Friday, June 30, 2006

Thoughts on Ephesians 5:22-6:9 - Substance and Shadows

The message of Ephesians 5:22-6:9 is particularly challenging in the increasingly egalitarian American church and entirely egalitarian American culture. How are we to teach within the church the truth that God has created men and women, husbands and wives, with distinctive, God-given roles, when the sexual confusion of our culture does all it can to destroy all boundaries and eliminate all distinctions? We need to begin by pointing to the truth that human relationships were never meant to be the substance of the matter, but from the beginning, they were always to be shadows pointing to the truth. When we think that human relationships are social structures or norms that we have created, then they will always be up for revision. But when we realize the truth that human relationships are not the end in and of themselves, but point to a greater truth, then we will be careful to order them accordingly.

So where do we begin teaching this truth in the church in the midst of so much confusion? We begin by pointing to the substance. Take Ephesians 5:22-6:9 as an example. Before we begin teaching about the roles God has established within these relationships, we must first teach the truths to which these relationships point. If you are a Christian, you are first and foremost, and always, a slave, a child and a wife. If you are a Christian, regardless of your occupational position, you are first and foremost, and always, a servant of Christ. If you are a Christian, regardless of your familial status, you are first and foremost, and always, a child of God. And if you are Christian, regardless of your marital status, you are first and foremost. and always, the bride of Christ. These are the most important roles in our lives that we must understand first. We must first come to understand the glad submission and humble joy that comes from being a servant of God, a child of God, and the bride of Christ. Now, it is also true that God will use these earthly relationships to teach us about our heavenly relationship. But ultimately, as Christians, we must be allow our relationship with God, revealed most clearly in the Word, to inform and instruct us in how we are to conduct our relationships here on earth. As Christians, we must be realize that our relationships on earth, especially these three, are a visual representation to the world of our relationship with God and, therefore, it is our duty and our privilege, whether you are a husband or a wife, a father or a son, a master or a servant, to humbly and truthfully live out the roles that God has given us. Knowing these truths, Paul writes,
5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.

6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

6:5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.

6:9 And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Thoughts from my grandpa's funeral

- It is sad how little I knew of my grandpa. Though I saw him consistently throughout my childhood and even after I returned from college, language and cultural barriers often separated us. It makes me sad to think of how easily I allowed these barriers to discourage me from building a more significant relationship with him. Yet these barriers will one day be removed.

- There closes another relationship my life. There is nothing more I can say to him, or kindness I can show to him, or encouragement I can write to him, on this side of eternity. The finality of death never ceases to astonish me!

- I really wish I could know what my grandpa was thinking, experiencing, struggling with, worried about, enjoying, etc... when he was my age. More importantly, I wish I could hear him share about things that God taught him through circumstances, in the Bible, through ministry, through mistakes he made, through risks he took... I resolved to be more disciplined in keeping my journal, for the sake of my descendants (Lord willing) whom I will never meet.

- One of my older cousins shared about how when he was little, he asked my grandpa why he wore a watch, and my grandpa solemnly responded, "My grandson... you must understand that time is very precious. It is a gift from God and we must use it well."

- After my grandpa's funeral, at dinner, I met my newborn niece for the first time, Amelia. And so it goes... one generation passes on, and another one comes. And my generation must one day pass on as well. Approximately 100 years from now, every single person that is alive today will be dead and gone, and an entirely new population of people will be on this earth. Indeed, time is very precious.

- What an unnatural thing it is to see a body separated from its soul. This body I am looking at once belonged to my grandpa. One day it will be raised up and will again belong to him. But for now, it lies lifeless, and my grandfather must exist in an unnatural, disembodied existence. Yes, it is better to be "away from the body and at home with the Lord". But at the same time, I know he awaits the day when he will put on his heavenly body that he "may not be found naked" (2 Cor. 5:2-9).

- What a sobering picture of the terribleness of sin is death. Ultimately, death is not a result of old age, or sickness, or accident, but of sin. God warned Adam that he would die the day he disobeyed. And it was true. We died when Adam sinned, and now we must receive its wages (Rom. 6:23). I sin everyday, and often don't give a second thought. But may I wake up and see here in the tears, in the coldness, in the stripping of all life, the true nature of sin.

- But what a difference the gospel makes! It is the difference between the worst possible event to the best possible event. Christ died to decisively break the power of sin and overcome death by offering himself as a substitution in place of all sinners who will embrace him by faith. Had this not been the case, this funeral would truly be the most horrific event imaginable: Everything good, everything enjoyable, everything pleasurable in the world, would have ended with my grandfather's death, forever. And he would soon have to stand before a holy Judge to give an account for his sins, without anyone to cover him.

- But because of Christ, he is clothed with his perfect righteousness, so that this death is a finishing of the race and a receiving of the fulfillment of God's promises. Instead of it being the most horrific event imaginable, because of Christ, it now becomes the most wonderful event possible: Every good, every joy, every pleasure that my grandfather experienced, will come back to him ten-thousandfold in the presence of Christ, increasing forever. And he will now spend eternity in joy with the One for whom he was made.

- The week before my grandpa left, we gathered together as a family to sing and share and pray for each other. My grandpa shared a story about when he used to work for Gideon's International in Taiwan (he did this for over 20 years!) and distribute Bibles to military personnel, in schools, in hospitals, etc... In one occasion, he was passing out a Bible to a junkie, and some of his co-workers told him not to, because he would just use the pages of the Bible to roll tobacco so he could smoke it. Many of these junkies would find discarded cigarette butts and collect scraps of leftover tobacco and make their own cigarettes. But my grandpa insisted and handed him a New Testament, knowing that the Word of God is powerful to change lives. Sure enough, the junkie took the Bible and began tearing pages to roll his cigarettes, but when he came to the page where Christ rose from the dead, he found that he could no longer tear the page anymore, and had to find out who this book was talking about, because he had never heard of anyone rising from the dead! And so he found a pastor, who shared with him the gospel and he believed. My grandpa told this story at least 6-7 times that night (each time forgetting he already had told it), and every time he would say with passion and emphasis, "Jesus Christ rose from the dead!" Though at his age, his faculties, his sense of logic, his memory were all diminished, his faith in the death and resurrection of Christ for sinners remained unshaken. And it is because Christ rose again that this dead body will one day also be raised in glory. Blessed be the name of the Lord.