Last time we looked at Paul’s teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5. As you recall, Ephesians 5:1 gave us a bit of a background for living as followers of Christ. We are to walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us. This is sacrificial love. Further down in Ephesians 5, Paul cautioned us to take care in the way we interacted with others, he is telling us how to live as believers. Then he moves on to talk about marriage, his primary point being that marriage is an illustration of the relationship between Christ and the Church. This is a very interesting correlation. Paul is assuming here that Christian marriages can actually be an illustration of the relationship between Christ and the Church. What a profound testimony a healthy marriage can have to a watching world and to our watching children.
You Never Had to Teach Your Child to be Selfish!
The concepts of giving preference to others, of willful submission and of mutual respect are all rather counter-cultural today. These concepts go against the primal desire to place ourselves above other people. We don’t have to teach our children how to be selfish, they seem to get that concept at a fairly young age. You only need to take a favorite toy and give it to another sibling to find out just how well they understand the principle of placing themselves above others. So, how do we teach our children to give preference to others, to willfully submit to others, and to show respect to those around them?
Well, the answer is a close to home as it can get, in your marriage!
Submission and Being Helpful
Last time we looked at how husbands can practice willful submission and respect in the family unit. Now, its’ time to turn to how wives can model this. Paul teaches that Christian wives are called to submit to their husbands. This too is a willful choice. The word used indicates a ranking of oneself under the leadership of another. Submission to our husbands is a way that we recognize his leadership of the family. This does not mean that wives are less valued or somehow inferior. Nor does it mean we are silent on issues involving the family. We have a responsibility to voice opinions and even objections. It’s the manner in which we approach this that is key. Mutual respect means that we don’t yell, or give the silent treatment or manipulate, but instead approach issues from the standpoint of a complementarian role. We are after all created to be helpers to our husbands. When we give our opinions and objections in a helpful way, that shows respect. And when we are able to accept a decision that we might not agree with, we are willingly submitting to the leadership structure God has instituted for the family. Each time we choose to submit we are respecting the responsibility God has placed on our husband’s shoulders. This certainly should also increase our desire to pray for our husbands so that their decisions will align with God’s will for our families.
Mutual Submission Teaches Selflessness
So, now that we have looked at how mutual submission and respect play out practically in a healthy Christian marriage, we can see how our marriages can model selflessness, a virtue that is countercultural right now.
Consider Philippians 2:1-4
Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
When a husband looks out for this family over and above his own needs and desires, he is modeling selflessness. When a wife gives her opinions and objections and then accepts the decisions her husband makes, she is being selfless. And when kindness and understanding outweigh the need for an “I told you so!” after a decision goes south, we are modeling selflessness.
What the World Needs Now is Selfless Love
How does this concept of selflessness relate to the gospel and Christian living? We need to look no further than Jesus’ words to the self-righteous lawyer who was trying to test Jesus. The exchange is found in Luke 10:25-37. You remember it as the story of the good Samaritan. But the exchange that takes place between the lawyer and Jesus is what is really interesting here. The lawyer asks, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answers with a question of his own, “What does the law say?” The lawyer replies correctly with, “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all our soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; And your neighbor as yourself.” The lawyer doesn’t get hung up on the loving God part, he is hung up on defining who his neighbor is. Who exactly does he have to love so selflessly to inherit eternal life? The answer is in the story of the good Samaritan, anyone who is in need of selfless love.
Likes, Shares, or Quiet Selflessness?
Our children are inundated with the concept that self is number one. We see it everywhere. And sadly, most altruism is done with a motivation of self-aggrandizement. Likes, shares, and the thought of a viral video are more important than the act of service. Where will our children learn the value of quiet selflessness? One of the best places is in the everyday classroom of your home and your marriage. They will sneak-a-peak of selfless love when we unwittingly model it for them at home. Not necessarily intentional moments, but moments that are unplanned and unexpected, moments that come about in conflict or inconvenience. Those are the lessons that will scream authenticity, no likes or shares necessary!
A healthy Christian marriage can be a daily classroom for how to be a servant leader and how to maintain a humble and selfless attitude toward others. Your children are less likely to observe these traits in the world because the world tells us that leadership is about power and control and self-interest is the primary driver of personal happiness. If they are not learning about servant leadership and selflessness at home, it’s not likely they will learn these lessons.
Take some time today to pray about your own heart. Have you been so caught up in your own needs that you have ignored the needs of those in your own home? Ask God to give you a heart of submission, selflessness, and service. And watch to see if your children notice the change in you. I’d love to hear about it!