Tag Archives: ephesians

We Were Dead To Begin With

“Once again, I must ask you to remember that the Marleys were dead, and decaying in their graves.
That one thing you must remember, or nothing that follows will seem wondrous.”
– Gonzo as Charles Dickens in The Muppet Christmas Carol

Our mutual love for The Muppet Christmas Carol greatly contributed to Greg and me getting married.  This great line – whispered by Gonzo for dramatic emphasis – seems especially appropriate for the grander narrative of Christmas.

Gonzo & Rizzo

The Bible tells us that we are born spiritually dead. We, like the Marleys, are decaying in spiritual graves.
In a strange sort of image, we, corpses, often try to “fix” our spiritual problem in any number of ways. But the attempts are as absurd as a corpse putting on perfume!  The corpse is dead, and perfume cannot do anything about that fact.

God sees us trying to fix our dead bodies, and says, “No, my dear one, that won’t work.  You need me to make you alive.”

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. – Ephesians 2:5

This story is the most beautiful one in all of creation, but we chafe at it. It bothers us because it requires us to accept that we are born dead.  (It reminds me of the medical students in the 1800s who refused to wash their hands between examining infected corpses and delivering babies: they refused to accept that a gentleman’s hands could be dirty. Story here.)

We ask, “Why would God make me this way (dead)?  That’s not fair.”  “Why would a good God make creatures that were dead?”

When we really get down to it, I think the heart of the matter is this: we squirm at the fact that, in our dead state, we need God.  We hate the dependence.  We think a “good God” would have made creatures that didn’t need to be saved – that didn’t need Him.

Oh, the pride!! Oh, the haughtiness!!!

Let us humble ourselves and see the truth: rather than puzzling over why we are born spiritually dead, let us recognize that God. could. have. left. us. that. way.

But He didn’t.  He was born a man at Christmas, and died, sinless, at Easter, to make His dear ones alive.

May we exclaim with the reformed Ebeneezer Scrooge: “Oh Jacob Marley, Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob; on my knees!”  Praise God, who at Christmas became one of us so that we might be made alive!

Merry Christmas.

(If anyone has an image of Patrick Stewart’s Scrooge rejoicing in his bedroom on Christmas morning, I’d be grateful!)

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“Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” – Ephesians 5:24

So, submission is a big part of marriage. A really big part.
Before Greg moved down,  I thought, Submission to Greg won’t be too hard. It’s like the Church submitting to Christ, and I’ve been submitting to Christ for years. No problem.

Ha. Haha. Hahahahahaha.

I forget sometimes (ha!) that I was born with a sinful and rebellious nature. And when you’re submitting to a real, live, fallible human person, that rebellious nature comes out.

For example, take cooking*. Shortly after he moved down, Greg and I were cooking some multi-part meal. He told me, “Pull that out of the oven, and set it on the front left burner.” I gave him a small look and set it on the back left burner, just because I could.

For another example, take putting together bookshelves. We got a small(ish) collection of shelves from Ikea whose back must be nailed on. I was about to hit my nails in, when Greg told me, “Wait until I get the middle nails in.” I hit my hammer on the wood anyway, just because I could.

Okay, okay, these are small and mostly comical examples, but they’ve made things very clear to me. Submission is hard. But good.

Learning to submit to Greg in the little and big things will teach me better how to submit to Christ, in both little and big ways. And visa versa – the more I learn to submit to the perfect Christ, the easier it will be to submit to a fallen Greg, who also submits to the perfect Christ (I’ll let other authors speak better to the nature of submission in marriage).

I think this is one of the reasons God values marriage so highly: it teaches us things about relating to Him that are hard to learn elsewhere. Thank you, Lord!

* Greg and I have spent a lot of time in his kitchen cooking together recently, and I’ve learned a lot.  I realized this when all of my examples in pre-marital counseling discussions involved the dishwasher.

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Grace and Mercy

Marriage: it’s heady stuff, y’all.
Get this: God created the relationship between a husband and wife, and then declared that it is the closest earthly equivalent to the relationship between Himself and His Church. God Himself!
And then, for some reason that I don’t understand, God permits sinful people like Greg and me to enter into this holy relationship, to be a bride and bridegroom like The Church is the Bride and Christ Himself is the Bridegroom.

I was riding my bike in a totally floored state about all of this yesterday, talking to God while I rode.
“God, you’re letting – no, encouraging – Greg and me into a relationship that prefigures that between Jesus and the Church?”
“Me? With Greg? I am seriously twisted inside. Seriously. I really, really don’t deserve him. And I certainly shouldn’t be permitted to echo the role of your Church. I mean, do you even know me?”
Yes, my child. Better than you know yourself.
That shut me up.

I realized later that my feeling of being utterly inadequate and undeserving, and yet still getting to spend the rest of my life with someone as wonderful as Greg is exactly the point. While the Church deserved nothing more than death, her Bridegroom Christ died for her to make her pure. She got what she did not deserve. Wow.

And then (as if this weren’t enough), on Greg’s side, Paul tells husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the Church. How did He love the Church? He “gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor … that she might be holy” (Ephesians 5:26-27, emphasis mine).
I can’t quite think of a command stiffer than that. By God’s great grace, I have a man who is walking this path.

That’s the key, though, isn’t it? Grace. Grace and mercy. The only thing that can support such a high view of marriage as foreshadowing Jesus’ marriage with the Church is God’s great mercy and grace. His mercy allows Greg and me to grant one another mercy when we fall, and His grace will keep us ever-journeying towards a better marriage, until one day we both stand before Christ at the great Wedding feast.

I also know that I, as of yet, have no clue what I’m talking about. So there you go.

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Life, for Christians, is often described as a battle.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” -Ephesians 6:12

I think our metaphor’s a little twisted.
Life isn’t a battle: adrenaline pumping, sword blazing, hand-to-hand life or death combat. Battle ends.
Life is a siege.

There are moments of hand-to-hand life-or-death decisions, but on the whole, life is a siege.
We are constantly bombarded with temptation, doubt, fear, and trying situations, but in order to survive, we have to maintain some semblance of normality. In a walled city when a siege went on for months, even years, people still had to find and prepare meals, do the laundry, do some sort of work, etc. Life went on.
That’s how I feel Christianity goes. We live in a world that’s not our own–we’re walled up in a little city-haven with fellow believers while the devil* and his minions wage war outside.
his tempting of me doesn’t stop after one battle; I must keep the Shield up at all times.
After one late night with a suicidal friend, the battle doesn’t stop. She must stand strong for the long months and years ahead.

Maybe that’s part of the reason the Ephesians passage doesn’t ask us to fight: it asks us to stand.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me…

Stand. Let Him do the fighting, while we withstand the siege upon our hearts and minds.

*middle finger of grammar


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