HIS AND HERS?
We can clearly see in Scripture that wives are expected to submit to their husbands, and that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the Church and to lay down their lives for them. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph 5:22-25). These particular commands to husbands and wives may appear to absolve wives from the life-sacrificing love that is required from husbands and may also appear to absolve husbands from submitting to their wives.
However, in the broader body we are all expected to lay down our lives for one another and to submit to one another. Consider these scriptures: 1 John 3:16, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” Eph 5:21, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” In Eph 5:22-24, Paul was having husbands and wives focus on particular areas, but was in no way suggesting that wives were absolved from laying down their lives for their husbands nor husbands from submitting to their wives. Marriage does not nullify the general commands to submit to one another (Eph 5:21) and to lay down our lives for one another (1 John 3:16).
PRACTICING THIS LIFESTYLE
Practicing this kingdom lifestyle in the home has its challenges, which can be even more magnified depending on the context. Consider that in the context which Paul wrote, just as slaves needed a special focused word of exhortation to submit to their masters (see Eph 6:5-8), wives, who had all along generally been treated as 2nd class, also needed a special focused word of exhortation to submit. Especially that, in the light of the freedom of the gospel, it may easily have appeared to them that they needn’t submit to their domineering husbands anymore. Similarly, husbands may have needed a special focused word of exhortation at that time and in their culture to love their wives, as many would have been part of a culture where they treated their wives as 2nd class citizens, always at their beck and call.
In the context of all of scripture, it is clear that the message to husbands and wives universally is to practice a lifestyle of mutual love and submission. In other words, husbands, love means submitting to your wife too (Eph 5:21). Equally, wives, submission means laying down your life for him too (1 John 3:16). See also: Equality in Marriage 1, Equality in Marriage 2 Rob
God’s Way Sacrificed
To many, the idea of church leadership through consensus sounds like leadership is taken from God and given into the hands of men. Nevertheless, it is precisely God’s way of seeing His will done in and through the Church. Sadly, the church is full of stories of leadership abuse, which could have been prevented if we had implemented God’s way of directing the church.
Church leadership only has authority to implement God’s leading concerning the whole church when group consensus is reached by the whole church. While one person may have God’s word on a subject, and with that the authority to share it, he or she still needs to obey God’s way and seek consensus before action can be taken.
Consensus Builds True Unity
This may seem like a painful process, but in the end it builds real relationships and true unity around issues. Outside of consensus, leaders easily default to the sin of preeminence where they employ the world’s ways and steam roller their ideas into action. Sadly, many church leaders justify this style by the success of their ministry, but the end never justifies the means! An environment of love is the only way to the outcomes that we seek and may often be more important than our goals.
Consensus Protects the Group and the Individual
Consensus is a way of protection. For example, in the case of church discipline in the New Testament, consensus is sought by involving everyone. This way a fair judgment can be reached through unity and also the fear of the Lord can be on everyone involved.
Consensus is the Fruit of Faith
Seeking consensus puts faith into practice. It is the belief that Jesus really is the head of the Body of Christ and is able to lead each member in unity.
Right and Wrong Examples
Acts chapter 15 is a good example of how the whole church is involved in resolving serious decision making and of how everyone was involved. Conversely, 3 John 1:9-10 shows Diotrephes as a leader who sought preeminence and bullied his way in the church.
For more on this subject you can read these related posts:
We all grapple at various times in life to know what’s best and what’s true. And, then, often when we’ve found a particular truth, in say science or philosophy, we still find ourselves only in the shallow-end of fully grasping its value and potential.
Have you ever wondered if there is an author to this truth we search for? Someone who’ll help us find what we’re looking for and who can help us properly utilize what we find?
There is a man who makes an astonishing and all-encompassing declaration to be “the truth.” Such a claim implies that all truth starts with him no matter where it may now reside. It also implies that this truth is only really able to be truly held together by him. And, that only he knows the true way things work. This man is Jesus! If not, then where does truth come from?
When we separate truth from Jesus, both are distorted. Our view of Jesus is diminished and the full application of the truth squandered or misused. All truth is from Him and of Him and handled best by Him. An essential part of His truth is captured in God’s word, the Bible. Like a love letter, it serves as a means to knowing Him, and like a plumbline, it’s the guide for all other teaching.
Do you know the truth?!! Because, He knows you and loves you! Have you read His love letter lately?
How about these portions:
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to receive God’s punishment for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).
Said another way:
“For our sake God made Jesus to be Everything Wrong who knew Nothing Wrong, so that in Jesus we might become what God calls Right.”
Grace and Peace?
