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Description: What our Lives Express
What Our Lives Express
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Will you turn, loved ones, to Ephesians 5? I’d just remind you of what has seemed to us in recent
weeks to be the heart of it. It is there in Ephesians 5:28. “Even so husbands should love their
wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own
flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his
I’d like to start with the first part of that, “Even so husbands should love their wives as their
own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” Of course the husbands here are all equally
embarrassed as this husband is at our failure to do that, and to do it in a gracious way. Of course
the ladies here would all be so embarrassed about it that they hope I’ll stop there and not fiddle
around. And I will. But I think that every husband here is very conscious of our failure, of course,
to love our wives as our own bodies.
And we know that it is true. Verse 29: “For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes it and
cherishes it.” We’re very clear on that. I do not take this finger and [makes a sound as though to
break it]. I don’t do it. I wouldn’t dream of it! And if that finger gets cut or hurt in any way, I
take immense care of it. It’s my own body! It is myself. So I don’t harm my own body. I nourish and
cherish it. It is part of me.
Of course then, when God says in his word that my wife, then, is like my own body, then obviously
I’ve to love her as I love myself. But then I’ve tried to emphasize it is so with Martha, with all
of us, whether we are married to each other or not. We in fact live virtually as married people,
because we know more about each other than most husbands and wives do. Of course, it is the same
with each other then. We love the other person as ourselves.
I think what this business here helped me remember is how dear your body is to you. Even though I
have a tendency to think, “Well if the bike is going over, it is going over and I’m going to end up
in the ditch. I’ll face the blood when it comes.” I am that kind of a guy where, when it comes to
danger, you throw yourself into it and you face it. You don’t worry too much about your own body.
But despite that fact, I am very aware, “This is my body, and I can feel it if it gets hurt or cut.”
And I’ve accepted the idea that I ought to take care of it. But it is reluctantly, stupid that I
All of us have that attitude. We know, “Yes, our body is part of us. It’s myself.” I mean there is
the little joke that Irene tells about the little girl that pricked her finger and said, “Daddy, I’m
leaking.” It brings home to you, “Yes, it’s not my body that is leaking. It’s I who am leaking.” I
think we are all aware of that, that the body is part of us.
And here the Bible is telling us to love our wives as our own bodies, and to take care of them in
that way, and to nourish and cherish them in that way. And we husbands are so stupid, and it must
be so embarrassing and such a nuisance to you dear wives, because we are so poor in that whole side
So that is where God is starting. He is saying, “The husbands should love their wives as their own
bodies. And nobody hurts his body.” Of course then, for me the next important point was the one that
God makes there, “Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his
wife loves himself.” Verse 29, “For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes
it.” And then — the saying is “Blown away.” I just was surprised, astonished at the next phrase,
“As Christ does the church.” “But nourishes it and cherishes it, as Christ does the church.” And I
mean, the thought of Christ and his body being the church — I knew it technically and cerebrally,
but I began to catch it that Christ looks upon the church as being his own body.
And I know theologically and technically that that is what they say. But the verse 30 always threw
me off, really. Verse 30: “Because we are members of his body.” That threw me back into, “Yeah,
yeah, the church, you see. We are all members of the church. And Christ loves the church as his own
body.” And then there faded from my mind the idea that the church was Jesus’ personal body. Because
that next verse speaks so much in a kind of organizational way, ‘organizational’ purely because the
change of meaning of the word “members.” The word ‘members’ in the seventeenth century when the King
James [Version of the Bible] was translated — “members” meant what the Greek means. The Greek word
is “Limbs”, “Limbs”. And so it was “members”. They were using “members” in that sense in the King
James. But of course we took it over even into the RSV: “We are members of his body.” Of course when
“members’ is used of us in the Twenty-first century, we don’t think of limbs. “This is my member
[indicating his arm].” “This left arm is my member.” We don’t have any of that. We say, “This left
arm is one of my limbs.” And so when you read, “Because we are members of his body,” I always
thought “the cricket club”. I mean I always thought… or “the chess club,” or the “football team.”
