Under The Same Leaky Roof: For Better or For Worse
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Gen. 3:16
Thriving Inside the Family
It’s family month in Ontario!
For most, it means a statutory holiday called Family Day on Feb. 16th! Who doesn’t want a paid holiday in the middle of the winter? It’s great to have a long weekend, a chance to break away and kick back a little.
For others, it means Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14, when we celebrate romantic love with buying flowers, chocolates and maybe even a dinner.
For us at Scott St it also includes our annual Kids Club Sunday on Feb. 22, where we celebrate God’s work among our community kids and their families. It gives us the chance to invite our community families to join us for the Morning Service and maybe stay for brunch.
And of course it also means today’s big celebration of us as the Family of God! It’s family month at Scott St Church!
It’s not just a chance to latch onto something that is happening in the wider culture, but to remind ourselves of the incredible importance of family life.
You may have heard me mention how the family unit is the core institution in society and thus needs to be protected and strengthened at all cost.
That from the days of Adam and Eve’s little family, through to the days of the grand families of the Patriarchs, and eventually into New Testament families such as Joseph and Mary all the way to our own families, God’s intent has always been the same. His intent is that the nuclear family be the institution that provides thriving environments, that allows for individuals to reach their God-given potential in life.
And that the nuclear family be protected with all other institutions such as the state, the church, and the employer, playing supportive roles in the success of the family.
The dream is for the family to truly be an oasis from the storms that ravage this world.
If you can picture an oasis in the desert, or a little island in an ocean full of raging water, or even an umbrella pitched to protect from the elements, then you have the picture of what the family unit is meant to provide for those in it.
People thrive in healthy, functional families. Husbands and wives thrive in loving relationships, not to mention children absolutely thriving in loving homes be they 5, 15 or 25.
The family unit, when functioning well, provides an incredible umbrella allowing those under it to thrive.
Over the next four weeks in this Family Month of ours we want to take a look at four key areas that will insure successful family living.
Such as, stick handling changing roles as people mature, in a sermon called “Growing Pains”.
Recovering from failures, in a sermon called “Family Feud”.
Managing the inevitable stresses of a complex, fast moving world, in a sermon called “Stress Mess”.
And this morning, looking at how roleplaying is key to creating this nurturing bubble, in this sermon called “For Better Or For Worse.”
What is a Family Unit?
When we speak of roleplaying we are not talking about playing with your kids. You know, dad pretending to be a dragon as he plays with his little princess, or pretending to be a horse as he lets his son ride him.
Roleplaying, as in each member of the family knowing their role and being committed to it.
It’s living out the principles of Ephesians 5 and 6:
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Eph. 5:22, 25
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother - so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Eph. 6:1-4
I realize that this sounds somewhat archaic, paternalistic and event sexist to post modern ears, with wives submitting to husbands and fathers being the ones to bring up children.
And I also realize that this is a direct reflection of the first century traditional family unit with the same father and mother in a first marriage and their 2.5 children. This is a far cry from the many family variations we have in our day.
Variations from the traditional family, to the co-habitating family, same-sex family, single parent family and many incredible variations within those.
So I am saying all that to say that what Paul wrote, he wrote within the only context he knew and that was the first century traditional family, which may sound a bid jarring to us.
You know what, it’s not just new definitions of the family but it’s also about the new realities some of you find yourself in.
Some of you have kids long gone and it’s just the two of you rattling around in the house. That also is a type of family.
Others of you while living alone still have extended families, with you as the grandparent, uncle or aunt (real or adopted), which puts you into a family as well.
While this was written to a nuclear family of mom and dad with their 2.5 kids at home, the need to role-play biblically still stands true.
There will always be fathers and father figures, mothers and mother figures, spouses and children.
Regardless if the kids are hers, his, both of theirs or even someone else’s. Regardless if he is your dad, stepdad or just Uncle Buck, or whether she is your mom or just your dad’s wife, this is still a family.
Even if the kids are grown, long gone and parents of their own, they are still your kids and they will look to you as their parent.
Even if you are the auntie or uncle, every family needs an eccentric aunt and dithering uncle. We need our patriarchs as much as we need our children.
So the point is that everyone has a role to play. You want your family to be successful - then play your role.
