27 December 2012

What's the Best Way to Be Married?

I see a lot to agree with in this sermon by an old childhood friend: The Abundant Life of the Church « Gracious Jots

Here is one of my favorite parts:
Let me be very clear. I do think God wants us to be content. I do think God wants us to have enough food to eat so that we do not go to bed hungry.  I do think God wants us to experience healing and wholeness. However, I do not think that the prosperity gospel is actually good news nor do I think it brings contentment, healing, or even wholeness.
There is abundant life found in the life of the church.  And this abundant life can be experienced by each participating member of the church, regardless of financial situation.
This is a message the American church needs very badly. Too often, we conflate plenty with blessing and lack with tribulation. The New Testament, however, teaches that circumstance should never constrain our contentment or our joy.

As much as I appreciate this sermon's main argument, I do have some concerns with its discussion of Ephesians 5:21-33:
This passage is used in weddings all the time and is used to subjugate women to men.  Let’s acknowledge that this passage has been used for more harm than good.
Abundant life does not flow from harmful hierarchy or even patriarchy within relationships. This model essentially argues for the marriage to be about one person’s needs while another just meets all those needs.  This practice is really unhealthy in marriage.
Furthermore, This passage isn’t intended to explain how to have a Christian marriage in the 21st century.   No, this passage is talking about the unity and intimacy between Christ and Christ’s beloved- the church.
This passage on marriage is the author using what he had to work with (an understanding of a 1st century marriage) to explain how much Christ loves the church, and how the church is supposed to love Christ.
I agree that this passage has been used to justify many ungodly actions. However, that doesn't mean we can completely throw out the model of marriage that it describes.

It is true that this passage is, most importantly, a description of the loving relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. But to say it isn't also God's blueprint for healthy marriages is to miss a significant part of the passage's power.

If willing submission to the authority of another is subjugation, then the Father has been subjugating the Son since before the foundation of the world. Christ has been subjugating His beloved Bride for the past two millennia. Church leaders all over the world subjugate the flocks that their Savior entrusts them to protect and feed.

Would anyone argue that Christ's suffering on the cross was centered on His own needs? Or that God the Father's plan to heal His broken people was a self-centered one? Or that genuinely caring elders in a church weep, pray, and minister to their people out of selfish ambition?

Those examples are within the same model Paul advocates for marriage. In this model, there is danger of marriage being all about one person's needs. That person, however, is the wife. (The one "lower" in the hierarchy is always served by the one "above.")

The sermon claims that this passage "isn't intended to explain how to have a Christian marriage in the 21st century."

That's true. It is, however, intended to explain how to have a Christian marriage. Period.

God's standards for life and godliness don't change from age to age, and He says the best way to have a marriage is when a husband loves his wife more than himself and the wife submits to and respects her husband. This doesn't mean life will be perfect -- but it does mean it will be a lot less painful.

I wrote a lot more about inspiration and metaphor and postmodernism, but it seemed like more heat than light, so I deleted it. I think for me, the important thing is that this is how God wants me to live, so I'm going to choose to do it, no matter what others think (or even what I think).

And I guess that's submission, too.

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