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About this series
Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage
Would you like a fresh breeze to blow in your marriage? Do you long for a marriage where intimacy and communication are a reality instead of a dream? Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage is a topical series by Chip Ingram that examines God's design for marriage, with practical instruction to help you make your marriage what God desires it to be.More from this series
And now we’re going to talk about something that, historically, has been all the way over. Some people have taken this issue of, now, what’s the man going to do in terms of responding to what God says? And then, over here, what’s the woman supposed to do?
And I want to love Theresa the way Christ loves the Church and I want to be a good dad to my kids and I know there’s barriers and I want to learn to resolve conflict. But we’ve got to figure out how to do it together. And I’m going to have a role and she’s going to have a role but I’ve got to know what my role is or I’m not going to do it or if I think part of it is her role that she thinks is mine, there’s confusion and conflict. Unfortunately, I think this has been positioned as a debate in the Church.
And here’s what I’d like to do. The fact of the matter is, Monday morning’s coming. And you’ve got to work it out in your home and I’ve got to work it out in my home. I’d like to suggest that we take the lens of debate, unscrew it from the camera of our mind, drop it in the trash, and we take a different lens and put it on our camera to look at our roles and say let’s forget a debate.
Look at it through a completely new paradigm and let’s look at our relationships with one another of learning to build a godly, quality, deep, intimate marriage through the lens of a dance.
Now, let me give you the word picture here. It’s the Olympics. One of the things that I never really cared to watch is the mixed paired skating. Have you seen that? Right?
I’ve watched more mixed skating than I want to admit to. And as I watched it, I realized, you talk about athletes. You talk about strength. He moves, she moves. He moves, she moves. She gets ready, he braces, she goes up in the air, spins around, and he flips her, and you know something? If he’s in the wrong spot, she lands on her head.
I’m thinking, that woman really trusts that man. And that man’s really strong. And he knows where to be and when to lift and what to do.
And she knows when to trust and let go and when she needs to be strong and all of this is done to, there’s something in the background, isn’t there? There’s music.
And it’s not like they’re just doing it. They actually do it together to the music and what else is true? There was a choreographer. People get paid lots of money to do what? To mark out every single step, every single move. Now, the guy, you’ve got to be here, you’ve got to be positioned here. When this happened, you have to jump. When you jump, it has to be at this angle.
And what I want to suggest is we ought to can the whole debate issue.
The fact of the matter is, when those people are on the ice, it’s beautiful. And when they get done, they’re beaming. And there is a joy you can see in the man being at the right spot at the right time and the woman doing what the woman’s supposed to do.
What if you looked at your marriage as a dance instead of a debate?
I put some notes together and the first question I would ask is, is your marriage a dance or a debate?
And I came across a quote. And the author says, “A good marriage has a pattern like a dance and it’s built on some of the same rules. The partners don’t need to hold on tightly because they move confidently in the same pattern. Intricate but swift and free like country-dance of Mozart.
“There’s no place here for possessive clutches or clinging arms or a heavy hand; only the barest touch in passing. Now arm in arm, now face to facte, now back to back – it doesn’t matter which because they know they are partners moving to the same rhythm creating a pattern together and being invisibly nourished by it.
“Where the heart is flooded with love, there is no room for fear, for doubt, or for hesitation and it is the lack of fear that makes for the dance.”
Isn’t that neat? It’s the lack of fear that makes for the dance.
“When each partner loves so completely that he has forgotten to ask himself or herself whether or not he’s loved in return, only then he loves and is moving in a music, then, and only then are two people able to dance perfectly in tune with the same rhythm.”
And I’d like to say, if we looked at it as a dance, what would it look like for you to have a beautiful dance in your marriage?
You notice here, a great dance demands a few things. One, a choreographer, right? Someone has to write out all the steps for both partners.
Second, mutual submission to His steps. Someone has to write out all the steps, both partners have to submit to the choreographer, they have to, it’s got to be real clear. When do you jump and when do I catch?
So they’ve got to know what’s going on. And then, after clarity of roles, there’s practice, practice, and more practice.
That, what they do that looks so effortless, that looks so beautiful, it’s months and years on the same routine. And practicing and practicing and practicing.
