So, what’s the adult equivalent?

 

We just talked with the kids about some of the times where they get aggressive and assertive with each other. “I wanna go first!” “My turn!” Mine! I get the first one!” I imagine that you’re above many of the examples I shared with them. I doubt you throw elbows to be the first one to use the microwave in the breakroom come lunchtime at the office. In your household, you probably don’t get too spirited over who gets the first piece of cake or scoop out of the Tillamook ice cream container or piece of pizza – “it’ll get around to me and I’ll get my share”. We don’t get worked up over the same things that children get worked up over. We grow out of many of the petty arguments of our childhood. But because we’re sinners, there’s something we none of us ever grows out of – a heart bent towards self and selfishness. 

 

Grown-ups like us do plenty of “me, mine, me first”. When tensions are high and we’re starting to raise our voices to get our point across, in the heat of the moment we really don’t yield to the other. “Shush, be quiet, let me speak”. That’s something adults do. A married couple discussing their finances: “Here’s the way I want to spend our money – No, I don’t want to do that – I want our money to be spent this way.” That’s something adults do. Whenever the kids need to be tended to in the middle of the night or the dog needs attention or the trip to the store needs to be made or the task around the house needs to be done – often we want to pass it off onto someone else – because my time, my sleep, my rest, my preferences come first. That’s something adults do all the time. We might not get incensed about who gets to be first in line or who gets to play on the computer first or who gets the first pack of Poptarts from the box. But whether you’re young or old, we all have this in common, don’t we? I want to come first. The world revolves around me. 

 

Our main motto for today is just two words, yet it has to be one of the hardest sentences to say and practice: You First. Isn’t it interesting – some of the most difficult sentences to say contain the fewest words. “I was wrong, I’m sorry, You were right”. Well here’s another one to add to the list – You first. We want to be a body of believers that lives out verse 21 every day of our lives: Submit to each other out of reverence for Christ. Put others first. No matter what the relationship is, we want to magnify selfless love. In these verses, Paul shows us the “how-to”. And Jesus, our Savior, our Bridegroom, gives us our “why”

 

Let’s start with the how-to. What would a selfless life look like? In this section, Paul uses the illustration of marriage to get the point across. The married among us this morning will find this especially applicable and relevant to daily life. But even if marital love for you is not yet, no longer, or never was – all of our relationships, really, can benefit by putting others before ourselves.

 

But in keeping with marriage as the main illustration of this section – selfless living means mutual submission. Selfless marriages are “You First” marriages. Each person serves the other. Each person acts in the best interest of the other person. Each person makes sacrifices to benefit the union and the other person in the union. And each person, husband and wife has an equally important, yet uniquely distinct role to play. I think that team sports help us better understand the concept of “mutual submission” and different roles. I’ve watched a fair amount of sports over the summer and I’ve frequently been hearing the saying “we play for each other”. How were you able to pull out that clutch win in the 4th quarter? “Because we played for each other. What’s made this team so dominant over the last month? “We play for the other guys on the field with us”. Maybe you’ve heard athletes use that term before – play for each other. If not, you’ve probably heard the sayings that there’s no I in team or no one likes a ballhog. In order for any team to succeed, it involves less focus on my stats and more focus on the scoreboard. And also, successful teams require a variety of unique individuals. You need players and you need coaches. One can’t go without another. You need players on offense and players on defense. Each is important and essential. So it goes in Christian marriages as well. God calls each party in a marriage to be selfless in their distinct role. 

 

So what are those roles? Ladies first, Paul starts by addressing the women. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do 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. This might top the list of ”most uncomfortable Bible verses to talk about”. Really! Telling wives to submit to their husbands. This verse and this principle turns off many from ever wanting to test drive Christianity or join a church. And though I am not a woman, I know that even many women inside of Christianity have raised their eyebrows at this, too. Because this goes so against everything you hear in day-to-day life. The world preaches equality. The world says “I’m a strong independent woman who don’t need no man”. The world preaches “Anything he can do, she can do too.” But in God’s timeless kingdom and timeless word, it’s a different message: the husband is the head. The wife is the helper. They’re equally important. But function differently. 