In your intention to get on with reading or studying God’s word, have you ever skipped on past those words at the beginning of the epistles (letters) in the Bible that read something like, “Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”?
You will see that from the outset of the letter, no matter how the church was behaving, God said words to that effect. He was saying, “In Me are all the resources that you will need: My wisdom, strength, love, joy,… and I want to remind you that I am at peace with you and I want you to experience that peace.” It’s the Gospel in a Nutshell.
You see, the full weight of God’s anger toward the sin in their lives had been poured out on Jesus, justice had been served, God’s rightful anger satisfied, and through confessing their sin they had been forgiven and restored to God’s love.
God Greets You Every Day with the Gospel
Stop and ponder the next time you are reading these words at the beginning of a letter in the Bible and realize that these are God’s words to you. In fact, when you wake in the morning, know that God is personally saying, “Grace and peace to you!” (“Good morning!”)
Peace and Goodwill to All
God really does have peace and goodwill for all men! And, you, no matter who you are or how you feel, are one of them! Have you turned to Jesus and received forgiveness for your sin? A life of grace and peace awaits you.
In order to better affect the nations with the blessings of God, it is paramount that we, as the Body of Christ, rediscover, nurture and enjoy the unity that we have amongst one another.
Notice, we don’t need to establish unity, we simply need to recognize the unity that God has already established amongst all believers through His Son’s death, resurrection and ascension.
Sadly, we are so easily divided over our opinions and this is where we have fallen off the bus. We are too easily snared by the need for others to think like us and when they don’t, we often don’t hesitate to create division. And, we do this to the point of clouding the unity which God has already given us that it often appears lost.
Through the cross God has demonstrated His love for us by receiving us as His own children irrespective of our opinions. And this He continues to do while changing us to be more like Christ. Also, irrespective of our opinions, God has made each of us who believe, members of Christ’s body, the Church. So, if He has already accepted each of us irrespective of our points of view and continues to do so, then who are we to establish fences between one another where He has none?
Recognizing the precious eternal unity that already exists among each and everyone in the Body of Christ is the starting point for nurturing and enjoying it. If we seek unity on the basis of doctrine alone then we will always be divided, unable to cultivate the unity that we have in Christ. But, if we genuinely love one another despite our opinions, then we have the essence of how to grow in unity. You see, our place and unity in the Body of Christ is founded on God’s sacrificial love, and sacrificial love is our means for growing in unity.
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore” (Psalm 133:1-3).
With my teenage son being somewhat pleased with President Obama’s reelection as President, I wanted to remind him that Mr. Obama also has flaws. I thought to point out how the President had flagrantly misquoted scripture. It was something that had really irked me when once when listening to him.
I went to Google to see what it was that he had said that had bothered me. In the process, I came across a post by a Christian leader who also spoke of the President misquoting scripture. Regrettably, I was troubled and saddened to see that this respected man of God handled Mr. Obama in such an unloving and dishonoring way. And, many of the comments that followed by supposed Christians, were far worse.
What was disturbing then soon became cathartic as I reflected on my own attitude and response toward Mr. Obama’s indiscretion. I’ve realized that it has been, in many ways, unhelpful to me, to anyone else that heard me venting, to Mr. Obama and to the kingdom of God that I was supposed to be representing.
Airing frustrations and disagreements in an unloving or dishonoring manner is never helpful. And, as Christians we are called to love everyone and honor our leaders. We would do well to point out our differences that we have with people in a loving way and not pull them apart with our attitudes and words. It’s no different with the man, Barack Obama. Also, let’s remember to honor him despite any differences.
Photo by BlueHorizon
You know those times when your kids press your buttons and you react really badly? Well guess what, your chief problem is not that you reacted badly, but that you are living from the wrong source. If you are a Christian, then you have either moved away from walking with the Spirit of God as your source of life, or you have never learned that He was your resource for all of life. You see, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control and the only alternative is our natural self, which, although can act civilized, needs only the right provocation to show its true colors.
Now, you know all those nice people out there who behave better than most of us Christians do (especially me)? They are doing a pretty good job of living from their natural ability, but trust me, or rather trust God’s word, they have all the sinful characteristics within their nature to behave badly under the right, or should I say “wrong”, conditions. Worse for them is that they are at a disadvantage, only able to live from their natural selves. Although they can be lovely people, nevertheless, they are in essence just the same as the worst criminal, having themselves rather than God as their resource for right living. It’s kind of like having that pet snake that you feel is safe to have around children, only to come home one day and have to wrestle your child from its clutches.
