Whew! First, a note about last week. I realize I pushed us all into the deep water, but you swam with grace and gumption! The subject and the scriptures were challenging, and emotions ran understandably high. There aren’t many places where I would even dare to do what I did, yet I have found this place to be an amazingly safe place to try, together, to plumb the deep waters of our mysterious God. Thank you, for your spirit, blog sisters. Bravo!
You have two weeks to do this lesson since the 2nd week includes Labor Day weekend and many of you will be taking a break. We are covering the huge subject of marriage, but we need all of you. You are the body of Christ and every part is important. Often singles and those unequally yoked can see things those in believing marriages cannot see. In addition, every single one of us needs to attempt to see the mysterious parallel to Christ and His Bride. This is a mystery, but like the deep waters of the ocean, where there are swarms of brightly colored fish without number, there is great beauty to be gleaned in trying to grasp this parallel.
Steve and I began to attempt to live out the gospel in our marriage, and it was the breath of life to us. In the message from Tim and Kathy Keller next week, you will hear Kathy say that both the man and the woman are called to play the “Jesus” role in marriage. The husband is called to lay down his life for his wife, living sacrificially, as Christ died for the church. The wife is to not cling to her rights, but to submit, as Jesus did (Philippians 2), not counting equality with God a thing to be grasped, but humbling himself, even to death on a cross.
Like Cyndi’s brave testimony last week, these truths saved my marriage. The gospel is continually saving me, not only from the penalty of sin, but from the power of sin.
I was the foolish woman of Proverbs 14 who was tearing down her house with her own hands.
I was, as Meg Ryan declared herself to be in When Harry Met Sally, DIFFICULT.
Difficult people are not happy people.
When Steve was doing his 120 hour a week internship in Seattle, even though I was a new Christian, I did not support him. I was angry all of the time. I told him I wanted him to find a way to beat the system or it didn’t pay to be married. Even when he finally had a free night and he got a sitter and took me to a fancy restaurant to try to soothe me, I would not stop venting my anger. A photographer stopped at the table asking to take a picture of this “happy occasion.” I refused to give him a real smile. Can you even imagine living with me?
Steve tried to beat the system that was so unfair to interns, but could not. My pivotal moment was after he had seen the call schedule for the holidays and realized he would be working every holiday. He called me to tell me the schedule and was very quiet. Then he told me, and I knew he meant it because I knew him, “I’m willing to quit.” He was willing to give up eight years of medical training and his dream of being a caring physician. He was willing to lay down His life.
Just as the love of Christ had brought me to repentance, so now the love of my husband brought me to repentance. I determined to be supportive of him, to not “cling to my rights,” but to lay them down that our marriage could be a Christian unity. It was a pivotal moment not just in our marriage but in our walk with God. He blessed our marriage in ways He could not have had we not begun to live out the gospel in our marriage. Steve is with Jesus now, but this week was my birthday week, and all of my children and their families (22 in all!) came to bless me for the whole week — doing all the shopping, cooking, cleaning, planning, and endeavoring to bless me every house. I have never had such a birthday celebration — ending with a powerful worship time led by my oldest son J. R. I am so thankful that my children know both that they are so bad Christ had to die for them, but so loved that He did. And I watch these ten grand-daughters and two grandsons running about and pray each of them will know it too, for His blessings come to those who fear Him, from generation to generation. That is the power of the Gospel.
When Steve and I wrote our guide, Building Your House on the Lord, It was during the backlash to the 2nd feminist movement and some of the teaching from the pulpit and Christian seminars went way to the other end of the spectrum in attempt, I think, to balance things. It was the time of Marabel Morgan’s Total Woman, where women were told to make their husbands the center of their lives. It was the time of Bill Gothard who taught that women should submit to any wish of their husbands, even immoral commands such as abortion, and trust that God would deliver them in the nick of time. (Today there are still large recovery groups for those who were so hurt by this false teaching.) It was a wild time to write a study-guide, but truly I believe God called Steve to that task. We worked together, but Steve gave us the vision. He saw then, how it all began in Genesis. He also saw, and articulated that ” the prevailing emphasis in Scripture is not ‘Who’s in charge here?’ but rather, ‘The two shall be one.'”
Again, I know i’m plunging into deep water and there are those who will disagree, but here we go!
I am a complimentarian rather than an egalitarian in that I believe “head” means authority rather than “source.” However, I also believe that “headship” that is a constant issue is the sign of an unhealthy complimentarian marriage (or for that matter, local church.) Either the man is abusing his power, or the woman is not being a true help meet, by helping her husband discover the mind of Christ. I have a friend who said, “My mother tried to never make a decision.” I cannot conceive how that would be God’s will for co-heirs in a marriage, or, for that matter, a church body. Jan Silvious reminds women, “Your husband is not your daddy.” We need to mature into our role of being a true help meet: a confidante, a counselor, and a co-heir. Luci Shaw once said to me, “Harold is the head of our home, and I submit to him, yet in twenty-five years of marriage, it has only come up twice.” That is how my marriage was with Steve. From what I can see, that seems to be the thrust of Tim and Kathy Keller’s marriage. She is certainly a strong and outspoken woman, and sometimes he needs to tone her down, but he also respects her so and tells how greatly she has impacted him. She didn’t want to come to New York, but when after much discussion they could not agree, he reluctantly stepped into his role as the leader who would bear the responsibility of the decision, and she stepped into the role of submitting to something she didn’t want to do. Neither liked their role, but they say applying the gospel to their marriage has made each of them more like Christ.
