“Playing With The Focus”
Ephesians 5 is full of wonderful wisdom. The problem is verse 22. “Wives, be subject to your husbands…” and we’re lost. A lot of damage has been done in family situations when this small piece of scripture has been improperly used. It’s caused women to stay in abusive relationships. It’s allowed men to hold power over their wives.
That’s the problem when we narrow our focus too tightly. We miss out on some of the other wisdom which might help us.
In our reading today, Paul forces us to play with our focus. We learn that if we look too broadly, we’ll miss the point. We also learn that if we look too narrowly, we’ll miss the bigger picture.
So, what do we do?
Chapter 5 of Ephesians is broken up into two parts. The first section helps us to bring in our focus. It addresses the dangers of allowing the distractions to overtake us. The second section is an example of when people focus too tightly on a particular passage, and miss an opportunity for greater learning.
Paul starts chapter 5 off with setting the tone for what is coming up. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…”
Then Paul warns of the of the dangers of straying from this life of love. He warns that acts of sin, greed, hurtful language, all of these things are not signs of love and are entirely out of place in lives of faith. So instead of these things, let there be signs of thanksgiving for what we have been blessed with.
And what about those who try and deceive us? What about the people who try and make us believe things which will lead us away from this life of love we have been commanded to pursue (not by Paul, but by Jesus himself)? Paul simply says stay away from them.
But that’s a big challenge now today isn’t it? Every day we are bombarded with messages telling us how we can make a better life for ourselves. Telling us we can find the secret of happiness if we simply buy their program, book or product. Messages which tell us we can do it all for ourselves too. We can find the financial freedom, the spiritual enlightenment, or the way out of problems if we just pay some money for today’s latest fad.
But for thousands of years it was the community which helped with these things. It was the people we interacted with every day who helped us through the problems of life and encouraged us on our journey. Today we’re being told some “expert over there” has all the answers for us, and we can do it in the privacy of our own home. Our world groans in pain because of it.
Living a life of love means sharing with our family, our friends, our neighbours. It means being part of a community and sharing in love and relationships. Isn’t that how God designed the world in the beginning? For people to work together for the greater good of the community?
So, I believe living in love and leaving the “bad” stuff behind is even more important now than ever before. In a society where greed and personal pride has become the norm, we need to be aware of how our actions are perceived. We need to rely fully on the example of Jesus Christ as we seek to live in the light of God that he has given to us.
Paul closes this first section with the wise words,
“Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Jesus Christ and the will of God needs to be our focus. Living a life of love needs to be our focus. Ignoring the distractions which seek to take us away from these things needs to be a discipline we exercise. None of this is easy, which makes it all the more important for us to do.
This leads us to the second section of chapter 5. How does this life of love reveal itself within our homes?
First we have this famous piece of scripture,
“Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Saviour. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.”
How does this make you feel ladies? Does it make you feel all warm and fuzzy about how it is to be married to your husband? As I said earlier, this passage has been used to keep women in unhealthy marriages and to keep them as subordinate in the relationship.
This is not the intent of what Paul is saying. If you want proof, keep reading.
Paul doesn’t stop with just the women, Paul has things to say to the husband as well, and in his eyes this is probably even more important than what he said to the wives. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”
Paul is comparing the husbands role in the home to be on par with Christ’s role to the church. That is, be willing to give up your life for her. Love your wife so deeply that nothing matters more than her, including your own life.
Paul goes on to say, “…husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body.”
You want to be a good husband? Do these things. Don’t be a tyrant. Don’t rule over your family. Simply love, nourish and tenderly care for it.
Paul actually has more to say to the husband in this passage than he does to the wife. Paul puts a great deal of responsibility on the husband to make sure his home is a home of Christian love.
Keep in mind that Paul is talking to a culture where the women are often treated as possessions of the men. It’s quite different than what we experience today. Paul’s thinking is pretty radical for the men of the time to accept.
Yet today, this important instruction to the men is often overlooked in some circumstances when women are being asked to be subject to their husbands. Maybe those who read these first few words need to keep reading about the husband’s role, and instead of disciplining the wife, they need to look at the husband and how well he is living out his role in the family.
The commandment is to love one another. Jesus couldn’t have said it any clearer than he did. Love God, love one another. It’s pretty straight forward.
The problem now is our world has turned from God. As a society, our world has lost its connection to our God who is love. We’ve lost our ability to receive the love he so freely offers, and in turn we’ve lost our ability to love one another. We’ve lost our our focus, our example, our source of life.
This loss of focus has put us in a place where there is a lot of greed, pain and sin in our world. The only love out there is the love of money and the love of self. We don’t focus on what real love can be.
It’s because of this lack of focus we in turn will pick the wrong things to focus too tightly on, such as the order for women to be subject to their husbands, and ignore the rest of the passage. Because focusing on the first part gets us what we want. It gets us power, it gets us a possession, it helps us in our self love and greed.
If there’s anything we need to focus too much on, it is this, and only this: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Our only focus should be on God and the love He so freely offered to the whole world through His Son, Jesus Christ. If God is our focus, then all other distractions begin to fall away. If God is our focus, then we view the world, and all who live in it, in a new way.
If God is our focus, well… I think you get the point.