Posts Tagged ‘male’

Do not be faint of heart by what you see and hear! In every culture of madness, the unchanging Word of God gives fathers and mothers what they need to parent their children, resist evil, and build a future of hope. First,

Trust that Light has no fellowship with darkness.

When parents determine the time and place to discuss sex and family life with their children, they do well to discern the language. For 50-plus years, we have been taught to believe that “children are sexual from birth.” Nowhere in Scripture does God describe children this way. The phrase was coined by a secular humanist named Alfred Kinsey who believed infants and children can enjoy and benefit from early sexual activity. His social science was wrong, but his research was widely accepted, setting our nation, and even the Church, on a dangerous course. A mistaken identity and compromised purity puts human life at risk. For the sake of children and the future of the Church, we need to know the origin of sex education, then ask: “What fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Cor. 6:14-16).

Those who inspired modern sex education did not intend that parents do the teaching. Mary Calderone, who established the Sex Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS), had a perspective on sex and family life that mirrored Kinsey’s. She believed that children should learn about their “sexuality” in the classroom and under the direction of a trained expert. Such a classroom, however, can become an encounter group. Under the direction of even the best intentioned “family life” or “sex education” facilitator, boys and girls together encounter something new about themselves, their feelings and desires, their relationship with the opposite sex, and detailed information about sexual intercourse. God, however, intends that children encounter these things in the home under the direction of their parents.

Christian parents serve their children best by putting every thought or idea under the microscope of Wisdom. Guarding the body and soul of a child, respecting the differences between boys and girls, preserving modesty, and teaching self-control grows out of the purity of Truth. Sex education, by virtue of its origin, is not pure; rather, it is stained with earthly colors. The palette of sex education is tainted by the very things that fooled our first parents: deception, doubt, pride, flesh, fear, and words that God has never spoken. A parent may attempt to use only the best of secular material and pair it with God’s Word. But when God’s Word and human ideas are joined together, there is a very real danger that God’s Word will simply adorn and lend credibility to a false, secular teaching like beautiful and fresh white paint on a tomb. Second,

Let no one deceive you.

A sexualized culture is Satan’s playground. He slithers up to moms and dads, hissing, “Did God really say that you are capable of parenting your child?” He may attempt to wrestle from parents the authority given to them by God, but they need not be deceived.

Martin Luther wrote The Small Catechism for the head of the family—the fatherly steward—to teach God’s commandments to his household. The First Commandment to father and mother, son and daughter is this: “You shall have no other gods.” This means we are to “fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” Satan knows that with this command comes the promise of life for people who will live forever in the presence of God. For this reason, he accuses parents of ineptitude and tempts the fearful, weary, or doubting to turn the education of their children over to someone “more qualified.” Every parent needs encouragement, sound biblical resources, and support from their church family, pastor, and Christian teachers, but what children need most are moms and dads who courageously accept their God-given role.

God gives to parents His Word—the treasure of true wisdom. God’s Word speaks clearly to parents about their role as educators (Deuteronomy 6; Proverbs 1:8); about purity and holiness (Psalm 119:9; 1 Peter 1:14-16); about training for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7-12). “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous” (1 John 3:7). Third,

Whether male or female, be holy!

In Genesis 1:27, we learn that we are created by God and in His image; therefore, we are called to be holy. We learn that we are human, different from the animals and compatibly different from one another as male and female.

Sin distorted God’s perfect design and rhythm of life. Sin causes the relationships of men and women—married or not—to be difficult. But even in chaos, God’s design and order of creation stands. Whether male or female, we are to be holy because God is holy and expects us to conform to Him. Whether married or single, men are to remember God’s Word and use it to protect life. In marriage or singleness, women help men remember God’s Word and encourage them to do good.

Our daily life as male or female glorifies God. God does not tell us to abstain from being male or female, but He does tell us to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage. We don’t do battle with the attributes of maleness or femaleness, but with “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry . . . [T]hose who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:19-24).

We do not need sexual intimacy to be a man or to be a woman, but men and women do need to be relational. We are created to be in relationship first with God and then with others. We do this best in the light of our true identity. Therefore,

Hold fast to your identity and that of your children.

Christian parents can help their children identify themselves in the light of their Baptism, vocation, and sanctification. What does this mean? Our Baptism makes us sons and daughters—true heirs—of God in Christ. Our vocation of engaging life as His son or daughter is to be practiced daily whether we are married or single. Our sanctification through faith in Jesus Christ is God’s work in our life through the Holy Spirit who helps us resist the sensual world and be transformed to what is holy.

