As Christ and the Church

Whether you are married, engaged, dating or single, the issue of marriage should be important to you. The thought that goes into marriage is so skewed in the world today, that we as Christians must take heed to not let it affect us. In the last few months, I have put a lot of thought into my upcoming marriage, and how marriage is perceived by so much of the world. The world is so set on equating men and women, and if they can’t make that happen, they try desperately to set women above men in any way possible. Traditional marriage is so often seen as nothing more than an excuse for male chauvinism. It’s not. It’s an incredible balancing act, a cooperative, working relationship between two people, who, although they are not equal in authority, are equal in value.

The Form for the Confirmation of Marriage Before the Church that is used by the PRCA shows clearly our stance on marriage, that being male headship. It exhorts the bride to be the biblical help-meet for her husband, using phrases like “honor and fear him” and even uses that scary word “obedient” that so many women seem to be afraid of. That scary word comes up again in the portion of the form that contains the vows, where the bride vows to “be obedient to him, to serve and assist him…” This is not simply the opinion of an old fashioned, old school denomination either, this is backed up by the very Word of God (see Genesis 2:18, 3:16, Ephesians 5:22-24).

So no, marriage is not a fun-filled, co-dependent, equal-opportunity relationship. The only relationship in which persons perfectly co-exist without any dispute over cooperative ruling is the relationship of the persons of the Trinity. In any human relationship there simply must be a leader. In marriage it is to be the husband.

So what if we (women, or the world’s viewpoint of women) stopped being so selfish (because that’s what it is), and quit looking at what we have to do, don’t get to do, or who we have to listen to, and what if we looked at what men have to do, don’t get to do, or who they have to listen to. Let’s go back through the marriage form and look at traditional marriage from the groom’s side, and maybe we will see why marriage isn’t cruel or controlling, but rather an amazing bond.

First, we had looked at the exhortation to the bride, so let’s look at the exhortation to the groom now. In this section we find a call to “lead her with discretion, instructing, comforting, protecting…” That may not sound so bad, but think of the selflessness all of those things take. The exhortation goes on even further about the incredible love commanded of the husband.

Next, we looked at the vows in the form, in which the husband now swears to “never forsake her, to love her faithfully; to maintain her as a faithful and pious husband is bound to do…”  Again, see the selflessness here, as a man vows to work hard (see the end of the exhortation again) to provide physically, emotionally and spiritually for the woman he loves, the woman God has given him. Again, this is not the opinion simply of an old fashioned church, but Scripture backs this up. See Genesis 2:24 and Ephesians 5:25-29.

Is this what we are afraid of submitting to, this kind of authority? When a woman takes marriage vows, she isn’t vowing to obey a controlling, careless spouse. She is promising to submit to a man who has just sworn that he will love his wife as tenderly and powerfully as Christ loves his Church.

I found something interesting while researching appropriate passages for this article. As I searched online for common wedding texts, I found that Ephesians 5 came up several times. That is fitting, and I did use it several times as you’ve seen. However, the verses that were selected were only the verses regarding the husband’s duty to his wife. There were no verses found about the wife’s duty to her husband. The world is so afraid of submission that they pick and choose verses that do not require that of them.

Are we so afraid to submit to a man who is called to behave himself toward us as Christ does to the church? Do we think it will be miserable? Are we miserable when we (as the church) submit to Christ? No! Submitting to Christ is what the church does joyfully, as our duty to the Lord who loved us unconditionally, so much so that He gave up His life! Greater love has no man (John 15:13)! So don’t let the world’s jaded idea of marriage fool you, a Christian’s marriage is a beautiful picture of Christ and the Church. A man and woman must understand that in marriage, they do have different roles to play, but when they are played correctly, God is glorified and our lives are enjoyable and blessed.

Suzie Kuiper

Keep Your Laws Off My Body

“Keep your laws off my body.”  For years, women have been proudly repeating this phrase.  It can still be seen all around us – on the bumper sticker of the car in front of you, on the t-shirt of a woman you see in the grocery store, on the sign you pass walking across the college campus.  The phrase is repeated endlessly to condone abortion, the murder of human beings that hardly causes the world to bat an eye anymore.  

This phrase is one that reflects the world’s proud and selfish attitude.  The key word in the phrase is “my,” and it’s a word that rolls from the tongue so easily.  The world loves to say “mine.” My body. My rights. My choices. My life. Mine.  

But this post isn’t meant to be an argument against abortion, or even a criticism of the pride and self-centeredness of our society.  It’s so easy for us to point out at the world and criticize what we see.  Abortion. Fornication. Lying. Cheating. Stealing.  The finger-pointing could go on and on, but that’s not the purpose of this post.

