As Christ loves the Church
by Carla Burlando
Ephesians 5: 22-29
“Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her” (v.25)
I wanted to share something with you that spontaneously happened this past weekend as we camped with our church family. Our church is a smallish group, a newer church plant, but we are very diverse in race, national origin, age and demographic. Despite all our differences we are a family. I would say that the biggest demographic in our church is a lot of young families, young couples and university students. We have tons of kids under the age of 6. It’s an exciting and vibrant church to be a part of.
One afternoon as we sat around the campfire one of the young men, a newly wed of 1 year, confided in the other men something he wanted to do for his wife. They decided it was something they needed to do too.
The wives were invited to sit down in a row of lawn chairs, as a row of men stood in front of us.
The first young newly wed, began with tears in his eyes to confess that he had not loved his wife as she deserved to be loved. He bravely took ownership and responsibility for the turmoil of their first year of marriage. He told her he had not loved her unselfishly and sacrificially as Christ loves the Church. He humbly asked for forgiveness as he looked into the eyes of his wife. They knelt and embraced as they kissed the tears streaming down each others faces.
Then on down the line, a brotherhood of men, new believers alongside elders and even our pastor. Each spoke to his wife, each vowing , by the grace of God and empowering of the Holy Spirit to love her more unselfishly, asking for forgiveness for the areas where they failed to do so. The areas where they had chosen their own comfort, apathy, or laziness over loving her well.
As if that wasn’t enough….they pulled out tubs of water (similar to the picture above,…although that picture was one I swiped off the internet…we weren’t dressed that glamorously!)
and gently washed each of their wives sandaled, dirty, camping feet.
It was an act of love and service, not one of domination by either gender. It was a perfect picture of loving leadership described in Ephesians It was complementarian structure of home and church at work in the everyday grubbiness of life.
The funny thing is we could all look at these committed, Jesus loving, hard working, mature family men and justify that they are a cut above most men in our world. They could also look at all the pathetic excuses for men in our world and puff themselves up with pride saying, “I’m way better than those guys….she should be glad I don’t do the stuff he does”. Fortunately, as Christ followers, we have no business comparing ourselves to others….the only mirror we have is Christs perfection and God’s holiness. Next to that we all look pretty wretched. As the Spirit convicts , our life becomes one of repentance and transformation to look more like the one we follow.
I’m so glad to be a part of a church that encourages our eyes to focus on Christ, and continually draws us to a life of repentance. That is what keeps us from growing luke warm. Our understanding of our own imperfection keeps us utterly focused on the generous grace of God.
Complementarianism ( a word used to describe a biblical structure for marriage and church) gets all kinds of flack from those who do not understand, and have not witnessed it at work. It is much maligned and hated by femanist culture , which sadly has also influenced much of the Church (universally speaking). Fortunately we hold to the Bible as authority rather than culture and it is amazing to see the fruit of that in both healthy thriving churches and families. Of course it has to be more than just lip service, or even worse a twisted distortion of God designed marriage.
When you look at the Acts 29 church network (which our church is a part of), or other churches who hold this high standard for men to lovingly lead their homes ( rather than to dominate, oppress, selfishly remain uninvolved, or passively ruled over by their wives)…..women thrive. Daughters thrive. Boys thrive under Godly example of how to love, protect and honor women. Our marriage has thrived as my husband has found a brotherhood of young men who he can not only respect but who pull him closer to Christ in every area of his life.
It’s a beautiful thing.
Like my daughter wisely observed “I know when Dad has friends like those guys he could never ever get away with sinning against his family, they love him too much to let him. ”
That’s the power of community, the corporate body of Christ loving and speaking truth to each other.
I love that my sons watched as their Dad humbly vowed to lead and love his family, and lay down his life for his wife. My daughter watched her mom humbly submit to, and accept that love as she also lays down her own life to serve and honor her husband.
Marriage, Biblically, that is modeled after Jesus relationship to the church, isn’t a partnership of friends who stay together as long as they are both benefiting from the arrangement.
Christ gave his life without requiring anything in return. It is a covenant of unconditional love and service….and for every covenant there is one who bears the responsibility for it. That is self sacrificing leadership, and I joyfully submit to that love.
I think many husbands think of giving their lives for their wives as some hypothetical action movie scene where they run in front of a moving train or into a burning building…as noble as that may be, a man who gives his life unselfishly to his wife and children each and every morning, in all the little moments and decisions is much more heroic. He is not whipped into being a servant by a nagging “goddess” who demands to be served….but rather a voluntary, courageous taking of responsibility for the well being of his wife and children.
That moment was such a genuine display of love and humility.
It was Jesus love at work in his people.