Preachers do not create new gospels; the promises of Christ are given in Scripture where God intended to make them available for public consumption, but what the preacher does is apply the pronoun “for you” to the promise of Christ, thus making the word a living word of direct address in the present. Faith not only knows and trusts the story of Abraham; it not only knows the history of Christ which Melanchthon called “historical faith” (that even the devil believes). Instead, justifying faith is a different animal. It not only knows Christ made some general promise, but it knows for certain that the promise is made “for you.”
So that those of you who were not in church today may worship our Lord God and not turn into totally irrational animals, let us listen to the Holy Gospel.
Family Values (Part IX)
20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged
(Colossians 3:20-21, ESV)
Yesterday we talked about the need for parents to discipline their children. What we pointed out was that to discipline basically means “to tear down” bad habits, thoughts, and actions. Godly parents don’t ignore problems in their child, but confront them seeking to lessen the tendency toward rebellious behaviors. As Proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.”
That said, the Scriptures don’t merely tell us to “tear down”, but also to “build up”. The way the Scriptures tell us to do this is by “instruction”. As Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
As a Father I can testify to the fact that although neither of these injunctions is necessarily “easy”, discipline alone is the most natural default. We tend to think as long as we confront our child when they’re out of line that we’re basically doing our job. But in reality (according to our definitions of these words) we can’t just take away the bad behaviors, but must replace them with the right words, thoughts and behaviors.
Actually we must go further. The issue isn’t merely “behavior modification”, the issue is “belief modification”. That is, children, like adults have wrong beliefs and then act on those beliefs. They are naturally idolaters, just like us. Therefore, we must not merely instruct them in what to do, but we must instruct them in what to believe. They must know God for who He actually is- the God who created them and everything in this world, the God who hates sin, but the God who redeemed sinners through His Son Jesus Christ. The God who calls them to live lives of obedience to His word not because they have to, but because they get to.
This presupposes of course that we know what to tell them about God. Which in turn presupposes that we are at least somewhat familiar with our Bibles.
In my opinion the area of instruction is the one most sorely lacking in our homes. The rule in Scripture is that the Father was the One responsible in the home for training and instructing their children (not the Pastor, not the school teacher, but the parents) - first and foremost in the things of the Word of God, but then in other areas of life as well: how to change a tire, how to mow a lawn, how to wash a car, etc.
Deuteronomy 6:7-9, speaking of God’s commands says, ”  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
The point is, in everything we do, the word of God is to be spoken, explained and applied to our kids.
Family Values (Part VIII)
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
(Colossians 3:20-21, ESV)
This week a mediocre parent (me) has been trying to explain what a Great Parent (God) says we should do in raising the kids He’s entrusted us with. To be honest, it has been a more difficult challenge to be clear on this subject than I initially assumed, which just goes to show that parenting is pretty complicated and unformulaic. As much as I believe Scripture tells us to raise kids with a Law/Gospel focus, I can think of a hundred different incidents where things didn’t work out so neatly. Are they “sorry” merely because of the threat of punishment, or are they truly sorrowful for their disobedience out of love for God and their parents? Do they seek to obey merely out of respect for God and parent, or are they just hoping to merit reward?
The human heart is a difficult thing to navigate, and I for one am not always very good at running the ship.
Confessions of my own inadequacies aside, I think today’s Biblical injunction for parents is meant to help us with these complications. What is this biblical injunction?
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Parents are to “discipline” and “instruct”. Now before I go any further, I want to remind us to go back to the Center. Remember I said all parenting needs to be done “in light of the Gospel”. So when we talk about disciplining our children, we “discipline in light of the gospel”. What does that look like? Well it looks like God disciplining us:
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
(Hebrews 12:7-11, ESV)
Some very important things to point out here: Because we are already God’s children, he disciplines us (not because we “don’t measure up”; so your kids are disciplined not to “make them acceptable” to you, but because you already do accept them). The purpose of the discipline is “for our good”, that we might become more holy (like Him). Discipline is a gift from God (though painful at the time) that yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Apply this view of discipline to your child.
