What is a Christian Marriage Anyway?

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
–Ephesians 5:22-33

Today I would like to tackle an area of the Bible that many don’t like to talk about.  The reason it  is avoided is not valid. In the passage above, we have Paul writing to the Ephesian church, and discussing how husbands and wives should treat each other. Unfortunately, because of a distortion of the meaning of this passage, many even within the church tend to pretend that this passage does not exist.  Yet we will see that if we study it in the correct context, that it is truly a beautiful passage, and does not in any way demean women, but rather, lifts them up.

The main concern for many in our society is the first two verses.  Suggesting that women submit to their husbands is something that some find objectionable.  Further, the second verse – that the husband is to be the head of the wife – ranks right up there for some as one of the most difficult parts of the Bible.  But is it really?  Is it really wrong to say that the husband should be the head of the household?  Is it wrong to say that wives should submit to their husbands?

Before we get to those verses, I will take this passage in reverse order.  Let’s look at the last one first.

“Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”

Notice that this verse joins two statements with the word “and”.  First, it says that husbands should love their wives as they love themselves, then goes on to say that wives should reverence – or respect – her husband.  The word “and” means that both points are equally important, and both are demanded of us as husbands and wives.  I don’t know too many people that would have issue with this verse.  Understand, that the Bible is telling us that a husband’s love for his wife should be no different than the love he has for himself.  That is a pretty bold statement, don’t you think?  He is telling us that as husbands, we should be willing to do for our wives anything that we are willing to do for ourselves.  In turn, women should have great respect for their husband. So far so good?

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.”

This is the bulk of the passage.  Notice that this entire section deals not with the wife but the husband.  I will draw your attention first to the part that states husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church, giving himself for it.  Let’s explore that a minute here.  Do we all remember what Christ did for us?  You remember that whole dying on the cross thing that saved us from our sins, granting us eternal life if we just believe and trust in Him?  Yup, that is what He is expecting of husbands in their behavior towards their wives.  Quite a responsibility here isn’t it?  The rest of the passage explains how husbands should present their wives as unblemished, holy.  As husbands, we are to be willing to lay down our lives for our wives, loving them as we love ourselves.  Then the final verse says it all.  We are to leave our father and mother and be joined to our wives, and we shall become one flesh.  What a great responsibility husbands have, that we are to be Christ-like in our dealings with our “other half”, the other part of our flesh.  Do you believe this is worthy of respect?

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

Now we come to the verses that some have an issue with.  Wives are to “submit” to their husbands.  Husbands are to be the head of the wife, just as Christ is the head of the church.  What does this really mean anyway?  Well, let’s take the relationship between Christ and the church.  Do we as the body of Christ have a problem submitting to Christ?  Of course not.  Why?  Well, the answer is obvious.  He is the Messiah.  He is our Savior. He is God in the form of the son.  We submit to Him, not because we are forced,  but we do so willingly.  We rejoice and sing about our submission to our Savior.  Obviously, it is in our best interests to do so.

So, with respect to wives submitting to their husband, why is there such objection to it?  We have already read how husbands should treat the wives, correct?  We know that a husband is to be Christ-like, willing to die for his wife, striving to treat his wife as holy, keeping her unblemished.  He is to love her as himself.  With this great responsibility that has been place on husbands by God to love and protect their wives, is it so difficult to believe that their wives should submit to this?  In reality, is not submission to a good, Christian husband who treats his wife the same way that Christ treats the church not one of the most beautiful things a woman could do?  Is it not a reflection of her submission to Christ? Is not in her best interests to submit to the one who will love and protect her in the same manner that Christ does for her?

Let me be clear.  I am not for one moment suggesting that wives are to submit to their husbands as some take that verse – out of context.  I have heard and read many compare this verse to some form of slavery.  Nor am I suggesting that wives need to do everything their husbands tell them, even if their husbands are abusive or not acting in the best interests of the family.  What I am suggesting is submission of a wife to her husband – in the context of the entire passage – is one of the most beautiful and holy things we could ever witness.  A husband who loves his wife so much he is willing to die for her like Christ did for us, and a woman who respects her husband so much she will walk hand in hand with him through any trial or tribulation is something to be cherished, not shunned.

In a world where the family unit seems to be in constant danger of collapsing, I submit to you that if more people would study and follow this passage of the Bible, we would be in much better shape as a society.  It is a proven fact that how we are treated as babies have an enormous affect on the rest of our lives.  How great it would be for every baby in this world to be loved and nurtured by parents that are following the passage above?  A husband that loves his wife like himself, and a woman that respects her husband and submits to him like she submits to Christ.  Would it solve every issue?

Probably not.

But it would be a great start.

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4 thoughts on “What is a Christian Marriage Anyway?

  1. I love the way you have identified and broken down these verses. The Bible does present it so beautifully if read completely. It is sad how many only read a very small part of a text and lose clarity. As we watch our world under attack especially in the areas of faithful and christian homes and lifestyle it is important to get back to the word in its true meaning. A husband that leads his home in a Christ-like manner is setting example and allowing comfort to practice safe exploration of our faith and life in Christ. He sets up a road for his children to be seekers of the word and ministers to the people. He does this as Christ did for us. A woman who respects her husband is in awe of the union Christ has allowed in them. She respects the strength and holds steadfast to that in times of trial. If these points in a marriage are not taken for granted but rather appreciated they fit together and compromise concerns perfectly. Because by demonstrating leadership ,you are led, by giving respect you are respected and by both man and women taking these roles they are teaching the next generation. This does not limit a passionate couple from discussion on strengths and weaknesses as we are all given different gifts of the Holy Spirit, but YES it is a great place to start.

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