Two of my books are now available for free on Noisetrade in an eBook format.
Two of my books are now available for free on Noisetrade in an eBook format.
It was in sixth grade that I met Matt. He had moved to my hometown of Mabank, Texas from Colorado Springs. We met in band and became friends. We weren’t the best of friends, but we were more than acquaintances. Although we now live on opposite sides of the nation, through the magic of social networking we have been able to keep in touch. We regularly dialogue through both public and private channels about the cultural mood concerning homosexuality.
Matt is a homosexual, which, because of my Christian faith, is a lifestyle with which I vehemently disagree. And Matt knows this. Matt knows that I don’t agree with him and I know that Matt doesn’t agree with me. But we choose to share our opinions openly and respectfully, which is the intent of this blog.
I recently asked Matt if he would be alright if I interviewed him about his lifestyle. Matt was kind enough to oblige. The motivation behind this is inspired by comments I often read from Christians against homosexuality. Unfortunately, many Christians handle the situation poorly. While it’s okay to be outspoken against it, (and I believe Christians should be free to share their biblical convictions), it’s not okay for that outspokenness to present itself in hatred. Paul writes, “If I speak … but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1).
Needless to say, there is a lot of gratuitously loud noise on today’s social networks.
The following is the interview I conducted with Matt. I typed out the questions and sent them to him. Some of the information is also from follow up conversations. Each question includes Matt’s answer and some include my response, if it calls for it. You will notice that these are in blue.
I hope that anyone who has an opinion about homosexuality sees the respect that Matt and I have for one another in our disagreements, and that that respect is contagious as we continue to debate the issue in the public square.
When did you first think that you were gay?
I began to suspect something was different about myself probably in eighth grade. I remember always wondering why the guys around me seemed so interested in pursuing girls.
Are you currently in a homosexual relationship?
Yes I am. I have been seeing the same guy since I was twenty two years old. We met in college and have been together ever since. He even followed me across the country to a new job. Both of our families have met and actually rather like each other. I was really surprised by that. My Dad is someone I would charitably describe as a “Tea Party Republication”, but he has honestly shocked me with his acceptance of who I am and even the guy I am with.
What kind of social pressures did you experience in “coming out?”
My coming out was kind of an accident. I was twenty and in college and, I won’t bore you with the details, but my parents figured it out and initially we didn’t talk for 3 months. When we did start talking again, it was mostly my mom and I. My dad and I had a very strained relationship the first few years, but now everything is more or less the way I would imagine a regular person’s relationship with their parents is. I can’t honestly say, but I would like to believe that I am glad it happened the way it did, because I am not sure when I would have built up the courage to talk to them about it. Probably not until well into my twenties.
What are your thoughts on same-sex marriage?
This sounds so cliché, but my thoughts on same-sex marriage have greatly evolved since I first started hearing about it back in the mid-2000s. At first, I was staunchly against it, and I think a large part of that had to do with my upbringing in the church. I wasn’t, and nor am I now, against people receiving the same benefits and entitlements that marriage brings to everyone. But I was against the idea of calling it “marriage” because I felt that was reserved fully for straight people and the church. But that was back then, and this is now. I am not what you would call an activist for same-sex marriage, but I do believe now that if gay people want to get married, then they should be able too. Again, I can’t stress this enough, I really just believe that everyone should have access to the benefits that marriage provides, not the name or the title. I am sure my fellow gays won’t like hearing that, but it’s just the way I feel about the issue.
Author’s Note: Many of my thoughts concerning this question can be found in this blog: The Meaning of Equality.
Would you say that today’s homosexual movement is on par with the 1960′s civil rights movement?
Yes, most particularly with the Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia (1967), which invalidated all laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Today, we draw inspiration from that time period, to fight for what we believe should be afforded to us to be treated as equals in the eyes of the law. People today think it’s crazy that blacks and whites couldn’t get married up until forty-odd years ago, but during that time period it was a punishable offense with jail time involved.
Author’s Note: I believe that by the time I am a grandparent that it will be unbelievable that homosexuals could not marry one another, and that by the time my kids are parents that people will be amazed that marijuana was at one time considered an illegal drug, and that by the time they are grandparents that people will be amazed that polygamy was once outlawed.
What would you say to someone who argues for things like bigamy, polygamy, and incestry in marriage (as an expansion of same-sex marriage)?
I think bigamy already occurs today and has been occurring for a long time. Certainly not on any level with large amounts of numbers or data to back it up. But you always hear the story about the man with another family in the next town over.
The problem with polygamy is that it almost always means one man with multiple wives. And when that happens you take away a wife from some other man. So in a polygamous society, you would have all these young, unmarried men who are unhappy with no wives. Same-sex marriage changes none of that, it leads us as a society away from that. Gay people just want the ability to marry someone instead of no one.
Incest is something that is just wrong on so many levels as it is, it’s not even really worth arguing over.
Author’s Note: I can see what Matt is saying in this, but I find it to be pragmatic. And I think pragmatism is a poor way to make decisions, although we all make decisions based on this philosophy everyday!
For example, would polygamy then be okay if we can manufacture a society where there are no unhappy unmarried men? What if the ratio of women to men was such that every man could easily have ten wives?
The point is that the issue runs deeper than mathematics.
Do you believe that there would be any psychological affects to a child reared in a home with same-sex parents (not having the traditional male and female examples)?
I don’t think there are any major drawbacks to a child being raised in a home by two same-sex parents as opposed to a traditional family set. In this modern age, children are raised by single dads, single moms, aunts, uncles and extended family. I think as long as all parties involved really love the child, then it will turn out alright.
Author’s Note: I believe that one of the biggest problems of our day is that a large amount of children are raised in homes without a stable mother and father. I have the opportunity to counsel many individuals and I can, nearly 100% of the time, trace the issue back to the lack of a father in the home.
