Day 11

Christ and His Church

from the Ephesians reading plan


Ephesians 5:22-6:9, Genesis 2:4-25, Matthew 19:13-15, Colossians 3:23-24

BY Rebecca Faires

She was five and I was seven. The sun had just set, but there was light enough for our tasks. We had rhubarb leaves to gather, Rose of Sharon flowers to collect, and lightning bugs to catch. She ran back and forth with a run as cute as it was enthusiastic. I sat enthroned on an industrial wood spool and shouted orders: “Not those flowers, those are Queen Anne’s Lace!” We were storing up treasures and there was a lot of work for us to do. Well, work for her to do. Someone had to manage the operation, and if seven years had taught me nothing else, they had taught me that I loved to be the boss.

My little sister has always been game to help me achieve my goals. Whether I’m filling baskets with pink flowers or purchasing a new sofa, she’s got my back. But it’s taken me a long time to learn how to fully appreciate our relationship and not turn it into a power play.

We all have a little megalomania in us, whether we are the big sister or not. We all have an impulse to control. Henry Cloud points out that “all people were designed by God to be control freaks. But because we shy away from controlling what we are supposed to control (ourselves), we resort to controlling what we are not supposed to control (others).”

Ouch.

When Paul addressed the Ephesians, he wasn’t just delivering a few tips for getting along with friends and coworkers; he was revealing how the gospel transforms all of our relationships. The gospel takes the power struggle out of the equation.

Our sinful hearts are naturally inclined to rebel against authority. It’s (profoundly) hard for wives to submit to husbands, children want to rebel against parents, and who hasn’t had a hard time respecting a boss? (Ok, I know this passage also talks about slaves and masters, but I just can’t even right now with the complex issue of Old Testament slavery.) We squirm and wiggle to get out from under authority.

On the other side, our sinful hearts are inclined to control those under us. Husbands control and hurt wives, and wives undermine and control husbands. Parents try to control and micromanage their children, and employers steamroll workers all the time. We don’t want to submit, and we don’t want to lead with mercy.

Here’s the good news: the gospel actually does change our relationships. It changes the nature of both our intimate and professional bonds. Yes, our sinful hearts want to control others and rebel against authority, but God only calls us to control ourselves (Galatians 5:23).

How can we control ourselves and understand this mystery of love, submission, and authority? Two ideas from scripture: Do a good job with a good heart.

Paul encourages us to do a good job by enjoining us, “Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart” (Ephesians 6:6).

And Paul invites us to have a good heart: “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord” (Colossians 3:23-24).

But our hearts are precisely the problem! How can I do a good job with a good heart when my  heart so bent on controlling others? The gospel never sets works before the transformed heart. It begins with Christ’s transforming work in my heart. Christ is the one who does all this.

Why does Paul go to all this trouble? To help us sort out little peccadillos with coworkers? To keep kids from getting out of hand in the grocery store? To help me not be grouchy to my husband?

Yeah, actually. Yes. All our relationships are about Christ. They mirror different facets of our connection to Him, so these interactions with other folks are like a training ground. We are learning to love Christ better through our relationships on earth. This mystery is profound (Ephesians 5:32).

Help your little sister when she’s gathering rhubarb, and listen to your mom if she calls you inside. God gave these people to you. When that old impulse to control strikes, use it to control yourself by submitting your heart to Christ.

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158 thoughts on "Christ and His Church"

  1. Leah Rachow says:

    A few years ago, I heard a husband and wife speak on Ephesians 5 and what a husband and wife submitting to one another looks like. God calls wives to respect their husbands, and He calls husbands to love their wives. They emphasized, however, that our world makes this submission seem like a scary thing- as if we are submitting to someone we cannot trust. But you should be able to trust your husband. If he is loving you as Christ loves the church and if you are supporting and respecting Him as the church does for Christ, submission should never be scary.

  2. Maiya H says:

    Qow, we learn to love Christ through our relationships. What a great perspective.

    I think about all the different ways He has used the many different relationships I have in my life, to speak to me. I’ve said many times that relationships are a very crucial part to the ministry God has called me to..and my how this speaks to me.

  3. Steph Li says:

    I have always struggled with Ephesians 5-6. When it comes to submitting to husband’s and pleasing them, I get angry at Paul for being so old-fashioned (can you really blame him?). My boyfriend tells me it’s fair because he has to take on the leadership role, the “God” part of the relationship while I take on the seemingly lesser role. It’s just hard for him to understand that demeaning feeling that women face so often.
    But this devotional helps me see this passage in a new light. While the specific verses about husband’s and wives still turns my stomach the wrong way, this teaches me to take a step back to live in humility and obedience for Christ, not for men.

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