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Description: Importance of Intimate Family Relationships
Importance of Intimate Family Relationships
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
We’ll being with Ephesians 5:24. “As the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject
in everything to their husbands.” We’ve already mentioned that that’s in light of Acts 5: 29 which
is you must obey God rather than man and whatever obedience we give to each other is always under
that general guide that first of all comes God’s will or desire for us.
We’ve tried to elaborate a little more on what being submissive to one another is. I could begin
at this point and say it from a minister’s point of view –really from my point of view as a guy who
felt he was to be a minister. I always thought people in the church should be even closer to each
other than us in our own family – my Mum, my Dad, my brother and I. I would say we were a very
close family in the sense of feeling that nobody’s as close to you as your own family, because of my
mother’s influence. So we had that attitude.
Yet I always felt the church was meant to be closer and I had no doubt about that. I thought that
if this being in Jesus is real, then this means being closer to each other than to members of your
own family. I’ve always been very clear that heaven is going to be better than this earth and I had
a very clear notion that in heaven therefore people were going to be closer to each other. We were
going to see Jesus as he is and we were going to see each other as we really are and we would be
like him and we would be like him to each other.
So I felt that’s what the church is meant to be and what it should be, but of course the church was
nothing like that. Our church was quite lively, in fact I would say probably the liveliest church
in Ireland, it was great. I think I told you that I had 70 people at my 21st birthday and I had it
in the church hall because that was our life. So we had a very lively group and were very close in
that way. But it wasn’t at all as close as our own family was and I never really got hold of that.
I had absolutely no doubt that if the church is Jesus, and Jesus is God’s son and that’s what heaven
is about, then church should be far closer. People should be like that (showing intertwined
fingers) with each other.
When I discovered what the church was like, and I discovered how distant many people were and how
purely formal the relationship and commitment was I could not believe it. I’m sure that was part of
the vision of Campus Church: if we were part of Jesus, and I did get hold of that, although I didn’t
know Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for goods works which he
has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” I wasn’t really aware of that verse, but I
did believe that we were all part of the body of Jesus. Therefore I sensed that if we were each part
of one person then we’re closer than our fingers are to each other. We are closer than two veins
that sit next to each other. So I felt that of course that’s what we’re meant to be like. Of
course in such a relationship you’re more honest, more loving, and more sensitive to each other –
it’s as if you belong to each other. You are part of each other.
I didn’t remember the verse in the Bible, “no man hates his own body” but I naturally sensed that.
Of course I take care of this hand because it’s part of me and I felt that’s what you do when you’re
in Jesus and when you’re in the church and that’s what I thought Campus Church ought to be. So I
started off from a very clear idea that being in Jesus together was far closer than any relationship
you would have in a club or in a blood family relationship, or in a team or best friend or best pal.
I had no doubt that it was closer than that; it was like part of you. That’s probably why the
Campus Church difficulty was so serious for me, because that was the best that I’d seen and it
obviously meant nothing to some people and I could not understand it at all.
The eye needing the arm, the arm needing the leg I saw that people were getting the idea that we
needed each other and that therefore we were pretty important to each other. But I thought that’s a
pathetic kind of closeness, in a way. Sure it’s nice to be part of a team and it’s nice for the
finger to work with the eye, but surely the important thing is that each of you is closely tied to
the very head of the body and to the heart of the body. Each of you has a knowing, intuitive
closeness and connection to Jesus himself, so you’re all actually wrapped in together into his
heart. I thought that was a deeper, more organic oneness than just that the eye needed the arm in
order to do things.
So for me the whole idea of being together in Jesus means a closeness and a sensitivity to each
other and a oneness together that is better and more beautiful and more harmonious and most of all
more restful, more contented and at ease than any other relationship.
I think that’s what these verses are all about when Paul is writing “submit yourselves one to
another.” Even the translation “be subject to one another” seems to me too cold because it can have
the idea “be obedient to each other, be subject, or put up with each other.” But submit yourselves
to each other means knowing the other person and wanting them to have their way more than you want
your own way and having a confidence that Jesus is working in them and that he is guiding them, and
that whatever you may disagree with, he will bring it round to his will. And he will work all
things according to the counsel of his will. That’s why I thought that you don’t need to get
worried or concerned or uneasy if somebody appears to be doing something or having some attitude
that isn’t what you think they should have. Just leave it in the Savior’s hands, they’re in his
hands and he will work it out.
So for me being subject to one another, or submitting to one another meant, really, submitting to
Jesus. It was a matter of saying “Lord, we are together in you and you have a close relationship
to that person and you will move in their heart and bring them to do and say the things that need
to be said and done. It seems to me that’s what Paul is talking about here.
Now I think that’s what Jesus has called us to: a closeness to each other in him that is closer than
any other relationship we have and it’s a miraculous oneness with his mind and heart. And the
closeness is not because we understand each other perfectly but because each of us is given to Jesus
and trusts him and confides in him and is anxious above all things to do what he wants us to do and
that that brings a oneness and a harmony that is deeper than any other, and that is God’s plan for
developing the world.
God’s plan is far beyond, “You’re an oil man and I’m a gas man and we have stuff in Alaska has to be
dealt with, and you as the oil man and I as the gas man…” it’s far beyond that – it’s at least that,
it’s at least connected with the subduing of the world by Jesus. When he came to earth he was
saying “This is what I want each one of you to do in me after I leave the earth.” And certainly it
is at least the combination of our abilities and our talents, but it is beyond that. It is
certainly like the true account of the Doctor in “Something the Lord Made” who said “I don’t need to
look.” It’s like entering a dark room and you just know where the light switch is. The Doctor said
“I can feel it” as he put his hand inside the patient’s body. He could just feel his way.