Do you adhere to any faith religion?
I grew up Methodist, but just sort of stopped going once I graduated high school. I think even in high school I wasn’t really into church anymore, but it was definitely the place where all my friends went and it was a good place to socialize. I do believe that something or someone exists and had something to do with where we are in the universe today. I would say that I loosely identify myself as a Christian, but more like an agnostic one.
Author’s Note: I would say that it’s oxymoronic to be an “agnostic Christian,” although I can say that I know where Matt is coming from. His upbringing leads him to hold beliefs that are rooted in Christianity, but what he believes is not best described as Christianity. He has become agnostic, which means that he doesn’t really know what he believes, although he is still affected by what he learned during his time in the church.
What do you believe the Bible says about homosexuality?
I am not a connoisseur of the Bible, so all I can really say is that I know it’s mentioned a few times, but never directly by Jesus. I did, however, find this awesome article on the Huffington Post website which sums it up much more eloquently then I can: What Does the Bible Really Say About Homosexuality?
Author’s Note: The author of this article begins by suggesting that homosexuality is not as big of an issue as modern day Christians make it, because it is addressed relatively little in comparison to other issues in Scripture. But this is like saying that prostate cancer isn’t as big of a deal as breast cancer because it doesn’t have as big of an awareness month, one that prompts NFL players to wear hot pink highlighted uniforms and people to wear faddy bracelets.
The fact is that it is discussed in Scripture, (homosexuality that is), which makes it important. And when it is discussed, it is identified as sinful. The reason it isn’t discussed more is, arguably, because of the culture in which the Bible was written, specifically the New Testament Gospels. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that homosexuality wasn’t as big of an issue in ancient Jerusalem, the holiest place in the world at that time and the place that Jesus performed most of his ministry and made most of his claims, as it is today. Rape isn’t densely refuted by Jesus either, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t wrong.
Thus the statement, “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, so it must be okay” is a weak and misguided argument.
It is also important to know that Jesus essentially did talk about homosexuality. The Bible describes him as the “Word of God made flesh” (John 1:14), and so anything that is included in Scripture is verified by Jesus. He was the living embodiment of every word of every claim of the Bible. And so if the Bible speaks against homosexuality even once, then Jesus essentially, by virtue of his nature, talked about it.
As for the rest of his article, he seems to argue from ignorance. That is, his argument is, “I’ve personally polled some scholars and commentaries and some of them say that we can’t really know the context of these passages that include language forbidding homosexuality. So, we shouldn’t forbid it without knowing the cultural implications of the day.”
This is a poor reason to refute something out of hand. He is taking shaky evidence and making what he believes is an irrefutable claim. That’s poor debate etiquette.
Do you believe that people are born gay (is it a choice or a predisposition)?
This is honestly a tough question for me to answer. I think everyone is born with certain traits amplified and/or dampened down due to conditions in the womb/external environment, so I can’t say for certain that it’s a predisposition. At the same time, I am fairly confident in saying that it’s not a choice either. I guess I would need to see more research on the matter before I committed to saying it’s a predisposition.
Author’s Note (this is an edited excerpt from a previous blog): Scripture speaks of homosexuality as a sin (1 Cor 6:9), and therefore those that believe Scripture are simply trusting what it says. With that said, Scripture also says that sin is a “predisposition” (Rom 5). It’s something every person is born with. And as a predisposition, everybody has a “decision” to either act on it or not. Some act on it by lying. Others act on it by stealing. And some act on it by planting a bomb at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. It’s a predisposition to which every person is subjected. Thus, since Scripture speaks of homosexuality as a sin, (and since it speaks of sin as a predisposition), it is not unreasonable to say that homosexuality is the fruit of a decision rooted in a predisposed, sinful nature.
But this doesn’t mean that it’s okay. We would never, for example, suggest that rape is okay. No one could reasonably say, “Aw, leave that guy assaulting that woman alone. Stop trying to rewire his predisposition with your personal preferences. He can’t help himself.” This isn’t to say that homosexuality is on par with rape, only that a sin is a sin, and the tiniest sin is enough to separate man from God.
Do you think, from what you know about Christianity, that a person can be a Christian and live an openly homosexual lifestyle?
I think it is possible for someone to be Christian and a homosexual at the same time, yes. God created everyone the way they are for a reason, and whatever that reason is, only God knows. It’s impossible for me to say it’s a sin, because so many things that we do today are. Our culture and society is vastly different than the one that is written and talked about in the Bible. I think someone’s relationship with God, is just that. Their relationship. It isn’t up to you or I to pass judgement on the way they reach out to God.
Author’s Note (this is an edited excerpt from a previous blog): It is interesting that someone would desire to remain associated to Christianity if he also desires to refute some of its basic claims. I say this not against Matt, but to many celebrities, such as Macklemore, who attempt to do so.
There is an old illustration that describes this well. The illustration details a repair man replacing the parts of his boat. After purchasing the boat he begins to replace its every component. He switches out the motor, the hull, the deck, and the seats. Before long, there is no original element left of the boat.
Is it the same boat?
Likewise, when one switches out all of the original components to Christianity, as determined by God primarily through the Bible, it is no longer Christianity.
Is there anything else that you would like to say or add that wasn’t included in this interview?
I just want to say that there will never be a time, no matter what happens, that I would actively hate someone for the beliefs they hold, or the religion that they practice. We are all immensely more complicated than these few social issues that bring out the worst in some people.
I will always be willing to rationally discuss and debate anything with someone as long as I am afforded the same courtesy. Which is why I like you so much Jared! You are one of the few people I am still friends with where we don’t get into some heated screaming match over who’s right and who’s wrong.
