“No one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it…”
I preached this sermon for the Matins service for our conference on Life Issues focusing on transgenderism. The conference began with a Matins service and ended with a Vespers service because no matter what the topic or conference, we believe that the Word of God must be priority. We had two services in one day and the attendees were thankful. The text for the sermon was Ephesians 5:29-32.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”
No one ever hated his own flesh and Christ does not hate you. That is St. Paul’s encouragement not only for marriage, of course he is speaking about that in Eph 5, but more, he is telling us the church that Christ does not hate us. That means he never hates you. He doesn’t dislike you. He doesn’t reluctantly love you. So, you also must not hate yourself. We should hate our sin and wickedness, but Paul uses this point to comfort us of Christ’s care and concern for us, his body the church.
No one ever hated his own body. But don’t we do that so much? Isn’t that what haunts our thoughts at night as we lay in bed trying to fall asleep? I should have done this; I shouldn’t have said that. Paul directed by the Holy Spirit wants us to believe that Jesus never sits up in heaven regretting the care and blessings he gives you. He doesn’t look back at the cross and say, “Well that was a mistake.”
No one hates his own body, Paul says, but nourishes it and cherishes it just as Christ does the church. Except we so often try to nourish and cherish our bodies our very selves with anxiety and stress of thinking if we were better looking or if we just were better, we could be happy. I’ll be smarter. I’ll be stronger. I won’t be as shy. I won’t open my mouth. I will be better.
We are hearing about transgenderism, and I think this passage is helpful because the proponents of such evil actions and thoughts are encouraging people to hate their own bodies beyond just traits but to the very foundations of creation. To go against nature. To hate themselves to the point that they think they can finally perfect themselves or find their true self in getting surgical procedures and medicines prescribed that will help them. As the devil tempted Adam and Eve, “you will be like God.” In a vicious circle we are constantly told you can finally find happiness in yourself but in the end, we end up hating ourselves all over again. We do not find our comfort in ourselves but in one who gave his life on the cross to rescue us from our sins.
Paul tells the church that just as no one hates their own body but cherishes and nourishes it just as Christ does the church, hating ourselves our own bodies is contrary to nature. Everyone by nature does what is best for themselves. Jesus though does what is best for us. Hating ourselves is a very attack on the fact that Jesus Christ gave himself to redeem you body and soul. Jesus loves you. Body and soul. He nourishes you by his word, he cherishes you by giving to you his very body and blood in the sacrament.
The philosophy that supports and encourages the idea that you can change from male to female is an attack on the gospel. You see Paul uses our unique traits as male and female to describe the church. He says just as you have a body and take care of it so does Christ take care of his church. Just as our bodies are passive, they receive what we give them, so is the church with Christ.
The church which is described as the bride of Christ is female, she always first receives from Christ our bridegroom, a man. Just as we actively nourish and cherish our bodies, so we can trust that Christ who is active will nourish and cherish you. As much as you lament or worry about yourself, Christ Jesus knows his righteousness covers all you sin, all your mistakes, all the things that would keep you from God.
Paul uses the analogy of the body and being male and female because it works so well for the church. The church always receives as the female, Christ who is male is always nourishing and cherishing. Trying to say that a person can change from one to the other turns the picture of Christ and his church on its head. It turns the body into the savior and the savior to the one who receives.
You are not a mistake. Your identity is found in Christ not your faults, not your job or school or even as much as it pains me, child of God even takes precedent over being a Texan. You were baptized into his name. You may struggle with your life and where you find yourself and your cross may be heavy, but he loves you and does this only to draw you closer to himself. He gave to you forgiveness and calls you his own. He doesn’t reverse our roles but is and always will be the one who nourishes and cherishes you by his mercy. He forgives you every sin and as Isaiah says in Ch 62, ” as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so your God will rejoice over you.” We don’t look in the mirror to see our identity, we look to Christ and his cross, the author and perfecter of our salvation. Do not lose heart in your struggles. God is faithful and he will help you with his wisdom, only don’t give up. Don’t give in to the temptation to hate yourself. It is the devil who hates you, but Christ has defeated him. No one ever hates his own flesh, and Christ does not hate you. Thanks be to God.
See you on Sunday!