The word for discipline essentially means to confront the foolish things, the wrong things your child does. To tear down bad habits, you must seek to attain the fine balance laid out for you in Scripture which says on the one hand to discipline your children (Proverbs 13:24- 24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.”), and yet on the other hand not embitter them as Colossians 3 and Ephesians 6 warn Father’s against doing. The danger: You can be too strict (unbending, inflexible and not displaying love in your discipline) or you can be too lax (letting the child “make up his own mind”, not confronting evil habits, making excuses for your child, etc.). God is your model for how you discipline.
He does not ignore problems that exist in His children, but confronts them. Yet in His confrontation of us, He is always doing it in love. As Hebrews 13 tells us God disciplines us for our good. Godly discipline is always done for the benefit of the child, and with the hope that they’ll one day learn to be an independent adult “yielding the peaceful fruit of righteousness”.
Tomorrow, I’ll seek to explain a bit more of how I apply this word in my own life as a mediocre parent….
Family Values (Part VII)
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
(Colossians 3:20-21, ESV)
My guess is ALL parents want obedient children (I know, I know, a brilliant insight…). We parents want kids that joyfully follow our rules, treat their siblings well, share with their friends and eat what we want them to eat when we want them to eat it.
My other guess is that we parents don’t always have obedient children (another brilliant insight). If they follow the rules, it may be done begrudgingly. They fight with their siblings, don’t share their toys and gladly eat fruity pebbles straight out of the box.
So then,how do we motivate our kids to be obedient? Or maybe the better question first and foremost is how does God motivate all his kids to be obedient to Him? In response to this basic question, I’ve been suggesting that it’s rightly applying the Law and Gospel of God’s word. The Lutheran Study Bible lays out a helpful scenario for us to think through:
Law and Gospel help parents discern what to do in a discipline situation. One of the principles of Law and Gospel is that the Law is used with unrepentant sinners and the Gospel is used with repentant sinners. Let’s take spilling milk as an example. Most of the time, spilling milk is siimply an accident. No violation of rules is involved. There is no need for the accusation of the Law: “Look what you have done!” What may be needed is some loving reassurance: “It’s okay. Accidents happen.” On the other hand, if Joey spills the milk while attempting to throw a dinner roll at Suzie, an infraction has been committed! Then the Law is needed! Joey must be called to account for his actions. However, when Joey confesses his guilt and expressses genuine sorrow, there is no need for further accusation. There may be consequences to his actions, like apologizing to his sister and helping clean up, but the Gospel of Christ’s forgiveness can now be appied.
Godly discipline comes about when Law and Gospel are rightly and faithfully applied. Encourage your children to say “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” to one another. (Do not settle for expressions like “That’s okay,” “No big deal,” or “Whatever.”)
Do you see the distinction there? When I speak of motivating obedience with the Gospel, I am not saying that Law shouldn’t be used. No, the Law should be used to produce “Godly sorrow” for their sin (sometimes that means a lot of Law especially if you have one of those “strong willed children” I hear so much about). But in the final analysis, what ultimately will make a child want to obey (and this is the key- we don’t want to make Pharisees that merely obey to “look good”, or “stay out of trouble”, but who actually want to obey out of love) is the knowledge that even in the midst of the punishment and discipline that the Law brings, they are still deeply loved and accepted apart from their works (like God accepts us in Christ). What I am saying is that threats and punishment are not enough to make Godly kids. As St. Paul writes in Romans of the Law:
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.
I know this flies in the face of what we naturally think, but it is the Law that enflames our flesh to want to sin.The counterintuitiveness of the Bible is stunning sometimes because the Word also goes on to say this in Titus 2:11-14:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our greatGod and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
What trains us to renounce ungodliness and worlly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age? What makes us “zealous for good works?” Go back to the beginning: The grace of God.