Instead, let’s turn that pointing finger around and look back at ourselves.  How often do we see ourselves falling into the sin of pride?  It doesn’t take long to realize that the self-centered attitude that is so easy for us to criticize in the world around us can often be found in our very own hearts!  

Sure, we don’t have bumper stickers or t-shirts proclaiming, “Keep your laws off my body,” but do we obey God’s words to bind His commandments upon our fingers and write them upon the tables of our hearts (Proverbs 7:3)?  He tells us in Deuteronomy 11 to “bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes” and in Proverbs 3:3 to “bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart.”  Do we obey these commands? Do we make God’s law an important part of our lives, keeping His Word always in front of our eyes, around our necks, on our hands, wrapped around our fingers, and written on our hearts?  Or do we find that old man of sin inside of us proudly telling God to keep His laws off of our lives and our bodies?

Jesus gave His own body, even His own life, for us, in obedience to His Father’s will.  He had a crown of thorns pressed into His head, stripes beaten onto His back, nails put through His wrists, and His side pierced with a spear.  Jesus willingly gave up His own body, and we are called to do the same.  Are we willing to do this?  Surrender everything that we have to God’s will?  Or do we obey God’s commandments only when it doesn’t require too much of us?  Do we give every part of ourselves to God every second of our lives, or do we sometimes claim our lives as our own?  Do we call Sunday the Lord’s Day but then call every other day of the week “my day?”  Maybe we start and end our day in devotion to God, but somehow in between we end up living for self.  We don’t like when God interferes with our time.  Our plans.  Our bodies.  

We ought not to be this way!  We must confess with Q&A 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism that “I, with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.”  Our time, our bodies, our talents, our lives, are not our own!  They belong to Him, and we are to use them not self-servingly, but for Him.  

“For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” I Corinthians 6:20

Amy Kaiser

The Continuity of Christian Service

I wonder sometimes if Jesus ever told His disciples, “You’ve served me for a long time. You’re going through a lot of intense service right now. Your reputations and your physical health, and maybe even your mental well-being, are beginning to wear. You’ve given so much in the service of me and my Father, and people are also taking a lot from you. Why don’t you take a break from it all for a few days?”

But when I wonder these things, I need to talk about them, because my thought process is usually so wrapped up in the question that I’m incapable of meditating on an answer on my own. I thank God that I have both lovely roommates and philosophically intriguing friends who are there to listen, ask questions, and point me in directions I’d not yet considered. Their doing so is, in many ways, a service to me.

But is a Christian ever justified in taking a break from service? In pausing the activity of serving others, because that Christian has reached a point where too much is being asked of them with little to no reward, and perhaps even no recognition?

I suppose it depends on the attitude towards the service. If that break is a form of escapism, or pulling away from all of one’s problems for a brief breather before being unceremoniously shoved back under the burden of service to flail in frustration and desperation, then that break is unhealthy, for two reasons.

First, the effect of our service is dependent on the purpose of the service. Like the twelve disciples on the road to Capernaum, we often serve in order that we may be great (“the greatest”), that we may be rewarded with fame, fortune, and favor. But Jesus rebukes their disputing and attempting to one-up each other when he says, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). If we serve in order that we may be personally fulfilled, we aim to move an ocean from one place to another with a tablespoon. After all, no amount of good works will earn salvation or personal satisfaction, unless those works are done with the heart of a true servant, humbled to service for the sake of obedience and delighting in that service for the love of the Master. As the Apostle Paul and “Timothy our brother” wrote to the church at Corinth, “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). That is, not for their own sake or satisfaction, but for a greater and more inspired purpose.

Second, it is unhealthy because of the negative understanding of “service.” Living in the spirit of faithful service to a fair and gracious Master is not easy work. It is tough, on the mind and the body. In addition, we are not all given the same capacity for service in the same areas (1 Peter 4:10). Sometimes, in serving, we are breaking new ground with what we do; other times, our work is continuous, often repetitive. Still, even repetitive service should not become a burden to us, but should be a joy, a delight. As G.K. Chesterton once said:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.”

And God knows our work is not easy. This is why He has given us a day of rest. God Himself rested on the seventh day. On the Sabbath, we don’t rest from Christian responsibility. We rest from the physical and mental labor of the week that we generally perform for the sake of worldly survival, for money and our “daily bread.” But on the Sabbath, we rest in Him on a day gifted to us by him. We find our rest in Him, in the quiet moments – though they be few and far between. As you prepare for worship this Sabbath day, may you be reminded that this is a day of rest, a gift of God to His faithful servants. And in rising on the following Monday, may you find the phrase, “Do it again,” running through your mind with the quiet contentment of finding satisfaction in Him.

Ashley Huizinga