DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (BP)–Even among believers, instruction in Ephesians which teaches a woman to be subject to her husband as the church is to Christ often is misunderstood, according to a popular pastor and movie producer.
Michael Catt, the executive producer of “Fireproof,” speaking at a March 27-28 marriage conference in Daytona Beach, said that’s because the follow-up verses, which say that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, are not as prominent.
“This is a time when churches are not a picture of marriage and marriage is not a picture of the church,” said Catt, pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., which produced Fireproof.
Stephen Kendrick, producer and co-writer of Fireproof, said a godly marriage has at its center agape love, the kind of love that is unconditional and is demonstrated best by Christ’s love for the church.
“Men who are motivated by love will take responsibility for their home,” Kendrick said. “Love causes a man to say, ‘I refuse to let the devil destroy my marriage.'”
MARRIAGE IS GOD’S IDEA
Catt said Ephesians 5 shows God is the source of marriage.
Looking at the picture of how men and women relate, God also caused them to think and respond differently even though he made them from the same substance, Catt said.
Telling a story of a man who comes home from work and tells his wife he has a terrible headache, Catt said the woman tells her husband she had one the previous week. He thinks she’s trying to tell him she has a bigger one. He thinks she’s competing. He’s getting competitive. She’s just being sympathetic. All she’s trying to do is convince him she knows how he feels, Catt said.
Put the shoe on the other foot, Catt said.
“The wife comes home and says, ‘Honey, I have a headache,’ and the guy says, ‘Take two aspirin…. Don’t you know how? … This is not rocket science, lady. Take two aspirin and get over your headache.’ He’s in fix it mode,” Catt said.
Understanding and acknowledging God as both the source of marriage, and His part in designing men and women despite their differences, can help individuals understand God’s role in marriage.
Citing the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act signed into law by former President Bill Clinton defining marriage as between one man and one woman, Catt said it was necessary because there are some who would redefine marriage because they are not comfortable living up to God’s standards. Recently Catt said he was told a homosexual person had purchased “The Love Dare” book to use in a relationship.
“It won’t work. The parts don’t fit,” Catt said. “You see, we have people trying to redefine something God has said is very sacred and it is a representation of Christ and His love for the church.”
Addressing the need to speak frankly on sexuality in church, Catt said he grew up in a time in the church when the topic was avoided.
“We said to all our little girls, ‘You be like Lottie Moon,’ and then we expected them on their wedding night to become like Marilyn Monroe,” he said. “Why have we made sex dirty? Because we’ve let the culture define it and not Scripture…. We forget the fact that God designed it. He thought it up. It was His idea.”
Speaking further of the unique relationship between a husband and wife, Catt said marriage requires leaving and cleaving, a voluntary choice for individuals to join each other and stay together.
“Quite honestly, there are way too many marriages today where the parents and in-laws are speaking too much about how those families function,” Catt said.
Pointing back to a picture of submission as taught in Ephesians, Catt said in the context of the passage and the culture of His day, Jesus Christ was known as the “greatest liberator of women who walked this planet.” Even at the cross, “men took off running and the women stayed,” Catt said.
Drawing from the example of Christ and the church, the husband is to be the source of a wife’s security — a leader and not a dictator, Catt said.
“I have never met a woman who had a problem with that verse [about wifely submission] whose husband was loving her as Christ loves the church,” Catt said.
Catt challenged the men to do some homework during the upcoming football season by spending time hanging out with their wife at a local mall instead of watching the game.
“By the way, would you go home tonight and ask your wife a question: ‘Do I make you radiant?'” Catt said. “Jesus wants to radiate His life through the church. We ought to make our wives radiant, not have them rolling their eyes….”
AGAPE LOVE LASTS
Kendrick said men who learn to love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength can bring that kind of power to their marital relationships.
Love is powerful and can cause a marriage to bloom as well, Kendrick said. Even imperfect people will feel valued and cared for when they are loved and given permission to fail.
“When you get married, give your wife a year off…. Love her and accept her,” Kendrick said. “And then, after that treat her every other year like the first year.”
Explaining the difference between agape, phileo and eros — the New Testament Greek words for love — Kendrick said true love often is confused with eros, which is a sexual, romantic type of love.
“Agape love is what God wants you to build as a foundation” of your marriage, Kendrick said. And you don’t “fall in” agape love. It’s purposeful and requires commitment. It’s also unconditional and doesn’t change depending on circumstances.
“God’s got a better way, and it’s with agape love,” he said.
Appealing to the crowd, Kendrick, who has appeared in all of the movies Sherwood has produced, mimicked popular love songs while his brother Alex accompanied him on the piano.
“I will always love you,” Stephen Kendrick crooned, noting that Whitney Houston’s marriage ended in divorce despite her song. He belted out, “Stand by your man,” adding that country music star Tammy Wynette left a confusing legacy with five marriages.
“True love doesn’t give up,” Kendrick said. “What God is calling us to do is impossible for us to do” without agape love.
Tim Mann, pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, which hosted the conference where nearly 800 people represented more than 60 churches, said he believes the weekend had a great potential to impact couples for the long haul.
“As the family goes, so goes the culture. But as the family goes, so goes the church. And so goes the church, so goes the culture,” Mann said. “If the family is fractured and dysfunctional, it is not healthy, [and unhealthy churches can’t be] the salt and light we need to be in our culture.”
Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness (www.floridabaptistwitness.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist Convention. Resources related to Fireproof, including the DVD of the movie, are available at LifeWay Christian Stores and online at www.lifeway.com.