A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on September 13, 2015 by Pastor Dale Raether
Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net
Happiness is Imitating Christ
Ephesians 5:21-31

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ!
If only my husband was prince charming, then I’d be happy! Or, if only my wife treated me like a king (and was prettier too), then I would be happy. These statements are messed on so many levels. For one thing they’re saying happiness comes from outward circumstances, and if we don’t have what we want, we can’t be happy, and so, if the other person won’t to change, or he/she has to go. Actually, someone could be married to an absolutely perfect spouse, but he’ll still be unhappy at times, because of the sin that lives in us.

Okay, so no one’s perfect. The world’s answer to that is let everyone be who they are. If a married person falls out of love with his spouse and falls in love with someone younger, that’s not his fault. It just happened. It’s in the stars, so don’t make him feel bad for divorcing and moving in with his new true love. Or, if a person is born with homosexual tendencies, or he’s given up on the opposite sex and found someone of the same sex, let him find happiness in whatever works for him. God says: There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. – Proverbs 14:12

God does want us to be happy. Except being happy isn’t the purpose of life. Happiness is a byproduct of the purpose of life. The purpose of life, whether we’re married or single, is to imitate Christ. In our text this morning we’ll see what that means, and how we may have strength to carry it out. And then, without thinking about it anymore whether we’re happy, at times we’ll look back and realize, “I am so blessed!” Would you like this for yourself? Let’s listen in now as Paul helps us to imitate Christ.

Our text reads: Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. – Ephesians 5:21-24 Do you see any dirty words in that passage? A lot a people would say “submit” is a dirty word. That’s because they don’t really understand that word in the Bible.

Submitting isn’t about who’s better or stronger or gets paid more. Submitting in the original Greek has to do with position and good order. For example, 2015 football season started on Thursday night. Who’s more important, the quarterback or the center? Well, if you don’t have a good quarterback, your team probably isn’t going to win. But if you don’t have a good center, your quarterback won’t be able to do much, other than get sacked every other play. Yes, I know quarterbacks get paid a lot more than centers, because there aren’t very many, who can play that position well. But once the center and the quarterback are on the field, they are team. And the center must value and respect his quarterback, and the quarterback must value and respect his center.

God wills that a husband and wife be a team, and that each value and respect the other. On this team, the husband calls the plays, because that’s the role God has given him. But a Christian husband will not make selfish, abusive, or neglectful decisions anymore than Christ would. This makes the wife’s role of being the center of the marriage a joy. I mean this in two ways. The husband’s work and decisions and affection are to center on his wife. And the wife, as her husband’s helper, keeps him in the game by being extra eyes and ears to dangers and opportunities, just like a football center keeps his quarterback in the game. And so, marriage is a team! It is NOT a competition with each other, and it’s definitely not a war. But how do we keep our marriages from turning into that?

We read on in our text: 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. He who loves his wife loves himself. – Ephesians 5:25-28 The word love in Greek is agape. Agape love doesn’t look at what a person deserves, only at what a person needs. Also, agape love doesn’t count the cost to oneself to meet those needs, but does and sacrifices whatever it takes. And finally, agape love doesn’t do a little and then wait to see what kind of return starts coming in. Agape love is pure, unending, unchanging grace.

Christ loves us with agape love. What we deserved is hell. What He gave us was His perfect life to suffer and die in our place. Also, this wasn’t easy or pleasant for Jesus. Jesus is both true God and true man, but according to His human nature, when He thought about going to the cross, He sweat drops of blood and prayed three times to not have to go through with it. Yet He did go through with it for two reasons. It was the Father’s will that our salvation center on Him, and Jesus submitted to that role. Also, Jesus knew that only the sacrifice of God could pay for the sins of man, and He loved all people that much. Yes, He even loved those who would repay His love with continued sinning. For example there were two thieves, who were crucified with Jesus. One thief was won over by Jesus’ love and prayed, “Jesus, remember me when you come into Your Kingdom.” The other thief died rejecting Jesus, and Jesus knew He would, yet Jesus still suffered for him every bit of hell he deserved. For this reason, let no one here ever say, “I’m not good enough to come to Jesus. Or, I’m not good enough to be a Christian. Of course you’re not good enough, but that’s why Christ’s agape love is for you.

We read again in our text: Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. – Ephesians 5:21. Wives, imitate Christ’s love to your husband! Be your husband’s helper. Agape love him, honor him, respect him, when he looks like Prince charming, or not so much; when he’s witty and fun to be with, or when he’s got early Alzheimer’s, till death do you part. Why? Out of reverence to Christ and in thankfulness to Him for His love for you!

Likewise husbands, imitate Christ’s love to your wife! Serve her! When there’s something she can’t or won’t do, do it for her, even as Christ fulfilled God’s Law for us. Or, when there’s something she needs, but it’s going to cost you whatever your favorite thing is, give it up. She’s worth it, just as we were to Christ when He gave up His life for us. And now, for both husbands and wives, agape love isn’t just all work. It’s warm affection for the other! We read again in our text: …to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. – Ephesians 5:27 Because Christ washed away our sins, because He dresses us with His own holiness, Christ sees us now according to the way we will look and talk and act, when we’re with Him in heaven. In the same way see your spouse today the way you looked at and felt about him/her the day you got married, and then cherish one another.

But what if that’s gotten hard to do? Well, two things. Pray, as we did earlier in the service, that God increase our faith, hope, and love; and that we may obtain what He promises, pray that He make us love what He commands. Another thing Paul says to help us love one another day in and day out, is he reminds us that husband and wives are one. Our text reads: In this same way, husbands ought 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 they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church – Ephesians 5:28-29. If we pound our thumb with a hammer it hurts. If we give our body chocolate it tastes good! In the same way, whatever we do to help our spouse, we are blessed by it. And those blessings are an encouragement to keep on submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Still, enjoying those blessings is not our main purpose. And so, in the last part of this verse Paul brings us back to what IS our purpose – it’s imitating Christ. How the world needs us to do this! The world today doesn’t know what love is. In marriage and outside of marriage people are often using and abusing each other. In the process they’re driving wedges between themselves and each other and between themselves and God. But worst of all, they’re spiritually harming their children, so that another whole generation will grow up not knowing what love is, or even who God is. But we can do something about that!

We can show the world what agape love is by our Christian marriage and Christian parenting. Singles also can show the world what agape love is by how they treat and care for others, because their purpose in life isn’t to sow their wild oats, until they’re too old to care about wild oats. Their purpose is to keep sowing the seed of Word through their words and through their actions. Also, if singles do decide to get married, they can show the world what true commitment and agape love is about by saving themselves until after the wedding.

Whether married or single, imitating Christ isn’t always easy humanly speaking. It takes a lot of help from Christ. But He is with us! In addition, failing to imitate Christ in the past, doesn’t disqualify us from imitating Him from now on. And so, every night we can each pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” And then as Christians on the same team, we can get back to supporting and serving each other, until even Jesus in all his holiness and splendor can look at us and say, “Wow, those people are just giving me so much joy!” What a happy feeling that will be for us. May God grant this to us, to our families, and to our nation in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net