Because of our Baptism, sons and daughters of God are brothers and sisters who can relate to one another in non-sexual ways as they work together, enjoy life together, pair up to problem-solve, serve in church or neighborhood together, and always trust that God knows the desires of our hearts.

How we identify ourselves affects the way we fear, love, and trust God. It affects the way we act in His presence and understand His purpose for our lives. God does not identify us as “sexual from birth” because the phrase confuses our created maleness or femaleness with the corrupted state of our current sexual desires. A “sexual” identity is all about “me.” It means being in debt to our own flesh and bound to live according to its fickle ways. But a “holy” identity is all about God claiming us as His dear children in Christ. In Christ, our fallen nature has no claim on us. Our flesh side may tempt us, saying, “This is who I am,” or “I owe it to myself,” but we aren’t obligated to obey its impulses or satisfy its desires. Why? Because we “did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear” (Romans 8:15). What a difference this makes in the way we live and worship.

Identity matters. If the earliest education is about the child’s identity as a son or daughter of God in Christ and not a “sexual being,” then it will be much easier to train the child in the “way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). The parent, obedient to God, is on guard keeping the walls up and acting as the child’s good judgment.

In a sexualized culture, what is a parent to do? Be uncommon. Stand on holy ground. Engage in honest and kind dialogue. This happens every time The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity is presented in Lutheran congregations or schools. To date, over 50 pastors have participated in panel discussions with parents and grandparents all over the country. Won’t you consider hosting a dialogue, too, so that we might “be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:12).


The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity
Published by Titus 2 for Life

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mother and child holding handsGod entrusts children to parents.

Parents are called by God to guard the innocence of childhood.  This is a serious challenge in today’s society.  From early on, boys and girls are surrounded by the visual images and messages of a highly sexualized culture.  The Christian parent may feel overwhelmed by their role.  But parents today—as always—are equipped for the job.  The Word of God is sufficient.  The Bible provides all that is needed to help boys and girls respect themselves and others, understand why male and female are not the same but complementarily different, resist temptation, and protect human life from the moment of conception.  When sin and failure occur, the Bible points the way to forgiveness and hope in Jesus Christ.

One topic that perhaps most intimidates and even confuses parents is sex and sexuality.  Sex education sounds like a good idea, especially if it is taught in a Christian environment; however, the origin of sex education is not biblical.  It is founded on a humanistic and secular theory.

A zoologist and follower of Charles Darwin by the name of Alfred Kinsey concluded that children are “sexual from birth” and can enjoy and benefit from early sexual activity.  He believed that society should reflect his “science” by altering its moral codes.  Thirty years of study by researchers such as Judith A. Reisman, PhD., prove that Kinsey’s research was built on sexual experiments by known pedophiles on children ages five-months to 14 years.  The research was both fraudulous and criminal; nevertheless, it accomplished what it intended.  By the 1960s, Kinsey and his followers were recognized as the “experts” on matters of “sexuality.”  Kinsey associates and students opened the doors of SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.) and partnered with Planned Parenthood to aggressively make their way into schools and churches.  Pro-homosexual and pedophilia groups were emboldened.  Over the next fifty years, moral codes based largely on the biblical worldview were dangerously compromised.  Never before had anyone considered a child to be “sexual” in the way that Kinsey meant, but today children are sexualized not only by the media but in sex education, health or “family living” classrooms.  The innocence of children is stripped away in classrooms where boys and girls together learn about their bodies, what their parents do in the bedroom and what it means to live a “sexual” life.

God calls us to holy living.

God does not call His children to be “sexual.”  He calls His children—of all ages— to be holy.  Therefore, the Bible does not educate in sex, but instructs in purity.

Purity is not prudish.  It is prudent.  Purity is not Victorian and antiquated.  It is God’s plan for children and adults whether married or single.

Purity focuses on our identity as redeemed sons and daughters of God in Christ Jesus.  God says, “Be holy for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).  We are “vessel[s] for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:21).  Daily remembering our Baptism, we see ourselves not as “sexual beings” captive to instinct and desires, but as heirs of the promise and clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Galatians 3:27-29).

