Before we leave the Easter season, I wanted to share with you something that stood out for me during the last days of Lent leading up to Easter Sunday. It was a slightly odd thing for me, being that it was the subject of marriage….
How did I manage to get to the subject of “marriage” from the Easter celebrations? Well, what was running through my mind throughout the Easter liturgy was the last part of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians:
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” - Ephesians 5:21-27
Now, without a doubt, this is a passage that has been abused over the years. It has certainly been used for the subjugation of women and the preservation of tyrannical husbands. In response to this, many have rejected the entire passage out of hand. I don’t think either of these two positions is acceptable, since both reactions ignore the passage’s context and miss the important imagery being used by Paul.
“A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” – Ecclesiastes 4:12
Before we even get to the subject of husbands and wives, the passage begins:
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” -Ephesians 5:21
Submitting to one another out of reverence to Christ? That sounds like a good thing, right? This really needs to be kept in mind for everything else that follows…
Next, a lot of people read the section referring to wives, get angry and then stop reading. This is a real mistake. What is said afterwards? What is the responsibility placed upon husbands?
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” - Ephesians 5:27
The call of husbands is to love their wives! But a particular kind of love is required. Not a superficial kind of love. Husbands are called to love their wives in the same way that Christ loved His Church. I think the reason marriage kept coming to mind was that, during the Easter liturgy, we are repeatedly shown what this kind of love looks like…
This is the kind of love that leads to a sleepless night of prayer in a garden and the sweating of blood.
This is the kind of love that will persevere through the desertion of friends and public humiliation.
This is the kind of love that will endure beatings, being spat upon and even bearing a crown of thorns.
This is the kind of love that is willing to offer everything, its very life, for the sake of the beloved.
So husbands, you want to know how you’re to love your wives?
This is what it looks like.
“Be strong and courageous” – Joshua 1:7
And how did this great act of love begin? It began with Christ, the bridegroom, getting down on his hands and knees and washing the feet of his bride, as represented by the twelve Apostles – washing even the feet of the one whom He knew would reject and betray him. This washing of feet is made real to us by the priest in the Maundy Thursday liturgy.
Here in America, there is a reasonably common tradition at weddings where, as well as the bride throwing her bouquet to the ladies, the groom takes off his bride’s garter and throws it to the guys. This seems rather creepy to me… I once heard a speaker say that his friend decided to dispense with his rather dubious tradition at his wedding and, in its place, he got down on his hands and knees and washed his bride’s feet. What a guy
“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” – John 13:15
So, husbands, love your wives…and love them like this.