respect as love. Let me say that again, men “generally speaking” interpret respect from a woman – as love.
In a large survey men were asked; (SLIDE 4). 74% will choose A because respect means everything to men. (ENTER). Most men will answer b. (But I wonder what most women would answer?)
Several times the Bible tells women to work hard at respect. In 1 Peter 3:1-2 it says (READ). Now the word respect in Ephesians 5:33 and the word reverence in 1 Peter 3:2 are exactly the same Greek word. But in 1 Peter 3 it means unconditional respect. Peter says show respect even with a non-Christian husband who is a deadbeat. Peter says this respect may even win your deadbeat husband for Christ. Now notice the word win. That is how powerful respect is. Respect has the power to win a man’s heart and mind. In the Old Testament, all the men say to King Xerxes (ENTER – Est.3:20). Gee I wonder what men crave? Is unconditional respect any harder to give, than unconditional love?
Point 2: Husbands are to show Unconditional Love to their Wives
Show: Eph.5:25-28a (READ)
Explain: Well as you can see husbands are instructed to love their wives as Christ loved the church. This is unconditional love because people were sinning against Jesus (and opposing his leadership). But Jesus loved us anyway and used his superior strength to serve us. Jesus is stronger than us all. But rather than using his strength advantage to subjugate his people, Jesus used his strength advantage to serve his people.
(GOSPEL) Jesus lived the perfect life earning for himself a place in heaven. (We couldn’t do that. We weren’t strong enough). Jesus also went to the cross and paid for our sins without it destroying him. (We couldn’t do that either. We weren’t strong enough). The penalty for sin is that we deserve to die and go to hell. If we sin against God there is a penalty that will destroy us. But Jesus (in his great love for us) came to our rescue and died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. He did what we couldn’t do. And when we trust Jesus has done this for us and we accept him as our Saviour and Lord – Jesus shares with us the heaven that he won for himself by being perfect. This is love.
Jesus used his strength advantage to unconditionally love and serve the church – even though the church regularly refuses to accept Jesus leadership. This is unconditional love. And husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church…
Illustrate: Now notice I have kept using the words strength advantage. One of the main differences between men and women is that men generally speaking have a physical strength advantage. (Now denying this is simply foolishness. Its failing to recognize the way God made the world). I don’t know how many of you watched Australian Ninja Warior recently? It’s a bit of a favorite in our family. But of all the men who made it to the finals the only woman was Olivia Vivian. Now don’t get me wrong. She is amazing and I think our family cheered for her the most. But everybody can see the men generally have the strength advantage.
So we need to teach little boys that this is what is special about them. They may not be as beautiful as little girls and they may generally speaking not be as good with words as little girls. But God has made them strong so that they can serve girls, who are generally speaking the weaker sex. Yes. I said that. But I said it in purely physical terms. Little boys need to be taught that God has made them physically stronger, so that in a good way they can use their strength to serve women, like Jesus served the church. And while it may be traditional (and even called a stereotype) Paul talks in verse 29 about men feeding and caring for their wife. The word feed has to do with providing physical food and the word care has to do with providing warmth and shelter. So you could summarise it – as food on the table and roof over the head. That’s why so many men think they are loving their wives and children if they are putting food on the table and a roof over their families head.
Now those traditional ideas may be part of love. But husbands – loving your wife – is more than simple provision. Loving your wife means meeting an even more basic need. If you google the words “does he love me?” you’ll get over 6 billion hits.
If you google the words “does she love me” you get about half as many hits. Men just don’t ask that question as much as women. Men tend to be insecure in the respect department, and women tend to be insecure in love department. So husbands not only are you meant to show your love, you need to communicate your love regularly AND especially at times like birthdays and anniversaries. Now I know most men respond “But I told her I loved her on our wedding day, why isn’t that enough?” Well touche, she also said in the old wedding vows that “she would love and respect you” till death do you part – but I guarantee you still crave further affirmations of respect. As Christian husbands and wives we are meant to meet these basic needs in one another. And if love means assuring your wife you love her (again and again) well that’s what love does…
Christian men should never use their strength advantage to subjugate, domineer or abuse women – even if they are being disrespectful. Sadly, last time Australia was in lockdown, the incidence of domestic violence went through the roof. It was terrible. And while it does take two to tango – women usually end up losing in domestic violence because men are stronger. But hear me when I say that any Christian man who uses his strength to subjugate, domineer or abuse his wife is not really a Christian man. He is nothing like Jesus. And wives if you are in a position right now at home where you are being physically, sexually or psychologically abused – hear me when I say it is wrong and it must stop. It is not Christian and we as a church are here to help you – if that is happening.