Purity is about more than abstinence.  Abstinence says, “No, I can’t be sexually intimate right now.”  But purity says, “Yes, I can be the male or female God created me to be right now.”  Instruction in purity begins with an explanation of biblical manhood and womanhood.  It draws attention to the many ways that male and female, of any age and married or single, can work, worship and serve together without a hint of sensuality.

Purity is about God’s design and order for life.  It is also about mystery and modesty.  God’s Word says, “Do not awaken love or arouse love before its proper time” (Song of Songs 3:5b).  This is why purity must be nurtured in a special garden tucked safely behind a protective fence.  That fence is the boundary of home.  God entrusts the training of children to their parents.  Children trust parents.  The Church supports parents by equipping them with God’s Word of Law and Gospel, the catechism, and models for instruction.

Purity is nurtured in an environment where modesty is preserved.  This is not a classroom where boys and girls together learn about sex or sexuality.  It is nearly impossible to train in purity when intimate topics are discussed between boys and girls in a common and casual manner.  Why?  Because holy people and the behavior God expects from them are not common but, rather, uncommon.

Modesty emphasizes the importance of the sexual organs (which God placed out of view and behind hair, 1 Corinthians 12:23) reserved for the special and honorable use within marriage.  Rather than trying to remove embarrassment (a natural protection from God in a sinful world), adults should do everything they can to maintain modesty.  A father can best explain to his daughter that there is mystery in more clothing rather than less, and that a girl’s behavior can raise—or lower—a boy’s standard of thinking and behavior.  A father can encourage his son to guard a woman’s virtue and lead him away from the “temptress” (Proverbs 7).

Purity grows from the truth of Genesis.  The first man and woman were created in a complementary but different way, each with a unique and vital role.  Purity understands that a man is a good steward (Genesis 2:15) and defender of life (Genesis 16-17) who takes a stand against evil.  The man is to lead, not as lord and master, but as one who goes first to make sure the path is safe.  Purity understands that a woman, as a “helper” (Genesis 2:18) and a “rib” or “pillar” (Psalm 144:12b), is strong and supportive, yet vulnerable to abuse.  Purity understands that a woman, as the bearer of life, has the most at stake; therefore, it places her within protective, yet pleasant boundaries.

These boundaries are drawn by God to respect the physical and psychological differences between male and female.  Woe to those who attempt to erase these boundaries by pretending that boys and girls are “the same”.  Woe to the adults who remove the protective covering of modesty and desensitize children.  Woe to the adults who dangle the carrot of joyful marital union in front of children but then tell them to “wait” for marriage after graduating college and securing a job.

God Gives a Model to Parents.

God has given all parents and grandparents a model for the instruction of purity in Titus 2:3-8. Older men are to mentor younger men by being examples of sobriety, dignity, self-control, sound faith, agape love, and steadfastness.  In addition, older men are to model the sacrificial love of Jesus (Ephesians 5:25).  This love is shown today by men who defend the honor of women, rescue children from abortion, and guard the door of homes.  For a young man, it means treating all girls as he wants his sister, mother, grandmother, and someday-wife to be treated.

Older women are to mentor younger women by being examples of goodness, self-control, purity, homemaking, kindness, and respectfulness for God’s orderly design in marriage.  In addition, older women can contrast the “temptress” with the holy woman who calls attention not to self but God (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:3-4).

If there is no father present or involved, mothers can point both sons and daughters to their Heavenly Father who is very present and involved in the lives of His children.  Timothy was raised to purity of faith and behavior by his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5).

Parents can be confident in raising sons and daughters to a life of purity.  They need not be intimidated by the world—or by their own past.  Sins that have been confessed to God are forgiven and forgotten.  Parents can show children the way to the Cross every time a wrong choice is made.  Parents, with the help of the Holy Spirit, can help sons and daughters resist the temptations of a self-focused and sensual world.

It is an awesome thing to know that the God who calls us to holiness also saves us when we are not.    Even when all seems lost to sinful people, we can reclaim our purity in Jesus.

Jesus Christ came to live among us.  He experienced human emotions and feelings.  He knows our weakness.  But for our own sakes, He calls us to lives of purity.  Purity does not seek its own way.  It models biblical manhood and womanhood.  It raises standards for behavior and encourages self-control.  Purity guards body, mind and soul.  It lays a foundation for friendship, marriage and family.

Purity anticipates a future of hope.

