We’re in a series called, The Other Six Days: how your relationship with
Jesus changes Monday-Saturday. Last week we looked at how Jesus changes our
work—the way we see it and the way we do it. Besides work, the other main thing
we do the rest of the week is that we are members of a family or household. How
does Jesus want us to live with others? Today, we are looking at how Jesus
changes our family and home—all week long.
We said last week that Jesus is Lord. He is Lord of everything—not just
Sundays, but Monday-Saturday too. Not just our church life or spiritual life, but
our work, our play, our family, our friendships, our money, our sexuality, our
politics, our time—He is Lord of everything.
The Big Idea: Jesus is Lord of all of life, and that changes everything,
including our home and family.
So how does my relationship with Jesus change the way I do family? We’re
going to look at two things.
1. Love Jesus first.
How many of you thought I was going to say, “Love family first”? That’s
what we hear all the time, isn’t it? “Family first.” And certainly family should be
first before lots of things: before work, before recreation, before friends. But not
before Jesus. He makes that clear in several places in the gospels. In fact, when
Jesus talks about family, it’s almost always in this context: that He is first before
family. Each of the Scriptures listed on your outline address this. We’ll look at the
Matthew 10:34–39 (p. 836) “Do not suppose that I have come to bring
peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come
to turn “ ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-
law against her mother-in-law—36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of
me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38
Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39
Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will
Jesus begins by saying that He doesn’t always bring peace to families;
sometimes He brings division. One family member believes, others don’t, and the
family is divided.
ILL: My sister Ann began following Jesus when she was 9, and I followed
a few months later when I was 13. Then my Mom and each of my 5 sisters
began following Jesus. That left my Dad—and he was a holdout for
decades. I can remember my dad complaining that the church had stolen
his family from him. Our family was divided for decades—in the words of
Jesus, “a man against his father,” and a father against his son.
My dad came to Christ a couple years before he died. Our whole
family was in church together only one time, when they all came to
Spokane to celebrate my 40th birthday. It was the only time my dad heard
Jesus doesn’t always bring peace to families; sometimes He brings division. And
you have to be willing to follow Jesus even when it means dividing your family.
ILL: A number of years ago, a young man came to Jesus here at Life
Center and faced resistance at home. After a year or two of praying for his
parents, he gave up and abandoned his faith in Jesus. His reasoning was
that he didn’t want to leave his parents behind. When push came to shove,
he was willing to lose Jesus rather than lose his parents. He loved his
parents more than Jesus.
You have to be willing to follow Jesus even when it means dividing your family.
How many of you have experienced this? Let me pray for you. Pray.
Love Jesus first—even when it means division in the family.
Look at verse 37. “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me
is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not
worthy of me.” Pretty clear. We are called to love Jesus more than father or
mother, son or daughter. In Luke’s version (Luke 14:26), Jesus adds wife or
husband, brothers or sisters, and even yourself—pretty much the whole family
including you! We are called to love Jesus more than those who are closest to us,
our own blood relations.
“Love me more than your family.” Why would Jesus say that? Two
First, He knew that He would divide families, and He didn’t want you to
give up. So He’s making it clear: no matter how much you love your family, love
Second, He knew that if you love Him first, you would love your family
better. Simply put, I love others best when I love Jesus first.
ILL: When Laina and I were married, we wrote our own vows and we
memorized them. The vows were great; memorizing them—not such a
great idea. Laina—who doesn’t like to speak in public—sailed through
hers without a hitch. Me—the public speaker—I said, “Laina, I love you,”
and then…blank. Nothing. I just stood there and looked stupid while
everyone laughed. They had never seen me speechless!
When I recovered, I went on to tell Laina that I would love her
second, that Jesus would always be first. That’s not what you usually say
at a wedding. I went on: “I know if I love Jesus first, I will love you best.”
And it’s true. I love others best when I love Jesus first.