Tullian Tchividjian spells it out nicely for us (though he is specifically speaking in his role as a Pastor, it still applies):
As a pastor, one of my responsibilities is to disciple people into a deeper understanding of obedience—teaching them to say “no” to the things God hates and “yes” to the things God loves. But all too often I have wrongly concluded that the only way to keep licentious people in line is to give them more rules–lay down the law. The fact is, however, that the only way licentious people start to obey is when they get a taste of God’s radical, unconditional acceptance of sinners. As Mike Horton points out here, in Romans 6:1-4 the Apostle Paul answers antinomianism (lawlessness) not with more law but with more gospel! In other words, licentious people aren’t those who believe the gospel of God’s free grace too much, but too little. “The ultimate antidote to antinomianism”, writes Horton, “is not more imperatives, but the realization that the gospel swallows the tyranny as well as the guilt of sin.” The irony, in other words, of gospel-based sanctification is that those who end up obeying more are those who increasingly realize that their standing with God is not based on their obedience, but Christ’s.
May our kids be drenched in such good news so that they would indeed be deeply motivated to obey….
"Family Values (Part VI)"
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
(Colossians 3:20-21, ESV)
Leading our kids to grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
I don’t know about you, but my views on how I should parent are most of the time much different than how I actually parent. You know what I mean? You do, you know what I mean. From the pulpit of my church I stand up and thunder away about how it is grace alone that motivates a person to be obedient to God. In my counseling sessions I seek to apply this thoroughly, not wanting anyone to feel weighed down, crushed or burdened, but rather freed up by Jesus. With my friends and extended family, I seek to “err on the side of grace.”
But sadly, oftentimes when it comes to how I parent my kids, my first resort is Law, Law, Law. Now in it of itself, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The law is good as long as it is “used lawfully” Paul says. The problem is, I’m not using it “lawfully”. Let me explain a bit: The Law’s primary function is to kill, crush and destroy our confidence in ourselves for salvation. It is meant primarily to show us our sin, and therefore our deep, deep need for a Savior. It is not primarily meant to be used as a “guidebook for living” or “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth” (although these things may be fundamentally true), it is ultimately meant to reveal a Holy God who cannot be pacified by any of our works, but only the works of His Son.
Instead of using the Law this way, when it comes to my parenting I use the Law as a means to make my boys at least behave for a little bit. I don’t want the outside world seeing how uncivilised my little monkeys are after all, so I make threats of punishment if they don’t do this or do do that. I promise rewards as long as they “act appropriately”. Temporarily this may work on the outside: they can comb their hair, put on nice clothing, and speak respectfully (all things that may even garner me a compliment from someone for my “well behaved boys”), and yet within they are only doing it to escape punishment or obtain reward. Anyone can change their behavior long enough for the right reward or to avoid the punishment. But God wants our kids to behave from their hearts (like us!). He does not want mere behavior modification. He wants a transformed little sinner, who truly wants to obey Him. And the Scripture is clear that this transformation can ONLY come from the Gospel of Jesus.
Our set of verses this week give us a little insight into all this. Children are told to obey their parents why? “Because this pleases the Lord.” Now, wrapped up in this statement is an assumption that the child will actually want to please the Lord, that they’ll actually care about doing works that delight Him. That in turn assumes that these kids have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God. These are Christian kids Paul speaks to.
So the first thing I suppose you need to think through Parent is whether your kid is a Christian (Now here’s where I’m gonna get all, ya know, like Biblically Sound/Lutheran on y’all): Or in other words, has your child been baptized into the Christian faith? If he/she has then great (If they haven’t, come talk to me so we can deliver this precious gift of God’s salvation and renewal to your child as soon as possible)! God is faithful to His word! He said He’d place His name on them there and He has! Awesome.
Now that you’ve determined your child is a Christian (not because you somehow “looked into their heart” or “sensed something” or “didn’t find enough fruit”, but because you placed your faith in God’s promise in baptism), how should you raise them up? When they make mistakes (just like every baptized Christian does every single day), don’t hold back exactly what God’s word says about their sin. This does not mean you should do it in a thunderous, angry way. As our text says (not accidentally, specifically to Dads):
"Don’t provoke them, lest they become disouraged."
No, as a matter of fact, you want to try and deliver the truth firmly but gently (I fail at this all the time….). But then always, always, ALWAYS you want to remind them of how Jesus has covered their sin by His life, death and resurrection for them (I fail at this all the time too. “Who will save me from this wretched body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ my Lord, there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”).
You want to give them grace because it is grace that will actually change them, shape them, and make them into great adults one day.