Written by Linda Bartlett for Lutherans For Life.
Available in brochure format (#LFL903T)
from CPH or Lutherans For Life

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man standing reading BibleThe Word is true: “… Male and female He created them.”  But in hastily skipping ahead to “and they shall become one flesh,” we miss God’s description of what it means to be a man or a woman.  This is a costly omission for us all; most certainly for our unmarried sons and daughters.  But there is someone else who has been harmed by withholding God’s word on manhood and womanhood.  That person is our neighbor who struggles in a fallen world with the reality of same-sex attraction.

My neighbor (I shall call him David) is humbled by what he knows is an unnatural attraction.  Although “gay,” he does not want to parade with pride.  David was catechized by Christian parents who offer unconditional love.  He believes God’s Word that places sex within the boundaries of one man, one woman marriage.  But, David wonders, where does a person like me fit?  What does being “gay” mean for my future?  What about marriage and a family?  To me, however, the most heart-piercing of David’s questions is this: What about friendships with other men?

“Sometimes,” David explains, “I look at another man and am attracted to an attribute of his that I wish I had.  I don’t know, perhaps I am jealous.  But here’s the thing.  My self-centeredness and envy of that guy’s admirable qualities tempt me to imagine a sexual bond, but might my feelings actually be those of brotherly love and admiration?”

David is exposing a vulnerability.  He is pointing out how vulnerable any of us can be when we focus exclusively on human sexuality but remain awkwardly silent about biblical manhood and womanhood.

David is one of the compelling reasons why I authored The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity.  Too many in the church insist that we talk early and long about the wonders of sexual intimacy between a husband and wife in the faithfulness of marriage.  This, I’ve been told, will help remedy the problems of premarital sex, teen pregnancy, and divorce.  But it has not!  Nor has it made a place at the family table for our brothers like David who struggle with unwanted desires.

If David had his prayer answered the way he’d like, his same-sex attraction would be cured and his burden lifted.  He does not embrace unnatural inclinations.  He knows he cannot act on his feelings and be at peace with God.  But how, then, can David live… with himself, in relationship with the Man Jesus Christ, and in relationship with other men?  How can we help?

First, we welcome David to the table of the human family where the Body of Christ can remind David that he is so much more than a sexual being.  He is created to be a man: steward of all that God has made, bearer of the Word of life, and leader away from death.  How do we know this?

Before God created Eve and brought her to Adam as his wife, He “took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). Although the work is made more difficult outside the Garden in a sinful world, man is still called to be the good steward over God’s creation.  The “Lord God also commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’” (2:16-17). Adam’s failure to remember and obey brought sin into the world.  In this fallen world, God’s perfect design and rhythm of life are distorted; nevertheless, God’s order of creation stands.  Man is still entrusted with the responsibility of bringing order out of chaos by speaking the Word of life and leading away from destruction and death.  This is David’s call from God.  It is his first vocation.

We can help David focus on the identity bestowed upon him at Baptism.  God does not identify him as “gay,” “homosexual,” or even “heterosexual.”  We all struggle with sinful desires, but because of our Baptism, they do not define us nor do they have to enslave us.  We were “far off” from God, but in Baptism, we are “brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).  We are “washed … sanctified …  justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God (1 Co. 6:11).  We can cry “Abba!  Father!” because “you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal. 4:6-7; Ti. 3:5-8).

At Baptism, the sign of the cross is made over us to indicate that we are redeemed by Christ the crucified.  We have His mark on us.  We are baptized, not in the water of sexuality, but in the water of pure Word and through the work of the Holy Spirit.  We are called not to ways of weak flesh, but to holy and noble purpose.  We are encouraged not to glorify self, but to glorify Jesus Christ who makes us children of God.

We can remind David that his Baptism is “an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21).  Even as Baptism cleans the sinner, it gives strength to be different from the world and restrain our own fickle desires.  Through daily contrition and repentance, the Old Adam in us is drowned and dies with all wrong thoughts and desires.  A new person in Christ rises up to live before God in righteousness and purity (Rm. 6:4).

We can remind David that sons and heirs of God are not promised an easy life.  Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).  We are promised the Holy Spirit who helps (Jn. 14:26) and intercedes for us (Rm. 8:26).

We can grieve with David.  The mistaken identity of “sexual being” and exaggerated place of sexuality misleads and often destroys the godly relationships of men with women, men with men, and women with women.  What is to become of us if we find a friend of the same sex—someone who is patient, kind, and selfless—but confuse lust with brotherly affection?  It is a dystopian world when boys and girls are mentored in all things sexual, but actually grow up fearing masculinity and femininity because they are untrained in biblical manhood and womanhood.