Author’s Note: I believe that Matt is on to something here, and that even those that disagree with his lifestyle can learn from it. Christians should never actively hate people because they disagree with them. This is both counterproductive and unchristian. Jesus never hated those that disagreed with him. In fact, while hanging on the cross, he prayed for them. We may believe that they are separated from God, but hating them doesn’t advance the gospel. Our job is to share the truth, to share it in love, and to hope that God uses our efforts to save them and lead them to eternal life in Christ.
Final Note: I usually put the phrase “same sex marriage” in quotations, because I believe the term to be oxymoronic. That is, I believe it is on par with saying, “squared circle.” In this interview the term shows up from time to time without the quotations because it is included in Matt’s answers, and he doesn’t view it that way.
. . . so long as he understands that marriage is between one man and one woman and that to enjoy that right he must submit himself to that traditional understanding of the institution.
Therefore, it’s not even necessarily that a homosexual should have the right to get married as much as it is that a homosexual currently does have the right to get married.
This is because marriage is a term that means something and to participate in it one must follow the inherent principles of the term’s definition. For example, “walking” is defined as “advancing on foot at a moderate pace,” while “running” is defined as “going quickly by moving the legs rapidly.” Walking is not running and running is not walking. Therefore, to participate in the activity of walking is not the same as participating in the activity of running. Moreover, one can easily differentiate between the two activities based on the inherent principles included in the definitions of the terms.
Marriage is defined as a union between a “husband and wife,” which means a “male and a female.” Therefore, a homosexual male can only participate in marriage so long as he marries a woman, and a homosexual woman can only participate in marriage so long as she marries a male, just as I can only perform heart surgery on a patient if I have credibly earned a medical license or cannot perform heart surgery on a patient if I have not credibly earned a medical license.
Actually, I could perform the surgery, but it wouldn’t make me a heart surgeon. Moreover, it would be dangerous and harmful to society.
This is because functionality, or the right to participate or not participate in certain actions, doesn’t mean inequality. It merely means that there are standards applied to certain rights and these standards are applied for good reasons.
One would never argue that people should be able to perform heart surgery on other people without a license, citing that it is a breach of equality to suggest otherwise.
The current debate on “same-sex marriage,” which is the equivalent of saying “the current debate on square circles,” argues on the platform of “equality,” but there has been a serious misunderstanding as to what “equality” is. Equality has nothing to do with the right for every person to participate in every action. It is the balanced and tested result of multiple, defined integers. Therefore, an unlicensed individual plus a scalpel doesn’t “equal” a heart surgeon anymore than a man plus a man “equals” a marriage.
Certain factors need to be present for a certain summation to take place, and in the case of “same-sex marriage” it is the opposite gender.
In order for homosexuals to participate in “same-sex marriage,” the integers of marriage would have to be redefined. And redefining integers always equals a different summation. But this is not what proponents for “same-sex marriage” want to do. They want to redefine the integers but keep the same result. They want to redefine the number two, but still suggest that, “two plus two equals four.” They want redefine the principles of walking, but still call it walking when they might actually be running.
If the Supreme Court of the United States votes in favor of “same-sex marriage,” then they have essentially voted that “two” can mean “three, five, or one-hundred and ten,” but that adding “two and two” still equals “four.”
For the past few weeks I have been sharing the chapters to a new booklet I have developed entitled, “Marital Roles: God’s Testimony in Marriage.” The booklet unpacks Genesis 2:18-25 and Ephesians 5:22-33 to reveal three truths about marriage. These truths are: (1) Wives should live for their husbands; (2) Husbands should die for their wives; and (3) Marriage should last a lifetime.
(click the sentences to read the blog posts)
The following is the conclusion to the booklet:
God’s design for marriage is simple: Wives should live for their husbands and husbands should die for their wives. Moreover, marriage should last a lifetime.
There is one verse in Genesis 2:18-25 that has yet to be unpacked. This is verse twenty-five and it serves as a bridge between holy matrimony and the Fall, thus shedding light on why so many marriages struggle.
At this point in Genesis God’s perfect design for marriage is being lived out. Adam and Eve are both operating in their God intended roles. Adam is dying for Eve. Eve is living for Adam. Their relationship is set to last forever. Moses identifies this kind of lifestyle as “shameless.”
This, however, was about to change.
Interestingly, a survey of the Fall reveals a reversal of God’s intended roles for husband and wife. The hierarchy of creation had been established and clearly communicated. This hierarchy was God, man, woman, and animal. The Fall turned this completely upside-down. The woman listened to the animal (serpent), the man listened to the woman, and nobody listened to God!
This is why understanding God’s intended roles for marriage is so important. When the roles are confused, reversed, or ignored, mayhem commences. Interestingly, it isn’t necessarily that the Fall reversed the roles so much as it was that the reversed roles enacted the Fall.
Once Adam and Eve stopped operating in God’s intended roles, Satan was able to implement sin into the human race. Marriage, among other things, has struggled ever since.
Thankfully, God didn’t leave it this way. He implemented a prophecy stating that woman would give birth to a “seed” who would ultimately bruise the serpent on the head. This of course is Jesus Christ, who corrected God’s intended roles by going into his own “deep sleep,” being pierced in his side, and sacrificially loving us to the point of death.
It took death for the bride to live. But once Jesus died, he rose therefore revealing that sacrificial love ultimately results in the life of both the groom and the bride.
This is God’s testimony in marriage. And every husband and wife can experience it.
For the past few weeks I have been sharing the chapters to a new booklet I have completed on marriage. The booklet is entitled, “Marital Roles: God’s Testimony in Marriage.” It unpacks Genesis 2:18-25 and Ephesians 5:22-33 to reveal God’s design for marriage. This design is summarized in three points, which make up the chapters to the booklet: Wives should live for their husbands; Husbands should die for their wives; Marriages should last a lifetime.