Apply: Men I want you to look at verse 27 – it says “and to present her to himself as a radiant church.” The words “present her” to himself are possible, but they are not the most literal translation. The Greek word underneath this is parasthmi which would normally be translated to stand alongside, to stand by or to stand shoulder to shoulder. So verse 27 would then read “and to stand her next to himself, or by himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle.”
Now if this is right (or at least includes this idea) it means Jesus is using his strength advantage to lift up his bride – so that she may stand beside him as one who is fit for him and equal to him in both her blamelessness and perfection. (This is an incredible gospel truth to think that Jesus would elevate us to stand by his side in heaven as an equal). But this means a wise husband should be running a very flat leadership model. We should not be trying to put our wives beneath us, but at all times elevating our wives to stand beside us (as an equal) and especially in the eyes of our children.
Point 3: God made Men and Women this way to Reflect the Gospel
Show: Ephesians 5:31-32 (READ)
Explain: Well verse 31 – is the Bibles definition of marriage. It comes from Genesis 2. Marriage requires a man and woman becoming one (two different parts that complement one another) and express that complementarity in sexual union. But God’s ultimate purpose for creating marriage (again a mystery that we really didn’t understand in the Old Testament) was to be a small picture of Jesus’ relationship with the church. Husbands are meant to model to the world (and children) what good loving leadership looks like. And wives are meant to model to the world (and children) that submission to good Jesus like leadership is not onerous, but a blessing.
This is walking the walk and talking the talk in Christian marriage. But to do that – it means God’s intended roles should not be reversed. Now of course, how the roles are played out in daily life will probably look different in every marriage. Who is the main bread winner probably doesn’t matter? Who does the cooking, probably doesn’t matter. Play to one anothers strengths. But at the same time recognize that the husband is meant to be a leader of sorts who needs (and desires) respect in this God given position. Indeed, wives recognize that he may even be endowed with physical strength to lead, protect and elevate his wife as a fellow equal. And where he is trying to do that – remember that is respect-worthy and try to communicate your appreciation.
But at the same time husbands need to love and cherish their wives – (who despite the discrimantory pressures of the world and the insecurities this creates for many women) – assure their wives of their love and elevate their wives as fellow equals who can and should stand shoulder to shoulder by their side. Now of course, because of sin, sometimes husbands are going to be very disobedient to Ephesians 5. And because of sin, some wives are going to find it very hard to accept Ephesians 5. So this will only really work the way God intended if both parties are committed to complementing one another. That’s why its so important that Christians marry other Christians.
But as I finish I’m going to show you two pictures on the screen that if you are married to a decent, sincere Christian have the power to invigorate your marriage. (Slide 7) The first is called the crazy cycle. This is where many marriages start to fall apart. When the husband fails to love his wife – she reacts – usually by withdrawing respect. But as respect is withdrawn – the husband then tends to react by withdrawing love. And then the wife feels less loved and withdraws even more respect. Now no one is conscious they are doing this. But this is what is often happening in difficult marriages. When our differences as men and women are not fully appreciated it tends to turn in on itself in a negative feedback loop that gradually destroys even the best intentions. But if we recognize our differences (and then commit to meeting each others need for love and respect) it has the ability to energize our marriages in a positive feedback loop. Now let me say – if you want to find out more about this I recommend Dr Emmerson Eggrichs marriage book; “Love and Respect.”
The fact is – God knows what he’s doing (and when we follow his plan) which is wisdom – it is not only good for our marriages – it actually testifies to the gospel message of Jesus’ love for the church and the church’s respect for his good, loving leadership.
Let me pray…