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Marriage Version 2.1

July 29, 2018, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee (Ephesians 5:21-33) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Ephesians
Preached at a Mandarin (Sunday) service

Tags: Ephesians 以弗所书

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Title: Marriage version 2.1
Date: 29th July 2018
Preacher: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee

We have been talking about the new self for this Ephesians sermon series. Because of what God has done in Christ, and what he will continue to do through the Holy Spirit, you are a new person, and the church is a new community. We have to be deliberate about this transformation. Spend some time to think about this. How are you going to be a new self in Christ? If there is a SiowHwee version 2.0, what should it be? What kind of upgrades can we expect?

One of the key areas where we should expect an upgrade is in our roles as husbands or wives. When Paul thought about the visible indicators of a new self, he had to think about what would make husband version 2.0 or wife version 2.0. And the way he reflected on this must be “in Christ”, because this new self is made “in Christ”. But Jesus himself was never married, so there wasn’t a direct model to imitate. But thankfully, the early church had a theological metaphor of Christ as the groom and the Church as the bride. And so Paul used the relationship between Christ and the Church as his basis of teaching on husband version 2.0 and wife version 2.0. This was his conclusion: 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

From then on till the present, marriage has been transformed by the words of Paul. [1] Of course, the world is still not perfect today. But over the years, love and faithfulness, words which were really shocking during those times, have now become the benchmark values of a marriage in many parts of the world today. Husbands no longer see their wives as purely functional objects for childbearing, but a person to be cared for and worried about. Similarly, a wife is committed to a husband not because she is forced to, but because commitment is something to be treasured. For that, we should be thankful to Paul, that Marriage version 1 has been upgraded to Marriage version 2.0.

But even though we have come a long way, we must push ourselves even further. There are still many things that need further improvement. For example, the emphasis on love has led to divorces. Some would claim: I am no longer in love with this person, or now I am now in love with another person. So I must divorce because of love in order to marry another person. Love which is meant to be self-sacrificial has become an excuse for selfish desire. Similarly, the emphasis on submission has led to spousal abuse. There are faithful Christian wives suffering in silence because they think that is their form of Christian obedience. However, I believe that all these are based on misconceptions of the words of Paul. It is time for an upgrade to fix some of these bugs. Today, I’ll be introducing Marriage version 2.1. I will do that by fixing 3 common misconceptions.

First, I must fix the misconception about love. Love is more than just a feeling; Love is an understanding and conviction to oneness. You love because you are one. Let us revisit the words of Paul. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. Christ and the church are a united whole. One is inseparable from the other. Husband and wife are also one flesh. You can then make sense of the rest of Paul’s advice. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. Because husband and wife are one, what you do to your partner is as good as doing to yourself. Sacrifice becomes something natural. You are literally doing it for your own good. Jesus reminds us, “9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mark 10:9) So when Paul talks about love, it is not just a feeling. Your oneness is there whether you feel it or not. Love is an understanding and conviction to oneness.

A married man wakes up with a huge hangover after a night out drinking with the boys. He doesn't even remember how he got home from the party. The first thing he sees is a couple of aspirins next to a glass of water on the side table. He sits up and sees his clothing in front of him, all clean and pressed.
Then he notices a note hanging on the corner of the mirror written in red with little hearts on it and a kiss mark from his wife in lipstick: "Honey, breakfast is on the stove, I left early to get groceries to make your favorite dinner tonight. I love you, darling!" He stumbles into the kitchen and sure enough, there is a hot breakfast, steaming hot coffee, and the morning newspaper all waiting for him.
His son is also at the table, eating. He asks, "Son… what happened last night?"
"Well, you came home after three in the morning, drunk and out of your mind. You fell over the coffee table and broke it, and then you threw-up in the hallway, and tumbled onto the floor."
Confused, he asked his son, " So, why is your mother in such a good mood, and breakfast is on the table waiting for me?"
His son replies, "Oh THAT! Well, when Mom dragged you to the bedroom, and tried to take your pants off, you screamed, 'Leave me alone, I'm married! I'm married!'"

I think we all know why the wife was happy. This man had oneness ingrained in his head. Even when he was drunk, he was inseparable from his wife. Love is an understanding and conviction to oneness. Many have asked my wife, “Your husband is so handsome and charming, where do you find your sense of security?” (LOL) Ok, nobody asked that question. I asked her myself. (LOL) I wish I can tell you her answer, but I can’t. I’m still waiting for her to stop laughing. On a serious note, I have never been tempted myself. But I have heard testimonies from others who have. Based on what I hear, the answer is this: The oneness is there in their heads. It is like installing a mental block, but the good kind. To me, that is love, and it is more than just a feeling. Feelings of love or lack of feelings cannot be an excuse for adultery or divorce, because such feelings come and go. In a marriage, there are good days and bad ones. But when you seek to understand because you need to be understood, when you forgive because you need to be forgiven, when you cherish because you need to be cherished, that is actually love, because oneness means you cannot have one without the other. This is the first misconception I must fix. Love is more than just a feeling, it is fulfilling your oneness.