“Most of us are painfully aware that we’re not perfect parents. We’re also deeply grieved that we don’t have perfect kids. But the remedy to our mutual imperfections isn’t more law, even if it seems to produce tidy or polite children. Christian children (and their parents) don’t need to learn to be “nice.” They need death and resurrection and a Savior who has gone before them as a faithful high priest, who was a child himself, and who lived and died perfectly in their place. They need a Savior who extends the offer of complete forgiveness, total righteousness, and indissoluble adoption to all who will believe. This is the message we all need. We need the gospel of grace and the grace of the gospel. Children can’t use the law any more than we can, because they will respond to it the same way we do. They’ll ignore it or bend it or obey it outwardly for selfish purposes, but this one thing is certain: they won’t obey it from the heart, because they can’t. That’s why Jesus had to die.”
Indeed, may we raise our kids up in such a way that they learn to look to Jesus and from Him, become the kind of people He wants them to be…..
Family Values (Part V)
20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
(Colossians 3:20-21, ESV)
Before I had children, I was the perfect parent. I was. In my mind I really thought I had it all worked out. And so when I’d see friends or family with their kids, it seemed so easy to figure out what they were doing wrong, to critique their performance. “Ah, see they spoil him, that’s why he has that attitude.” “Ah, see they’re too tough on her, that’s why she has that attitude.” Everything was static and predictable.
And then of course we had kids (insert laughtrack here). Now I can’t think of two words that could be more inaccurate than static and predictable when it comes to parenting. What I thought was so clear cut, was so often situationally based. Kids are not static, each one of them is different, has different things that make them tick. They are the most unpredictable little things ever. And as much joy as they bring, (and they do bring more joy than one can imagine), they also bring frustration, dirty diapers, sleepless nights, and temper tantrums. They don’t eat what you want them to. They don’t always come when you call them. They say inappropriate things (most of the time unknowingly) in public places.
I can relate to one man I read about. He was walking through a store with his kids in the shopping cart. One of those kids, was of course, a screaming baby. As the man proceeded along the aisles, he kept repeating softly, “Keep calm, George. Don’t get excited, George. Don’t get excited, George. Don’t yell, George.”
A lady watching with admiration said to the man, “You are certainly to be commended for your patience in trying to quiet little George.”
"Lady," he said, "I’m George."
Any parent has been where poor George was.
If we were to take today’s text at face value, it sounds so simple: “Kids obey your parents.” Done and done. Just do what I say and everything will work out fine, right?
But there’s more to this text than meets the eye. For starters, the Bible never presents an unrealistic picture of humanity (including kids!). God knows that even from conception (Psalm 51), kids start out with a sin nature that can’t help but rebel. As Proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of the child….” If your a brand new parent, it may be hard to believe, but your little angel is already tainted and stained with sin (if you’ve been a parent for even a little while, you need no persuading on this point. As a matter of fact, for some of you, it may have been having kids that finally convinced you of the truth of this doctrine!). The truth is, even from birth they’ve needed a Savior just as much as anyone else (and it ain’t us Parents that can save them, thank the Lord)!
So how does the Bible instruct us toward raising obedient children? Here’s my short list:
1. Lead them to grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone
2. Motivate obedience by speaking of grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone
3. Instruct them in what they should do IN LIGHT OF grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.
4. Discipline them for disobedience IN LIGHT OF grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
For the rest of the week, I’ll seek to flesh out what each of these elements looks like, but today I’ll leave you with a short quote from Elyse Fitzpatrick, (for my money, the best writer out there today on Christian parenting):
Everything that isn’t gospel is law. Let us say it again: Everything that isn’t gospel is law. Every way we try to make our kids good that isn’t rooted in the good news of the life, death, ressurection, and assension of Jesus Christ is damnable, crushing, despair-breeding, Pharisee-producing law. We won’t get the results we want from the law. We’ll get either shallow self-righteousness or blazing rebellion or both (frequently from the same kid on the same day!). We’ll get moralistic kids who are cold and hypocritical and who look down on others (and could easily become Mormons), or you’ll get teens who are rebellious and self-indulgent and who can’t wait to get out of the house. We have to remember that in the life of our unregenerate children, the law is given for one reason only: to crush their self-confidence and drive them to Christ.”
