The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Well…who’s uncomfortable? Who thinks they just fell back in time to the 1950’s and we’re hearing the outdated words spoken at Archie Bunker’s wedding? I’ll admit: this language of submission has a way of rattling cages nowadays. How archaic! How he-man woman-hater! Well…not so fast. God’s Word is eternal. It doesn’t change, unlike our fickle opinions and tastes. Let’s take a very Lutheran tack to this passage and ask ourselves, “What does this mean?”
It’s amazing how selectively deaf we can often be in our lives. No…I’m not talking about the unique gift that all men seem to perfect as they grow older; the gift of being able to hear certain things the wife says, but not everything the wife says. My grandpa was the master of that little game. It seemed like whenever grandma was around and talking about something, poor old grandpa was utterly deaf and shut-out. As far as I knew, he couldn’t hear a thing. And then something amazing would happen whenever grandma left the room. Grandpa could hear. It was a miracle! I bet he could hear a cotton ball hitting the carpet…when grandma wasn’t around. But…that’s not the selective deafness I speak of here.
“Submit…as to the Lord. Love…just like Christ loves the Church.” Paul even goes on to specifically say, “This mystery is profound, and I’m saying that it refers to Christ and His Church.” How often we fail to hear the rest of that conversation. We hear the word “submit” and walls immediately go up and words get drowned out. I don’t need to see a show of hands, but I’m quite sure that many of you know Cheyenne well enough to have thought, “Oh no. He didn’t just do that! He didn’t just go there with her! This is going to get ugly, and we have front-row seats!” Hear what God says. “Submit…as to the Lord. Love…just like Christ loves the Church.” You see, marriage, as God intends it, is not about heavy-handed control and who’s in charge and who is calling the shots. Marriage is not a power struggle to see who can be the boss and who is the submissive servant within the relationship.
Marriage is about revealing and sharing the all-forgiving, unconditional love that Christ has for us and we have for Him in faith; revealing and sharing that love with that one special person whom God has chosen for us. Marriage is about showing the rest of the world how God loves us and we love Him. This command to submit, Cheyenne (and everyone else), is not a mere tyrannical order for you to know your place. This command to submit, Justin (and all other men in attendance) is not a green light to treat her like a dog and expect her to submit like some abused puppy because God says so.
Let’s look at it from the perspective of the bride of Christ, the Church, and her relationship to her bridegroom, Jesus. Does the Church tell Jesus how to do His job? Is the Church over Jesus, or is Jesus over the Church? Who submits to who? When you think about it, submission is nothing more than faith and love in action. God speaks and we respond. We trust and obey. God is God. He’s in charge, and He knows what He’s doing, and He’s saying and doing these things for us because He loves us.
So it is with marriage between husband and wife. The husband—the bridegroom—is to embody Christ in all that he says and does. “Those who hear you hear Me.” Now…that’s making a pretty big assumption, isn’t it? This assumes that the bridegroom is leading, protecting, and providing for his bride just like Christ does for His Church. But what if that’s not the case? What about those times when no one will ever accuse the groom of acting/looking/sounding like Jesus? You see, Justin (and all men), this call to submit is directed at you too. We often forget that. It’s not just for the ladies in attendance. How can you be a good and faithful bridegroom if you do not first submit to your Lord and Savior? It is impossible to love like Christ if you do not first recognize just how much Christ loves you and forgives you when you rebel and go against God’s Word. The same goes for you, Cheyenne (and all ladies). The command to love just as Christ loves the Church is for you too. You are to love and forgive your husbands when they fail to be the perfect embodiment of Christ in your marriage. They will fall short. They’re sinful people…just like you. You are to forgive them and love them unconditionally—no strings attached, no caveats—just like Christ loves and forgives you when you fall short in sin with Him.
Your Lord loved you enough to die for you even while you were still an unrepentant sinner, dead in your sin. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” He loved you enough to give up all of heaven’s majesty in order to take on your flesh, bone, and blood. His flesh, bone, and blood suffered and died so that your flesh, bone, and blood could be redeemed and resurrected to heavenly glory with Him for all eternity. This is what marriage is all about. Love each other, just like Christ loves the Church—unconditionally, selflessly, and sacrificially; that is, willing to give up and sacrifice all out of love for the other. Love each other just like the Church loves Jesus—in all humility and thankfulness for being shown such an undeserved and incomparable love.
I know this probably doesn’t sound like the typical wedding sermon you usually hear nowadays. You know…a message that’s basically nothing more than bits and pieces of advice. “Never go to bed angry. Compromise on the little things. Take turns going to the inlaws’ for the holidays.” Blah, blah, blah. Don’t get me wrong; it’s all good advice, and I’m sure you’ll hear more of it as the day goes on. But these things do not a Christian marriage make. Your Lord gives you the best marriage advice there is (and note—I said marriage, not wedding. A wedding lasts a day. A marriage is for life). Let your marriage always reflect and reveal the relationship Christ has with His bride, the Church. Keep Christ at the center of your marriage. Keep Christ at the head of your marriage, and all will be well.
That doesn’t mean that there won’t be struggles and trials and tribulations. That’s why you’re going to take vows. You don’t know what’s coming. You don’t know what’s around the corner, let alone forty years down the road. You vow—you promise in front of God and all these witnesses that no matter what happens—riches, poverty, health, sickness, good times, bad times, and everything in between—you will love, serve, cherish and forgive each other just as Christ Jesus has loved, served, cherished, and forgiven you. In a very real way, you both vow to be mini-Christs in this relationship, loving and forgiving the other unconditionally when they fall short in their sin; loving, serving, and submitting to the other when they speak the truth of Christ in love to you when you fall short in your sin. Live and love in Christ, because of Christ.
May God bless you in the life together that He has prepared for you. May His marital blessings come to you and be witnessed through you, and not in spite of you. May the love of Christ be witnessed in all that you say and do as husband and wife, from this day forth until that day when God Himself parts you in death. May it ever be said of you that if a person wants to know what the relationship between Christ and the Church looks like and sounds like, look no further than to Justin and Cheyenne. May God grant this blessing to you.
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