How does that work? When I love Jesus first, He changes me. The more I
love Him, the more I become like Him. He begins to confront and change my
selfishness… my pride… my insistence on being right and having my way… my
need to win every argument. Simply put, He begins freeing and changing me. We
describe a follower of Jesus like this:
God: a growing relationship with God
Me: developing Christ-like character
We: healthy relationships with others
World: serving God and people
A follower of Jesus has an authentic growing relationship with God. The first
thing to change is you—you start becoming more like Jesus. Then that new you
begins to have healthier relationships with others. When you have a growing
relationship with God, developing Christ-like character, and healthy relationships
with others, you have something worth giving away! Change the world by sharing
Jesus and serving God and people.
So why does Jesus say, “Love me more”? It’s not because He is insecure. It
is because He wants you to thrive, to live life to the full. And when you love Him
first, you love others best.
Love Jesus first. Then…
2. Love your family well.
All of the passages listed here describe how we as followers of Jesus should
treat each other in our families. Jesus changes the way we do family! How
important is it to love our families well? So important that these instructions show
up in 5 different NT letters.
Paul and Peter both use a literary form that was very familiar—scholars call
it the “household table” or rules. Going all the way back to Aristotle, philosophers
had been writing household tables—a description of the roles of people in families
or households. A Roman or Greek household contained not only the nuclear
family of mom, dad and kids, but often extended family, and if you were wealthy,
your servants and slaves. The Greeks and Romans considered the family or
household the fundamental building block of society and state. So they composed
these household tables to govern family life and maintain an orderly society.
Paul and Peter’s Christian readers would have been very familiar with
household tables. But the apostles took this familiar cultural form and
Christianized it and transformed it. Here’s how.
First, they made the household tables thoroughly Jesus-centered. All of the
family relationships were transformed by the Lordship of Jesus. They made it
about Jesus first.
Second, they included everyone equally in the household tables: wives and
husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters. The traditional household
tables usually addressed only the subordinate parties: the wives, children, and
slaves—not husbands, parents, masters. Their purpose was to ensure an orderly
society, so it was important to remind wives to submit to their husbands, children
to obey their parents, and slaves to obey their masters.
But the apostles had a different purpose. Their purpose wasn’t political or
civil, but spiritual. Their goal wasn’t primarily an orderly society, but a healthy
family that reflected the gospel and Christ-centered relationships. So they didn’t
address just the subordinates, but everyone. They injected a Jesus-formed
mutuality that was new, revolutionary and transformative.
Why am I telling you this? Because when we read these passages today, we
tend to read them though a 21st century American lens, and we may
misunderstand. You may think, “They are patriarchal,” and you’re right…sort of.
Paul and Peter were living in a patriarchal world—it’s all they knew, and these
passages reflect that. We don’t live in that same world. But if we can understand
their world, their context, then we read these passages differently; we see that they
more than just patriarchal—they are profoundly Christian and revolutionary!
We don’t have time to read and study them all, so I encourage you to take
some time to read and reflect on them this week. Let’s take a look at the first one
and see what we can learn. Let’s turn to.
Ephesians 5:18–6:4 (p. 1009)
18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled
with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the
Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks
to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 21 Submit
to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Let’s pause here.
These verses are the end of a long section of “instructions for Christian
living” (see headline p. 1008) that lead into a section of “instructions for Christian
households.” Before Paul gives specific instructions for family members, he gives
general instruction for everyone. For example, look at:
4:25 “Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully.” That’s for
everyone—mom, dad, husband, wife, kids…everyone. Every Christian.
4:26 “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.” That’s for everyone.
Think that will make a difference in your family?
4:29 “Don’t let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,” but only what
builds up and benefits others. That’s for everyone—husbands, wives,
kids…everyone. This also will make a huge difference in your family.
4:31–32 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with
every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each
other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Think that will make a difference in your
family? Oh my! That’s for everyone.
5:2 “Walk in the way of love, just as Christ love us.” Everyone—mom, dad,
kids—love each other as Jesus has loved us! That’s for everyone.