Always keep in mind our Bridegroom lay down His life for a difficult bride in order to transform her into a pure and beautiful bride. As we respond to that love, dying to ourselves, we are continually transformed into the image of Christ. Also remember, difficult brides are not happy brides.
Week One (Beginning August 24th)
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
Monday-Friday Bible Study:
2. Read Genesis 2:18-24
A. Over and over, God has said “It is good.” Now, in verse 18, something is not good. What is it? How does this apply both to the gift of marriage and to the general concept of the fellowship of believers (the corporate bride)?
B. What is God’s solution?
C. Read Kathy’s Keller’s interview (LINK) on being Tim’s “ezer” (help fit for him) and comment — and why do you think TGC titled this, “Not your stereotypical pastor’s wife?”
D. Giving someone a name is a sign of authority. How do you see God giving Adam authority in verses 19-20?
E. In verse 21-22, how did God form the first bride, and what parallel can you see to the second bride? (Challenge question)
F. Adam’s response to Eve is the first audible human comment recorded in Scripture. Howard Hendrick’s says it is like “Eureka!” What emotions do you see here?
G. Now — think about how Jesus will respond when He sees His Bride on that great day. What parallel can you see? Do you really believe He will react to you in this way? Do you believe He loves you that much?
H. They key verse about marriage in Scripture is first stated in Genesis 2:24. What is it, and explain what is meant by “for this reason.”
I. What are we told in verse 25?
J. What parallel can you see in verse 25 for our relationship with Christ? How should the gospel make us naked and unashamed?
A. What does it mean to “leave” your father and your mother? Does it mean abandonment — why or why not? What does this look like, practically?
B. What does cleaving mean?
An important book for me early in our marriage was Walter Trobish’s “I Married You.” He talks about cleaving as being like glue — and to separate means you tear into each. Jesus repeats this command in the gospels twice in regard to why divorce is so serious.
C. What are the effects of divorce to each person and to the children?
D. Challenge question: When we each live out the gospel in marriage, how does it make us one flesh?
E. How did Jesus leave His Father and then His mother in order to acquire a bride?
4. How does Paul use this key verse as an argument to speak against infidelity in 1 Corinthians 6:15-17? How do you see the gospel in this passage?
How might you apply this verse as either a single or a married woman?
(We’ll look at the culmination of “the two shall be one” in Ephesians next week.)
5. What is your take-a-way, and why?
Week Two: Living Out the Gospel in Marriage (Week of August 31st)
The two shall be one is God’s high calling for marriage. Becoming one can only happen as each spouse plays the “Jesus” role. The husband must love sacrificially, as Christ died for His bride, and the wife must not cling to her rights, but lay them down, as Jesus did, even to death on the cross. When a couple does experience the beauty of oneness it is as close as we get on earth to what will be reality in heaven with Christ. It is also why the death of a spouse is so painful, why divorce is so painful, and why being in an unequally yoked marriage is so painful. That is not how it is meant to be. But one day, for believers, a great mystery will be revealed. There will be no more death, no more tearing apart, and no more sin in our hearts. We will be one with our ultimate Bridegroom and one with one another. I felt I tasted just a little of that my birthday week with my children and grandchildren. We are all a little quirky, all with faults, but grace was able to cover it. My youngest grand-daughter, Lily, who is just 18 months is already learning to sing: “Grace, grace, God’s race, grace that will pardon and cleanse within…”
One day, as Tim Keller says, we will be seen completely naked, and yet we will be so delighted in we will be unashamed. There will be no more enmity between us, no more shame, and no more rivalry. It is a mystery, but let us try to peer into it through a glass darkly.
Read over last week’s opening again, and then this week’s opening.
6. What stands out to you and why?
Monday-Tuesday (Bible Study)
7. Read Ephesians 5:21-33
A. Egalitarians would use verse 21 to say there should be no “headship.” When you look at this passage in context, do you agree or disagree?
( D. A. Carson addresses this in the plenary sessions of The Women’s Gospel Coalition Conference of 2014 if you are interested in listening.)
B. What parallels do you see in this passage between the role of the husband and the role of Christ?
C. What parallels do you see in this passage between the role of the wife and the role of the Bride of Christ?
D. How does this passage elevate marriage beyond the world’s view of marriage?
8. Listen to Tim and Kathy Keller on marriage and share your notes and comments here.
9. What’s your take-a-way and why?