LOVE IS THE KEY
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself (Eph. 5: 25-28).
Paul concluded his instructions to the church with a call to mutual submission. He also prefaced his picture of family harmony with the same call – to mutual submission. The Bible does not teach wives to submit to their husbands without the husbands’ reciprocal responsibility towards their wives.
However, nowhere does the Bible insist that wives serve their husbands. Now isn’t that strange? Why do many husbands, even within the church, equate submission with service – in fact, slavery? The moment he walks in the door, she is his servant, waiting on him hand and foot. While he is out at work, she still acts like his slave, picking up his clothes, tidying his cupboard, putting away the litter he has left around the house, preparing his favourite meals and generally ensuring his well-being in every part of his life. His home is his castle and in it he reigns supreme.
If believers are followers of Jesus, our role is to imitate Him, not the caricature of Jesus which many sections of the church present as the substitute for the real Jesus. Church leaders even lord it over their people, insisting on fancy titles and expecting to be treated like the pet lamb instead of being the shepherd.
Jesus insisted that He came, not to be served but to serve. The Old Testament prophecies present Him as the Ebed Yahweh – the Servant of the Lord. First of all, He submitted to and obeyed the Father. He served the Father by doing His will. It was the Father’s will that He serve His children in His earthly life and die in their place to pay their debt of sin. He directed every moment of His life to please the Father.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
Jesus is the model of servant leadership for the husband. God intended marriage to be a visual aid of the oneness within the Trinity. The key to this unity is humility, and humility can only be fostered in the atmosphere of mutual submission – each person taking his or her place within the marriage, focussing on the well-being of the other without stubborn resistance, pride or rebellion towards one another.
It is pride and selfishness that ruin unity. It takes humility for a husband to serve his wife with sacrificial love and it takes the same humble submission for a wife to permit her husband to serve her without resistance or protest. God intended marriage to be, first of all, the union of two separate individuals producing, not uniformity but harmony in their relationship and fellowship with one another.
Children learn from their parents. They follow example before instruction. They will imitate what they see rather than what they are told. When they witness a continual power struggle between their parents, with each one attempting to control the other, with continual resistance and arguments, they will copy that kind of behaviour among themselves in the home and in their relationships outside the home.
Once again, divine wisdom paves the way for stable family life. Of course, human beings think they know better than God. They place the focus on what works (or doesn’t work) for them. Instead of following God’s pattern of protecting love, preserving unity and promoting contentment within the home by humility and mutual submission, they focus on what they believe to be the key to a happy marriage, their spouse. It is the other spouse’s responsibility to meet their need and make them happy.
The result? Discontented spouses, affairs and adultery, broken homes and rampaging divorce statistics. Men and women go from marriage to marriage to marriage in a desperate attempt to find happiness, only to have the same disappointment repeated over and over again. Their conclusion? Marriage does not work so let’s “shack up” instead so that we can go our separate ways if it doesn’t work out without having to go through the bother of a divorce.
Bending God’s rules or making our own is a recipe for disaster. God always gives His instructions and sets His boundaries to protect us from self-destruction. Within His prescriptions for living, we will find freedom and safety.
God’s pattern for a “successful” marriage is simple but not easy. Mutual submission and sacrificial service require “dying” to one’s own desires, needs and demands. We have both Jesus’ example to follow and the Holy Spirit within us to guide and empower us to do God’s will. In the doing, we will discover that, after all, God knows best. We will find peace and the harmony in the home which we desire and which is the outcome of doing life God’s way.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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