The following consists of the third and final chapter to the booklet, which is entitled, “Marriages Should Last a Lifetime.”
Ephesians 5:31 is a direct quote from Genesis 2:24, which is one of the earliest statements recorded on marriage. To understand the quote, however, it is best to consider its original passage. The passage affirms the roles detailed in the previous chapters and ultimately reveals a third and final truth about marriage, which is that it is designed to last a lifetime. Consider these ancient words of Moses:
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:18-24).
Love at First Sight
Genesis 2:18-24 begins by noting Adam’s loneliness. God’s response is that “it is not good.” This is interesting because after each day of creation God said, “it is good.” In fact, after creating man He said, “it is very good” (1:31). Here, He recognizes that while it is very good that he created man, it is not good at all that man is alone.
That God recognized Adam’s loneliness as “not good” tells us that man is not designed to be alone. While this doesn’t mean that everyone should get married, it does mean that people are designed to have meaningful relationships. Aside from man’s relationship with God, marriage is the most meaningful relationship that exists, especially since it is designed to portray the gospel.
This is why God made a “suitable” helper for Adam. It was quite literally a “match made from heaven.”
The word “suitable” refers to how man and woman are designed for one another. They share an unprecedented connection.
I recently had a suit altered specifically to fit my body. The waist, seat, and length were fitted in order that it would be specifically “suitable” for me. This is much different than buying an unaltered suit from the rack, something that I have done in the past. In the former instance the suit is specially altered for me. In the latter it isn’t.
The altered suit fits much better than the unaltered suit.
This is the idea presented in Genesis 2:18. Eve was suitably fitted for Adam.
This thought is emphasized in verses nineteen and twenty when the animals passed before Adam so that he could name them. The event made Adam feel lonely. He realized that he was not like them and that they were not like him.
They were suits off the rack, not fitted for him at all.
Moreover, they had gender counterparts that were suited for one another, something he realized he didn’t have.
This is when God decided to create woman.
To create woman God caused a “deep sleep” to fall on Adam. He then “took one of his ribs.” The emphasis of this event is twofold.
First, God fashioned woman out of man. He didn’t create her “from the dust” in the way he did Adam (Gen 2:7). He created her out of man. Man and woman, therefore, will always be connected in a way that no other species can experience. Woman is the only being created from her gender counterpart.
The second emphasis is on the location from where God took the rib. Matthew Henry writes,
“She was not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved.”
After creating the woman God brings her before man, much like the animals were brought before him. This time he notices something different. This time he sees someone suited for him. He finds a suit that is altered specifically for him.
Verse twenty-three captures his response:
This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.
A literal translation of this verse is: “At last, one of my own kind!” Or, “Wow! This suit fits perfectly!”
I Love Waking Up Next to You!
Woman is the result of God taking a rib from Adam while he was in a “deep sleep.” This sleep portrays Adam’s metaphorical death. The idea, therefore, is that Eve was able to live because Adam was willing to die. That is, the wife lived because the husband died.
These are the truths outlined in this book and they cannot be painted more beautifully than they are here.
Many people think that the first sacrifice in the Bible is when Adam and Eve sinned and God slayed an innocent animal in order to use its skin to cover their shame (Gen 3:21).
This is an incredible sacrifice, but it isn’t the first.
The first sacrifice in the Bible is here, when man metaphorically dies in order for woman to live, and as we have seen in Ephesians 5 it parallels the sacrifice of Jesus.
This is how marriage represents the gospel. Like Christ was “put to sleep” on the cross and His side was pierced for His bride (John 19:33-37), so Adam was placed in a “deep sleep” and pierced in his side for his bride.
Like Jesus, Adam gave of himself so that his bride could live.
This is the context from where Paul quotes in Ephesians 5:31. His words mimic Moses’ exactly:
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
The “reason” a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife is the same for both Moses and Paul. A husband’s death (sacrificial love) provides the opportunity for his wife to live. In so doing the husband and wife inherit a new identity described as “one flesh.”
This is a powerful picture.
Flesh cannot be separated into two portions to create two people. It can only, by nature, be one flesh.
Jesus on Divorce
Jesus was once questioned in the Gospels on divorce. Ironically, he referenced Genesis 2:24, the verse Paul quotes in Ephesians 5:31, saying,
They are no longer two, but one flesh. What God has joined together, let no man separate (Matt 19:6).
While the Old Testament permits divorce in the case of adultery (Deut 24:1-4), Jesus said that this is not God’s intention for marriage. Instead, it was instilled because of the hardness of men’s hearts. This is precisely what Jesus stated when questioned on the matter:
They said to him, “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way” (Matt 19:7-8).
Jesus also said that if a man divorces his wife for any reason besides immorality and remarries another woman, that he commits adultery (Matt 19:9).
It seems that men began to look at divorce as a godly excuse to separate from their wives, but Jesus revealed that it was actually not something God intended at all. Instead, it was established because of sin and is also, itself, sin.
In God’s eyes, divorce is like ripping apart flesh in hopes that you can create two separate entities, something that is literally impossible. Divorce, therefore, ruins God’s desire for marriage and communicates exactly the opposite of what God originally intended, which is an everlasting relationship between himself and his bride.
The Perseverance of a Marriage
The phrase “one flesh” suggests that marriage is designed to last a lifetime. There is a theological concept called “the Perseverance of the Saints” which conveys this thought well.
The Perseverance of the Saints is a doctrine that suggests that, “once saved, always saved.” One could say that once a person accepts Jesus that he and Jesus are like “one flesh.” And like literal flesh, it cannot be divided.
In Ephesians 5:32 Paul says that this idea of “one flesh” is a “great mystery” and that he is speaking about “Christ and the church.”
