Tools - Walking Stick 5

Unfortunately we still have issues in our society with prejudice.  We have trouble accepting people of different color, different origins, different social status and income, and even different sex than ourselves.  We still have struggles of equality among all people.

But as believers, as Christians, as children of God all of these differences should be erased from our eyes.  We must see one another as equal in the Lord.

What relationship do we have with God?  How is that achieved?  Through our faith expressed in our baptism, what type of people have we become?

If we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior then we are made into new people.  We become children of God (Galatians uses the word “sons” but we need to ignore the differentiation of sex).  We express our belief in Jesus through the sacrament of baptism, being immersed – either literally or symbolically – in water to remind us of the death and resurrection of Christ.

With this acceptance and sacrament we are made into new beings.  We are clothed or covered with Christ.  God now sees us as His children in the way He would see Jesus as His son.

With this all those things that made up who we were are gone.  It doesn’t matter if we came from this nation or that land.  It doesn’t matter what language we speak.  It doesn’t matter what position we hold in society or in the business world.  And it doesn’t matter if we are male or female.

We are all made into children of God.  We are equal with one another.

As such we are called to submit to one another.  We are called to share the love of God with one another.  And we are called to see everyone through the loving eyes of Jesus.

Through our belief in Christ and adoption as children of God we must work toward that one-ness and wholeness that Jesus desired.  We must move forward in our faith journey until we are “brought to complete unity” with God, with Christ, and with all other people.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you see others as equal to you in the faith?

Tools - Walking Stick 4

I can imagine those who are upset by the claim that women are not beneath men.  They may see the passages from Ephesians and 1 Corinthians as clear statements of the delineation of rank – God, Jesus, men, women.

But let’s look at the whole picture through the eyes of Jesus.  In today’s passage we have the words of Jesus as he offers a prayer to God.  Why has Jesus given the believers God’s glory?  What further clarification is given at the beginning of verse 23?  What does Jesus desire?

This portion of Christ’s prayer seems to sum up the whole concept of unity in love.  Jesus has shared the glory of God with his disciples and they will soon be sharing that glory – the incredible and overwhelming knowledge of God’s presence – with other believers (John 17:20-21).  Through this knowledge and understanding of who God is and how much God loves us the disciples will become as one, unified in the power of the Spirit.

Jesus then continues with the prayer and expresses the hope that those who believe and follow Jesus will “be brought to complete unity.”  Linking this with the words that start verse 23 – “I in them and you in me” – we see a glimpse of this complete unity.

God is in Jesus.  Jesus is in God.  Jesus is in the disciples.  God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are in all who accept and believe.  We now have an intricate web of unity with all of us becoming as one with the Lord.

If this is true and if this is part of our faith, then all who believe – men and women – are united as one.  We become as one body united in God, united in Christ, united in one another.  With that, how is it possible for one person or one group of people to be in a superior position or position of authority while others remain subservient and second class?

It seems clear that men and women, parents and children, master and slave (or employer and employee) are to submit to one another in reverence and love.  We submit to the love and will of God, and through that we are able to care for, love, serve and encourage one another as equals.  We are to love one another as we love ourselves.  We are to seek the one-ness, the wholeness that comes from loving God completely.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you enter into the one-ness of God?

Tools - Walking Stick 3

Working for an engineering firm many years ago I was promoted after two years with the company.  I went from being a technical editor to being the department supervisor.  It did not change my work location and it did not change my salary.  It just increased my responsibility.

Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth makes an observation of relationships which is closely related to Ephesians 5:22-33.  Who is the head of man?  Who is the head of woman?  Who is the head of Christ?

At first glance this may seem a way of putting every person in their place, of arranging a neat and clean pecking order for all people.  God is in charge.  Jesus is subservient to God.  Man is subservient to Jesus.  Woman is at the bottom.

But I believe this is a very na├»ve and uninformed (and un-Christian!) view of what is being presented here.  We can concede that God is above all things.  He is the Almighty Lord and everything must bow down to Him.  But even as we concede that point we know in our hearts that God does not demand for us to grovel in His presence.

While God is over all things – He is the head of Christ – it is not a position of dominance and oppression.  It is instead a position of responsibility and love.  God is love and as love He is the constant expression of love.  Thus, as head of all things God gives His love to all things and cares for each of us.

Just so, Jesus is the head of mankind.  And what has Christ done for us?  He has not taken a place on a throne and insisted we fall prostrate at his feet.  Rather, Christ gave himself completely for our salvation and to give us eternal life.  He sacrificed himself for our benefit.

