Monday, April 16, 2012

A Wedding and a Funeral

This weekend, among other things, I went to a funeral and a wedding.  In thinking on what to write on today, I was thinking that the two ceremonies (at least for the Christian) hold much in common.  In fact, in some ways, funerals should be more like weddings as we celebrate one of our own going to be one with his or her Groom.  Weddings should also be more like funerals in that we commemorate two people putting to death their old single selves and coming together as one flesh.  I am not saying weddings should in any way be morbid.  They are a celebration, but the celebrants must also recognize that what the were to start that day is no longer and they will walk the rest of their lives as a new creation, one flesh with their spouse.  I will start with the two rules God gives us for marriage.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.  Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so [let] the wives [be] to their own husbands in everything.  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.  Ephesians 5:22-27 NKJV
It is really amazing how many books, videos, retreats, seminars, counseling sessions, pamphlets, theories, etc have been produced to discuss what really amounts to two rules.  One for the wives and one for the husbands.  I think it is all that other junk that distracts from these two rules that causes many of the problems in our marriages.  In fact, it distracts from the simple message of what God is saying and what God is saying that is that when we become married, what we were has died. 

First, in keeping with the order of Scripture, let's talk about the wives.  Wives are to submit to their husbands as to the Lord.  In fact, she is to be subject to her husband just as the church is subject to the Lord.  What must one do to follow the Lord?  Jesus gave us the answer to this question.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  Matthew 16:24-25 NKJV
Just as we need to deny ourselves in order to follow Jesus, wives need to deny their own selves in order to follow their husbands.  Just like coming to Jesus means that old (in this case) woman must pass away to make way for the new creation, so does a new wife need to recognize that what she was has passed away to make way for the new creation she has now become. 

Now let us address the husbands.  Husbands are told to love their wives as Jesus loved the church. Once again, the Bible tells us how Jesus expressed His love for the church. 
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NKJV
Jesus laid down His life for us, therefor husbands are called to lay down their lives for their wives.  That single bachelor you once were no longer exists.  He died the moment you said "I do."  You must now live like that person is dead.  Please also note that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners.  Do not lose the importance of that message for your own marriage.  Just as Jesus did not wait for us to change before He died for us, husbands can not wait for their wives to change before giving up their lives for her.  There are too many cases in marriage today where husbands refuse to love their wives properly because they feel that their wives do not love them properly.  That is not the example of Jesus.  Husbands, no matter how good or bad you think she treats you, love your wife as Christ loved the church. 

None of this should be of any surprise,  Marriage was designed to be a picture of the church's relationship with Jesus.  Jesus died for us and we die to our old selves when we come to Jesus and what we have in the end is a new creation.  Our earthly marriage is supposed to reflect that.  You can not be what you once were as a single person just as you can not be what you once were before you came to Jesus.  In fact, the Bible teaches us just that.
Therefore, if anyone [is] in Christ, [he is] a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV
Just as this passage applies to our coming to Jesus, it also applies when we enter into marriage.  We are a new creation, two flesh become one, joined by God. For the married couple, all things are new.  At least, they should be.  The new creation we are requires willingness on the part of each spouse to die to their formal selves.  Just as some who come to Christ desire to still live in sin, so many wives and husbands join into marriage with no desire to give up their old lives.  In fact, they are usually the same person.  If you marry a Christan who lives carnally, do not be surprised if he is a husband who never grows up.  If he never grew in Christ, he will not grow with you.  The same applies to wives who were carnal Christians before entering marriage. 

This, of course, begs the question as to what we do when we make the foolish decision to make a carnal Christian our spouse.  The answer is nothing.  I already told you the only two rules the Bible has given us.  There is no special addendum to these rules that allow you to break them should the other spouse not cooperate.  If you married a disobedient wife, then you are still to love her as Christ loved the church.  Her behavior is no excuse for you to abandon your calling under God.  Jesus died for you long before you turned to Him and in that example, you must die to yourself and love your wife.  If you are a wife who married a man who still thinks he is a child, then you are still to submit to his authority.  You knew him before you married him and therefore you chose him as your leader.  The Bible never says wives submit to your husbands only if he is a good and/or responsible and/or a mature leader.  It simply says "submit" and it even says so even for an unbelieving husband.  That idea you have in your head that you have to lead your husband is only your own flesh which refuses to die.  If you want your husband to be a good leader, then submit yourself to him and respect him as one.  That requires dying to yourself. 

Marriage means dying to yourself.  No marriage will succeed unless the couple dies to their former selves and lives as the one flesh they have become.  That is why it should not matter if the other spouse fulfills their role properly,  If you die to yourself you will not have the self concern for what the other is doing for you.  You will only have the selfless concern that you are fulfilling your role to your spouse.  That is a good marriage.  Each living for the other, as one flesh, with no concern for self.  If you are married, God has brought you together, He will give you the strength to be the glorious picture of His love for us that marriage is supposed to show.  Allow Him to do that work in your marriage.
And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made [them] at the beginning 'made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."   Matthew 19:4-6 NKJV

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