“I’m a member of the football team.” “I’m a member of the chess club.” “I’m a member of this group
of people.” And of course, that is not the meaning there at all. It is not the meaning at all. It
is, “For we are limbs of his body.” “We are limbs of his body.” And Christ loves his body the way
we love our bodies. And he feels his body the way we feel our body.
This just occurred to me so I have to be careful the way I say it myself. But he didn’t say, “My
side is bleeding.” He said, “I am bleeding,” like the little girl, “I’m leaking!” So for Jesus,
his body is as close to him, as dear to him as our body is to us. His body is as much him, himself –
I just – I don’t say, “My hand is bleeding.” An odd time I might say that, but I say, “I’m
bleeding.” “I’m bleeding.” And he doesn’t say, “My body is bleeding,” he says, “I’m bleeding.” And
of course what I saw again last night was, each of us here is a limb of Jesus. We’re not a “member”
of his body. We’re a limb of Jesus. And we’re not just, “members of his body,” so we’re all
together in this; it’s a kind of a team effort. We are individually limbs of his body. Indeed you
remember in the famous Corinthian passage where it talks about the gifts, he says, “We are
individually members of it.” [1 Corinthians 12:27] “We are part of his body and individually
members of it.” And of course the “members” throws us off. “We are individually limbs of his
body.” And then I saw, each of us here is a limb of Jesus. And I would ask you truly, truly, even
though it is so difficult to do this, because of our conventional use of the words and the language,
I would ask you to really pause for a moment and see what we are saying. We are saying that each
one of us here in this room is a limb of Jesus.
And I would put the question to you plainly, “Is he just wild about ‘limbs’?” I mean, is that why
he has so many? Is he just a ‘limb collector’? Is he a ‘show-off’? “I have more limbs than an
octopus has?” I mean, why? Why? Not only that, but I’d put the old question to you, “Why so many
different ones?” Because I think you have got clear about that one, because you’ve seen other
evidence of it, where people have said, “No two human beings are alike.” And we’ve all dealt with
the obvious one, the identical twins. And then, of course, we’ve all found the same thing: Even the
identical twins are not identical. They have often different personalities. They have often
different ways of doing things. And particularly later on if you see identical twins, after they’ve
grown up to 40 – 50, they are very different human beings from each other.
So we actually do know that the incredible thing is that of the 6 billion people that there are on
this earth, no two are the same. And we actually have a feeling that if you expand that beyond this
age, beyond this century, it’s probably true that there have never been 2 human beings exactly the
And then I would ask you to take the next obvious conclusion from that, that Jesus is not just a
limb collector. He is not just somebody who is wild about different appearances, but that you are a
limb of his because he is able to express through you some of himself that he cannot express through
I think you have to follow the logic of that. I think you have to accept that. I don’t think there
is any way you can kind of wheedle out of it by a false humility or an unreal modesty, or by a
preoccupation with yourself. I think there is no way that you can get out of the conclusion that you
yourself are here on earth so that Jesus can express something of himself that he cannot express
through any of the rest of us. And of course, the obvious conclusion is, “I’d better…” and I’d like
to pick the guy that I’m so hard on. My wife says, “You’re so hard on Marty Overby.” I’d pick that
guy, that he is an expression of Jesus that none of the rest of us are. And that is true of each
one of us in this room, that each of us is here; we have existence for one reason, that is that the
Son of our Creator has something of himself to express through you that he cannot express through
any of the rest of us. Otherwise he would not have made you, because God is not in the business of
creating lives to destroy them or for fun.
And of course that means for me, it certainly means a lot more slowness – I understand, we both know
the thing about [mentions a man and a lady]. In fact it was [the man] himself who took himself out,
but in Raleigh’s case, it was actually the family that made it plain what they felt. They felt
there had been just enough deception. But still, I’m often the guy that is responsible for… And I
can see that sometimes something has to be done, of course, where the situation has become
impossible as a community. But generally, I and everybody have to be very slow to touch the work
that God is doing in each of us.