We can rejoice with David.   God created us to be relational people but, because He did not make sexuality central to being human, we can relate to one another in non-sexual ways.  Yes, my friend David!  You can admire the attributes of another man without sensual implications.  That’s because mature manhood (and womanhood) is about relating to one another in light of our baptismal identity.  As brothers and sisters, God wants us to be what He created us to be: holy people who live our daily lives as male or female not just in marriage, but in familial and social relationships, in school, at work, and in worship.  We do not need sexual intimacy to be a man or a woman, but men and women do need to be relational.

We can assure David that the Tenth Commandment has something to say to single men and women.  We are not supposed to covet “anything that is your neighbor’s.”  This includes our neighbor’s sexuality.  Marriage is the sacred place for all things sexual, but being a husband or a wife in this fallen world is a vocation for some and not for others.  It is important for the Body of Christ to see each member as fully human as opposed to sexual and, therefore—whether young or old, married or single—“a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Tim 2:21).

We can encourage David to practice self-control which, evidenced by the Apostle Paul (1 Co. 7:7), is a gift.  With the gift of self-control comes order and strength for life.  Mature manhood and womanhood receive the gift of self-control and are not dependent upon sexual intimacy.  Chaste singleness is not an affliction nor is it lessening of personhood; rather it, too, is a vocation and way to serve God and our neighbor in a way different from marriage.

We can point David to the Man Jesus Christ.  Jesus was fully human.  He was true man.  Yet, only in error would we identify Jesus as a “sexual being.”

We can assure David that Jesus has something to say about human identity being far more than sexual.  Jesus says there is no marriage in heaven (Mt. 22:30).  Therefore being sexual, that is, capable of sexual activity, is not part of what it means to be human after the resurrection.   If it is not part of our divinely created human identity in the resurrection where everything will be made perfect, then it is not the central part of our divinely-created identity here and now.

God tells His beloved human creation to abstain from sensuality.  But He does not tell us to abstain from being male or female.  We don’t do battle with the attributes of manhood or womanhood, but with “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry …” (Gal. 5:16-24). To be lovers, that is, to share sexual intimacy and literally fit together as “one flesh,” is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman. But to be male or female is not bound by marriage.  Each is a vocation or calling for daily use in glorifying God.

In Christ, we can fully engage in our vocations of manhood and womanhood in ways that will not bring shame on the Day of the Lord (1 Jn. 2:28).  We can think, work, create, serve, communicate, encourage, problem-solve, mentor, build relationships, and practice agape love.  This is truth with promise for those who bear the cross of same-sex attraction but don’t want to parade with pride.

The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity

is available from Amazon.com
(image credit: westminpca)

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“Myinnermostthinking” responded recently to “Religion, Sex & Biology.”  It would seem that he wants very much for his god to approve his chosen lifestyle.  Christian or not, how many times do any of us try to make God in our image?  Tell ourselves that He, the Creator of life, would certainly accept our self-shaped world… and make us happy in it.  Imagine that!  The pot telling the Potter the way things should be.

Taking the time to respond may not be as productive as I’d like because “Myinnermostthinking” and I don’t speak the same language.  I trust that the Word of God is what God says it is.  “Myinnermostthinking” does not.  Regardless, I’d like to take a stab at this.

Three women, so far, have responded to “Myinnermostthinking.”  What strikes me about their responses is that none of them are heckling a man who thinks and lives very different from them.   Each one of these women have uttered not a single word that could be interpreted as “hate speech.”  Each one has taken the time to study God’s Word and respond in a way that honors that Word.  Each one has responded to a person different from them with patience, kindness, and words of hope.

These women speak from a worldview “Myinnermostthinking” seems to reject.  It is the worldview that determines how I identify myself and make the choices I make.  That worldview — the Biblical worldview — is this: Creation — The Fall — Redemption.  That worldview explains the origin of my life, why things go wrong in my life, and where I’m going when this life is over.  The Biblical worldview trusts that God really did say what He said, when He said it, to whom He said it, and why.

