I have been blessed in life with amazing parents. They have, for the most part, set a terrific example for me. They have a wonderful marriage, and serve Christ. I have fond memories of my childhood. I can only remember my parents being upset at one another one time. It wasn’t even a real fight. I just remember knowing that they were disagreeing with each other. This is not always the case in a home. Sometimes there is a great deal of screaming and violence. Sometimes there is only one parent in the home. There are really a variety of possible variables that make up the family, and one’s childhood background can certainly affect their future/current marriage. The present social trends are not much help either. There are more books and counselors than can be named. These, or at least some of them, are not necessarily bad, but it seems that as a people, even as a church, we often forget who designed marriage. We recite the account in Genesis from our Sunday school memory without applying the depth of meaning in the Scripture to our hearts and lives. If you were going to counsel someone who was getting married, what would you say? Do you have a list of “Do’s and Don’ts?” I’m sure experience has taught us all a thing or two about marriage, or we’ve had some great advice given to us that we’ve saved for the future date we are dreaming of, but as with all things in life, it is best to take our cue from God’s Word.
Now, I am about to dive into what is probably one of the most contraversial passages in the Bible. In fact, it’s a feminist’s heyday. I want to examine it for what it is, however, and gleen with you the truth that God would have us know from it. I want to focus specifically on a couple of key verses that I feel have been misrepresented and given a bad rap. Ephesians 5:22-33 says, “Wives, submit to your own husband as to the Lord, for the husband is head of the wife as also Christ is head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, to make her holy, cleansing her in the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh, but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of His body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.”
First and foremost, know that our earthly marriages are patterned after the marriage between Christ and His church. This is God’s great design; the language and imagery used in the Bible. We are His bride. He has made us pure and holy, spotless He says (vs. 27), by His own sacrifice for us through His shed blood on the cross. This spiritual foundation is key. The lack of it often results in great heartache. It is the reason God does not approve of divorce (except in the case of unfaithfulness; Matthew 5:32; 19:9), because He does not abandon us. Once we are His, we are always His. (Now, I feel I need to side track for just a moment here. I am not saying that God wants a women who is being beaten [or a man for that matter] or having her children abused to stay in that situation. There are a great many facets of Scripture, but I can not possibly address them all, however, in this short blog.) It is also why God’s Word tells us not to marry unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). If we want a beautiful marriage, we must look to the author of marriage.
I know you’ve been waiting, so let’s get to the verses you want me to address. “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is head of the church.” There it is; in black and white. This sentence notes a command in the Greek. Thus, it is not a light suggestion. It is what we are required to do. Our husbands are to lead us in everything (vs. 24). There’s the kicker; in everything. We don’t just submit to him when it’s convenient, or we agree with him. Wow. At first, it sounds like a major bummer, and this is where feminists stop and begin to bash patriarchial Christianity. They, however, have forgotten step one. They probably do not even see the need for step one. Remember that our marriage is patterened after the relationship between Christ and the church. This is why it is crucial to allow God to choose your mate. What about the woman who is already married to an unbeliever? She still submits to Christ and then her husband except in the case that her husband is trying to cause her to sin. We must always be faithful to the Lord above all. The point is the relationship. We submit to our husbands because of our relationship with them. Allow me to fast forward to verse 33: “To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.” The word respect here is the same word that is used in the Bible for fearing (not being afraid, but standing in awe of) Christ. It is a reverance. Why does God evoke that from us? He gave Himself for us! He is the one, true God! Our husbands love the Lord, and we follow them. They sacrifice for us, and we show them honor. This is the relationship God has created. Husbands have been placed in the leadership role, ladies. If you don’t like that, you must take it up with the Creator. Before you do, though, think about the other things that God has put in order. He has given us rule over our children. Sometimes they do not understand or agree, but I would venture to say that you think it is best. Again, I feel I must add another disclosure statement. This is a blog for women. Thus, while these verses certainly address the role of the husband, I am primarily dealing with the role of the wife.
Finally, Christ gave Himself for the church to be able to present her to God as holy. Our husbands should love us, provide for us, and disciple us. Whether they do or not, however, does not make our part of the contract null and void. We are to treat them as we would our Savior. This harmony of the roles of a husband and a wife creates a beautiful marriage because it is a foreshadowing of the great and perfect marriage between Christ and His body. We are a part of Christ through salvation (i.e. He calls us His body), and a man and woman who are married are also a part of one another (i.e. “one flesh”). Now, we know we are not perfect, and thus, our relationship with Christ can get off course. Our earthly marriages are the same. Take an independant, sometimes sassy woman, and tell her her husband has the final say. It may not always turn out well. The solution to both is the same, however. Repentance. We confess our sin to the Lord, turn from it, and our relationship, whether with our spouse or the Lord, is restored. All of this is made possible because of Christ’s sacrifice.
Christ is the deciding factor in our lives and our marriages. If a beautiful marriage is our desire, we must be married to Christ first and pattern our earthly marriage after His example. It certainly takes two, but we are not responsible for our husbands. In fact, Scripture teaches us that they are responsible for us, and we are accountable for ourselves as well. I pray that no matter what place your marriage is in right now, you will seek the Savior to make it truly beautiful. God bless!