18th Pentecost Sunday

October 8, 2017

Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church,

Sioux Falls, SD

Rev. Norman F. Seeger

 

Ephesians 5:21-6:4

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church — for we are members of his body.  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

            Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise — “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

 

Ephesians 5:21-6:4

“‘In Christ’ … is the Key to Righteous Relationships in Faithful Families”

1) Husbands / Wives Serve Each Other … in Christ

2) Parents / Children Serve Each Other … in Christ

3) Believers / Believers Serve Each Other … in Christ

 

Dear disciples of Christ,

Family Feud may be an amusing game show, but a real family feud is never funny.  Nor is it ever fun to be at odds, to bump elbows or bang heads with individuals often living under the same roof.  Quick question:  If strife between husband & wife is never enjoyable – if conflict does not please parents or children — why do we disagree so often, so easily?  Why might many spouses be able to list my mate’s flaws more quickly than I can ever come up with ways to improve my own behavior?  Why do parents so easily, expertly see numerous changes our sons & daughters might make, but seldom feel any need to increase our own parenting skills?

My sinful self, my evil, self-centered nature is a prime source of conflict because I naturally feel the world revolves around me.  When I think, I talk; I act as if God brought everybody else into my circle to serve me, is not my family’s in-fighting inevitable?  A husband & wife both seek to be served, but never to serve – exactly the opposite expectation Jesus expressed for his life, telling proud, self-important disciples, ‘whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant; whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man (Jesus himself) did not come to be served, but to serve; to give his life as a ransom for many,”[MK 10]  A self-centered husband & an ‘I am all important’ wife who both think my spouse is sent by God to bring me blessings by obeying my orders will obviously come into conflict again & again & again.  Parents & children who too often act & so easily talk as if those other people are designed by God to do whatever I desire will similarly fuel family war-zones.  Is there any answer to my domestic disputes?

What can I do to end sinful fighting in my family?  Is there a way to stop ‘Family Feud’ from becoming a reality show with me in the middle today?  I pray you often ask, ‘What can we do to insure our closest personal relationships will always put a smile rather than a frown on our face?  The Lord’s answer is right in front of our eyes.  Open ears cannot help but hear the key to righteous relationships in faithful families being hammered into our heart:  ‘Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.   Wives, submit to your own husbands as you do to the Lord…Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church…Children, obey your parents in the Lord…Fathers; mothers, bring up your children in the training & instruction of the Lord.’

‘Reverence for Christ…to the Lord…just as Christ loved…in the Lord …in the taining & instruction of the Lord…’  Did our Lord’s truth penetrate these thick heads Satan tries to insulate against God’s life-giving Word?  Living ‘in Christ’ is the key to righteous relationships by which we will all be blessed.  Contemplating my relationship with my wife or husband, with my children or parents, I must first review my relationship with Christ.  Am I truly connected to Christ?  How do I interact with Jesus?  What will I do for Christ?  What has Jesus done for me?

What has Jesus done for me?  The answer is overwhelming, is it not?  Jesus, God the Son (with God the Father & Holy Spirit) created me, amazingly formed me in my mother’s womb.  When I, inheriting Adam’s original sin, was conceived & born spiritually dead in my transgressions & sins,’[EPH 2] – when I was, ‘hostile to God, not submitting – in fact when I was, unable to submit to God’s law’[ROM 8] – ‘God mercifully made me alive in Christ…by grace I am saved through faith, a gift from God!’[EPH 2]  Illustrating love husbands will have for their wife, ‘Christ loved the Church…’  Please, hear personally what our Lord is saying, ‘Jesus loved me; Jesus gave himself up for me to make me holy, cleansing me by the washing with water through the word; to present me to himself as radiant, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish but holy & blameless.’

Are we listening?  Am I alive, spiritually alive in Christ?  Absolutely!  Applying his Father’s plan, submitting to his Father’s will – putting our best interest ahead of his own — Jesus lowers himself under the law as our substitute, becoming a human who will resist Satan’s every temptation, refusing to sin even once — a human who will die sin’s death in our place on his cross — so God can declare you & me ‘forgiven, righteous, blameless’ in his sight.

