This last Friday we had a wonderful time celebrating and equipping the marriages in our church. I gave a short message about building a marriage that is prepared for the mission of Christ. Below are the notes. I am dividing them up into three separate posts that I’ll share over the next several days. They are a little scattered as notes usually are, but I hope they prove helpful as you and your spouse continue to engage in the mission of Christ!
Big Idea: Christ designed marriages to not only accomplish His mission but to be a picture of it. We must fight to build a healthy marriage that is prepared to accomplish the mission of Jesus.
It’s difficult to forget those masterful lines spoke by JFK in his 1961 inauguration speech.
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
In essence, when there is something bigger than you that you’re a part of, it’s best to have a mindset of contributing, not just receiving. Well, your marriage is part of a greater mission, and it’s the mission of God. When you get married, you might think, “Now I need a mission for my marriage.” Not so. There’s already a mission. What you and I need is to a build a marriage that is suitable for accomplishing that mission.
Christ designed marriages to not only accomplish His mission but to be a picture of it. We must fight to build a healthy marriage that is prepared for the purposes of Jesus.
Imagine yourself in a 3-legged race. You’re tied to a partner. Before you is the track, and the in the distance you can see the finish line.
- What are the decisions you need to make at that moment? They’re not, “What track do we run on?” or “What finish line are we sprinting toward?” Those are already known facts.
- No, the questions that permeate your mind are, “How are we going to effectively run together? How are we going to find a rhythm that allows us to run the race without tripping each other, falling, or moving in opposite directions?”
As Christians, Christ has given us a mission, a race so to speak. In short, preach the gospel and make disciples. If you’re looking for a mission for your marriage, look no further, for Jesus Christ has already given you one, and through marriage, he’s tied your leg up to a partner with whom you can pursue that mission.
- The questions for your marriage now are, “How will we run toward that goal of Jesus together? How will we obey that mission without drifting apart? How will we train ourselves to have the right pace, stamina, and unity to move toward the finish line?”
So, in looking practically at how to create a marriage for the mission of Jesus, there are few practical steps I want to briefly discuss. Missional marriages require specific characteristics to stay focused and fruitful throughout a lifetime of following Jesus. We will cover the first one in this post.
1. A healthy biblical submission
The Bible speaks about three levels of submission that should be implemented within a marriage that cause it to run smoothly. They are found in Ephesians 5:21-22:
Eph 5:21-22 NKJV – 21 submit to one another (mutual) in the fear of God (Submission to Christ). 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord (Husband).
Here we discover the three forms of submission:
- Each spouse’s individual submission to Christ
- Each spouse’s mutual submission to one another
- The wife’s submission to the loving, sacrificial leadership of her husband
A.) Our own submission to Christ
It’s been said, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” So it can be in a marriage. A marriage is only as spiritually healthy as its least committed spouse. For a couple to embrace the mission of Jesus, each spouse has to have a vibrant and healthy relationship with Christ. Each one must have a submission to Christ that encourages an obedient faith response toward God’s calling.
APPLICATION: You can’t rely on your spouse’s relationship with the Lord to fill you, strengthen you, and sanctify you. Indeed, your spouse’s relationship with the Lord can benefit and bless you, but adversely, their lack of connection with the Lord can prove damaging. In marriage, the two become one flesh. This means that the relationship inherits the strengths and the weaknesses of each spouse. My lack of commitment to Christ will directly affect my wife’s ability to live on mission and visa-versa. When a spouse drifts from Christ, it’s not only their soul and their mission that they are compromising.
B.) Mutual submission to one another
21 submit to one another…
Even though there is a ranking order within the marriage relationship, it’s only as useful as each person’s submission to one another in Christ. That person laying next to you in bed is not just your husband or wife, that is your brother or sister in Christ, your fellow heir of salvation, your co-laborer in the Lord’s kingdom work, and your fellow human being. Men, your wife is not your slave. She is not your servant. She is not the means to fulfilling all your dreams. Wives, neither are your husbands.
Application: The fact is that marriage is a blend of two separate entities that become more together than they could be apart. Many married couples see themselves as complete opposites; oil and water. I know that is the case in my marriage, but I prefer to think of it a little differently.
EXAMPLE: Water and ice are the opposite of one another. One is solid and cold, and the other is liquid and warm. Despite their differences, they are actually different forms of the same particles. A couple in Christ may possess opposite personalities, but instead of thinking of it like oil and water that can’t mix, think of it as water and ice. When combined they blend together to create a refreshing and useful drink.
Personal example: I can see that the healthiest my marriage has been were the times when my wife and I were willing to sacrifice our own ambitions and dreams for the sake of what God is doing in the other person. Conversely, the most difficult times in our marriage have been when I was oblivious to the dreams and God-given callings of my wife. I use to think that the purpose of our marriage was to support me being a pastor. Early on in the ministry, I sacrificed many nights away from home, many opportunities to help raise my children, and many opportunities to practically show my wife love and support. Our marriage paid heavily for it.
Over the years, I’ve been working by God’s grace to find the balance I haven’t yet arrived, but I’m learning that being a pastor is only part of God’s vision and mission for my marriage. The other part is me submitting and supporting the God-given talents and gifts of my wife. I now see that encouraging and assisting her in her call to school our children, in her gifts of leading and teaching, and in her heart to make a home for our family is helping us fulfill the mission of Jesus more completely. In our relationship to Jesus as His bride, we are submitted to His leadership, but it was Jesus, the master, who washed the feet of His disciples. In doing so, he demonstrated mutual submission and told us to model Him.
C.) The submission of a wife to her husband
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
Since 1997, there has been an annual competition called, “The wife carrying championships.” Married couples compete on a rugged course where the husband carries the wife through many obstacles. It is, however, not merely the husband’s strength, but the coordination of the couple that wins the race.
I don’t want to spend too much time here because there are more significant to still cover. But I’ll say this: There will be seasons when God’s direction isn’t incredibly obvious, and there is disagreement about which way to go or what decisions to make. In those circumstances, the Bible makes it clear that the husband is to assume the role of servant leadership, and the wife the role of submission.
This means the husband needs to feel the weight of responsibility and be on his knees, in His Bible, and sacrificial (not selfish) in His decisions.
It also means the wife needs to be trusting the Lord, praying for her husband, and willing to receive the husband’s leadership. The wife is never called to submit herself to ungodly or unbiblical leadership. Saphira would have done better to not follow her husband’s deceitful direction. She might have saved her own life. But in cases where an agreement can’t be reached, and the husband is leading in a godly way, the smoothest path is when the husband is given the freedom to be the spiritual and physical leader.
In summary, I can honestly say that I’ve seen more marriages tripped up, pulled apart, and ineffective in Christ’s mission because of a lack of submission in on or more of these three areas.
Tomorrow we will look at the second necessary ingredient for a marriage that is fulfilling Christ’s mission!