I am good at making simple things complicated.
There are a lot of us who have the ability to take something that is straightforward and making it confusing and complicated.
It is definitely possible to do that when it comes to marriage and family and parenting. This is one of those subjects that books and books have been written about, sermons and sermons have been preached about, I mean, we could fill up a library with all the material that has been written or taught regarding having a successful marriage and family.
But with all that has been said, there is a sense in which what God wants from us as husbands and wives and as fathers and mothers is not all that complicated.
And that’s biblical love.
“Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children. And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
If you ever have the chance to study the book of Ephesians you will see that Paul throughout the first several chapters shows us just how big it is to really be a Christian.
People sometimes talk about it as if it were just believing a set of facts. But Paul’s like, no, it actually involves God in His grace radically transforming us.
It’s a miracle.
In chapters 4 and 5, Paul turns a corner and begins trying to help us work out the difference this miracle should make on the way we think and act. Because even though we have been changed in a big way, we have all developed ways of thinking and living over the years that don’t match up with this great change that has taken place in our lives, habits, and those habits die hard and so Paul says part of what is required now that we are believers is that we work on turning from those old ways of living that we had as unbelievers to a new ways of living that go along with what God has done in our lives through Jesus Christ.
And if you check out the end of chapter 4, you see that he gets pretty specific.
He talks about stuff like putting off lying and putting on telling the truth and putting off sinful anger and on and on he goes until here, he comes in this passage that we are looking at together, to what we might call a or what should be the summarizing characteristic of genuine believers and that is radical and sacrificial love.
Therefore, Paul says, walk in love.
Live a life of love.
It is like he is wrapping everything up.
If you want to know what the Christian life is about, it is about love. Not love in the way the culture defines it of course, but true love.
This is what should set Christians apart.
And it is what should set Christians families apart as well.
One of the key distinctives of a truly Christian relationship is its commitment to God like, Christ like love.
It’s difficult for me to overexaggerate that.
We can have everything right in our families, money, homes, good educations, vacations, you name it, but if our relationships aren’t characterized by Christ like love, then it’s all pretty worthless.
This is not just here in Ephesians 5, obviously.
Jesus once put it like this,
It is near the close of his ministry and he is instructing his disciples and he wants them to understand what is to be the distinguishing characteristic of their lives as his followers.
“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Paul would have agreed.
He explains in 1 Corinthians 13, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
If I met someone who spoke in the tongue of an angel, could tell me what was going to happen in my future, understood everything that the Bible had to say, someone who knew it all, no kidding, knew it all, had this major faith that just was like a rock, so much faith that he actually gave it all way and died as a martyr, I would be tempted to say that he was a pretty good guy. But Paul says if he does all that but doesn’t have love, he’s absolutely nothing.
And Paul is not alone in thinking like that. There are plenty of statements from others throughout Scripture that make a similar point. For example, Peter says in 1 Peter 1:22 that we have been saved to love, “since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren…” and then exhorts believers in 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” John kicks it up a notch in 1 John 4:8, “The one who does not love does not know God.” He says flat out in 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar, for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” And then concludes in 5:7-8, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love.”
I am not sure how it could possibly get any clearer than all that. It is not like you need a Ph.d in Greek to get the point. What God wants from us as Christians, as husbands and wives, as parents can be summed up in love.
The foundation for God honoring relationships, for family relationships that make a lasting impact, for parenting that transforms, is not complicated.
It’s biblical love.
The problem is and this is I think is where we get stuck as parents is that biblical love is hard.
It doesn’t take a genius to say that love is important for families and that our families need to be characterized by love, but the problem is the kind of love that God’s calling us to, is demanding.
It’s a call to die really.
We see that here in our text.
“And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us…”
This is where we get stuck.
Because we know about the importance of love, and we agree about the importance of love, but really in practice we want a love that isn’t so hard and that doesn’t require so much sacrifice.
As fathers, (as someone has said)“We would prefer to lob grenades of truth into family’s lives rather than lay down our lives for them.” As husbands and wives, we would prefer if every time we communicated, people responded exactly as they should without us having to be patient and to change the way we talk. As parents, we would rather serve our children when it suits us, when it is not so tiring, when it doesn’t impact our schedules, when it makes us look good, when it is comfortable. But that’s obviously not the way Christ loved us, and it’s obviously not the kind of love that God’s calling us to here in Ephesians 5, and so what I want to do in the next couple of posts is encourage you as to why you should pursue radical, sacrificial love in your family relationships.
In other words, I want to show you why this loving, sacrificial, forgiving lifestyle is so important for us to pursue as parents and give you encouragements to think about so that you don’t give up, working hard at imitating God and Christ as husbands, fathers, wives and mothers.