Alive in Christ, spiritually; eternally alive as ‘Christ lives in us’, we will confess with apostle Paul, ‘this life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me & gave himself for me.’[GAL 2]  Eternally alive in Christ, let every relationship with our husband or wife, with parents or children; with our fellow believers, reflect our relationship with our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ.  Preparing us children of God for properly righteous relationships, Paul has been instructing believers, ‘Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children; walk in love, as Christ also loved us & gave himself for us as a sacrificial, fragrant offering to God… Let no one deceive you with empty arguments… Pay careful attention to how you live, not as unwise people but as wise… Do not get drunk on wine which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit… giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.’

‘Submitting…’  Must we address this easily misunderstood word which so easily raises the ire & closes the ears of a worldly wife?  Absolutely!  Paul does not put women down in any way, as he is so often falsely accused of being out of touch with today’s attitudes toward equality.  In fact, if we will take  time to read God’s entire truth, inspired apostle Paul tells husbands to submit to their wife just as he tells wives to submit to their husband.  Just as Paul tells children to submit to their parents, so Paul tells parents to submit to their children.  In fact, Paul tells every believer to submit to every other believer ‘out of reverence for Christ.’  Submitting, we ought to understand, does not indicate any greater or lesser value – does not denote more or less ability – does not picture more or less importance.  Submitting means I willingly prioritize another person’s needs above my own.  I emulate Jesus’ willingness to lower himself into human form to serve me – to lower himself into death to save me, rather than come down from heaven to earth to simply receive praise from his followers.

‘Not coming to be served, but to serve, to give his life as a ransom for tlhe many,’ Jesus illustrates; our Lord empowers a faithful husband to ‘lovingly lay down his life for his wife’ who at the same time will faithfully ‘submit to her husband in everything, as to the Lord.’  Where both spouses put the other person first, their marriage relationship will be righteous.  In this faithful family, both husband & wife will be blessed.  Where neither spouse tries to ‘one-up’ the other, both will win.  Self-centered losers look for ways my wife may serve me; search for something my husband can do to make me happy.  Christ-centered winners — spouses who put the other person first — will both be blessed… blessed with Christian companionship, blessed by a God-pleasing sexual relationship; possibly blessed with the gift of children.

Where God blesses us with children, expanding our families, faithful fathers & mothers – without forgetting to still serve their spouse — will put a son’s or daughter’s needs ahead of their own.  Not giving a child whatever he or she wants, but giving our son or our daughter what God wants them to have – a knowledge of our Savior Jesus; an understanding of our Lord’s will for their life in Christ – faithful parents will disciple our children; will discipline our children as the Lord lovingly disciplines us, not ever ‘stirring up anger’  in our children, but training them to live in Christ.  If we parents do not submit to our children, if we will only look out for ourself, would parents get up in the middle of the night to feed or quiet a crying baby?  No.  Would we sit on cold bleachers week after week, stand for hours on a sun-baked sideline; brave an icy wind watching our child play football, soccer or lacrosse?  No.  But when we faithfully serve the Lord Jesus, we will serve our children.

As parents first provide our needs, we children (who are also children of God) will submit to our father & mother.  Aiming first to please mom & dad – not focused on what I want – Christian children will both honor & also ‘obey our parents in the Lord.’  Quickly carryinig out our parents’ command (simple tasks like mowing lawn, making my bed, dusting or doing dishes) — accepting mom & dad’s decisions without questioning their rationale or arguing against their choices – willingly serving our parents, we faithful children will trust God to bless our life, as he promises blessings where we are not fighting against but are seeking to serve our parents, serve our children, serve our wife, serve our husband; in fact, serve our fellow believers.

The key to righteous relationships which will bring us God’s blessings?  Live ‘in Christ,’ our Savior!  Like Jesus, applying God our Father’s instructions, always, unselfishly, graciously put the other person ahead of yourself.  Do not ever seek to ‘be served, but to serve’ your husband, your wife — serve your parent, your child — serve your friends & fellow believers ‘in Christ!’  Amazingly, Not only will you be a blessing from God for other individuals, you will at the same time be blessed by God!

Amen.