Christians are not people who don’t sin. The Bible speaks honestly of “sin that so easily entangles us.” This happens because we all too easily reject God as the Living Water and instead choose ourselves as the source in a situation. The cycle of self-effort to accomplish or achieve is followed by our eventual and inevitable defeat. This in turn is followed by despair and our crying out to God, only to rediscover God’s mercy and grace, and that all along His gentleness was at work bringing us to repentance. The cycle will repeat whenever we exchange His strength for our own. It is in repenting of this, our chief sin, and turning toward Jesus as our life (and by his grace staying turned) that we enjoy life.
Nevertheless, we have the resources to live free of sin. Yet, it’s not in being conscious of whether you are sinning or not. “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Rom 7:6). It’s in enjoying a healthy relationship with God where His Spirit is our life’s supply and not us. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16).
Part 2 of 3 (go here for part 1)
Government has laws so that the people it serves can happily co-exist. Now, imagine God became one of our citizens. What would He want government to legislate? Do we think that He thinks differently now to when He gave laws to His people Israel? Sure, the covenant He made with them is over, but the wisdom, truth and principles of love and justice found in God’s word still reflect His nature, as do the related blessings and curses and the sacrificial system. God has not gone soft on the law! Jesus on the cross is God’s attitude about the law and sin, and His dying didn’t change God’s attitude to these either. What we see demonstrated is both His love for us when Jesus took our punishment, and His justice satisfied.
Some may feel that we are expecting too much from people who are spiritually blind to walk in the light of God’s laws. However, rather than spiritual blindness, it’s the flesh, our selfishness, and seared consciences that keep us from doing what is right. Spiritual blindness is the inability to see that it’s our disconnection to a loving God that prevents us from doing what is right, and to find meaning in life. That doesn’t excuse us from the laws of God. We shouldn’t have less or a “softer” set of laws for unbelievers because they are spiritually blind. In fact God’s word says that the law exists for the unrighteous not the righteous. You see, besides, that they show God’s wisdom, love and guidance, God’s laws exist for unbelievers to see their shortcoming and lead them to Christ.
Also, we shouldn’t have less law to tolerate mans weakness, because without changed hearts, this would create anarchy to God’s laws. Rather, we should have all the laws that God would, so that men, women and children can learn of God’s ways and they can at least be outwardly protected from man’s sinful nature that needs to be kept in check. Governments should simply reflect God’s laws. On the one hand these are quite detailed, while on the other they can be summed up in showing love. Those without God’s love in them need to be governed by the detail, while those with God’s love rejoice in the love shown in the detail.
We have patterns in our Christianity that follow the exact philosophies of this world. One of these is in the area of leadership. We are aware that we should not lord it over one another, but our structures have hierarchy and establish automatic preeminence in the body of Christ. Occasionally and refreshingly, I might add, a leader steps out of his role and gives free room for the Spirit to move in a group, or the Spirit simply bypasses the leadership and does amazing things through the body. When this happens we all enjoy the fruit that comes from submitting to the Only Head and one to another. Then, for some strange reason, we default back to our structures that allow someone positional leadership and our beautiful experience of being led as a body by Jesus Himself goes south. We are like kids playing dress-up, just temporarily wearing the clothes of the freedom in the Spirit and then we return to our own fashion of tradition.
The reason that this happens isn’t that strange. You see, we think that positional leadership is biblical and so we make room for it. Now, if you are anything like me, then alarm bells are ringing because you are sure, or in fact know that there are Bible verses that show positional hierarchy in the body. I would suggest after a good look at these texts in the context of all of Scripture, that they have been misinterpreted according to our worldly thinking. Texts that “obviously” show positional leadership in the church turn out, in actual fact, not to be showing that at all.
Many have experienced good leaders, but that doesn’t justify positional leadership. Surely mutual submission to one another has fostered the true brotherhood rather than positional leadership that easily gets in the way. Some argue that it is not in the doing away of positional leadership, but in the correct application of it. However, the fact is that you cannot reform what never had a biblical mandate in the first place. Mutual submission does not do away with leadership, it just fosters a better form of it.
The only authority anyone needs in the Church is the word of God. Where there are differences of opinion in interpreting God’s word, each need to be valued by allowing God in his time to show them the truth. For things not specifically prescribed in God’s word consensus is needed. Seeking consensus can take long and will require, love, patience and humility, but it is in this attitude that we can expect the Lord to bless us.
Doctrinal positions may differ and sometimes consensus cannot be reached on issues of say procedure. Room should be given for separate views or ways to be taken, and for the Lord to show His approval or disapproval of them. However, we should avoid meeting separately or enforcing our views on the group we are in, like happens in the denominational systems of today.
(click here for part 4)