Amen and Amen.
Family Values (Part IV)
Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
Yesterday we talked about the sacrificial love a husband is called to display to his wife. Today we dive a little further into how that looks: Our text today tells husbands to “not be harsh with them.” It sounds simple, but in practice we all understand it’s easier said than done. Peter said it this way:
"Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered."
Ephesians 5:28 says
“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 (cleave, be glued) to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
What a beautiful picture marriage is of Christ and His church: Christ gives Himself completely for her, unites her to Himself in baptism, and now she is His body. They are one flesh. So He nourishes and cherishes her. He gives His bride the bread of life through the preaching and teaching of the word. He nourishes her faith through His Body and Blood given for us in the sacrament. Through this continual care and provision, Christ shows that His love for us was not just at one time (say while on the cross), but for all time. He continues to intercede on your behalf Church. As you take the body and blood, your faith is strengthened, the assurance that your sins are forgiven is once again renewed.
Husbands, you get to work to provide for your wife. You get to nourish and cherish her. What does it mean to cherish her? Tell her how much you appreciate her, how much she means to you. Some guys will say, “My wife’s not like that; she doesn’t like that mushy kind of stuff.”
Wrong. False. Dumb.
Because you love your wife as your own body, you seek to give her peace about her home-life, that no matter what happens, her kids will be taken care of.
You get to be a provider in your home for your bride, just as Christ is the provider for His bride. Look guys, you get to be Superman for her. You get to rescue the damsel in distress. You get to be her hero, even when you mess up.
E.V. Hill at his wife’s funeral, tells the story that soon after him and his wife were married, he came home to a house all lit up with candles. He said, “What’s going on in here?” She said, “I thought it would be nice to have dinner by candlelight tonight.” He said, “Sounds groovy to me.” So they began to eat dinner , when he had to get up to use the restroom. She forgot to put a candle in the restroom, and when he went to turn on the lights, there were no lights. So he went into the bedroom, flipped the switch, and there was no light. He came out, and asked if they’d turned off the electricity, and she began to cry. She said, “I ran out of money while paying the bills, and I know you work so hard to provide for us that, I didn’t want to tell you. So I thought we’d have dinner by candlelight.”
You see, because Hill worked so hard to “nourish and cherish” his wife, she in turn wanted to submit to him even when times got tough.
Here’s the conclusion of the matter: Each of you in a Christian marriage are to strive at what sin has made you naturally bad at: Husbands show love to your wives. Men tend not to show love very well; yet Paul says, do it, like Christ did for His church.
Wives don’t seek to rule over your husband, but as the Church trusts Christ for its leadership, you trust your husband, submitting to him to lead your family. Show Him the respect as the head of the household. Husband love your wives, and wives respect your husbands. That’s the lifestyle of a successful Christian marriage.
And yet, ultimately we are both, husbands and wives, all of us, by our sin, truly damsels in distress. Naturally, we are dead in our trespasses and sins; selfish, unloving, unsubmissive, ungodly. The standard to follow in marriage, in all of life is Christ. He indeed is our example, but how far short we naturally fall. We all need grace from the perfect husband. Today, no matter what kind of spouse you have been, I need you to know that Christ offers you a new marriage today. He, the perfect husband gave himself for our sins, to forgive us of all unrighteousness. He, the perfect Husband has cleansed us in baptism, giving His Holy Spirit that we would be empowered to be the kinds of spouses He desires us to be. He, the perfect Husband still today nourishes and cherishes us, giving us all we need to have assurance of His love for us.
He ultimately asks all of you for your hand in marriage.
