Monday, July 21, 2008

Marriage #4

Okay, so I'll admit to being a pretty bad blogger lately. I haven't posted in more than a week, and I didn't even get a preview up of last week's lesson. I've been especially tardy in posting my final thoughts on the theological underpinnings and spiritual meaning of marriage. I think I promised the final part of that series like three weeks ago. See the other three parts here, here and here. Things have been pretty busy lately, with work, with church, and with my newly appointed Pastor Search Committee duties. Nevertheless, I'm without excuse for not keeping my promises. So I hope to make up for that now.

The idea of male headship and female submission in marriage doesn't make much sense, on the surface at least. To my mind, it seems that the person in the marriage who has the best leadership skills should be the leader, whether they're a man or a woman. And the idea of submission, for a female, or a male for that matter, seems kind of backward and wrong-headed. If I were making the rules on my own, it's likely I would say that neither husband or wife should submit; that each would do what seems best to them. If they agree that's great. If not, they both will have to deal with it. But despite my thoughts, this idea of male headship and female submission is permeated throughout the Bible. It's not a couple of verses here or there. It's at the very heart of the Biblical narrative as it relates to male and female.

But why? It frankly seems rather arbitrary to say one gender is the leader and the other is the follower. And I think it would be, if not for the fact that God was trying to explain something very profound to us with the way he set things up. He makes it very clear though, in Ephesians 5:22-33:

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 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 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 to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."

Without explicitly referencing this scripture, I've covered most of this scripture in my other two posts. In this post, I want to look specifically at verse 32, the part I've highlighted in the scripture. It has two parts, and each is important:

1) The profound mystery of marriage - The first thing to understand is that when Paul speaks of the mystery of marriage, he's not talking about the kind of mystery that hasn't been solved. Though there is much that is very mysterious about marriage, that I haven't figure out yet (just ask Crystal), I don't think that's specifically what he's referencing. Here Paul speaks of the mysterious purpose of marriage, that wasn't perfectly revealed through the first however-many thousands of years of creation. It is a profound mystery, one that is not to be trifled with. Marriage is important and serious and reflective of a far greater truth.

2) It refers to Christ and the Church - This mystery that was only recently revealed, is that marriage, at it's best, when it's done the way God intends, is a direct reference to, a reflection of, Christ and the church. That mystery, not completely revealed until after Jesus' death on the cross, is now understood more perfectly. A good Christian marriage reflects the relationship between Christ and the church. The bible often speaks of the church as Christ's bride. A great marriage supper scene is recorded in the 19th chapter of Revelation, between the bridegroom Jesus and his ransomed bride, the church.

The point is this: God has appointed marriage as a way of pointing people to Him. Marriage was made not primarily for the pleasure of people, though it can bring great pleasure. It wasn't made primarily for the procreation of children, though this also is an important aspect. It wasn't created primarily as a way to build a society, though there is no doubt that a society won't survive without it. Marriage, from the very beginning, was created as a way to bring God glory by reflecting the love Jesus has for the church, and the respect and submission the church has to Christ.

I think this may be where much marriage counseling and many marriage seminars fall short. We've been very good and telling people why marriage is important to the participants and the children, and society in general. We've not been very good in explaining why it's important to God. That's the primary reason divorce is the tragedy it is, not because of the people involved, but because of the glory that is stolen from God.

I think this post has been a bit rambling, but it will have to do. I won't be doing much blogging over the next couple of weeks, because Crystal and I will leave soon for our vacation to the Rockies. But I'll bring back pictures! For those of you in my class, Brian will be teaching Sunday about the new Heaven and the new Earth. Don't miss it!

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