As usual, I am so behind on all the trends. I just finished watching another episode of Season 2 of Downton Abbey. Yes…season 2, which aired in early 2012. I mean, I’m only 4 and a half years late to the party! If I could sum up what I’ve seen of season 2 so far, it would go something like this…war, end of war, and the usual relationship drama. I don’t know if these exact words are ever spoken, but each episode seems to contain at least one instance of someone asking another person some form of this question, “Could you be happy with him or her?” A valid question for sure. I like to think that it’s a step above the questions that are often asked during the relationship drama of most tv shows and movies. “How much money does he have?” or “Is she the most beautiful of all the women I know?” seem to be the typical questions. Money can be lost in an instant and beauty is guaranteed to fade over time. “They seem to be truly happy together” seems a much more noble statement than “She married him for his money” or “He married her for her beauty.” But is “true happiness” really the right question to ask when looking towards a lifetime commitment to another?
Ephesians 5 contains one of the most misused and controversial passages about marriage in the Bible.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is…giving thanks always and for everything to God the father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”
The remainder of Ephesians 5 and the first portion of chapter 6 go on to continue describing the relationship of husband and wife, children and parents, and servant and master. But the point of each description boils down to one main point…reflect Christ and his church.
Paul used three relationships that were most common during the time he was living to illustrate his point…our ultimate goal in all we do is to reflect Christ.
How would our lives look different if we really took this message to heart and applied it in our lives?
For starters (and to bring it back to my Downton Abbey thoughts), we probably wouldn’t ask “Can I be happy with you?” quite as often. Instead we might ask, “Together, can we reflect the message of Christ to the world?” Do we realize the gravity of what Paul is saying? When people look at our relationships, whether the marriage relationship or another relationship, they should actually understand Christ more than they did before they knew us. This blows my mind! It seems hard enough to have a “godly” relationship, where we seem to have it together, but to actually lead people to a better understanding of Jesus, perfection himself, through the way we live our lives?! Somehow I think there would be a lot fewer second dates if we considered this.
So what does a relationship look like that personifies the image of Christ and the church? I haven’t even begun to process all of the qualities that a relationship like this would demonstrate, but here are a few thoughts.
It would radiate love. Not just the “It’s Valentines Day so I bought you these flowers” kind of love. More like the “I’ve had morning sickness for months but you have a big day at work so I’m making you a big breakfast even though it’s making me nauseous to cook” kind of love. Or the “Baby is crying and I’ve already been up five times with her but you’re finally getting a few hours of sleep so I’ll get up and rock her for the 6th time” picture of love. Or the “You’re in a terrible mood and you’ve treated me like dirt all day, but I can tell you’re stressed so I’m going to fold the laundry while you take a warm bath” love. And the “We’ve been fighting all night and we’re both crying ourselves to sleep, but I’m going to hold your hand and pray for God to bring peace to our relationship” sort of love.
It would offer unending grace and forgiveness. Not the “I’ll forgive you this one time if you promise never to do it again” kind of forgiveness. But something more like the “Your anger has led you to say hurtful things for the 100th time, and though I want to respond with more hurtful comments, I am going to respond in love” kind of grace. Or the “You have left your dirty sock on the floor for the 6th time this week, but I am going to pick them up for the 6th time (and gently remind you that we do have a laundry hamper!)” type of forgiveness.
It would seek the Father’s guidance in all things. Not the “She wants to eat at Cracker Barrel but I want Texas Roadhouse so please give us a sign” kind of guidance seeking. But more along the lines of “He’s lost his job and we have no clue what the future holds, so we are trusting you to provide answers in your timing” kind of guidance. And the “Somewhere along the lines we forgot the promise we made to God to reflect his Son in everything we did, so together we are seeking to know Jesus better so that we might better reflect him and his church.”
A commitment to reflecting Christ and his church in ALL of our relationships requires a determination to walk together through the dark times of life when the money is gone, the beauty has faded, and even the forever happiness seems far away. It requires a belief in something greater than ourselves and our relationships, and an unwavering commitment to the promises we have made to God. It is such a daunting task.
So today, may we remind ourselves of the biblical command to reflect Christ and his church in every aspect of every relationship in our lives. May we seek daily opportunities to practice the love, grace, and guidance seeking that Jesus personified. And when we are discouraged and have lost all hope, may we look to Jesus and know that He has shown his love, mercy, and grace to his most unlovable and disobedient creation. And may we cling to him, knowing that it is only in His power that we find the strength to pick up the broken pieces and begin again on the journey towards presenting a picture to the world of the love that Christ has for us.