Of all the roles to play, I would suggest they come down to the interplay between two key sets of relationships, namely that between husbands and wives, and then parents and children.
Husbands Love Your Wives
The most primary interplay is that between partners, husbands and wives. It starts there.
You need a male and female. That’s the beginning of all sustainable life. To procreate, you need male and female.
I realize you can have surrogate mothers and test tube babies but all of it still points back to the sperm and the egg.
While there are variations, most relationships are that of husband and wife.
For that dynamic to play out well, the following needs to happen:
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord…. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Eph. 5:22, 25
What this talks about is roles that are played and attitudes displayed that have nothing to do with value, standing or hierarchy; meaning, one more important or over the other.
Actually, what Paul said was incredibly radical and revolutionary for his day. Let me explain.
Up until this point, the one owned the other, which was the case ever since the fall of man when part of the curse of sin meant that, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Gen. 3:16
He will own you, dominate you and keep you as a chattel. Unfortunately, in much of the world that is still so today.
So Paul comes along and within the family setting, fleshes out the new way of living that Jesus began when he gave value and dignity to all, including women, by seeing everyone as equals.
This is not a sermon on equality, but this is merely to say that Paul reflects that liberation and equality-granting is what Jesus brought about by placing it within the context of the family. He did this when he said that husbands are to love their wives.
Of course, husbands are to love their wives. That only makes sense to us, but in first century culture that was absolutely revolutionary.
Husbands did not love their wives and certainly not in the sacrificial, lay down your life for your wife sense that Paul had in mind when he used agape for love.
Marriages were economic transactions, wives purchased or traded in, and such were the property of the husband and treated as such.
Paul blows this wide open when he not only says that husbands are to love their wives but uses the most noble, sacrificial word for love known.
He could have said ‘eros’, which would have pointed back to taking what you can from her.
He could have said ‘philio’, which points to the love between two equal friends.
Instead he uses the word ‘agape’, which is the sacrificial, laying down your life seen best in Jesus.
It says in the Scriptures how “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (John 3:16). That’s agape love.
It lays down its life for someone else. It puts aside self-interest in favor of the other. It puts the wellbeing and welfare of the other ahead of self. That’s agape love.
So guys, you want a better marriage, you want to see her respond better? Lay down your life for her. Make her wellbeing your number one priority. Don’t be a bully; don’t be cranky, grumpy and belligerent.
That’s why it says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Eph. 5:25
Don’t treat her as though she is your possession, don’t even treat her as your equal but in many ways treat her as though she is more important to you than your own needs.
Treat her like Jesus treats you with grace, love and mercy, and you will be on your way to a great relationship!
Wives Submit to Your Husbands
Having said that let me now flip this on its ear. Wives guess what? Submit to your husbands!
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” Eph. 5:22
Isn’t it interesting how everything Paul says to the ladies is summed up in three verses while what he says to the guys takes eight?
Not because guys were denser, but because it was more engrained in the chauvinistic culture of the post-Eden world that men would rule women than that women should submit to their husbands.
Now ladies, don’t get your fur up about the word submission. I know it’s a dirty word and that it carries all kinds of baggage and it’s been misused to justify dominating behavior.
The kind of submission referenced here is framed within the biblical notion of mutual submission.
When one submits to the other it is incredibly easy for the other to submit back. That’s why wives submitting to husbands is framed within the wider context of “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Eph. 5:21
“The term ‘mutual submission,’ then, implies that the marriage relationship is not as one-sided as many have imagined it through the centuries. It does not mean that the husband always commands and that the wife always submits. Mutual submission means that there are times when each partner defers to the other. Mutual submission recognizes individual competencies. Each partner also operates with a willingness to adapt during times of conflict. Obviously mutual submission can function only when both partners consider each other as equals. “
Nancy Van Pelt in ezinearticles.com
If that atmosphere of mutual submission isn’t there and you end up with inferiors and superiors, then there is no way that submission could ever happen.
That would be a recipe for disaster; for domination and suppression, which is absolutely not the spirit of Jesus.
You might actually find it surprising that you find Paul telling wives to submit to the sort of loving, sacrificial husbands Paul talks about. Why wouldn’t you want to submit to that?
