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Description: Love is Putting Others First
Love is Putting Others First
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
The verse is Ephesians 5:21 and we did deal with it before but I do think that there are more things
to see in it. It is about the body and how the body relates to itself. “Be subject to one another
out of reverence for Christ.”
I often read some of the commentaries to you because I feel that at least you’ll get it clear from
somebody else even if I mess it up, because sometimes they put things better than I do and say it
more clearly and sometimes give a context to it.
“Submitting yourselves one to another. ‘Maintaining due subordination in the various relations of
life.’” And then he goes on to say that this is the general principle of religion that the apostle
is about to apply to wives and husbands and all that kind of thing. But then he says at the end,
“The general meaning here is that Christianity does not break up the relations of life and produce
disorder, lawlessness and insubordination, but that it will confirm every proper authority and make
every just yoke lighter.”
And then I thought there was something to be examined in it when he says, “Infidelity is always
disorganizing, Christianity never.” And it does seem a man like Mr. Donahue would certainly say
yes, it’s disorganizing when Bell (telephone) ceases to have the sense of loyalty to me that I have
to them. And you can see how the old attitudes that were based on God’s faithfulness, such as the
loyalty of men to the firm and the firm to the men, that it is disorganizing when that breaks up.
Infidelity is disorganizing; it brings disorder to the world.
Then, I think its Robertson, says, “Submitting yourselves to one another: Let no man be so tenacious
of his own will and of his own opinion in matters indifferent as to disturb the peace of the
church.’” Now that ties up with (St.) Augustine who said “In things essential, unity, in things not
essential, charity.” Robertson goes on to say, “In all such matters give way to each other and let
That’s what I tried to share from my own heart a few days ago; that you never lose by letting God
have his way, and his way for you is the way that it is working at that moment. Whether we think it
is his will or not, it’s plainly his will because he has allowed it to happen and our place is to
rejoice in it.
Then he says, “In the fear of God, setting him always before your eyes,” that is, when you submit to
another person in the body you do it as unto Christ; you do it for Christ’s sake. “Setting him
always before your eyes, and considering that he has commanded you to love one another and to bear
each others burdens and that what you do in this way as in any other commanded case, you do as unto
It ties up what Jesus says that “If you give a cup of water to the least of these my brethren, you
do it unto me,” and that’s what this verse is saying: “Be subject to one another out of” actually
some of the old manuscripts say “out of the fear of God, and some of them do say “out of respect for
Christ.” So I think our (RSV) translation is, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for
Christ.” Out of reverence for Christ – we’re doing it as unto Jesus. You say “That person isn’t
worth respecting” but that’s not the issue. They are part of Jesus and when you respect them you do
it unto Jesus and that’s why you respect them. You don’t respect them because they’re more
brilliant than you, or cleverer, or they’re your boss, but out of respect for the one of whom they
are a part.
Then Fossett, the commentator, points out “A believer in the fear of God, read ‘in the fear of
Christ.’ The believer passes from under bondage to the law as a letter to be the servant of Christ
which through instinctive love to him is really to be the Lord’s freeman for he is under the law to
Christ. Christ, not the Father, is to be our judge thus reverential fear of displeasing him …” I
always thought that; isn’t there fear other than the fear of the person beating you over the head?
Surely there is fear that you might offend them or that you might displease them. “Thus reverential
fear of displeasing him is the motive for discharging relative duties as Christians.”
I thought that there were various ones (duties), one of them is ministry. We’re all part of the
ministry that God gives to some of us. Or we agree that it seems right before God that this person
should do the library, that someone else should lead us in the email, while someone else should head
us up in something different. Even for us we have various people that we feel should lead us out in
those things. And I would remind you that being subject to them and listening to them is something
that we do as unto Christ and then that is what enables us to achieve things.
I think part of the difficulty that some would face is that they would lead but we would not follow
and that’s what this verse is talking about: “Be subject to one another out of reverence for
Christ.” If Marty is given the responsibility for the library, then we do what he suggests and we
do our very best to work with it. So you’re constantly thinking, “This is Christ, this is another
part of Christ saying that I should do this; that’s how I should refer to it.” That clears you from
the sneaking work of deceptive spirits that say “That person does not do this himself; why should I
submit to him?” Because he is speaking on behalf of Christ to you – he is Christ – so you’re
obeying Christ through him.
What is the effect of that? You don’t need me to tell you: it builds the other person up
tremendously. They might even begin to think “You’re dumb if you begin to try to do what I tell you
when you see how I fail in my own life.” But it’s uplifting to them, it sees them by faith by what
they are in Christ and it lifts them up, it strengthens that leader. You always strengthen the
leader every time you submit to them. And whoever happens to be the leader in that situation, you
strengthen them. You say “Well somebody should tell her what to do, somebody should tell her to get
on with it.” No. You obey and submit and pray for the person and you’ll see them growing strong.