Second, it develops balance, timing, rhythm, and strength. What if your marriage was characterized by balance, good sense of timing, what you do, when you do it? A sense of rhythm and strength. A good dance brings personal joy and joint fulfillment.
And finally, I have come to realize, it’s a thing of beauty.
God’s design for the dance of marriage. Let’s look at what He says, a man is to do in the dance and a woman is to do in the dance. And I’d like to just take, kind of, that outline that I gave you about a good dance and let’s walk through this together.
First of all, mutual submission to the Choreographer.
Ephesians 4 is going to teach us how to live this brand new life. We’re going to talk about this new purity we have before God and relationships. And then in Ephesians 5:18 we’re told, “Be filled,” it’s a command, an imperative, “with the Spirit.” Be controlled with the Spirit.
And then the evidence of being controlled, you’re going to speak to one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, giving thanks for all things.
And then the ultimate umbrella that will take this section o f the passage into the entire rest of the book is verse 21.
So the context of all that he’s going to say about marriage, all he’s going to say about parenting, all he’s going to say about the child/parent relationship is an evidence of the Spirit controlling you.
So, what you need to hear is, there’s a dance happening but the dance is going to happen inside this box and the box is verse 21. And God is the Choreographer. He has written the steps.
And he says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Mutual submission to the choreographer.
In God’s economy, he doesn’t even start with, “Where the woman does this, the man does this.” No, no, no. He says, look. First of all, submit to one another with what focus? Out of fear or reverence for Christ.
It’s a very ancient word here, submit. It’s a compound word. Hupo, to be under. Tasso, under the rank.
It means to be under the commanding officer. It’s the idea of being subject to one another. It’s a picture of people who relate in a marriage with no self-assertive, independent nature.
One commentator, I love, he put it this way, “It’s a desire, to desire less than one’s due. A sweet reasonableness of attitude in response to the Spirit’s control to consider your mate more important than yourself.”
You see that when we’re going to talk about the dance, here’s the given. The box that God describes the dance of male/female relationships in marriage has this umbrella and the umbrella is the man and the woman, before they ever take the first step, they say, “God, You are my Lord. Out of reverence for You and what You’ve done for me, I, first and foremost, want to surrender my selfish desires. I want to love You by loving my mate.”
Submit to one another out of the fear of Christ. And then, now that you’re walking with the Lord, you want to obey Him, you want to serve and help your mate. Well, if you’re going to dance together, he says, okay, now.
Help me if I’m wrong but when they get on those skates and the music starts, they both can’t, someone has to take the first step so the other person can follow.
Doesn’t make them superior or better. It’s not about inequality. But someone has to take the first step so they can get in the rhythm of the choreographer and the music.
Verse 22. “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” You might circle the word “submit.” It’s the same one but this submission is sort of a small “s” under the capital “S” submission of first to God.
So he says, “Wives, submit to your husband as to the Lord.” Why? “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, his body of which he is the savior. Now, as the Church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
And I know some of you are saying, “Chip, you can frame this any way you want but that just sounds very, that sounds very provincial, that sounds very politically incorrect and I can’t believe you’re saying that this is how it works, even under the submission of God.
Well, let me tell you this. When it was written, it was far more politically incorrect than today.
But for just the opposite reason. During this time that Paul wrote this, he is actually treating women as a co-heir of the grace of God. When Paul wrote this, a woman was a piece of property and you could buy a wife cheaper than you could buy a slave, often.
When Paul wrote this, Jews would, although their theology would tell them different, their practice was to get up every day and after they’d thanked God for who He was, the next part of their prayer, every morning is, “I thank God I’m not a woman.” How would you like to be married to that guy?
The Greeks in this time, in the literature comes out, they changed wives like tissue paper. One Greek philosopher said during this period, “Wives are meant for being given in marriage, divorce, and being married again.”
When Paul wrote this, a guy could go through, twenty, thirty, forty wives. And if you don’t measure up, you had no rights. You’re a piece of property. Forget it.