Second, I must fix the misconception of submission. Submission is more than just letting go, it is about taking control of yourself. Again, we have to revisit the words of Paul. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. To properly understand submission, you need to understand what it means for a church to submit. Paul never asked the church for blind obedience. In fact, the church must take control to stay faithful to the Gospel, and to reject false teachings. To take control is to actively seek for true knowledge (1:17-18). To take control is to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (4:2). That is taking control of your negative feelings and desires. To take control is to grow, and then learn how to shine. We do that in order “to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (4:1). In short, when we talk about submission, it means that the church must take active control to stay committed to God’s truth all the way. Therefore, if you translate such submission into a husband and wife relationship, it cannot be interpreted as being a pushover or suffering in silence. Submission is more than just letting go, in fact, it is about taking control of yourself. [2]

(For further comments about Paul’s understanding of love and submission from the perspective of 2 Corinthians, see this footnote. )[3]

First, I talked about misconception of love. Then I talked about misconception of submission. Third, I want to fix a misconception about the rigidity of roles. Some of you might have a mindset that husbands will be in charge of loving, and wives will be in charge of submitting. But in fact, it is not just husbands and wives; the entire church has a calling for love and submission to one another. In verse 5:21, it states that “21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Mutual submission is a command for everyone, not just for wives. We are supposed to encourage and to listen to one another through worship songs and witnessing to one another in thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:19-20). Similarly in verse 5:1-2, it states that “1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Love one another (John 13:34) is a commandment to all Christians as well, not just for husbands. So I believe it is not a rigid system where one person does this, the other person does that. But rather both husbands and wives will practice and exercise love and submission together as one. In my own marriage, my wife recognizes that I should have the final say. And my final say is always “Yes dear, you are right.”

Now that we have all downloaded the upgrade for Marriage version 2.1, it is time for a reboot. Trying out a new system might not be easy. So I want to give a final advice for couples, even though I cannot claim to be an expert myself. Pray for one another. Prayer may seem like the most helpless thing you can do, but it is not so. Prayer is the most powerful thing you can do for your partner. You should ask for your partner a deeper knowledge of God’s love. You should also ask for the courage to transform. When was the last time you prayed for your partner? To pray is to love and to submit.

I also want to say something to those who are single and wish for a partner one day. Find somebody who understands the meaning of love and submission, because eventually you need to do love and submission in partnership with this person. Such a person is in control of their feelings and desires, and they learn to first care about the needs of others. They honor and respect other people, and they spend time and effort to connect with others. I call such people the Win-Win type of person, instead of the Zero-Sum game type of person. This means that they know that what is good for others will eventually benefit oneself. But first, you have to learn to be a Win-Win person too. And when you find another Win-Win, your relationship will blossom with blessings of fruits for everyone around you.

Next, I want to speak to those in broken marriages. Maybe you feel you are stuck with someone who is unloving and non-submissive. I must confess that it will not be easy, and I shall not pretend that I know any better on what to do. But this is my offer. Let the church be your refuge and strength. The church will be there if what you need is comfort, and the church will stand alongside, if what you need is to fight back. The church will need divine wisdom on the proper course of action and so will you. But remember this: this is not the place for perfect people. This is a place where broken people help one another become stronger together.

Lastly, I also wish to address those who choose to remain single, or those who are widowed or divorced. You may not currently have a partner to practice love and submission, but we can still do it as a church because the church is also one. Ephesians 4: 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. We love and we submit to one another, so that we can all love and submit ourselves to God.

【1】Paul lived in a world where marriage is for the purpose of child-bearing and for the social alliance of two families. In a world like this, husbands may treat wives as just a functional womb. I can recall last time some aunties would say that if you are looking for a daughter-in-law, you must look for one with a huge ass, because that’s a sign of good childbearing. But Paul instead asked for a husband’s love for the wife that is just like Christ’s sacrificial love for the church. In an old world where measurement of everything is based on wealth and status, so a wife from a rich family may belittle a husband with a poorer background, and you can still see some of this in Korean dramas. Yet Paul asked for a wife’s submission and respect just like a church’s faithfulness to Christ. Paul had transformed that world.

【2】I want to add on something about love languages. Sometimes husbands and wives speak different love languages and they fail to miscommunicate with one another. When you speak to a person who speak another language, should you speak in your language, or should you speak in the other person’s language? Answer is obvious: you speak in the other person’s language because the aim is for the message of love to be conveyed. That to me is submission. It is letting go of your habits and comfort zone, but more than that it is taking control of the situation to do what is best for the relationship.

【3】In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul confessed, “2 I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” To the Corinthian Church, Paul admits it is his calling is to present the church in perfect condition to Christ the groom. And it is not just towards the Corinthian Church alone. If we examine closely, Paul was doing the same preparation with the Ephesian Church. In Ephesians 1: 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. Then in Ephesians 3: 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. 14 For this reason I kneel before the Father. Think about it. Paul is currently imprisoned in Rome. There is no doubt that he is suffering a great deal. Yet here he is, praying hard on bended knees for the Ephesian Church. Why should he care about the spiritual condition of the Ephesian Church? Based on his actions and words alone, it is clear to me. Even though he could not be there in Ephesus in person, but he is still doing his very best, praying and writing, to prepare the church to be in perfect condition for her groom Jesus Christ. When Paul talks about Christ who feed and cares for the church in verses 29-30, I want you to remember that it is Paul who is feeding and caring for the church in the name of Christ. As Paul said in Ephesians 3: 7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. When Paul says love, let us be reminded that it is a divine calling to prepare the church in the name of Christ.
One more insight from the Corinthians situation. Even though Paul declares that he is eager to present them perfectly for Christ, in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul revealed, 3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. Paul may be earnest in preparing the Corinthians Church for Christ, but the reality is that the church is neither submissive to his teachings nor devoted to the groom. They have their own mindset about what is best for themselves. And sadly, they are easily deceived. No wonder Paul also gave the same warning to the Ephesian Church, in Ephesians 5: 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words. Deception is a real danger for the church. However, submission is never easy, because we all have a tendency to prefer words that are flattering to our ears. That makes us susceptible to deception that paints a false reality to us. No need to exercise or diet, just do this to be trim and fit! Click “like”. Christians, no need to transform or sacrifice, just do this to get into heaven! Click “like”. We are so gullible for falsehoods.

Ephesians 5:21–33 (Listen)

21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 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. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 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. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

(ESV)