 

Paul likens a wife’s relationship to her husband with how Christians view Jesus. As the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Jesus is our head, our cornerstone, our Savior – this truth oversees everything that we do. Where would we be without his love and care and goodness? What hope would we have in this life or the next if it weren’t for him? He’s our Shepherd, we are the sheep. He is our Leader, we are his people. We rely on him to guide us and lead us through his life. We trust the paths he leads us on because he has our eternal good in mind at all times. We speak words of praise and thanks to the one who has our best interests always at heart. Now, husbands aren’t “saviors”, husbands certainly aren’t perfect, nor are husbands to be worshipped by their spouses – praise and worship is reserved for Christ alone. But this illustration helps wives to see what a selfless, submissive life looks like in the context of a marriage. As Christians trust, rely on, respect and appreciate Jesus – some of the ways that wives submit to their husbands is by trusting the direction in which they lead the family. Respecting him in his role. Encouraging him and appreciating him. Helping the husband in whatever way she can. This is the female side of a “You First” marriage.

And then Paul turns and speaks to the guys. The husbands are the head of the family, but this role doesn’t mean they get to just sit back and bark orders. Far from it. Here’s Paul’s encouragement for the men – 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 with 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. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. Love like Jesus. What a great responsibility and charge God gives to husbands! It’s like being told to paint like Picasso or run like Usain Bolt or sing like Whitney Houston. Love like Jesus, the greatest to ever love. We explained a moment ago that Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus is our leader. But he wasn’t lazy or complacent or oblivious to our needs. Quite the opposite – he took action in the greatest way. He loved so greatly that it cost him his life on the cross. He came down from heaven to rescue us from eternal destruction in hell. He took our countless stains, wrinkles and blemishes to the cross and erased them for good. What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. 

 

I’ve heard countless love songs in my life (some beautiful, some corny) where male singers serenade a female and promise what they would endure for them because they love them so much. But actions speak so much louder than words. And to close our service today, we’ll sing one of the most memorable Christian hymns of Christ’s love for his bride – The Church’s One Foundation. “From heaven he (Jesus) came and sought [us] to be his holy bride / with his own blood he bought her and for her life he died”. Leaders take action. And that’s what husbands are called to do. Cherish your spouse. Value her. Listen to her, respect her, help her, serve her, take care of her, love her as much as you love yourself. This is what “you first” looks like for husbands. 

 

I read a pretty good marriage book recently written by a Christian pastor and he suggested what he thinks is the #1 cause of divorce. What do you think is the #1 cause for divorce? Infidelity? Abuse? Finances? No. Apathy. In other words, not caring anymore. I need to preface that I haven’t really experienced much divorce first hand in my life or among my family members. But that answer makes sense. Not caring leads to the deterioration of many things in life. If I don’t maintain and care for my car, it’ll break down. If I don’t take care of my body, it’ll break down and deteriorate. Same goes for our relationships, like marriages. It’s kinda like how all of the 10 commandments stem from the 1st commandment – If we could keep “You shall have no other Gods”, the other 9 would follow suit. And I think for marriages it functions much the same. If there were no apathy, if we invested and cared and were intentional 100% of the time, that would erase many if not all of the problems in marriages. But it’s tragic – we often stop caring about the one human being we promised our greatest love, care and attention to. Some of you in this room have experienced divorce. And that union ended because they stopped caring about you. Or you stopped caring about them. Or equal parts blame. Even if your marriage has gone steady for years or decades, every week if not everyday we need to repent of our apathy towards our spouse. Husbands feel disrespected, so they stop caring. Wives feel undervalued, so they stop caring. We want to be served instead of being the ones doing the sacrificing. We get to a section of Scripture like this and when we hear these words we’re tempted to elbow our spouse (“you paying attention here?”) instead of taking these words to our hearts first. And there’s so much more we could say about this loaded topic. In short, as long as these unions last we will be imperfect husbands and wives. There will be countless instances where we’ll want to be selfish instead of selfless. The flaws in the other person will discourage us from having a “You First” attitude.

 

But let’s go back to that short first verse – Submit to each other out of reverence for Christ. I said that Paul would show us how. And Christ would show us why. Here it is – out of reverence for Christ. In other words, Jesus encourages us: “If nothing else, do it for me”. Nothing is said in this section about submitting to a perfect husband or loving a perfect wife. But because we have been perfectly loved by a perfect Savior, that drives every thought, word and action we have towards our fellow sinners

 

Since Christ has looked past my many sins, I want to look past the faults in my spouse

Since Christ has forgiven me beyond measure, I want to forgive her unconditionally

Since Christ has and does serve me constantly, I want to serve him instead of be served

Because Christ sacrificed everything for me, I want to sacrifice for them. 

 

Everything we do, we do to the glory of God. We want to love unconditionally, freely and selflessly, because that’s the way he loved us first. Amen