Ephesians 5:21-33 A few thoughts on marriage, and gay marriage

Notes from sermon preached on 22th April 2012 

1. A few thoughts on marriage in Ephesians 5:21-33

First thing to say about marriage is that it is God’s idea.  I think Ephesians 5 gives us a blueprint for Christian marriage.  It sets out godly principles for marriage, which will be worked out differently in each marriage, since every marriage is different.

This blueprint brings balance into godly marriages.

Let’s look first at the husband.

Eph 5:25  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

The headship of the man is not a licence to dominate.  A man submitted to Christ realises that God is in control.  The command for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church will prevent such dominance, and sets a high standard!

However, neither should the man abdicate his responsibilities of headship.  The passive husband is all too common in our culture.

Let’s look second at the wife.

Eph 5:24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Some women want to control their husbands by manipulation, and this is also common in our western culture.  Submission to her husband, as to the Lord, is to come in the opposite spirit to this strident and manipulative attitude.

However submission is not subservience, subordination or inferiority.  Although the word ‘submission’ is incendiary these days, when we see the alternatives, Christian marriage as set out by Paul becomes very attractive.   It is not about the dominant husband and the subservience wife.  Neither is it about the manipulative wife and the passive man.  It’s about a man and a woman coming together in marriage, equal before God, but different, both filled with the Holy Spirit and submitted to Christ in the God given order.  I think this is a place of real freedom and joy – and probably only possible “in Christ”.

Marriage is God’s idea.  Paul shows in this passage that it is a metaphor Christ and His Bride, the Church.

  1. 2.       A perspective on the present state of marriage, and gay marriage

Our society has lost its way in regard to marriage and family.  Divorce stands at about 30% by the 15th year.  Many people don’t both getting married at all, but cohabit.  Yet 35% of unmarried couples split up before their child’s 5th birthday, compared to only 9% of married couples.  For a child of 16 years of age whose parents are still together, there is 97% chance they will be married.

What is marriage?  This is the question occupying politicians as they consider gay marriage.  The first thing to say is that marriage has always been more than love between two people.  It is more than you.  It involves your family, society and most significantly children.  There is a purpose in marriage that goes beyond you and beyond your relationship, and that purpose is fruitfulness.  It is God’s idea, and He purposed it specifically for the procreation of children.  If we think about it, the same is true in our relationship with God.  It’s more than a private affair and is intended for fruitfulness and the good of society.

The CofE Book of Common prayer gives three reasons for marriage, and the first is this,

First, Marriage was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.

The marriage bond, which involves a comprehensive sharing of lives together, in spirit, soul and body, called one flesh [Eph 5:31], has been shown again and again to be the best context for bringing up children.   This is not to say single parents don’t do a wonderful job, and God’s grace can help in special ways in such circumstances.  It is not always possible for a couple to have children (or even sex), but they are still properly married. But the fact remains that marriage has been ordained first for the procreation of children.

A policy paper produced by the centre for Social Justice in October 2011 (UK) has said, “Breaking the link between parenthood and marriage has introduced massive instability into society.”  Furthermore it has changed our understanding of marriage.  So, how do we understand marriage?

For most people these days marriage means something like this:

Marriage is the union of two people who commit to romantically loving and caring for each other and to sharing the burdens and benefits of domestic life.

If this is all it is, why can’t two men or two women who love each other marry?  The logic is that there is no reason why they shouldn’t.  But this has never been the definition of marriage.  The traditional definition of marriage, which has spanned cultures over millennia, has been something like this,

Marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally (inherently) fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together.

Marriage is becoming one flesh in order to bear children together.  How do gay couples become one flesh?  How can gay couples consummate their so-called marriage?  How can they bear children together?  Of course they cannot do these things and never will be able to.  Therefore marriage is a unique relationship.  It is fundamentally different from a same sex relationship, and so it should be called something different.  In 2005 Civil Partnerships were introduced and gays were given all the legal rights of married couples.  So why do they want something that is different to what they are?  (That by the way is a good question which I cannot address here.)

As I said at the beginning, marriage is God’s idea.  The proposals for redefining marriage and allowing gay marriage amounts to a massive attack on God’s idea, and it will introduce further great social instability into society.  God himself is not pleased about this attack on His idea.

Eph  5:6  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

There is at the moment in this country a massive battle for marriage.  The fact is that the government hasn’t thought it through properly; they think it’s just a matter of equality, and gaining a few pink votes.

What can you do?

  1. Pray – this is a spiritual battle
  2. Sign the coalition for marriage – http://c4m.org.uk/
  3. Write to your MP and state that you will not be voting for anyone who supports the idea of redefining marriage.
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6 Responses to Ephesians 5:21-33 A few thoughts on marriage, and gay marriage

  1. jmtromm says:

    What is the response of the Church and Christians towards people who are gay? How should they act towards them? What “great social instability” will come from gays being able to be married legally?

    • nicodemus says:

      Thank you for your response.

      The main point I made here was that heterosexual and homosexual relationships are fundamentally different and therefore should be called something different. Civil partnerships provide the same legal rights as married couples already.

      The church and Christians should love gay people just as they seek to love anyone else. I think a lot of ordinary Christians actually find the subject quite difficult but they want to act well and lovingly towards gay people, yet without compromising their sense of morality. They are also aware of their own sin and fallibleness, and in that sense we are all in the same boat.

      There is a section of the homosexual community which is very aggressive against the church these days, and they, like any aggressive people, are more challenging to love!

      It is possible to genuinely love people and point out sin at the same time – we do it regularly with our children – we love and correct, and the two are not in opposition. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree.

      I think one example of the instability produced is in the lives of teenagers, who are exploring their sexuality at this age. I believe many have indulged in homosexual sex because it has been encouraged, (though they don’t really want to live homosexual life styles) and I think this activity (and heterosexual sex as well for that matter) outside marriage as well can do harm for the stability for future relationships.

      I hope this helps.

  2. jmtromm says:

    “Civil partnerships provide the same legal rights as married couples already.”
    If this is true, why is the gay community fighting for marriage equality?

    What actions, for you specifically, do you let yourself engage/participate in when interacting with gay people? Many straight Christians say what you have stated that Christians need to love gay people though they do not agree with their actions but their approach and specific actions are very different. The problem with the Church as a whole is different Christians have different views on gay people and their sexual acts.

    Do you not see why they are acting out the way they are towards the Church and other religions?

    What is your personal stance on what should gay people should about their sexuality? Do you feel that gay people should turn straight or do you think that they should just remain celibate, still having attractions towards people of the same gender?

    Unpacking the second to last paragraph, I would agree that all premarital sex is consider wrong according to God. What do you mean by “exploring their sexuality”? How/Where has gay sex been encouraged? When it comes to “though they don’t want to really live homosexual lifestyles” – where is this coming from? If someone has attractions to the same gender, they would want to be a part of a gay lifestyle. The tension arises when the majority of the Church condemns gay people and/or their sexual acts and makes them feel that they’re not ever going to be good enough because of it. It’s a battle between their sexual attractions and their belief system. For some, it is too hard of a battle and they take their own lives.

    • nicodemus says:

      “Civil partnerships provide the same legal rights as married couples already.”
      “If this is true, why is the gay community fighting for marriage equality?”

      In the UK not all the gay community are fighting for marriage equality. A particularly vocal and influential section of the gay community are, but some high profile gay people have come out against the idea of gay marriage, because in fact civil partnerships provide the same legal rights as married couples.

      Since gay and heterosexual relationship are fundamentally different why you you want to call two things which which are so different by the same term?

  3. Pingback: Biblical Marriage: Or what the church misunderstands « A Robin Hood's Musing

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