God give us Christian homes
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands . . . . Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church . . .” (See Ephesians 5:21-33, RSV).
Much of our thinking about the “Christian home” is based upon nostalgia – sometimes a case of remembering things as we wish they had been instead of how they actually were. Christians, in all generations, have bemoaned the decline of the home and called for a revival of godly living on the part of husbands, wives, parents and children. What many are saying about the demise of Christian homes today was said in the 1950s – and in the 1700s and 1800s!
Fact is, we do need to be “ever vigilant” in terms of assuring a vital faith in our families. In the second half of Ephesians 5 Paul addresses the bonds which make for a healthy, Christian home life.
The first of these is the bond between husbands and wives. Wives are instructed to submit to and reverence their husbands. This is a way of showing respect for the Lord and distinguishing Christian homes from pagan homes. It also becomes a mirror for showing the love for Christ (the bridegroom) by his church (the bride). We know from a careful reading of the New Testament that wives are also to love their husbands, and husbands are to submit to their wives (5:21)! One reason we find spiritual submission to Christ so difficult is because we have bucked the idea of submitting to one another!
Paul also addresses the bond between families and the church. We know that every marriage is built upon something, and not all marriages last.
A marriage may be built upon physical attraction, shared finances, similar interests, or children. A Christian home is built upon Christ and that foundation is evidenced by a bond with his church. Let’s not kid ourselves – we can’t and don’t show our love for Christ at the lake or in the mountains in the same way we can and do at church. Paul did not write that Christ loved “the lake” and gave himself for it! Faith and church (and home) are linked in a way that no other relationship can mimic. The Christian home is linked to the church. If that link is missing or is not vital, then we need to examine our relationship to Christ. This is a part of the great “mystery” Paul addresses in our text.
Paul focuses on the bond between Christ and his church as a means of helping us to understand both “family” and “church.”
In the Old Testament, when God’s people were disobedient they were accused of “unfaithfulness”, “harlotry”, and spiritual “adultery.” In a similar way, in the New Testament, God is the Father of the bride, Christ is the bridegroom, the church is the bride, the Holy Spirit is the “engagement ring”, and we are awaiting the wedding banquet/marriage supper of the lamb.
The home and the church are vitally linked. Christ’s love for the church becomes a model for the family, and the Christian family is a portrait of Christ’s love for the church.
Dr. Faught is Pastor of The LaFollette United Methodist Church.