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1st May 2016
The letter to the Ephesians was written to those who follow Jesus. It's not a morality code for humanity. It's for those who follow Jesus. So when we come to passages about marriage, we read these as God's grace for His children.
Right at the start of history, God created men and women. He said that it wasn't good for Adam to be alone, so He took a rib from his side – not from his head, but from his side, so that they would stand side-by-side. God's plan for men and women was that they would be completely equal in worth, value, love, and importance before their Creator.
Marriage is also a covenant. It isn't a contract that can be easily broken. It's about two people that are fully and wholeheartedly binding themselves together.
Men and women were created equal, but different. We're going to be looking at submission and headship. We don't like these words because they've been horribly distorted and abused, but we're going to look at what they really mean.
God's perfect design for marriage is that wives submit to husbands, but it's so important that we have a really good understanding of what this means, what it looks like and what it doesn't, so that it doesn't get distorted or abused. We start by looking at the person and character of Jesus. We're all called to mutually submit to one another. Jesus lived a life of submission to God that wasn't weak, that wasn't passive, that wasn't inferior. It was beautiful and brave; it was sacrificial, motivated by faith, hope and love.
It says in Romans 12 that the Church gives itself fully to Christ in response to his love and mercy. Likewise, in response to our husband's love, we give ourselves completely – it's a willing, yielding to another. What does it look like? It means making a choice to give up our individual rights in order to bless and grow our marriage. It's motivated by faith and hope and love. It's a humble recognition that I am no longer independent.
Biblical submission is not slavish or abusive in any way. And it doesn't mean that wives are passive and weak. It doesn't mean San gets to pull rank! When we were deciding to go to Manchester, San didn't tell me it was happening and tell me to get on board. It is a dialogue from start to finish.
The way wives treat their husbands is "as to the Lord" – it brings glory and honour to God when I honour San. When San loves me in a Christ-like way, it's easy to follow him. But even if he's not loving me like that, it still brings glory to God when I work to bless my marriage. Esther in the Old Testament is a great example of honouring her ungodly husband.
San and I aren't in competition with one another: we're one flesh, a partnership, working together with God at the centre.
How do we work this out, practically?
The Bible talks a lot about love. 1 Corinthians 13 says love is patient and kind. I find it hard to be patient in the mornings! And difficult to be kind when I'm hurt. But it says in Colossians that we put on love – it's a choice I need to make in advance, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
My ability to be respectful towards San starts with me looking after my own character. As soon as I get locked into San's weaknesses, it all starts to go wrong. I am all for honest communication, but I want to be respectful and kind. I don't want to belittle my husband.
I want to champion my marriage in every way that I can – that's what it really means to 'help' your husband. I love the example in Proverbs 31, where who the woman is on the inside helps her husband.
There is brilliant fruit in a godly marriage. It glorifies God; it achieves the purposes of God through the co-working of the husband and wife; it is a blessing and a sanctuary to those around us; it witnesses to people who don’t know Jesus; it blesses and grows the next generation; and ultimately it will be a blessing to us individually.
The Bible says that the husband has been given authority and leadership in the home, but it says that means loving and sacrificing like Jesus. How does Jesus express His headship, His leadership? Through domineering control? No! Through harshness and brutality? No! Jesus came to serve. His life was defined by humility, kindness, compassion, mercy, love and sacrifice. This is what true leadership looks like. There is no greater love demonstrated to humanity. Why would we not willingly follow this head?
Just as submission looks like Jesus, so headship looks like Jesus. True biblical headship is expressed through love. It's not "I'm the boss"; it's "I'll lay down my life". The responsibility is on me, but I don't get to call all the shots! Jesus is Lord of the cosmos, but He doesn't lord it over anyone! He woos us towards Him, so we'll follow Him. Husbands are called to do the same.
The Son of glory gave up His life for me. That's why I willingly follow Him. Jesus' headship was servant leadership. True biblical headship is all about love – that's where the authority and authenticity comes from. My role is to lead and love like Jesus. It doesn't mean I dictate what happens, when, where and how. Not at all! It's got nothing to do with who calls the shots. We're a partnership working this out together. By taking responsibility, I believe that it's my role to ensure that everyone in my family is flourishing.
The Fall of humanity distorted everything, particularly relationships, and especially marriage. Husbands can become bullies or tyrants, or they can become passive and withdraw. When I re-read my marriage vows, I'm reminded that 14 years ago I promised to lead by loving Emma, honouring her, forsaking all others for as long as I live, to love and to cherish until death separates us. That's the call on my life – to love like Jesus.
Emma and I are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we are actively pursuing each other's hearts.
The Church is known as the bride of Christ, so no one gets left out. Regardless of life experience, we each get to stand before our Creator, knowing that we are fully united with Christ, bound in a covenant with Him that can never be broken. We can never be separated from His love for us.
Posted by Santino & Emma Hamberis