Now, jump ahead to what we read. “Be filled with the Spirit.” That’s for
everyone. We all need to be filled and empowered by the Spirit. He gives four
results of the Spirit’s filling: (look at v. 19-21)
Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit.
Singing and making music from your heart to the Lord.
Giving thanks always to God for everything.
Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
We all need to be filled with the Spirit, and we’ll all be speaking, singing, giving
thanks and submitting. And that leads us into the section on instructions for
Why is this context important? (You’ll also find this same context in
Colossians and 1 Peter.)
In a moment we will read that wives should submit to their husbands and
husbands should love their wives. Does this mean only wives submit and only
husbands love? Of course not! We just read that we’re all to love one another as
Christ loved us and we’re all to submit to one another.
In a moment we’ll read that a husband is to speak words that refresh and
benefit his wife. Does this mean that wives don’t have to speak good words? We
just read that everyone is to speak wholesome words that build up and benefit
Let me say it another way: Before I am a husband, first, I’m simply a
Christian. And as a Christian, I’m a new person who lives and loves and speaks
and forgives like Jesus. This is true for all of us. So while these “instructions for
Christian households” are true and valuable, they’re not the whole story. Whatever
our role in our family or home, we are Christians first and behave accordingly.
This is so crucial to remember as we read the household table that starts
next. It is written in the context of instructions for Christian living for everyone.
First, we are Christians. So—let’s be Christians at home. On to the household
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23
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. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also
wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Paul moves from what every Christian should do to the family and starts
with Christian wives, and he says they should submit to their husbands as to the
Lord. What does it mean to submit? It doesn’t mean you’re a door mat or a wall
flower with no opinion of your own. It means you offer your very best, as you
would to Jesus. It doesn’t mean that you are your husband’s domestic slave. “Yes
master.” That doesn’t work so well at my house—or anywhere. So what does it
To submit means to “voluntarily yield out of love.” It is not forced; it is
voluntary. 1 Corinthians 15:28 says that Jesus is submitted to the Father. Our
understanding of the Trinity—Father, Son and Spirit—is one God in three persons,
all equal, yet submitted to one another. Jesus lived in submission to the Father. He
prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done.” This was a voluntary submission, his
best offered out of love, from one equal to another.
As a Christian, I submit to Jesus. I voluntarily yield out of love. I say, “Not
my will, but yours be done.” And as a Christian, I not only submit to the Lord, but
I submit to you—I voluntarily yield out of love. I don’t insist on my own way.
And you do the same towards me. In other words, Paul is asking wives to treat
their husbands the way Jesus treats the Father, the way Christians treat Jesus and
each other. Just be a Christian!
By Christianizing it, making it Christ-centered, Paul elevates this far beyond
traditional patriarchy. He revolutionizes the marriage relationship by comparing it
to Christ and us, the church. Let’s go on.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave
himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water
through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without
stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way,
husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife
loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care
for their body, just as Christ does the church—30 for we are members of his body.
31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his
wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am
talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love
his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Paul focuses specifically on what Christian husbands do: they love their
wives like Christ loved the church and gave His life for her. I like to remind
husbands how challenging this is. Wives are told to treat their husbands like
Christians treat the Lord—their model is a human model. But husbands are told to
treat their wives like Christ treats us—our model is Jesus Himself, a divine model.
We are called to give our very lives for our wives. To die!
ILL: It’s possible that you may be called to literally give your life for your
wife, to take a bullet for her, or step in front of a speeding car. But the
chances are, you won’t have to die physically. Instead, you’ll have to die
daily in a thousand little ways. God asks me to die every day to my
selfishness, my pride, getting my own way, needing to be right and win
every argument. That’s hard! I’ve often wished I could die in one noble
act of sacrifice and be done with it. Just shoot me and get it over with!
Husbands, love your wives like Christ loves us! I want you to notice that if this
were a traditional household table like they were used to, there wouldn’t be
anything addressed to the husbands. This is new. This is revolutionary. This is
Jesus changing the way we do family.
