Treating Each Other Well
[Ephesians chapter 5, verses 15-33]
When we left off last week at verse 14, the apostle Paul was exhorting and encouraging the Ephesian church to remain as “the light in the Lord”, and to live as “children of light”. Today we will finish up the latter half of the book of Ephesians chapter five, where we find Paul continuing to elaborate on the meaning and intent of his writing. So let’s take up where we left off, beginning at verse 15.
“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5, verses 15-21, NIV)
Paul’s words, “Be very careful, then, how you live”, could be an entire sermon in and of itself, but I will save that for another time. For now, this an admonishment and a warning to those aspiring to live for Christ as I do: Live carefully! This doesn’t mean we are expected to somehow live carefree lives, blissfully disconnecting ourselves from the world and the people around us, as if we can somehow insulate ourselves from everything that exists outside of our comfort zone. Instead, reject isolation, ignorance and fear! “Do not be foolish”, Paul wrote, “but understand what the Lord’s will is”. Knowing God’s will for our lives is easier than some people think. All we have to do is ask in prayer, ”OK, Lord, I want to serve you but I’m not sure how to proceed. Could you please point me in the right direction?” Is there anyone reading this who is not sure about the answer to that question? Let me use shopping (perish the thought since I despise materialism) as an example. If one walks into any given store, whether big or small, looking for a certain item, do we not ask for directions from an employee rather than wander aimlessly all over the store searching? Of course we do, unless you’ve been there before. Has any of us ever asked for directions to find any given item in a big-box store and been turned away by the employees? I think not, and since this is true for some company that wants to sell you something that you may or may not need, why should Jesus, who has what everybody needs, be any different? He has already given us the ultimate gift by dying for our sins on the cross. So if you’re not sure if He will answer your prayers don’t worry, he will, provided that you are asking for the right reasons. He already gave his life for you, so why would he turn you away for anything else?
Paul also wrote, “Make the most of every opportunity”. That doesn’t give us an excuse to be greedy or opportunistic, nor to pursue great wealth for its own sake – which in the end turns into a self-made trap from a spiritual standpoint. Don’t take unnecessary chances, which at times can be tantamount to courting disaster. We are to repent of our constant partying, and all the immoral things that go with it, Paul wrote. If we want to get our fill of something, being filled with the Holy Spirit is devoid of all the unwanted side effects of all those other things. We are to be thankful at all times and in all circumstances, no matter what happens to us. And if bad things do happen, and sometimes they still do anyway, that doesn’t mean God is mad at us. Being mad at someone is a human emotion, which is why God doesn’t think like that. But sometimes bad things can happen in order to strengthen us because that’s one way God builds character. Finally, “submit to one another”. This does not mean we are expected to be human doormats – far from it! What it does specifically mean actually refers back to what Jesus said in all four gospels, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Let’s all pause here for a moment and examine ourselves. Are we obeying this commandment? I certainly hope so, because anyone who is not isn’t saved yet. Still others have dedicated their lives to the Lord and are saved, but they have back-slid in this area and are leading selfish lives. Remember that this is “job one” for any true Christian. Serving Christ is the opposite of serving oneself. As we continue our study, then, Paul also continues this topic and extends it into the home, beginning at verse 22.
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of the water through the Word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5, verses 22-27, NIV)
The first sentence in this passage of Scripture is one that has been abused and misused over the centuries as an excuse for the husband to be a tyrant and a dictator in the home. Having once been raised in a home similar to this, I am speaking from experience. Let me be absolutely clear that under no circumstances is there ever an excuse for abusiveness by either spouse towards each other or towards the children. If any of my readers is in an abusive relationship, for your own sake get some help! Remember there is no shame in asking for help. Get away from that situation, otherwise you will be placing yourself in harm’s way sooner or later. Plus, this works both ways, as Paul wrote so perfectly. Guys, it’s difficult for the ladies to have a relationship with someone they are afraid of, so back off and simmer down! And ladies, you’re not going to have a long-term relationship with anybody when you sit at home watching TV and getting drunk after he goes off to work. We are living in hard economic times, so waiting on a husband who will be a good provider is strictly pie-in-the-sky as far as reality is concerned. When choosing a spouse, find someone in whom you can trust enough to pool your resources. If anyone is hesitant about trusting a potential spouse with money, I would advise my readers not to marry that person, and to seek another instead.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church”, proves further that loving relationships work both ways. Don’t nag each other, don’t pick fights or start arguments, don’t keep score on perceived wrongs or injustices, and never, ever be abusive. If we want to be followers of Christ, the devotion thereof starts in the home. Let’s all be “without stain, wrinkle or blemish” before the Lord. That means acting as if He were standing right there next to us, because you had best believe that’s exactly where He is. And now let’s conclude today’s study of Ephesians chapter five.
“In this same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church – for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband”. (Ephesians 5, verses 28-33, NIV)
Treat your wives’ bodies as a part of your own, and wives must do the same for their husbands. If you want a formula for a successful marriage, this is it. But most important, we are to care for ourselves and have the same regard for ourselves, and for each other, that Christ has for the church. If your marriage is such that either spouse would lay down their life to save the other, that is my definition of a strong marriage. And we are to do so knowing that we are members of the body of Christ, meaning we treat others as ourselves because that is Christ’s command to us all. “Love your neighbor as yourself”, starts in the heart, not the mind. But it also means that, as the redeemed of Christ who are saved from hell, we have become the greater Family of God, having been adopted into that family by the supreme sacrifice of Christ. Since we have become Christ’s relatives by legal adoption, which we examined in my earlier study of the book of Romans, we are to act as such. No person who lives an immoral life can be a part of the Family of God. But they can still be saved if they repent of their sins and turn away from their immoral, sneaky and deceptive ways. There isn’t much time left before the end of the age, so I urge you all to turn to Christ now before the opportunity ends. Let him teach you what real love means. Once you experience that, you’ll never go back to your old life again, and you’ll be saved forever.