Now we turn to men and women.  If man is the head of every woman it does not mean that man is the overlord, the master, the tyrant ruler that is above woman.  Instead it means that man holds the responsibility to provide for, lead, care, and nurture woman.

When I visit and interact with families I usually address the husband/father first out of social respect.  It does not mean I do not value the wife and children.  It simply means that I recognize the man as the head of the household – “head” being the one with the responsibility.  All other family members are still valued and loved.

If God is the head of Christ and Christ is the head of man and man is the head of woman, it is not a hierarchy of ruler-ship but an intricate web of responsibility and care.  It is a relationship of mutual love and respect among all.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  For whom do you have the responsibility of leading in faith and care?

Tools - Walking Stick 2

The relationship between husband and wife is very much like a contractual agreement.  In such relationships each party agrees to give certain things in exchange for receiving certain things.  The relationship between husband and wife is not at all one-sided, but a mutual exchange of giving and receiving.

As mentioned in the comment on Ephesians 5:22 where wives are told to submit to their husbands, there are many people who only point out the instruction for women to submit to the man.  What they usually overlook is the command given to husbands.

What are husbands commanded to do?  What comparison is made?

I think it interesting to note that the passage regarding wives submitting to their husbands is only three verses long (Ephesians 5:22-24).  The passage regarding husbands and their obligation to their wives is five verses long (Ephesians 5:25-29).

Ephesians 5:25 instructs husbands to “love” their wives.  The word “submit” is not used as it is with the passage regarding wives.  However, if a man truly loves his wife then submission to her will be a large part of that relationship.  Once again, the relationship between husband and wife is not one of an important person ruling over a lesser person.  It is a connection of mutual care and encouragement.

We again have a qualifier in the passage on husbands.  They are to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  The husband’s love must be an all-consuming love.  It must be so strong a love that the man will not value himself over his wife.  He must be willing to sacrifice all for his spouse.

As Christ loved the church, men should love their wives.  Such a love involves the husband prizing the wife more than himself, wanting what is best for her even if it means giving up something for himself.  Such a love involves the desire to be in the presence of the wife, to delight in her company, and to want what pleases her.

It is important to note that Ephesians 5:31 recalls the words of Jesus (Matthew 19:5) and God (Genesis 2:24) – “the two will become one flesh.”  The relationship of husband to wife is a connection of one-ness.  It is a connection of wholeness, and as such requires that both wife and husband submit to one another – putting the other first – and love one another with a willingness to sacrifice at every occasion.  The relation of wife to husband is one of mutual care, support and aid.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you love your significant other in the same way Christ loved the church?

Tools - Walking Stick 1

Ephesians continues to give us the tools we need on our faith journey.  If we will make a lengthy trip we will likely need a walking stick to assist us on our trek.  The walking stick is that tool which helps to support us, aids us as we move along, allowing us to lean against it for encouragement.  Beginning in Ephesians 5:22 we see examples of relationships which are meant to offer support for one another.

Which person is the first to be talked about in this grouping of relationships?  What should wives do?  What should be the attitude?

This simple passage has been cited on many occasions by men who want the women in their life to be subservient to them.  It can be interpreted as a message or command for submission.  But we must remember that this passage is only the beginning of a very lengthy discussion of all relationships between people.

As I perform weddings I often make note of the fact that the vow to “obey” is no longer part of the Methodist service of marriage.  Should wives be obedient to their husbands?  The answer is plain in Ephesians.  Yes.

But before we place females in a lesser position in a marriage or in society, we must first realize – as already mentioned – this is only part of an overall comment on all relationships involving wives, husbands, children, employees and employers.  We must also look at the qualifier in this passage.  Wives are to submit to their husbands “as to the Lord.”

This does not mean that the man is lord over the woman.  This does not mean that the wife has no value.  It means that the wife should be in the same relationship with her husband as any believer is in a relationship with Jesus.

Such a relationship is one of equal value.  Each should love the other and be part of a relationship of equality and mutual care and respect.  Just as Jesus deserves our obedience to his teaching and example, so wives should be obedient to the leading and care of their spouse.

But also, just as Jesus showers us with his love and grace, the wife who submits to her husband should expect to receive care and compassion, as well as the protection and affection the husband is supposed to give.

The relationship of wife to husband is not one of servant to master, second class to elite, but is a relationship of mutual care and support.  The relationship is one of equality, assistance, and encouragement in love.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you make your relationship with a significant other one of mutual respect and care?