So, Paul is creating this husband/wife, co-heirs of the grace of God. In Galatians he’ll say, “Even in the body of Christ, there’s not male or female or slave or free.” He’ll say, “You all are co-heirs of the grace of God.”
Not only does she have personhood but you are to treat this person that the world says is a slave and worthless and of lesser value, you’re supposed to treat her the way Christ loved the Church. You’re to sacrifice your life for her. Now, I just want to tell you how this works.
And so, what you need to hear, you need to hear this through – it may not be politically correct then. It may not be politically correct now. But what’s important is that if you want a great dance, if you want your marriage to work, if you want it to be a thing of rhythm and beauty and intimacy.
God says someone has to take the first step so the other person can take the next step. Someone needs to be built in such a way, when they come, that they can lift the other person. And someone needs to have some grace and beauty.
I just can’t see a lot of those guys spinning up in the air like those girls did. And he’s saying you’re uniquely made. Let me tell you, under the submission of the Lordship of Christ, how it works.
And so, as the Church submits to Christ, wives should also submit to their husbands in everything.
And by the way, this idea of submitting to your husband? It’s as unto the Lord. It’s not that I obey my husband exactly how I obey Christ.
I submit to how God is going to lead as an act of lordship to say, “God, You are sovereignly in control and You placed this man to catch me and hold me and I am doing this as an act of worship to You.”
Because the average woman, the biggest, hardest part of submitting is looking kind of, across the chair or across the room and saying, “Yeah, I don’t know if that guy’s going to make the right decision. I don’t know if I jump, if he will or can catch me.”
And so a lot of wives never get to where they get into the rhythm of the dance for all the fears of what might happen. And he says, well, just do it as unto the Lord.
And by the way, there, in every relationship, every organization, every institution, someone leads, right? Someone leads.
And people want to debate this and fight about it. The buck stops somewhere. In every relationship.
It’d be interesting if I asked you who’s the leader in your house? Who, and by that, who takes initiative? Who has the weight of responsibility? Who has the job, in your house, of initiating the part of the dance, doing the heavy lifting, and loving the way Christ loved the Church?
And this may be a little uncomfortable but I’ll let you know here in just one second, I have five questions to ask you. And how you answer these questions will tell you exactly who’s leading. Okay? Really, really simple.
Question number one is who handles the money? Not necessarily just who handles the checks. Who feels the moral weight of what’s happening financially in your house?
Question number two. When both of you are home, who disciplines the children? Question number three. Who initiates talking about future plans or addressing problems? See, leaders initiate. Leaders see needs. Leaders provide. Leaders protect.
Question number four. Who asks the most questions and who makes the most statements?
I hope that didn’t, kind of, jolt your world a little bit. But this issue of who takes the first step and initiates is not all that hard to figure out.
But what God is saying, in this dance, is women? Follow his lead. The command, “Be subject,” same word – hupotasso – “to your husband as an act of obedience and reverence to Christ.”
The reason: the husband is the head.
Open your Bibles to 1 Corinthians chapter 11 and I want to give you a picture. See, we think headship has to do with inferiority and superiority. We think headship has to do with one-upmanship. What you’re going to find is, headship really is where the buck stops.
It’s not so much who makes the decisions, it’s who is ultimately responsible? That’s the key. And what you’re going to find is, is that there is no lower level or lack of authority or equality or importance unless you have really marred theology.
1 Corinthians chapter 11, skip down to verse 3. Paul is talking about being an imitator of him like he imitates Christ. And then he praises them in verse 2 remembering and telling them to hold firmly to the traditions that as he taught.
And then notice verse 3. “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man. And the man is the head of a woman. And God is the head of Christ.”
Now, is Jesus less than God? No. Is He inferior than God the Father? No. But what’s he say? In function and design, in the Godhead, Jesus willfully, voluntarily. In fact, the word for submit here? It’s in what’s called the middle voice.
It’s a woman, voluntarily, of herself, submitting out of reverence to God and out of love for the husband.
And this is not a big thumb on top of the woman going, “You’ve got to submit.” This is God saying, “Living out the lordship of Christ the way the dance works best is I want you, of your own volition, to voluntarily respond in this way, the same way Jesus responds to the Father.”