Pentecost 13 2021 Proper 16
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
August 22, 2021

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            A husband and wife are out for a walk around the neighborhood.  It is a beautiful evening with just a hint of cooler fall temperatures.  As they come around the corner a huge, angry dog is blocking the sidewalk just 10 feet in front of them.  The dog’s ears are forward, he is baring his teeth and barking and growling.  The hair on his back is standing up — he appears to be ready to pounce.  What should the husband do?

  1. Grab his wife and put her in front of him to use her as a shield.
  2. Trip his wife, push her down and run away
  3. Step between his wife and the dog and be willing to be bitten in order to protect her.

Marriage is a mysterious thing.  Those who are married know that it is an ongoing struggle to be the husband that you should be; to be the wife that you should be.  Our Epistle lesson today brings us difficult and challenging teachings about marriage and the first three verses unfortunately have been too often misused and misapplied.

Ephesians 5:22–24 (ESV) 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 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. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 

The danger in these verses is that a man hears this and he thinks this means that he has power; that he is in charge of his wife. He is the boss, the king of the castle, and his wife needs to do what he says like an obedient servant.  But is that really what the Bible is teaching us here?

Taking a few Bible verses out of context can be quite risky, so let’s keep reading.

Ephesians 5:25–27 (ESV) 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 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. 

Wives submit to your husband.  Husbands love your wife.  How is a husband to love his wife?  A husband is to love his wife like Christ loves the church and gives Himself for her. 

As men, we like the idea of being the boss; king of the castle; master of my domain, but that is not the model for husbands. The model for being a husband is to love your wife like Christ loves the church.  Jesus comes to serve, not to be served.  He washes His disciples’ feet.  Christ fully gives Himself on the cross at Calvary to save His Church.  A husband is called to give himself fully for his wife and children.  That’s why when filling the lifeboats on a sinking ship traditionally it is women and children first.  That’s why the husband uses his body to shield his wife from the teeth of an angry dog. You do this because Jesus steps in front of you to shield you from the teeth of the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Husbands, love your wife like Christ loves the Church.  The husband is to make his wife and children feel safe and protected and loved. 

Husbands, love your wife as Christ loves the Church. Sanctify your wife, cleanse her, present her in splendor without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish.  Jesus died to forgive your sins and the sins of the world.  Jesus washes you in the waters of Holy Baptism.  Jesus covers over your sins.  He takes your sin away from you and He puts it onto Himself.  Jesus takes responsibility for your sin.  Husband, you are called to do the same for your wife.

Too often husbands and wives are in the fault-finding business.  They are critical of one another and are always looking to point out the other’s deficiencies. Marriage becomes some kind of contest. This should never be.  A man is called to love his wife like Christ loves the Church.  A man is to not see faults in his wife.  Instead, a man is to take his wife’s sins and faults and make them his own, just like Christ does for him.  A man is to see his wife as holy, without spot or wrinkle or blemish. 

In the Kenny Chesney song “The Good Stuff” an old bartender relates what the true “good stuff” is to a young husband who has come to the bar after his first big fight with his wife. 

“And it’s the way that she looks with the rice in her hair
Eatin’ burnt suppers the whole first year
And askin’ for seconds to keep her from tearin’ up
Yeah man, that’s the good stuff”

The “good stuff” is a husband covering his wife’s faults. 

            “Wives submit to your husbands,” sounds like a hard thing to do and it is. To voluntarily put yourself into the care of another is to lose “me” as you become “we” in marriage.  For men, loving your wife like Christ loves the Church is also a great submission.  The man loses “me” as he becomes “we” and gives of himself completely into caring for his wife and children.  Husbands, like Christ, give.  Wives, like the Church, receive. 

            Ephesians 5:28–29 (ESV) 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 

The wrongheaded concept of the husband as boss dissolves away in his call to servant leadership of his family based on the love of Christ.  Marriage is amazing.  Marriage is mysterious.  Marriage is sacred.  Ephesians 5:31 (ESV)  31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  In this one flesh union, God-willing, children will be conceived, nurtured, birthed, and raised.  By nature, the wife bears the burden of child-bearing and nurture, and most often, the lion’s share of raising the kids, but she does it knowing her husband will provide and protect.  Marriage is a beautiful mystery.

            St. Paul says this mystery is great.  The mystery is how Christ was hidden in marriage, but is now visible.  Now it has been revealed that marriage is based on Christ and the Church.  In marriage we get a picture of Christ’s love. Marriage is instituted by God in the beginning and is given for our benefit.

            Jesus teaches that as a redeemed child of God you should love God and love your neighbor.  This is an impossible standard, but one, as a forgiven child of God you strive to live out each day.  When you fail, you confess your failure; you repent of your sin, you receive forgiveness from the Lord and you continue to strive to love God and love your neighbor.

            God’s plan for marriage is also an impossible standard, and yet a wife strives each day to voluntary submit to her husband’s Christ-like loving care and protection.  A husband daily tries to love like Jesus.  Marriage is not easy.  It is a daily struggle to try to do what you have been given to do in this fallen world, and the world does not help.  The world around you with its selfishness and pornography and hook-up culture and no-fault divorce is trying to destroy your marriage. 

            The cultural elites in this nation are doing all they can do to destroy God’s institution of marriage while they themselves still mostly practice traditional marriage.  Strangely, while they want to destroy the traditional family in order to cause chaos and dependency for everyone else, they know the value of marriage for themselves. 

            They want to reshape marriage and redefine marriage.  In many places now it is considered hate speech to say, “Marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman.”  If folks find out you believe this you can be fired from many American companies who will not tolerate such radical thinking.  Of course this was perfectly normal thinking up to about 5 minutes ago, but now it is considered by many to be dangerously radical.  A Lutheran bishop in Finland has been arrested for writing about this in a booklet in 2004. 

In 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States invented a supposed “right” for two men or two women to get “married”, and now you are told that you must believe that marriage is the union of any two people who love each other.

            Society is confused.  Folks pretend they no longer know what a man is, or what a woman is.  You can get banned from social media or fired from your job if you say, “A man cannot have a baby.”  The cultural elites desperately desire to force you to believe that there is no difference between men and women.  They want to force you to believe that a man can simply declare himself to be a woman and that makes him a woman because feelings are more important than facts.  But this is not really a surprise, because these same people want you to believe that the life created inside a woman by the one flesh union is not actually human life unless…they decide it is life.  They believe, teach and confess that their feelings trump the facts.

            But you know the truth.  You know that men and women are different.  Men and women are complementary.  Men and women are made for each other and are made for the great mystery of marriage which is a picture of Christ and the Church.  And as much as some women bristle when they hear, “Wives submit to your husbands,” most women really do want a man who loves them unconditionally; a husband who is their strength and support in the hard times, a man to hold them and comfort them in times of trouble.  A man who provides, who protects, and who, God-willing, procreates.[1]

            Finding the right man or woman to marry can be very frustrating and difficult.  Sometimes it is impossible.  Pray for patience, pray for God’s will to be done, and remember, it is better to remain single than to marry someone uncommitted to God’s plan for marriage.  

            Planning for marriage can often be so much about the details of how to dress and what food to serve on the wedding day, but infinitely more important is to prepare to live out God’s plan for husbands and wives.  This will be a daily challenge to reject your natural selfishness and live out your forgiven life in Jesus.  It will be lifetime of forgiving each other as Jesus forgives you; a lifetime of love and respect; a lifetime of striving to love like Jesus, because He first loved you.  Amen.

[1] Man Up by Jeffrey Hemmer

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