Tuesday, August 28, 2012

At home in Christ

Smoke clears from the fireworks. Bags trundle along conveyor belts. The Australian hand luggage weighed down by silver. The Olympics are done. I wonder what happens after the celebration fades?
“Don’t leave your javelin in the hall.”
“Are these the dishes from when I left?”
“It’s not an Olympic pool but can you just look in on bath time?”

There’s no gold medals for keeping your temper. There’s no slow motion replay for taking the garbage out. Yet every day there are feats of incredible care and respect in homes all around the world. Every day calls for Olympian endurance, strength and grace.

More than once in the past week I’ve listened to women wrestling with their husbands, figuratively not literally. Often in these conversations I don’t know what to say. They’re trying to work out how to live as godly husbands and wives. Though unmarried myself, as a child I’ve witnessed first hand the messiness of multiple divorces and remarriages. Regardless of your own marital status, who can really understand the intricacies of another’s marriage? This side of new creation, godliness is hard.

God’s grace teaches us to say no to sin and yes to Jesus (Titus 2:11-14). Dr Claire Smith’s next chapters lead us through God’s Word addressed to men and women at home, in our marriages. She continues to be clear and thoughtful. As I read Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3 and Genesis 1-3, I’m challenged by the nature of submission, I’m encouraged by the dignity God accords to women, and I’m reminded again of how amazing the God is whose image we bear.

“We have reduced headship and submission to attitudes that have no tangible expression. We give lip-service to the biblical model but our patterns of relating are so ingrained, and so influenced by our secular authority-hating culture, and the pressures of marriage and family life are so great, that it is all just too hard – especially when our marriage is stable and we dare not rock the boat! But this is no way to treat God’s demand of us. He demands radical obedience.” (Smith, 128.)

To obey isn’t often radical. To stop at a red light isn’t revolutionary. Yet I’m reminded again how different God’s model of relationships is to the world’s. Some years ago now I saw Bridget Jones’ Diary, not for the first time. Instead of enjoying it I was somewhat horrified by the language, the selfishness, the idolisation of romance and destructive patterns shown. God’s way’s different.

The model in Ephesians 5 is Christ and the Church, His self-sacrificial love, her willing submission in everything. Claire, like God’s Word, addresses both men and women, but it was the willing submission in everything that really stood out to me as I read. There’s no area of my life Christ doesn’t have a claim to. Everything’s his. I can whinge about it and make excuses. Grudging obedience (or quite possibly disobedience) is very different to joyful submission.
“Do I really need to be generous this week?”
“Surely, I don’t have to answer the phone if mum calls in my favourite show.”
“If I had my coffee then I wouldn’t be snappy on a Sunday morning.”

In all of life I’m Christ’s person. There’s no moment I don’t belong to his family. Respect for Jesus impacts everything. This reflection cast a new light on Ephesian’s only qualifications placed on the instruction to wives. ‘Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.’ (Ephesians 5:24) Once married, in all of life I’m wife. There’s no moment I don’t belong to his family. Respect for a husband impacts everything.

“…wifely submission requires intelligence and wisdom, decisions and diligence, spiritual discernment and plenty of repentance.” (Smith, 153.)

Submission is never to be exacted by a husband. It’s a voluntary action by the wife. There’s great responsibility given to women in this biblical instruction. In no way are women excused from godliness or treated as morally or intellectually inferior. Women’s equality in salvation gives great dignity and no excuse to escape obedience to our Lord Jesus.

Sometimes it’s tempting to think, “If other people weren’t so sinful, then I could obey.” “If he just pulled his weight, then I’d do my bit.” It’s hard to be the first to say sorry. It’s hard to admit my part and take responsibility for the things that are mine, and leave to you the things that are yours. It may not be easy but that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do. By His grace, His Spirit convinces me His way is best and gives the strength to keep going.

Over and above the details of day to day stands a great big God. In the beginning he made light in the dark. He made us in His image. He made us male and female. I’m astonished again to realise that I show the world a little something of what God is like. Just by being human. Especially by relating in God’s way as male and female. Most of all by being made new in the one who is *the* image of the invisible God. That’s worth more than gold.

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