Notice that this chapter begins with Paul telling all of us to love each other
like Christ loved us (5:1-2). Husbands are to love their wives like Christ loved us,
and gave His life for us. But so are wives. That’s how Christians love—all of us!
While this specific to husbands it’s not exclusive—it’s for everyone.
What does it mean to love? Love is doing what is best for another no matter
what it costs you. Husbands, wives, all of us are to love like that, like Jesus. So
he’s telling husbands to act like Christians. Love your wife like a Christian
loves…like Jesus loves. Just be a Christian! Love like Jesus.
Here are four things I want you to jot down.
The first thing is that whatever your role, you are to behave as a Christian.
Wives submit and so do husbands…because we are Christians—we all voluntarily
yield out of love. Husbands love like Jesus and so do wives…because we are
Christians—we all love as Jesus loved us. We all treat each other with love and
respect because that’s what Christians do. Just be a Christian! This applies to
everyone, whatever your role, single, married—whatever. Just be a Christian!
The second thing is that the model for marriage is Christ and the church.
The Bible elevates marriage—it’s “a profound mystery” that reflects the
relationship of Christ and the church. Your marriage as Christians is to be a living
example of the relationship that Jesus has with us, His people. Others should be
able to look at your marriage and see how Jesus loves us, His bride and how we,
His bride, respond back to Him.
I often tell couples that this passage provides a simple rule of thumb for
Wives, treat your husband like you would Jesus. It says you should submit to him
like you would to the Lord. So treat him like you would Jesus. “But,” you protest,
“he’s not Jesus! Not by a long shot!” Treat him like you would Jesus
anyway…and see what happens!
Husbands, treat your wife like Jesus treats you. It says you should love her like
Christ loved us. So treat her like Jesus treats you—with all the love, sacrifice and
service you can muster. “But,” you protest, “she’s not always lovable. Sometimes
she’s downright nasty!” Treat her like Jesus treats you anyway…and see what
Put Jesus in the center of your marriage—be Christians…and see what happens.
I’ve been working at this with Laina for 45 years and I can tell you two things.
1. It’s work. Take two imperfect people and put them together for a
lifetime—that’s a wicked soup! It’s work! I’ve always got room to improve, so
I’m always working at it!
2. It works. We have a great marriage. It’s worth it! So get to work, and
live like Christians at home!
The third thing the reciprocity or mutuality of these household instructions.
In these ancient cultures (Roman, Greek, Jewish), women, children and slaves had
few if any rights. They were treated as chattel, as property belonging to men. Pure
patriarchy. While Paul doesn’t completely eliminate patriarchy (it’s hard to
imagine him doing that in his context), he does transform it by addressing both
parties—husband and wife, parents and children, slaves and masters—as
responsible people who can choose to serve Jesus. As we go on to chapter 6, look
for this remarkable mutuality.
Ephesians 6:1–9 (p. 1009)
1 Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the
right thing to do. 2 “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first
commandment with a promise: 3 If you honor your father and mother, “things will
go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.”
4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them.
Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.
5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them
sincerely as you would serve Christ. 6 Try to please them all the time, not just when
they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. 7
Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for
people. 8 Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do,
whether we are slaves or free.
9 Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them;
remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites.
This kind of mutuality was unheard of at the time, and its revolutionary.
Paul addresses every member of the household and says, “Live like a Christian.
Let Jesus be Lord of your family, your household.”
This applies to you whether you’re single or married. Live like a Christian
in your household.
The fourth thing is that Paul focused on each person’s responsibilities, not
their rights. We want to make it about our rights. I have a right to be happy, a
right to three square meals a day, peace and quiet after work, and sex at least twice
a week! But Jesus makes it about our responsibilities. He doesn’t tell husbands to
make their wives do something; he tells them to do something—love your wife.
The same with wives, children, parents, slaves and masters. Here’s your
responsibility. Do it. Live like a Christian at home!
What will I do?
Who will I tell?