How often do you feel like a bride? This question has a tendency, for me at least, of producing a naturally recoiling reflex of indignation when it's seemingly aimed at the core of my manhood. Yet, it is in actuality, the single most important ingredient of not only my manhood, but of my marriage. As a Christian, I must share the role of bride with my wife, and as a Christian must take the role of groom in my marriage. It seems a strange union of roles, but the union is not only unique in view of today's societal norms, or rather abnorms, but essential towards a God centered plan for marriage. I may need, at this point, a place of shelter or retreat before sharing that a woman does not share the same dualistic role. Biblically she is a bride and again a bride. Still, we both share the responsibility of submission to Jesus, our Christ and groom. "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church." Ephesians 5:31-32 Not only is this a vertical submission, but a horizontal submission. "Submitting your selves one to another in the fear of God. Ephesians 5:21." Before going to verse twenty two, it should be clear that the submission path runs both ways, not to mention that it should be and is a fearful consideration in God's eyes. Most of us will immediately align our own thinking of submission to the more common act of yielding to an authority, a bitter pill for not only women but also to men. We often forget that it is also an acknowledgement of inferiority or dependence; humble or suppliant behavior, a confession of a fault or error, or of obedience, compliance with the commands of a superior or how about a simple resignation or yielding of one's own prideful will to another. This is where I have to consider that I might not always be right.
"For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the church. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ , so the wives to their own husbands in everything." Ephesians 5:23-24
This is where we lose most of the ladies. Still, regardless of today's modern version of womanhood, there it is. We teach our young ladies not only that they can be anything they want but that there are no limitations as to what they can attain. My question is, and this is for everyone, can I be whatever I want? Can I purpose my life in a fashion as to disregard boundaries or limitations? "Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ?" I have to keep bringing it back to Jesus before I can address these questions. How have I, exactly, submitted my self to Him? "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." Does my wife have a groom as does the church? Have I given myself for my bride? Did Jesus promise a big paycheck and a big house with all the material luxuries of the day or did he understand what his bride really needed? I don't know a woman that doesn't want a Jesus groom in her life. Can I give myself for my bride like Jesus did for his? "That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having a spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." This is the point where many men willingly give up the ship. This is where many cease to be men, let alone the groom. If submission doesn't come first to Christ, manhood disappears into the fashion of the day and becomes unrecognizable. Do I , first of all, love my wife as Christ loved the church? This is agape love, unconditional all encompassing love, and needs a bit of exploring, but hang in there. It's worth the time. Remember, "For this a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church".
Ephesians 5:25-26 "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."
I could be wrong here, but I think every man that explores this portion of scripture is going to find himself wanting. I love my wife more than anyone in this world, and still I find myself wanting. This is going to be one of those "Not as though I had already attained, either were perfect" moments, but we still must press on. This scripture points to a tremendous amount of accountability. I love but do I sanctify, cleanse, present my wife as holy and without blemish? Do I forgive my wife as Jesus forgives, or is the dirt reserved for more opportune moments? Am I content with the "sin no more" but can't seem to follow through with the "as far as the east is from the west part." Do I cover my wife as Christ covers me? Am I her shelter and shield? Am I as private and personal and open as Jesus is in her prayer closet? Can she trust me like she does Jesus? Do I pray over her like Jesus prays for his bride? If I fall short on any of these, can I present her as glorious, holy, and without blemish? Can I love her as Jesus loves his bride?
"So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies." It seems like the golden rule should be sufficient here, but it too falls short because we've brought self into the picture which falls miles short of agape love. I know it sounds like a trade, "he that loveth his wife loveth himself". After all one commonly thinks we always love ourselves, but that's rarely true. The more I try to separate myself from sin, the more the revulsion and the greater the disappointment in myself at my failures. And yet, to understand grace, is to know where we came from, and also to know who we are in Christ. I know myself and I know that until I can truly love my wife I can only have a self- love. That I can selflessly love my wife is essential if we are ever going to love our brother. The church is doomed to failure and stagnation, not to mention hopelessly superficial if we stumble from the outset.
"For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother , and they two shall be one flesh." A man can crush his wife, but only to his own destruction, because we very much are, indeed, one flesh. If this concept is difficult for you, I recommend hitting your thumb with a hammer a couple of times or as many as needed to make the light come on.
"This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning the church. Nevertheless let everyone of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife that she reverence her husband." So, there's reverence at the end of the story? ............... I'll let my wife tackle that one.
If you read the first two segments and are thinking "What a spineless wimp, he passed on the "reverencing your husband", you're absolutely right. I did mention the submission thingy though, for clarification on the groom's part in reference to his being part of the bride [church], and feel confidant that that was enough to leave some howling. I wasn't silly enough to say something silly like estrogen running the church.
The whole point of bringing up the dualistic role of men as bride and groom, church member and husband, is that we have so many dysfunctional marriages today, and an appalling lack of manhood, if not misunderstanding. A healthy, manly leadership is absent in the home turning the churches into a dumping ground of societal relevance instead of biblical order. In point of fact, we the men, are at all points in our society being neutered and properly trained to tuck tail and step out the role God intended. If you're thinking church should fix that, good luck finding a pastor or board that hasn't already been neutered. It starts with submission, but in the right direction. God set the order, how about trying a proper submission to the real groom, our model, as hard as it may be to follow, and purpose to present our bride glorious, not having spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish, joined unto our wives as one, humbled by Christ's example as shepherd, shield and protector, in the path of salvation to our Holy God.
If my understanding is correct, not withstanding the many role's played out in the church, ours the fathers, are the ones to be held to the fire [accountable] before God for setting our order and will against His.