So it’s quite interesting; it’s opposite to the world’s way, it’s completely opposite to the world’s
way – it’s the way of love. And above everything else it’s the way of keeping our own souls safe
because we don’t get into the judgmental business and we don’t get into the managing business where
we start managing “what WE’RE doing in the newsletter” or “what WE’RE doing” in something else. But
we’re doing what God has guided us to do through the person who’s responsible for that particular
So it’s an interesting way of operating and I’m quite sure the world’s companies will eventually
discover that it’s the only way to operate, but of course they have to run out of all their own
methods. But we, above all, need to take advantage of the good word that God has given us; “Be
subject to one another” not necessarily because you think that person’s wonderful, not necessarily
because you think they’re brilliant or better than you. Not necessarily because you think you’ll
get into trouble if you don’t, but out of reverence for Christ, doing is as unto Jesus.
So it seems to me that’s one obvious place where our ministry is divided up among all of us and
different ones of us have different responsibilities. Similarly it speaks to you when you’re put in
charge of something; it is Christ that has allowed you to come into that position. And as you
fulfill your responsibilities there, so your life in Christ will be stronger and will be healthier.
So it is all to do with Jesus.
Gifts: it seems to me that different ones of us have different gifts. It’s obvious that Joanne has
a couple of gifts at least and music is one of them. All of us have different abilities that the
others of us haven’t got, so God gives everyone of us different gifts and it’s as the hymn says,
“help us improve each others gift.” That’s what we’re to do –we’re to help each other improve the
gift we’ve been given and we do that mostly by respecting it, encouraging the other person to see
they have received a gift. And of course that works wonders for a person who thinks they are
nothing with no gifts at all. The person who thinks “Oh I wish I could sing, I wish I could play
the organ or do this or that.” It does wonders for a person who feels in that position. So we’re
asked to submit to one another according to the gifts that God has given us. Where somebody is good
at something, let them do it.
I look back and realize that I’m fifty years in the ministry but forty years preaching and as I
think back I think of numerous occasions where the dear Kansas farmer (Myron Kliewer) actually
probably could have handled the thing very well without me. But I would come visiting and we would
be doing something, like putting up the sheetrock and of course I was boss in the other things, so
naturally I’d sweep in and think I ought to be doing it. And dear love him, he was so loving and so
submissive to me that of course he then toned down and let me go and I ran the thing for a number of
years until I began to realize he does know a little more about the thing now than I do. But it
seems to me that there is a loving submission to one another in regard to gifts and the more it
takes place, the stronger the gift becomes and the wiser and more Christ like becomes the use of the
gift by the person.
So we do have gifts, and it is important to respect each other’s gifts. And please, stop the
practice of trying to identify your gift. You have a gift! God has given you some abilities and
some attitudes and some ways of thinking that nobody else has. God has given you certain gifts that
you ought to use and we ought to respect you for them. It’s important to see, as my little
illustration of Myron and me goes, to see who has the gift for this or that so the two of you are
not scrambling with it. If somebody has a gift then go with it and you keep quiet.
I can see it in wisdom: we all have different insights and that’s certainly come home to me very
strongly. IQ is not brilliance at everything. There may be something called IQ though I frankly
think that all the psychologists and psychiatrists are becoming very skeptical about establishing IQ
and Minnesota Multiphasic and all the tests that we had are really not in the place of respect that
they used to be. So I think it is quite questionable about how valuable it is to establish a
person’s IQ by this test or by this battery of tests. I think maybe what you’re finding out is who
can do the test best rather than what their IQ is. But it’s important for us to see that in the
realm of Jesus there is wisdom. We all have different light about things and it’s very important to
recognize that when it comes to us. Sometimes you’ll be talking to somebody about something and
you’ll think, “They don’t even understand this as well as I do.” And Jesus will say something
through them and it will light up in your mind and you’re a fool if you ignore it.
Look for light. Always look for light from the simplest person in the world. Always be on the
lookout because God gives different ones of us light. Some of us do what they say the poets would
do – they would speak better than they know – and some of us do that; we speak better than we know.
We say something that we don’t understand ourselves, but it is true and it is light and it’s
actually beyond us, but God uses us, even as he will use an ass to speak, so he will use us. It’s
important for us to submit to that when it comes. In that way we’re all very precious, in that way
we’re all worth listening to. You miss a world of joy, delight and life if you mark this person off
by saying, “Well if we’re talking about that, they don’t know anything about that so I can block
them out. But this guy knows a lot about that so we’ll listen to him.” Do that and you can miss
light that God has for you.
Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ; realize that he has given different light to
all of us and different wisdom to all of us and often it will come from the unlikeliest person. So
I can see the whole business of light. I can see it in the whole area of conversation; if you’re a
monologue person like me or like others we know, then you know how conversation can go, or can
wither or shrivel. Greg can often get into certain complications about electronics or a camera, or
I can get into an exciting philosophical point that I think ought to be explained and it can turn
into a monologue. It’s bad manners for one thing because even if you can’t see the other person’s
eyes glazing over, the meaning of conversation is like table tennis – it’s a going back and forth –
it’s taking turns.