I think there are responsibilities that Martha Nelson has as the station sales manager, and Greg
Leitschuh and Marty Overby. Everybody has different responsibilities in the community that you need
to fulfil. I mean if Joanne is in charge of the things, then she has to tell us what to do. And if
Trish is in charge then she has to. There is some organization, just common sense, involved there.
But in regard to the person themselves, one Person only can tell each of us what we are like and
what we are to do.
And I understand that at times the Savior will speak through some of us to each other, and I agree
too, that part of being in Jesus is a real readiness to hear Trish say to me — she’d always do it
respectfully anyway, but to say, “Do you think that is right?” We always have an opportunity to ask,
to bring an issue up to another person and say, “Do you think that is the best way to do it?” But it
seems to me it needs to be in that way and in that style rather than, “Greg, you should do this.”
Or, “Trish, you should do this.” It seems to me we need to encourage each other to listen to the
Lord who made us and to catch what he wants to do through us. If you say to me, “Well don’t you
find yourself in situations where somebody is doing something, is making it really hard for somebody
else?” Yes, but I think that the way I say it needs to be very aware that only Jesus can really,
finally, touch this person.
And I think we’d all agree with that. I think we’d all agree. When you speak to another person
about something they are doing or something they’re not doing, unless they get it from Jesus
themselves, there is no change anyway. So you are wasting your time and often spoiling a
relationship for no purpose. So the truth is, we are often too ready to tell each other what to do
in some ways. In other ways, I agree with the general feeling that we have all had that often we
have not been honest enough.
But it seems to me you can be honest and yet be gracious and make it very clear to the other person,
“Now I know I am touching something that only Jesus can touch and you can touch.” It seems to me it
needs to be shared in that way. I’m preaching to myself a lot here. But it does seem to me that, if
this is the situation, that each of us is here for Jesus to express through us something that he
can’t express through anybody else, then the first thing is great respect for each other; great
respect for each other; great respect for each other in the Lord; a great sense that this person is
an expression of Jesus that none of the rest of us is. And I need to remember that, and first of
all thank God for all the things that are obviously Christ in him or in her. And then if you say to
me, “Can we say nothing more?” It seems to me you can, but it has to be very much in a submissive
attitude, very much just stating the thing quietly, “Joanne, I notice you do this. Do you think
that is the best way to do it?” And then, that’s it. But it seems to me in that way we can be honest
with each other but respecting that we are touching something holy.
Now, what is the effect of it? Oh, unending, limitless, limitless. The person that is treated in
that way, after getting over the fact that that is all the person said, and that they’ve shown real
forbearance with me, they should have knocked my head off — after they get over the surprise of
that, they begin to realize, “It is really up to me and my Lord. It’s really up to me and him, up
to him and me.” And then, whatever the time may be, maybe thirty, forty years, whatever the time
involved is, then each of us is to accept that in Jesus’ name, and to thank God that he is having
his way in this other person and to continue to be patient.
If you say, “Can you say it again just in case he or she has forgot?” I’m sure you can, but it is
the old story. It is not with any thought that you have the right to run this person’s life or
change this person, or that you alone are the right judge of what they are doing etcetera, etcetera.
And of course they are very aware of that and I would imagine, encouraged by it [the fact that you
didn’t tell them again] to see that if I don’t allow Jesus to change this, nobody else can change
it. And so it begets a real attitude to the Lord. But as well as that it gives them great peace,
great peace, great sense of their own dignity, great sense of the respect in which they are held,
and just a great sense of safety from the onslaught of other people wanting to change you.
So it is a fine life. It is a fine life that he has called us to, a fine reality. Let us, in this
coming year, grasp it with all our hearts and with both hands. And the chances are we will see some
miracles. Chances are we will see the Savior clearer in each of us than we have ever seen before.
And the work of faith will be his creation in each of us of his own image, and his conforming us to