You would think wives would love nothing more than to be in a give and take relationship based on equality and respect, right?
I need to tell you that in this struggle for submission there were other things at play.
That even with loving and giving husbands there was a new found trend among women in these Jesus/Pauline days. This saw women throw off the shackles of inequality, in favor of rising into places of domination themselves.
On the one hand, it’s understandable that if you were oppressed all your life and now set free, that for once you would want to turn the tables and dominate. This is exactly what happened among some of the Christian women in those days.
So some of them would dominate in church, others would rudely interrupt when someone else was speaking, others would want to stand on a soapbox and preach even though not qualified to do so.
While others again refused to submit to husbands who where anything but bullies, and ended up becoming bullies to their own husbands.
So Paul tries to create an atmosphere of mutual submission in his churches by saying things such as:
“I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” 1 Tim. 1:12
Meaning, women don’t fall into the trap of men by using soapboxes and pulpits to bully.
He also says, “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, if they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” I Cor. 14:34, 35
Meaning, don’t use your freedom to interrupt the Service by shouting something out just because you don’t understand it.
Similarly, Paul says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord” so that mutual submission is achieved instead of either the male or the female becoming dominant.
A happy, functional family is one where mutual submission and care in the wellbeing of the other is more important than selfish exploits.
Fathers Don’t Exasperate Your Children
That now brings me to the second interplay, the one between parents and children, which I am going to tie together in this last section of my sermon.
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Eph. 6:4
That he would be speaking to fathers makes perfect sense in the first century culture where only fathers and maturing boys were free beings.
Women had no rights so there was no history of kneeling down heavy on a child; if anything mothers would instinctively try to protect a child especially a daughter from the common chattel mentality of the times .
Bottom-line was that children were no more chattels than were wives; and that fathers (we might as well say ‘parents’) where not to rile nor ride their kids into the ground.
In fact, that’s what the word ‘exasperate’ means. Literally, it’s the image of kneeling upon something to the point of breaking it. It means to push too far, to be heavy handed and to frustrate your children to the point where they give up.
That’s what that words means. You don’t want your kids saying, “What’s the sense of trying? I can never please them. No matter what I do it’s not good enough. She’s so unreasonable.”
Instead parents are to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord”, which speaks to provide nurture, cause growth, mold gently while fostering an atmosphere of self-development.
Gently guide them, bite your tongue, be the mature one but don’t acquiesce. God has called you to be a role model.
Children Obey Your Parents
Which brings me to the second part of this interplay, namely the role of children toward their parents.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise— so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Eph. 6:1-3
Here the wind shifts. Gone is the talk of submission, as though obedience is dependent on the other person.
This is not about you waiting for your dad to bow down to you. This is about you carrying out the directives your parents give you.
I know that is hard pill to swallow. Truth be known, we do not submit easily. It’s not natural to us.
Part of it is the remnant in us of Adam’s fall into sin giving us a natural disposition toward disobedience, and the other part is our God-given tendency to move toward self-actualization and independence.
Of course the assumption is that your parents aren’t idiots.
Paul assumes that both father and mother are living a life of sacrificial agape love with the interest of the child uppermost in their mind.
If your parents are reasonable and well adjusted people, then their hand of guidance is meant to bring you into a good space which is what Paul means when he says “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
If your parents are dysfunctional, then this doesn’t work. Bottom-line is that you are never to be at a place of risk just because there is a call to obey.
There is much more I could say and should say but time has run out.
Let me bring it home. The family remains God’s way of bringing up functional, contributing individuals that can become followers of Jesus.
If that is broken, God has other methods to accomplish his dream for you. We’ve had young people become incredible functional followers of Jesus no thanks to their family life.
Sometimes God will use a youth group or a church community. Sometimes God will use a godly mentor or a surrogate such as a grandparent.
God will not spare anything to have you succeed in life. But His ideal is that the family unit be that place that allows for ‘live long and prosper.’
So we celebrate the family. We support the family. We pray for our families.
And together, as a church family, we walk alongside each other as we figure out how to become the strongest families we can be, allowing us in turn to become the strongest people we can be.
And what better way to start than by supporting our newest church family members as we close today?
Here you can find several messages. Feel free to write your thoughts or questions in the comment section.