May 5, 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Alexandria, Virginia
If you don’t notice Louise, you’re not paying attention. She doesn’t fall into any stereotype. People like this are rare. She’s got her own style. You might even say, she owns it.
All this is good. Yet to own something can take a catastrophic turn in our darkened hearts. We want to possess, consume, control.
Love—or at least a twisted form of love—can be like this. We want to own the thing we love, to possess it, to control it. But that only shows the love of self.
The words of Jesus in today’s Gospel show us a different kind of love. “I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” The ones Jesus calls “His own” are not possessions (like a collection of trophies) but people – the people He Himself created. His love for us He demonstrates by self-giving. “The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”
That’s marriage. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” There’s no ownership here in the sense of domineering control and a demand to do things my way. It is self-giving to the end, the end where the shepherd lets himself be bitten and clawed by the wolf attacking the sheep. The husband doesn’t care about himself, only about his wife.
Now which of us husbands can actually pull that off? No, in our fantasies, twisted as they are, we don’t want a wife, but a slave.
But today, Kyle, you are being called to slavery to your wife. Not the foolish way men joke about wives controlling things, where she’s the “old ball and chain.” No, it’s the kind of slavery, or service, that is like a shepherd who would die for his sheep.
It’s crazy talk, of course. Like many of Jesus’ parables, this makes no earthly sense. Sheep are a commodity, providing wool and meat. If the wolf comes, sure, try and fight him off, but don’t die. The sheep aren’t worth it.
At some point in marriage, you might have the same thought. She’s not worth it. He’s not worth it. This marriage isn’t worth it.
But the way of Jesus is crazy, reckless, radical, all-in. He loves the sheep, and He will die for them. So you too, Kyle, love this woman, all in, even when it hurts, even when it is killing you.
And the sheep, Louise, hear the voice of the shepherd. That’s Jesus, of course. Listen to His Word. Make it the heart of who you are as a family.
But then the wife is called specifically to submit herself to her husband, which means listening to his word as the shepherd of the family. If you haven’t discovered already, Kyle isn’t Jesus.
Yet in this mystery of submitting and dying, we are learning to untwist these selfish hearts and become the humans we were created to be.
When Adam beheld his newly created wife, he said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” He recognized her not as a thing to be possessed, but as his own flesh, his own nature; from his rib, she was the product of his own self-giving. Marriage is an ongoing giving of self for the life of the other.
One last thing, for you, Kyle. You know like few others that we are engaged in a great struggle. The enemy is already inside the wire, their desire is to strike at the neck. When I chose your confirmation verse a few weeks ago, I had in mind the theme of warfare. “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6.10b-11). Note the defensive posture: with armor one stands against. The strength is not your own, but in the Lord. The real enemy, we learn from God’s Word, is no earthly horde, but the devil himself. This enemy is only turned back by the power of God’s Word.
So guard your heart. Guard your family. Be Louise’s protector. Love her. Die for her. But most of all, stay attuned to the voice of the Good Shepherd, the true and noble one. He who died for you, He will sanctify you, and He will bless your family.