There is one thing that I would like to clarify based on this worldview.  There is a fine line between saying God created us the way we are and saying that He allows us to be the way we are.  MommyLiberty stated that, personally, she thinks “God did allow for some people to be straight and some people to be gay . . . some to be prone to addiction and others not . . . some to struggle with anger, pride, gossip and worry.”  My husband appreciated her husband’s observation: “He gave everybody a different car to drive.  Some  people’s cars are harder than others’ to steer.”  🙂  But, here’s the thing.

God’s original creation was perfect.  Happily, joyfully perfect.  Anything imperfect, unhappy, or without joy is the opposite of God.  God would not create us to be in opposition with our own anatomy.  To be tortured by feelings we shouldn’t have.  To be at risk physicially, emotionally, and spiritually.  But, after the first man and woman sinned, everything changed.  The relationship between God and His creation changed.  The relationship between men and women changed.  We live in a sinfully changed world.  A struggling world.  An unhappy world.  Unhappy, not because God doesn’t want us to be happy, but because we keep doing the things that put us at odds with Him.   Hetero.  Homo.  Bi.  Trans.  Focusing on our “sexuality,” our flesh side, we are hard pressed to find happiness.   Because of sin, we all die. 

But God, in spite of sin, chooses life.  He allowed Adam and Eve to go on living.  He allowed them to do so, — not by changing His design and intent for them, not by throwing all warnings and caution aside — but by mercifully covering their new emotions of embarrassment and shame.  Never before had their nakedness embarrassed them.  Never before had they felt shame.  God covered their embarrassment with clothing (neck to knee) and their shame with the promised Robe of Righteousness, the Savior Jesus Christ.  All of the Old Testament points to the Christ who did, indeed, come to be our Robe of Righteousness.  To cover the sins of the world (all of us) and then ask: “Will you follow Me?” 

Jesus Christ died.  Conquered death.  And returned to the right hand of God.  But, God in Christ will return.  Will He find us striving to follow Him… or doing what is right in our own eyes? 

“My ways are not your ways,” says the Lord.  So, I guess it comes down to this: How we see the Lord Jesus — who calls Himself the Word for life — determines how we choose to live.  Do we seek His way to happiness… or our own?

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The New Testament book of Ephesians, in chapter 5, speaks to husbands and wives.  Someone recently told me that she understands God’s Word here to describe a “circle of love and respect.”  The husband is to love his wife and the wife is to respect her husband.  But, she wondered, who first steps into this “circle of love?”  The husband or the wife?

Is it one or the other?  No.  It is both.  Both, in response to God’s invitation, are responsible at all times: he to love, she to respect; he to lead, she to assist his leadership.  Both are to see each other as their neighbor and faithfully serve that neighbor in the way that glorifies God.  One does not wait for the other to serve. To love or respect.  To do something thoughtful or kind.  This might promote negative responses: “Because he doesn’t lead like I want him to, I can’t help him,” or, “Because she doesn’t respect me like I think she should, I can’t love her.”

Does the question, “Who steps first into the circle of love and respect” hint of fairness?  Who defines “fair?”  Who measures “fair?”  Behavior based on fairness also tends to slip negatively.  She could say, “Well, he didn’t do that, so I won’t do this.”  He could say, “Well, she didn’t do that, so I won’t do this.”  That isn’t how it works with God’s agape love.  We aren’t to be patient only if the other one is patient, kind only if the other one is kind, or selfless only if the other one is selfless.  Who should take the first step?  In a working relationship, there is no “first.”  Each is always trying to be patient, kind, and selfless.  He is responsible for his behavior.  She is responsible for hers.

It helps me to remember who created the “circle of love and respect.”  (I’ll return to this in my next post.)

In God’s language, a husband’s love for his wife and a wife’s respect for her husband are unconditional.   Not dependent on what the other does, or does not, do.  A husband’s love for his wife is actually how he serves God.  Should he wait to serve God until his wife respects him?  A wife’s respect for her husband is actually how she serves God.  Should she wait to serve God until her husband loves her?

To be sure, on occasion, one may feel like disengaging from the “circle of love and respect.”  The perfect “circle” is, after all, tainted on this earth.  We too easily think of ourselves first.  How we’re not being served… or how we’re doing all the serving.  But, with a growing faith in God’s Word for husbands and wives, we can practice doing what we do for the glory of God.  We can develop better habits.  God’s love in Jesus Christ was sacrificial.  Faith in the power of that love produces a sacrificial attitude for husbands and wives.  It frees us up to think less about self and more about the other.

With this attitude, one might even forget who started, paused, stopped, or re-started the circle to go ’round.

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