This conveys the importance of marriage.
Marriage represents more than a lifelong earthly relationship. It portrays God’s everlasting relationship with the church, a relationship that nothing can divide. Paul writes,
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:35, 37-39).
Paul is clear that there is nothing that can ever separate God’s relationship with his bride. Likewise, there should never be anything that separates a marriage.
Marriage bonds a man and woman into “one flesh,” and this bond represents to a loveless world God’s eternal love for his children.
Because there is nothing that can separate God’s love for his bride, there should be nothing that can separate a husband’s love for his wife, or a wife’s love for her husband.
The relationship should last a lifetime.
The Testimony of Holy Matrimony
Not long ago there was a woman in our church who lost her wedding ring. She had owned the ring for over fifty years and was understandably devastated. Thankfully, she ended up finding it but the thought of losing such a precious treasure greatly upset her. Her distress wasn’t the result of the ring being monetarily valuable. She could have easily went down the road and purchased a new ring. It was the result of what this particular ring represented. It was a sign of her faithful relationship to her husband and his faithful relationship to her.
For this woman losing the ring meant losing the testimony of her marriage. It was the ring that was placed on her finger on her wedding day and the ring that she wore every day of her marriage. People could look at that ring and know that she was married. It would prompt questions like, “How long have you been married?” and “Do you have any children?” The little gold band served as a way to let the world know that she was married. While losing it held no affect on the union of her marriage, it was important because it uniquely represented her marriage in a way that no other ring could.
Marriage, in and of itself, is an amazing institution, but we cannot forget what it represents. We should value the meaning of marriage as God’s testimony like this woman valued her ring as her marriage’s testimony. When husbands and wives function in their God-designed marital roles the marriage serves as a wedding ring to the world, a symbol revealing God’s relationship with his people, and his people’s relationship with him.
This is a ring that can never be lost!
This is why marriage is so important and why divorce is so devastating. Divorce is more than an expensive piece of paper allowing you to legally separate from your spouse. It completely destroys God’s witness. It communicates the exact opposite of God’s relationship with his church. It tells the world that there are things that can separate God’s love from his bride instead of the biblical truth that there aren’t.
When Adam and Eve sinned against God he had every reason to “divorce” them. The thought, however, never crossed his mind. Instead, he decided to unconditionally and sacrificially love them. He took an innocent animal, slayed it, and used its skin to cover their shame.
This points towards another innocent “animal” that was slain. This of course is Jesus, the Lamb who, when the world turned against him, chose to sacrificially love it by dying on the cross. “Divorce” never even entered his mind and it should never enter ours.
Marriages should last a lifetime.
For the past couple of weeks I have been sharing the chapters to a booklet I have been developing on marriage. The booklet is entitled, “Marital Roles: God’s Testimony in Marriage.” The booklet is essentially an exposition of Paul’s instructions to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5, which reveals that marriage is designed to portray the gospel.
The following paragraphs include the second chapter, which is entitled: “Husbands Should Die for Their Wives.”
If the key word for the wife is “subject,” the key word for the husband is “love.” He is to “love” his wife like Christ loved the church.
In Greek there are a handful of words for “love.”
Philo, for example, is brotherly love.
Eros is romantic love.
And then there is agape, which is an all-encompassing love that seeks the highest good for another person. This is the word Paul uses in his instructions to husbands. It is the kind of love that Christ expressed when he “gave himself up for [us].”
This is best described as sacrificial love.
Two things happen when a husband sacrificially loves his wife. First, she is sanctified and, second, she is sustained. Sanctification is detailed in verses twenty-six and twenty-seven, while sustention is detailed in verses twenty-eight, twenty-nine, and thirty.
Sanctifying Your Marriage
The word “sanctify” means “to set apart to something or someone forever.” Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross results in sanctification for those who confess him. A wife receives the same opportunity when her husband sacrificially loves her.
Paul says that the “washing of water with the word” does this. This is a metaphor suggesting that God’s word works as a spiritual loofa. The implication is that we are, without Christ, dirty. This washing took place when Jesus, the Word made flesh, shed his blood on the cross. When we place our faith in him, his blood scrubs away the grime and we in turn are set apart as his.
One of my least favorite chores is cleaning dirty dishes. The dislike is amplified after a large meal in which a barrage of dishes is stacked, like blocks to a fresh game of Jenga, in the sink.
There is an obvious distinction between clean dishes and dirty dishes. Clean dishes are spot free and deemed ready for use. Dirty dishes have spots that deem them unusable until the spots have been washed away. Once a dirty dish is washed, it is removed from its dirty companions and added to a battalion of clean dishes ready to be presented at the next dinner party.
This is the kind of “washing” that results for a wife whose husband sacrificially loves her. It allows a wife to be “presented . . . in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but holy and blameless.” It makes her like a fine piece of china, ready for presentation at the grandest dinner party.
Paul also writes that sacrificial love removes “wrinkles.” (Albeit spiritual wrinkles, husbands can know that their love keeps their wives looking young!)
A spot represents defilement on the outside while wrinkles represent decay on the inside. This means that there is a spiritual onslaught against the wife and it comes from at least two directions. Paul says that a husband’s sacrificial love can protect her from these outside and inside onslaughts.
A husband truly can be his wife’s knight in shining armor!
Sustaining Your Marriage
Sacrificial love sanctifies a wife, but it also sustains her.
Paul instructs husbands to “love their own wives as their own bodies” (v. 28). Continuing the illustration from chapter one, instead of the husband viewing the head (his role) and the body (his wife’s role) as two separate parts, the head and the body should be viewed as one.
Moses captures this concept well in using the phrase, “one flesh” (Gen 2:24).
This is an important point because many husbands view their wives as a spare tire to their marriage, something tucked away underneath the bed of a pickup truck only needed when something goes awry.
