by Toby Sumpter
One of the ways that we love one another is through manners. Etiquette, someone has said, is just love in the little things. Everyone has laundry to do, but it’s common courtesy to do it before or after the dinner guests arrive. Now in every marriage there are discussions to be had; husbands and wives need to have open, honest conversations and sometimes issues need to be worked through before there is agreement or consensus. That in itself is not a problem so long as it is taking place in a Christian manner. But it is simply bad manners to allow those discussions and conversations to be broadcast to friends and other family members. Everyone knows that Mr. Smith has underwear, but Mrs. Smith ought not leave them lying around the living room for the dinner guests to wade through. This is all to say that wives and husbands need to guard their conversations with others such that their words do not bring out their dirty laundry for the world to see. And we need to guard this because James says that the tongue is fire that is able to set the whole body ablaze. Paul says that a wife is the glory of her husband, and it is the husband’s calling to give glory to her. And this is why Paul says that a man who loves his wife actually loves himself. To be glory and to bestow glory is to make the other look good. If you are the glory of your husband then your words ought to make him look good, your words ought to make him sound like the faithful husband that he is. If your wife is your glory, then your words ought to bestow glory upon her, by praising her (to her face and to others) and by making her look good. That’s what glory does. These are little things, but they are like the rudder that is able to turn a ship in completely different directions. Of course there is a time when husbands and wives can and should seek help and advice from appropriate friends and elders, but even this must be done in a spirit of love and respect. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself; this means that you ought to speak about your closest neighbor (your spouse) in the way that you would want to be spoken about. You are your spouse’s glory; therefore let your words reflect this.
by Toby Sumpter
In nearly every letter of the New Testament, the apostles insist that Christians must live out the gospel in their families. As we seek to build this church, this must be one of the central results of our gathering here. Husbands who worship here must be characterized by loving their wives, cherishing their wives, and teaching and leading their wives just as Christ loves, cherishes, teaches, and leads us. Wives who worship here must be characterized by love and submission to their husbands, rejoicing in their callings just as we submit ourselves as the Church to the leading and teaching of our head, the Lord Jesus Christ. Likewise, children who worship here (whether they are three or eighteen) must be characterized by love and obedience to their parents just as we love and obey the Word of God declared here. If we are not being characterized by these things, we are not getting it. If our families are not living out this gospel then our worship here is useless at best and at worst a high handed blasphemy against God. When the families of Israel were characterized by harsh words, injustice, disunity, and disobedience, God said to them through the prophet Isaiah: get your Call to Worship out of here. Who has required this Confession of Sin? I have had enough of your readings of Scripture. Why do you come here and trample my courts? Stop your empty Passing of the Peace. I cannot stand your celebrating the Lord’s Day. I do not delight in your Lord’s Supper. I have had enough of your Psalm Singing and all the rest of your other liturgical clap trap. When you lift up your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear you. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean. Put away the evil from your doings: Husbands love your wives, wives submit yourselves to your husbands in joy, children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
Toby is a pastor that interned at our small country church a few years ago: our families have been friends ever since, & his writings & exhortations frequently challenge and bless me.