What matters most in life? Could it be money, fame and power? What matters most is relationship in a family; in particular the relationship within a marriage because this relationship affects far and deep and penetrates into every fibre of the family life.
In order to understand the marriage relationship between husbands and wives, we need to see the original copy which is the relationship between Christ and the church, his bride. Apostle Paul explained to us in v. 32 “This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” This mystery refers to v.31, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.” Earthly marriage is a mystery because it conceals the truth about Christ and the church. In other words, earthly marriage is a metaphor of Christ’s relationship with the church. The distinct roles of husbands and wives are theologically rooted deeply in the model of the relationship between Christ and the church. This is the foundational truth of every marriage.
What are the roles of husband and wife?
1. Wives submit to your husbands as the church is subject to Christ (vv. 22-24)
The submission of a wife is based on the headship of her husband which follows the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the head of the church, he rules and governs the church, yet he loved the church and gave himself up for the church. His love is sacrificial and merciful and kind. His leadership, his headship, is what we called “a servant-leader”, a loving head. This headship is strong to protect, to provide and to guide. That is the kind of headship we are talking about here in this passage. This is how wives should submit to their own husbands.
However submission is not about the other person, it is not about how well the headship or the leadership has done. Submission must come from the heart of the person herself. As wives we need to come to the point and be convinced that, as a wife, I will submit to my husband in all things, whether or not he is perfect or even deserves it because this is the assigned role of God for wives.
I read a testimony recently in a prayer book. This lady was struggling about this submission matter with her husband. Over the years, they had disagreements with their finance management. Sometimes she chose to ignore this matter and let him do his way, and this went quite alright for a while, but in her heart, she was unhappy. (Because the matter was being ignored and covered up, it had not been resolved.) She was easily agitated when the money matter was brought up.
One day while she was driving, she heard a voice asking her “If you lose everything but have only your husband, are you willing?” She replied yes without a second thought. Then further question asked, “if you win everything and lose your husband, are you willing?” This lady suddenly realized why argue and fight, if she won the battle but lost the war, what good would that be? As wives, we need to know what is worth fighting for and what is not. The role of a wife is based on the marriage relationship between Christ and the Church.
From the wife’s perspective, true SUBMISSION comes from a willing heart to examine yourself, it is rooted in the distinctive roles based on the relationship between Christ and the church.
2. Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (vv. 25-33)
Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. This is the true model for all husbands to follow, both the affection and the degree of this love. As a husband, if your wife wants you to spend more time home at night instead of going out, are you willing? If she desires you to initiate the family devotion time at home, are you willing? If she desires you to help out some family members, will you be willing to do that out of love? Do these out of love for her, it does not have to be rational as long as it is not about a moral issue.
As a husband, love your wife as Christ loved the church. Christ cleansed the church. He redeemed, restored and guided her as a whole. Similarly husbands are to gently lead, restore, confront, and guide your wife to the path that God intends for her to do and to be. Notice it is not what you intend but what Christ has intended for her. If there is anything that is stained or blemished in the life of your wife, you need to gently lead her back to the right path. Always be the spiritual leader of the house to lead and guide her and the household. Don’t abuse her or exploit her. As a husband, lead your wife by example, not with scolding, ignoring or flaring anger.
From the husband’s perspective, LOVE is to willingly give up your own rights and privilege to relax and enjoy, and do something you do not really like. But you do it anyway, because you love your wife. A husband needs to protect, provide and guide his wife gently and patiently.
It is sad to say that
“when sin entered the world, it ruined the harmony of marriage not because it brought headship and submission into existence, but because it twisted man’s humble, loving headship toward hostile domination in some men and lazy indifference in others. And it twisted woman’s intelligent, willing, happy, creative, articulate submission toward manipulative obsequiousness in some women and brazen insubordination in others. Sin didn’t create headship and submission; it ruined them and distorted them and made them ugly and destructive.” (John Piper, This momentary marriage, p. 79 online version)
We all have a role to play, be it as a husband or as a wife. We humbly do our parts, not demanding others to do; and allow God to magnify His glory in our marriage through the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. The best part is we can glorify God in our marriage and get a little hint of understanding what Christ has done for His bride, the church.
By Winnie Chan
Local Preacher of Wesley Methodist