This is not God’s intention for a wife.
Instead, wives are an integral part of the marital engine, a part that would keep the truck from running if it were missing.
Paul continues this metaphor in writing, “for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it” (v. 29). This means that it’s not just that wives are an integral part of the engine, but that the engine needs to be properly maintained.
A husband’s sacrificial love provides this maintenance.
The word “nourish” means “to bring to maturity.” Contextually it suggests providing adequate food to help the body grow properly. The implication is that inadequate food could stunt proper growth.
If we were to continue this thought in our illustration, it would mean that a husband nourishing his wife is like a driver keeping his oil fresh. This essentially means that husbands need to make sure that the oil in their marriage is changed every three-thousand miles or every three months, whichever comes first. In other words a husband’s love needs to be fresh, otherwise his marriage will begin to show signs of trouble and he might not notice the engine light warning until it’s too late.
A neglected car running on poor oil cannot be expected to continue running properly. Likewise, a neglected marriage running on poor love cannot be expected to continue functioning properly. Like a neglected engine, the results could be devastating. It all depends on how the driver (the head) treats the car (the body).
It is difficult for a wife to continue living for her husband if her husband fails to die for her. A husband’s “death,”—his sacrificial love—results in the proper maintenance every wife needs to keep going. This is her “nourishment.” This is how he “changes the oil.”
In talking about sustention, Paul also uses the word “cherish,” which means to “tenderly take care of.” It is the same word used in 1 Thessalonians 2:7 when Paul describes a mother caring for her newborn baby:
For we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.
Paul’s metaphor suggests that people tend to take better care of what belongs to them than of what belongs to someone else.
Renting a car proves this theory.
Upon return, beyond making sure that there are no dents or scratches on a rental car, the chances are that you have no concern about the regular car maintenance issues such as fresh oil and rotated tires. Moreover, you might tend to rev the engine higher, turn a corner sharper, and hit a pothole harder than you would in your own car. This is because you don’t have to deal with the consequences of what those kinds of actions might do to the overall tenure of the car.
Anything that might happen to the car after it is returned has no affect on you, and so you treat it with less respect.
This is because it does not belong to you. It is not your “body.”
Paul says that this is not how a husband is to treat his wife. A wife is not a husband’s rental. This is why he shouldn’t treat her like one by revving up his voice at her, making sharp judgments against her, and abusing her with his words. Instead, she is that rare, limited edition car parked safely in a bolted garage, meticulously detailed so that everyone can see how beautiful she is.
This is what it means for a husband to treat his wife as his own body. It is an entirely different picture than that of a rental car. We tend to “nourish” and “cherish” what we consider our own, while we neglect and condemn what isn’t.
A husband cannot help but cherish his wife when he views her as his own. This act motivates him to make sure that she is nourished. This is ultimately what it means to say that a husband’s sacrificial love “sustains” his wife.
This sacrificial love is the kind that Jesus expressed to the church and the results of sanctification and sustention are precisely what people experience when they trust in him as their Lord. Therefore, as Jesus is the head of the church, the husband is the head of his marriage. The church can only live because Jesus died. Likewise, a wife can only live when her husband dies.
It is not unreasonable to suggest that many marriages fail because husbands fail to die for their wives. Imagine for a moment how the church would look if Jesus had never died on the cross. It literally could not exist and would moreover be an identity to which we could never attain.
This truth carries over into marriage. If a husband fails to sacrificially love his wife it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for her to function in her role of living for him. In other words, marriages tend to live or die depending on how a husband functions within his marital role, much like the church can only live because of Jesus’ sacrificial love for it.
Love is a Choice
It is important at this point to make a statement that will counteract one of the major excuses many husbands give for divorce.
The excuse is: I just don’t love her anymore.
The counteractive statement is: Love is a choice.
This statement may come as a surprise to many and some will undoubtedly have a difficult time accepting it. This is because our culture teaches that love is a random emotion that comes and goes as it pleases.
“We cannot help who we fall in love with,” is the anthem of modern day relationships. In fact, the scripts of many romance movies contain this line in one form or another.
We are taught from a young age that love happens when cupid shoots us in the rear end with a special arrow that causes us to fall in love with the first person we see. The result is an arbitrary force that overtakes our emotions and we cannot help but succumb to it.
This is not the way love works.
Instead, love is a choice, not a random emotion. This is proved by God’s choice to love us. John writes,
We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Love is a choice because God made the choice to love us. Any love we express is an imitation of his love. If love were a random force then it would completely remove the power behind God’s love for us, and our love for one another.
One of the more cherished verses of all time is John 3:16, which portrays this concept well. God’s choice to love us motivated his decision to give up his Son:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
God’s decision to give Jesus was not an arbitrary decision. It was a direct result of his choice to love us.
This is the message Paul gives the husband. Husbands are to “love” their wives like Christ loved the church, and Christ’s love motivated him to give himself up for it.
This was a conscious, calculated decision, not a random, haphazard sensation.
It’s not that Jesus couldn’t help but die in our place because of a random emotion, it’s that he chose to love us and then expressed that choice by dying in our steads.
If a husband accepts this truth then he will realize that the vows he made on his wedding day depend on his decision to choose to love his wife. He can stand by his commitment to love his wife “till death does him part” because he knows that love is of God, not an accidental force.
Sadly, many husbands act as if there is an unwritten clause in their vows that say, “till cupid’s magic runs out.” This is not the kind of love God expressed to us, and it is surely not the kind of love that reveals God’s testimony in marriage.
If husbands truly want to die for their wives, then they need to realize that love is a choice that ultimately imitates God’s love for us. Therefore, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad times, in joy and in sorrow, whether richer or poorer a husband can choose to love his wife.
This is how Jesus chose to love us.