Family Values (Part III)
Alright, so the last couple days we’ve been going over Scripture’s exhortation for wives to submit to their husbands. Now it’s the husband’s turn:
Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
(Colossians 3:19, ESV)
It seems to me husbands in general tend to get a bad wrap in the culture (Not that many don’t deserve it; many of them do!). Nonetheless, the typical picture of a husband, or Dad in our world is of someone who is either doormat or dictator. He is generally incompetent or he’s the only one in his household that is competent; he doesn’t lead his family but is most of the time led around by his naggy and controlling wife, or on the other hand, he leads his family by making them keep their mouths shut when there is disagreement. If he’s a doormat he watches sports all day, communicates like a child and grunts for food. If he’s a dictator, he expects to be served the whole time he’s watching his sports. If he’s a doormat the wife sort of bares with him and thinks he’s cute in that “He’s unable to change his own diaper” sort of way. If he’s a dictator, the wife bares with him for fear of what will happen if she leaves him. In both cases, the husband is not someone worthy of submission, or respect.
The Bible, knowing this tendency with men tells us today of a new way, a way that avoids the pitfalls of doormat and dictator partnership- the way of leading with love. Or in other words, servant leadership. Just as for the wives, the one overarching word they needed to hear in their relationship to their husbands was submission, so too men, you have one overarching word: Love. Our passage today and it’s parallel passage in Ephesians 5, both say the same thing to men: Love your wives. What does that look like?
- Sacrifice for her
Granted, this message isn’t specifically spelled out in our text. But it is in the paralell passage found in Ephesians 5:
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.
In order to bring God and man together as in a marriage, to save the Church (which throughout the Bible is referred to as His Bride) Jesus gave up His life for her. As a matter of fact, the book of Revelation goes in great detail describing the day when Christ comes to take His bride home to be with Him forever. Because of His sacrificial, unending, giving love, she is His to have forever. As a result of all our heavenly husband does for us, we His bride know beyond the shadow of a doubt how much we are loved. She knows she is protected from all threats. Nothing can separate her from the love that is in Christ Jesus, neither famine, or nakedness, or sword, or death, not anything. This love is not conditional.
Christ the ultimate Husband does this for His bride to be, even when she still runs from Him. It is after all, the members of this Bride that are guilty of putting Him to death. He proposed in marriage to His people, but they rejected Him by their love of sin. Rather than marry Him, they stuck Him to a cross. The true Husband does not give because the wife is so lovely in it of herself; indeed, throughout Scripture, His people are seen as unfaithful spouses, running away from Him, to other non-god gods. Ezekiel 16 majestically pictures this reality, as God chooses His bride to be when she is helpless, merely an infant, He says, one day I will marry you. He takes care of her, provides for her, does everything for her, and marries her. And yet, the tragic response is spelled out for us this way:
“But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his. You took some of your garments and made for yourself colorful shrines, and on them played the whore.”
And yet amazingly, He still gives Himself up for her.
Husbands welcome to your calling. Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church. Like Jesus, you are called to protect her at all costs, standing in the gap for her, as Christ does for us. You are called to take full responsibility for her and your family. You are called to take the fall for her.
When I ask most men if they’d run into traffic to save their wife, most of them would say yes (How can you claim to be a man if you won’t?). The reality is though most of us never have to worry about that scenario actually coming to pass. It becomes an easy way of interpreting this verse then. “I would give up my life for you if it ever came down to it baby.” Saying this, we can then feel like the hero we want to be, without actually having to test it in reality. So is that all this sacrifice language is for? Well, no I don’t think so. I think what the Bible is saying is that this gets to be a constant pattern in everyday life for you men. This sacrifice happens in the seemingly smallest, tiniest ways on a daily basis. You sacrifice for your wife like Christ, when you do the dishes or fold the laundry, meanwhile letting her lay in bed and read a book. You sacrifice for your wife by turning off the T.V. and just talking to her. You sacrifice for her by faithfully going to work everyday, you sacrifice for her when you forego making love because she’s too tired or whatever it is. It means you take responsibility for what happens in your family (you are the head; therefore you get to make decisions and set the path for the family. When the wife fails, the kids fail or whatever, you take responsibility). Like Christ, it is not conditional, based on how good your wife is; it is based on obedience ultimately to the Lord.
A while back someone in a troubled marriage, a husband, asked me, “How long do I have to stay on the cross Pastor?” The proper response might be, “How long did Christ stay on the cross?” Answer: Until it was finished.
So just as Christ our husband shows his love for us by sacrificing Himself, a husband leads his wife in love by sacrificing for her.