It seems to me in conversation that’s more and more important now. Haldeman is the guy who started
“stonewalling.” And stonewalling in (Richard) Nixon’s days meant Haldeman got up and simply said
“No, we don’t know. No, that’s not so.” We all knew it was so, but he just said no, it’s not so.
So the whole Nixon administration took on the practice of stonewalling. A stone wall is like a
brick wall – you can’t get through it, and they just stonewalled. They said it and we knew it was
untrue (the Watergate affair), but they just kept on saying it and saying it and saying until it’s
become a habit in our society.
You in the U.K. are lucky that you don’t have to look at some of the business programs (on
television) we have to look at in the U.S. We have several guys that just talk and keep on talking
against you. Another person replies and they just keep on talking and until they overwhelm you with
what they’re saying. They don’t listen at all, they just talk against each other. My wife and I at
times shut the program off because it’s so upsetting when three or four of them are talking against
(at) each other and that’s becoming the habit because it’s exciting. Television is after excitement
and to them it’s exciting just having people talking against each other – not listening – just
talking against each other to overwhelm each other.
So actually the people that win are the ones who can talk the longest and loudest and that often
happens and that has of course is what happens now in our society. I think we all can fall into it
and it gets so tiresome. I eventually just give up and think let the other person talk. That’s not
my opinion, but I’m not being given a chance to express my opinion, so that’s it.
Now of course that’s unloving and it spreads frustration, but as well as that you loose the fun of
each other’s company. You loose the enjoyment of each other’s company. It is quite enjoyable to
sit at a table and if somebody notices that you’re being left out of the conversation, or nobody’s
talking to you, or you’re sitting at the end, it’s really enjoyable if they direct something towards
you so that you can respond.
I know we would think that doesn’t happen in a family as close as ours, but I think it does. And I
think the beautiful thing about conversation is you think “is that person enjoying this? Is that
person happy with this? Are they interested in it? I wonder – do they want to talk about what they
would like to talk about?” That’s it – where you’re eyes are looking out for anybody to whom you
can express some love. That is being subject to one another.
So being subject to one another in conversation is a way of expressing love to each other and of
course a way of getting to truth, because it stands to reason that just a few of us don’t have all
the truth. And often it’s not necessarily the person who is fluent with the language that has all
the truth. Often actually the person fluent with language covers over the truth and the person who
stumbles a little in their phraseology can often say things that are deeply insightful. So I can
see in conversation there’s a place for being subject to one another, again, out of reverence for
I do think it’s something to remember and yes, we who get into monologues are wrong; we shouldn’t go
on and on boring you with our views. We should give you two or three sentences, let you absorb that
and see what you do with it! And then if the person comes back with something that shows they do
understand what I said, or are interested in it, then you can go on. But if they come back with
some comment that is just a cliché, then you try to get on to another subject. But conversation is
an art, and it is a way of expressing love to one another, and above all it’s a way of finding more
truth yourself. So I can see being subject to one another in that way.
In life itself, in life’s behavior, in the way we run our lives, in the way we spend our time, in
all of that we can be subject to one another or we can just bull ahead with what we want and I think
we all are aware of that. Should you run your life by what other people want? No…you should run
your life according to what Jesus wants, but he did spend a lot of time with people who needed help.
You never thought of him spending time thinking what did he want to do? You always thought that
when he looked at Mary or when he looked at Peter he was thinking, “What can I do for them?” So no,
I don’t think you run your life according to what other people want, but it does seem to me that
people are important in our lives. And our attitude to each other is an expression of our attitude
to Jesus so I figure it should figure a lot.
There are many things people like me have to learn. But when you felt called to the ministry, you
felt your life was no longer your own. That’s good in some ways and bad in other ways and my poor
wife suffers some of the bad because it can easily be like the plumber who looks after everyone’s
pipes but his own and that’s not right. So I’m not suggesting that you ignore your own concerns,
but it seems to me safer to think of yourself as called to live for the benefit of your brothers and
sisters and therefore of Jesus. Generally it’s better to think of your life in those terms, or it’s
safer. But I certainly agree with you that God alone can show you what that means for you.
But I can see that being subject to one another in our ordinary everyday behavior is something that
is very real. One certainly ought always to think, “Why am I doing this? Is it something that is
good, that God wants me to do? Or is it a time when I could be doing something for somebody else?”
So I think that’s part of it.
What we need to do is ask God to give us light about these things. “Lord can you show us how to be
subject to one another in a way that builds each other up and convinces us that we are part of you
and you can do something through us that you can’t do through anybody else? What can I do to build
up that conviction in my brothers and sisters and in myself?” God will give us light.
Let us pray.