Last week I shared the introduction to a booklet I am preparing for pre and post marital counseling. Today I want to share chapter one which is entitled, “Wives Should Live for Their Husbands.”
My tenure in the ministry has revealed that the family is under attack. It seems that I receive a call or have a counseling session with a family in crisis on a weekly basis. I cannot think of a better way to counteract this than to consider what the scriptures say about marriage.
In Ephesians 5:22-33 Paul details God’s design for marriage by discussing how husbands and wives ought to function in their relationship with one another. In my estimation, the best way to summarize Paul’s instructions is to state that wives should live for their husbands while husbands should die for their wives.
The following paragraphs contain the content for the first chapter to this booklet, “Marital Roles: God’s Testimony in Marriage,” which is entitled, “Wives Should Live for Their Husbands”:
The critical word in this selected passage—the passage in which specific instructions are given for the wife—is “subject.” Some translations use the word “obey” or “submit.” Interestingly, this word is not directly included in the Greek manuscripts. That is, if one were reading the Greek New Testament the word “submit” would not directly be included in verse twenty-two. English bibles do not get it wrong. The grammatical context demands the word to be included in Paul’s instruction to wives and this context creates a powerful impact on Paul’s statements.
There is a syntactical connection between verses twenty-one and twenty-two. While the verb is not necessarily written in verse twenty-two, it is understood because of the content in verse twenty-one. Verse twenty-one serves as a stud upon which verse twenty-two hinges. This syntactical relationship makes it impossible to understand verse twenty-two without first understanding verse twenty-one.
Verse twenty-one says,
“and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”
Syntactically, the verb “subject” carries over into verse twenty-two. This is why it would be difficult to understand this verse without first understanding verse twenty-one. The verse reveals that, ultimately, a wife’s subjection is based on her “fear of Christ.”
This subjection, however, goes much deeper than even this.
Noting the immediate context of Paul’s instruction to wives is important, but noting the transcendent context is even more important. Ephesians 5:1 provides some of this transcendent context:
“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children.”
The word “therefore” is an important inclusion in this verse. There is an old adage that applies here: Upon encountering the word “therefore,” it is best to ask, “What is that ‘therefore,’ there for?” In this context the word “therefore” ultimately reflects back to Ephesians 1:7, which says:
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”
This verse is often cited as the theme verse for the book of Ephesians, consequently tracing the word “subject” to its deepest possible root. Therefore, Paul’s statements in Ephesians 5 concerning marriage, for husbands and wives, are ultimately based on the redemption that believers have in Jesus Christ. Wives should therefore be “subject” to their husbands because of their fear of God, which is rooted in their redemption in Jesus Christ. Moreover, this redemption should entice wives (and husbands) to be “imitators of God” in their marriage (5:1).
This is the transcendent context and deepest root of Paul’s instructions to husbands and wives.
This shows that marriage is inherently a God-ordained institution. While a marriage can survive without God, it cannot thrive until both partners honor him, expressing that honor in their commitments to one another.
This is the ultimate goal in marriage.
In order for a wife to live for her husband, she needs to “subject” herself to him. Understanding this reveals the environment of Paul’s statements. The nature of this environment is discovered when the word is dissected. Upon dissection it is discovered that “subject” means to “place under” or “rank under.”
Suggesting that a wife “ranks under” her husband is considered sexist in our modern-day culture. A proper understanding of this phrase, however, reveals something much different.
The Act of Submission
There are essentially two things to understand about the word “submit.” First, it has to do with the operation of authority, not the order of authority. That is, the emphasis of the word is not necessarily focused on who “ranks higher” than whom, but instead concentrates on how different roles with different responsibilities function together.
God gives husbands the responsibility to lead their wives, but it doesn’t mean that they are better than their wives. The “rank” has to do with vocation, not value.
Second, this word implies a voluntary action. That is, the wife is called to submit to her husband out of her own volition, not out of coercion. In other words, a husband cannot abuse this verse by telling his wife, “Obey me woman, because the Bible says so!” Wives should instead take this instruction and voluntarily apply it to their lives.
This is best seen in the life of a believer who voluntarily confesses Jesus as Lord, therefore subjecting himself to the “fear of the Lord.” Wives should live for their husbands in the way a believer lives for Christ.
This is precisely what the rest of verse twenty-two posits when Paul writes that wives do this “as to the Lord.” In fact, this phrase provides a deeper meaning to her role.
As to the Lord
Paul’s use of the phrase “as to the Lord” means that as the wife is subordinate to her husband, so in that very action she submits herself to the Lord. That is, when a wife voluntarily subjects herself to her husband, she also subjects herself to Jesus Christ.
Verses twenty-three and twenty-four illustrate this well.
Paul writes that the husband is the “head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church.” Contextually, this instruction is written to the wife, not to the husband. That is, Paul is not instructing a husband to be the “head” of his wife here (that comes later). The instruction is instead directed to the wife. This is important because these particular instructions are not given so a husband can lord power over his wife; they are given in order that a wife can voluntarily subject herself to her husband.
Considering the implications of the word “head” provides a deeper understanding of this point.
The Headless Horseman of Holy Matrimony
Most are familiar with Ichabod Crane, the protagonist of Washington Irving’s 1820 novel The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In Irving’s novel, Crane is hunted one evening by the infamous Headless Horsemen who ultimately chases Crane out of Sleepy Hollow. While the headless horseman is ingrained in American storytelling culture, the concept of a literal headless man is fantastical. Life cannot exist where there is no head. We therefore have no reason to fear the hustling persecution of a headless horseman, but many marriages attempt to summon this fictional figure as their marital mascot. The result of such behavior is a headless entity running around destroying everything in its path. This destruction often includes children, other family members, and ultimately God’s testimony in marriage.