That’s what God has for us, he has that oneness. Not just that you know a little bit of the design
program and someone else knows a little bit of another program so you can both work on it, or
someone else is good at images on the computer, not just that but a heart oneness; a sensitivity to
Jesus that enables us to move in the spiritual realm as Christ himself so that we do things and God
achieves things through us that we don’t even know we’ve achieved.
So you can speak to a person and someone else will speak to them later on and you won’t even know,
but the Holy Spirit will weave what you said together and will apply it to their heart. That’s what
I think God has for us as his body, as the body of his own son. Its sensitivity to each other, a
oneness spiritually that even we can’t describe in our own words. That is what God is talking about
It so happens that in this real world it comes up against all kinds of imitations and counterfeit
attempts at that ideal that God has for us. It comes up against the attitude that men have to women
in Asia. It comes up against the attitude that some men here in America have to their wives. It
comes up in the attitude that other people have to their children. In all kinds of ways there are
false submissions and false subjections and I think that’s part of what Paul meant; he meant that
hard attitude that the man is the head of everything and he has the right to do whatever he wants
with his wife and he not only is the public image for the family to the world, but he dominates and
rules that world. He makes the wife do what he wants her to do whatever her own views are.
Paul came up against that and in some way he had to say that in a real sense there’s a way in which
the husband is the image. One of them has to represent the home and there’s a real sense in which
he can be regarded as the one that represents the home, so in that way, he’s the head of the woman,
but not as Christ is head of the church. And actually the Greek word isn’t “as” head, but it’s
“nevertheless” despite the fact that Christ is head of the church in a way that is different from
the way the husband is head of the woman. Yet still this is the situation and the husband ought to
love the woman as Christ loves the church, even though Christ’s headship is different and deeper
than the husbands.
So he tried to say, “Yes in this way certainly, this person represents the family. But in no way
are they the rulers of this person’s life” and it is all subject to the fact that first you obey
God. But it seems to me that in these versus you again and again are coming up against the fact of
the deep oneness that he has in mind for us in his son. And yet he is also trying to show how it
relates to the sometimes false and unreal and untrue values that we have in the earth.
In a way the attitude that exists between men and women today, or that exists between husbands and
wives today in many ways is not even a poor imitation of what Jesus has in mind or what the Father
has planned. In many ways it’s a parody of it. One might say in most ways it’s a setting forth of
what God doesn’t want. It’s a setting forth of an external feeling of “rights” that is totally
absent from that piece in Philippians that we read where Jesus did not regard equality with God as a
thing to be grasped but emptied himself, becoming as a servant subject to death, and that that is
God’s vision for each one of us in our relationships with each other. Never, “This is my right! I
am a man and this is my right!” or “I am a woman and this is my right,” or “I am a husband and this
is my right.”
It was never Jesus grabbing equality with God and saying, “I am God’s son, and you have to obey me.”
In fact all of us probably would agree that once you take that kind of attitude you’ve lost it
anyway. If you ever say, “I have this right” you’ve lost it anyway; the person’s no longer
listening to you. It’s something that works miraculously with God. The truth is what (Karl) Barth
has said; “God put himself at risk for us.” God has said to us, “I want you to be my children and
love me. And I give you free will to tear me apart if you wish and I will let you keep tearing me
apart until you get tired.”
That’s really the heart of every statement in the Old Testament where he tells the Israelites to do
something and they do exactly the opposite and he mercifully comes again and forgives. It seems
that that’s what the Father is telling us in these verses: “submit yourselves to one another out of
reverence for my son. Not because each of you are worthy of respect in yourselves, but because you
are part of my son. And if the other person submits to you, it’s like submitting to my son. And if
you submit to someone, it’s as if you’re doing it unto my son, your savior.”
That’s the whole spirit that God has called us to. It came anew to me that God has called us to be
part of a miracle, a miracle of his son here on earth; living in sensitive and loving unity together
and entering into a deeper oneness with each other than human beings normally experience, entering
into a mystical oneness with Jesus that enables us to be used by him to set forth his beauty.
I think that what the world often sees in us is really just the rough external; they’re amazed that
we’ve been together thirty years; it is at least some witness to them. But I think far beyond that,
the world is desperately lonely; cold and lonely. What came to me was I know that our confidence
about the future belongs always to Jesus because he is the heart of everything. But I think it is
his will that we would know that in each other and that part of the deep security and safety that
God has for us as we look forward to the coming years would also be in what we see in each other.
In other words that in an interesting way that is difficult to define, our confidence about the
future would also be our confidence in each other.
Now I understand if you say you ought not to trust the sweetest frame “but wholly lean on Jesus
name” and that we shouldn’t depend upon each other – I understand that. But still, I think that
part of Jesus’ assurance to us is the oneness that he gives us with each other and that there is a
restfulness in knowing that this person will stick with me until the end. And that that is some,
if you like, of the mud that Jesus puts on our eyes to help our faith. And that is one of the
beauties of the body of Christ, and one of the beauties of the church; that is it indeed as living
and as wonderful a thing as God described it.
That it is something against which the gates of hell cannot prevail, and that part of what we think
and what we enjoy in each other these days is also the sense that we’re in this together right until
the end and through the end and out the other side. And of course the world knows nothing of that;
the world knows empty bar stools and sport restaurants and places where people are desperately
trying to find someone they can trust. But in a way what the world wants most of all is this body
of Christ where each person submits to each other in love and confidence and faith and contentment.
Let us pray.