By Pastor Max Forsythe
Ephesians 5: 21-33
A few years ago I read an article about a hunter who wounded a Canadian Snow Goose as a flock was passing overhead. As the wounded gander fell from the sky into a small pond another goose pealed out of formation to follow its fall. The remaining honkers hurriedly departed. The hunter’s dog found not one wounded bird but two: and the hen who had fluttered down with her lifelong mate defended the wounded gander with a vengeance. The hunter was so impressed with her loyalty that he resolved to spare their lives. And so the gander’s wounded wing was bound up and the marital pair were lovingly fed and honored through the winter. In the spring, when strength and healing had taken hold, the pair departed one crisp morning as a returning flock of honkers winged over their hospice from the south.
Let us remember that these geese are but mere livestock in the created order. Man and his mate are of a higher order separately created by the God of this universe. To that end, what may seem exceptional in the animal world ought to be considered the norm our human species. And yet, as we know from the common experiences of life many, very many wedded couples fall far short of Divine expectations. A truly happy marriage is noted with awe and praise by all those who are blessed with knowing a couple whose life together is not only a blessing to themselves but to their families and friends. I am reminded of a very special couple in the first little country Presbyterian Church at Rushsylvania where I served thirty years ago. They were Harvey & Ruth. As a couple they were inseparable, their devotion was complete. For fifty years they inspired the families of that Church and village to imitate their example of a blessed marriage. Their names were known far and wide and for many years Harvey was continually returned to the office of County Commissioner.
I mention this to you today because the institution of marriage is currently under legal assault in our fair land. We know that we live in a fallen world that has rejected not only the God of creation, but also the substance and the forms of His word given to us in Holy Scripture. Divine themes have been cast out of the media, business and the schools. Even, those who profess the faith are subtly persecuted for their beliefs and practices. In spite of what the world expects, we believe and teach that there is to be a full integration of Christian experience (what we are), Christian theology (what we believe) and Christian ethics (how we behave). We must understand that our being, our thought and our actions belong together and must never be separated. We have to remember, what we are governs how we think, and how we think determines how we act. We are part of Christ’s Church, we are part of a new society. We are a people who have put off the old life and put on the new life through Jesus Christ.
Being partakers of this new condition, we have to realize that we do not simply drift into a condition of holiness. We are not passive spectators of God’s sanctification! Hardly, we have to put forth some effort towards godliness, just as we must study diligently to comprehend the Scriptures so we must just as diligently labor to put on the life of love that Paul describes in our passage from his letter to the Ephesians. Love is first of all, an action. It is behavior that exposes itself in patience and kindness. This is quite the opposite of the lustful immorality which is the obsession of our modern world. And in the last portion of the fifth chapter of Ephesians we find some detailed instructions for Christian responsibilities within the family. Of course the paragraph before us is very clear and there are obligations to both parties laid out for our consideration. Sadly, in our troubled times, the very teaching of these instructions is questioned.
The wife s submission called for here, is one of recognizing ultimately the divine authority. Those who are called to be submissive must learn to see God’s hand behind that call. If we can be submissive to those who we can see, than we can also be submissive to Him who we cannot see! He has chosen to delegate some limited portion of His authority to those who represent Him in this area of relationships. If we cannot submit to those we can see, how can we submit to Him whom we cannot see? Of course, there are limits to this God given authority! And the prime limit is when humans in authority begin to take themselves too seriously. The other side of the teaching is clearly here in this passage as well.
The husband in authority here, must never use that authority for selfish reasons. The authority given by God is to be used for the benefit of those who are in submission. What better example do we find that that given by Paul here in the mystery of Christ and His Church! All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him and what did He willingly do with it? For whom did Christ come, suffer, and die? For whom did He ascend from the grave and return to heaven on high? For whom has He planned the events of history and life eternal? Remember, God has through His divine providence brought husbands and wives together.
And when, in the Lord s providence a man and a woman exchange vows of fealty, love and honor before the Church and the Triune Creator God of heaven and earth it is a fulfillment of the created order which has been mankind s obligation since Adam and Eve walked the earth. Any traditional vows, more than ever in our day: are a matter of life and death. Given the spreading social diseases of our day, any failure to remain faithful puts both intimate companion s lives at risk. While the world will not acknowledge it there is no other intimate human relationship that merits the Lord s blessings. All of those who would depend upon unnatural law, whims and legal niceties are not truly married no matter who may believe the liberal humanistic lies! God has ordained the Covenant of Companionship between man and woman from the dawn of time, let any and all who would trifle with His commandments in this regard be forewarned: it is a hellish delight that is raised up in imitation of God s providential will for all of mankind. Even the best of pagan societies have understood the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman and all of those who have chosen to arrange or encourage any other system of sexual ethics do so at their eternal peril! The institution of marriage is once for all enshrined in the will and purpose of God alone. Any thing else in spite of its label is something else indeed. Period!