In other words, such marriages imitate, as the old adage goes, a “chicken with its head cut off.”
It is absolute mayhem.
Paul’s use of “head” implies the “source of life.” Our heads include eyes to see, ears to hear, a nose to smell, a tongue to taste, and a brain to think. This is to say that all five of our senses are based in the head.
We appreciate art because we observe the majesty of colors and designs with our eyes. We enjoy music because we hear the beautiful melody with our ears. We smell mom’s famous sweet buttermilk cornbread in the oven because of the sugary aroma that wafts to our noses. We acknowledge its sweetness because our tongues taste the spoonfuls of sugar threaded throughout the moist cornmeal. And we know that the oven is hot because as we place our hands near the door, we feel the heat emanating off of the grills and our brains compute that it would be harmful to touch.
The body cannot achieve these results on its own. It needs the abilities of the head.
While the head directs the body, it is useless without it. This is a great illustration of the word “subject.” The head leads the body, but the body follows the instructions of the head.
The head cannot lead if there is no body to follow. It is our hands, for example, that shovel the sweet buttermilk cornbread into our mouths and the warm sensations against our skin that warn our brains that the grill is still hot from baking that cornbread. This is to say that the body and head complement one another beautifully. In fact, they are designed this way. One cannot function without the other.
If a marriage is going to become the heavenly testimony for which it was created, wives need to understand that their role in marriage is the body, not the head. Therefore, once a woman is married, she must subject herself to this role so that the marriage has a body in order to follow the commands of the head. This body can aid the experience of savory things, such as with the sweet cornbread, and also protect from harmful things, as in the case of the hot grill. In this, both components harmonize to create a beautiful melody that cannot be achieved alone.
This is a large part of what it means for a wife to live for her husband.
The secular world misunderstands this concept demanding that such suggestions are sexist. This is a sad misunderstanding of a beautiful design. A wife living in subjection to her husband is not sexist—it is godly, and it can show a lost world how a person should function with Jesus Christ, which is the single greatest relationship any person can have.
Consider for a moment a church that lives outside of the subjection of Christ. Such a thought considers a church defying the very purpose for which it was created.
From what book would the pastor preach?
What lyrics would the congregation sing?
What would the offerings support?
If Jesus is removed from the picture, the preaching, singing, and giving (the body) lose ability and purpose. The same holds true in marriage. The natural functions of the body lose their ability and purpose when the head is not followed and, like an unrehearsed marching band, the entire system crumbles.
A church exists, by biblical definition, to honor its head, which is Christ. Likewise, a wife, by biblical definition, is designed to honor the head of her marriage, which is her husband.
This is what it means to say that she must live for him.
The results of a marriage in which the wife is not living in subjection to her husband can be devastating. It would be like a body without a head, which is a concept that only exists in science fiction novels.
This is to say that the concept of a headless body cannot maritally exist anymore than it cannot physically exist.
This is why we don’t have to fear being hunted by the Headless Horseman. We know that such a figure is impossible, but we still attempt to give life to this impossible concept in our marriages.
This is why it is important for the wife to serve as the body of her marriage and in this she lives for her husband as he leads and directs.
The following paragraphs are the introduction to a small booklet I am currently writing on marriage. The booklet is entitled, Marital Roles: God’s Testimony in Marriage. The book unpacks Ephesians 5 and Genesis 2 to reveal how marriage is designed to be a living example of the gospel.
I plan on personally using the book during my pre-marital counseling sessions with engaged couples. While the content will be published into a book, it will also be freely available through this website.
The family is currently under attack from Satan. The goal of this book is to provide insight into God’s original design for how husbands and wives ought to function in their union of holy matrimony.
One of the more exciting moments at many football games comes at half-time when the marching band performs. The marching band is a group of individuals with different roles who work together to create a beautiful experience.
There are a myriad of things that take place during a marching band performance. There are, for example, both brass instruments and wind instruments. These instruments have distinct sounds and tones. Instrumentalists within these sections play their own sets of music. Some, for example, play the “first part,” and others the “second” or “third” part. These parts contain different notes and sometimes different melodies. When partnered with the various sounds and tones from the overall assembly of instruments, these parts create unique harmonies that can only be generated when everyone fulfills their roles. When the conductors, color guard, and marching are included, a beautiful experience commences.
Every single person in the marching band has a role to play. If even one person fails, the entire system can crumble. This is why many marching bands spend countless hours in practice. When it comes time to perform everyone knows what their roles are and how to perform them. The goal is to have every member functioning in a role that serves the band’s purpose, which is to create a synonymous experience where sounds and moves complement one another in an incredibly beautiful way.
This is precisely the point Paul makes in Ephesians 5 concerning marriage. Husbands and wives have distinct roles that complement one another in order to create something beautiful.
This “something” is marriage.
Marriage is one of God’s most precious institutions and he gives both husbands and wives specific roles to fill within this relationship. Like the marching band, if just one of the partners step out of line the entire system can crumble. It doesn’t take a statistician to understand that this is exactly what is happening today as divorce rates continue to soar at alarming rates.
This is not God’s intention for holy matrimony, nor is it the testimony God had in mind when he created marriage.
Both husbands and wives have roles to fill in their relationship with one another. This book is written so that each partner can understand these roles in order that they might complement one another as God intended. As the chapters detail, a wife’s role is to live for her husband and a husband’s role is to die for his wife. When husbands and wives function in these roles, marriage becomes a beautiful testimony of God’s love for mankind, a living illustration of the gospel.
This book unpacks two passages that help detail this powerful message. These passages are Ephesians 5:22-33 and Genesis 2:18-25. Both passages partner to reveal the truth for which this book is named—that God designed husbands and wives to function in distinctive marital roles and that these roles produce a powerful testimony of God’s love for his bride, the church.