What do you do when you’re in the right location but you’ve got the wrong design? You’ve got to fix it up! On their wildly popular show, Chip and Joanna Gaines walk us through the process of transforming dilapidated, but potential-rich houses into showcases. This is an apt analogy for those of us who know we’re in the right family (by God’s sovereign design) but stand in need of help. Every family needs to be fixed up.
In Ephesians 5:21-6:4, God’s Word gives us principles to help us see how this happens.
In the end, here’s the radical truth that will change your family:
To fix your family up, you need power down.
Throughout this passage we see the word “submit” and the little word “as”, referring to Christ and His submission to the Father and His love for us over and over. Submission to one another in the family is what makes it work. We are to be “as” Christ in our relationships. In order to stay the course, and not bail when a remodel or redesign is necessary, we need exactly what God teaches us in Ephesians 5. A family that has “staying power” is a family that follows these biblical principles. Our culture continues to debate, define, and re-define the family. We’ve been asking the wrong questions: How can my relationships make me happier? How can my spouse fulfill my needs? How can my children make me happy? How can marriage be more fulfilling for me? What’s in it for me? God shows us a very different perspective on the family because:
God’s purpose for the family is not to satisfy us, but to sanctify us.
“Sanctify” is a word that means, to make holy, to set apart, to be made righteous. God’s original blueprint for us is to be created in His image and display His glory in all we do. We busted that plan up early on. Through God’s rescuing grace, we are brought back to His original design, sanctified. The process of sanctification then, is not becoming something I’m not, but becoming who already am in Him. My identity is secured. I am His “beloved”. The family serves as God’s subcontractors to create the environment within which this process takes place. We need families who will stay the course.
1. Stay submissive to Jesus Christ. (5:1-2) All of Ephesians up to this point is about God’s rescuing grace. The Gospel indicatives always lead to the Gospel imperatives. Paul moves to how we respond to God’s one-way love for us in Christ. Paul says, because you’ve been rescued from your sin, now submit to Christ.
2. Stay submissive to one another. (5:21) What does submission to Christ look like in the family? At the beginning of this entire passage on the family, he says we submit to one another out of reference to Christ. What does it mean to submit to another person? It means I will leverage my assets, my strength, my power, and my time for your benefit. This is Gospel reenactment in the family. It’s all I am for all that you need. Do you want to fix up your family? Power down. Submit to others, serve, and help one another. The radical, guiding question in the home becomes: How can I help? How can I serve you?
3. Stay committed to your marriage first. (vv. 22-33) The key to raising happy, healthy children is to give more time and attention to your marriage than you do to your children. Don’t forget that later is longer. You will be married long after your kids are gone and the days you have with your adult children will be long through the years. Stay the course and keep your marriage first in the child-rearing days. Keep dating. Get away. Keep growing.
4. Stay clear about the family structure. (v. 22-25, 6:1-4) Understand the family structure and communicate it clearly to the entire family. If the key to a great family is mutual submission, then is anyone in charge? This is where it becomes counter-intuitive. Jesus is the Head of the Church and He gave His life for everyone in it. He came to serve, not to be served and He ultimately gave His life away. He was Servant Number One. Husbands are to serve their wives and children in the same way. We feel if we give up power we’ll lose everything but Jesus, who is the Head of Church, is precisely so because He gave His power. He gave His life away. To fix up, we need to power down. Here we see that God’s family flow chart shows us that the husband is the head of the wife (practicing mutual submission in their varied roles) and the parents are over their children. The simple role of the children is clear: obey. Instead, in many American families, children have taken over. We’ve put kids in the corner office. They’re driving the family bus and calling the shots.
Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor, once observed this about American families: “The thing that impresses me about American families is the way the parents obey their kids.”
Put your kids first and you can be assured that they will become manipulative, demanding, and unappreciative of everything you do for them. You will guarantee that they’ll grow up believing it is unfair to expect them to do anything and it will further guarantee your child’s unhappiness because happiness is only achieved by accepting responsibility for one’s self, not by believing that someone else is responsible for you. See the health of the family as a unit and it all starts with the health of the marriage. The parents are benevolent dictators. We need are more parent-centered families and fewer child-centered families.
5. Stay close to your children. (6:1-4) Being parent-centered doesn’t mean you don’t spend time with your children. You must stay in close to your kids. Know their friends names, the music they like, their favorite shows, clothes, and sports. Stay near to their hearts. Let dinnertime become a time to catch up and find out where their hearts are. Sit down with your child, do homework together, play together, and pray together at bedtime. You must stay in relationship with them. The old adage is so true: Rules without relationship breed rebellion. Remember to keep the end in sight: emancipation. You’re raising them to leave. And in parenting the days are long but the years are short. Keep in the end in sight.
6. Stay centered in God’s family. Make the church your family’s epicenter. Let the church help you raise your kids. Single parents, and parents who may feel you are, you’re not alone. Just as God has been very clear about our families, He’s also been very clear about His own big family, the Church.
“How great is the love of the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1
God invites you into His family. There’s no perfect family, but there is a perfect Father. Psalm 68:6 says, “God sets the lonely in a family.” What does this submission to Christ, submission to one another look like in the home? I think it was Andy Stanley who brought this whole idea of submission down to a single question. I’ve discovered it can change everything:
How can I help?
And as you seek to serve others well, don’t forget this: no horizontal relationship in your life will ever satisfy. And as you seek to be sanctified, remember in Christ you have been made righteous already. You’ve been holied.
“And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” 1 Corinthians 1:30
Sanctification is not becoming something you’re not, but something you already are. It’s living out the new identity you now have in Christ. Rest in Him. You’re already loved perfectly and have nothing to prove. And because you now have all the love you’ll ever need in Him, you can love others without any need for love in return. I can power down and love like Jesus.
“For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:14
To fix your family up, you need power down.