Ephesians Day 28: Model Marriage.
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (5:22, 25)
These verses are just as unpopular and misunderstood as v. 21 on submission. They’ve been misused and abused but they contain the best available model for marriage. Husbands and wives are given complementary commands designed to make marriages smooth-running, secure and sustainable in the long-run. It’s all based on marriage being an illustration of the relationship between Christ and the Church.
This means both the role of the wife and the role of the husband is based on a mutual command to be Christ-like. The wife is told to submit to the husband ‘as to the Lord’. Not because of any difference in status or worth but as a reflection of how we all obey Jesus. We submit to the Lord because we’re wholly confident that He will take care of us and has our best interests at heart. It’s the same for wives and husbands. There is no fear or subordination in submission – it’s based on loving trust. Trust that the husband will take care of her, and trust that the husband is himself submitting to Christ.
Likewise, the husband is told to love his wife ‘just as Christ loved the church’. That’s a high standard. Christ loved (and loves) the church perfectly, selflessly and sacrificially. The husband is not allowed to take his wife’s submission as a licence for tyranny or oppression. He is to love her like he loves himself (vv. 28-30), taking care of her every need, and ultimately be ready to lay down his life for her. Submission doesn’t lead to subjugation. It leads to sacrifice.
So there are equal and reciprocal demands on both husbands and wives, and things only work smoothly when both fulfil their end of the bargain. The whole thing breaks down when either the wife stops respecting her husband or the husband stops loving his wife. Look at any marriage that is malfunctioning and you’ll probably find one or both of these things happening.
The wife’s submission isn’t self-abasement or self-emptying. She doesn’t give up her right to her opinions, priorities or passions. The husband has a responsibility to lead with his wife, not over her. It’s a leadership based on consultation and consensus, not coercion.
Despite past abuses and failings, as Christians in the 21st-century we should unapologetically uphold Biblical truth and live out the Biblical ideal. For husbands that means loving their wives better and leading with more consideration; for wives that means not being afraid to submit and treating their husbands with both trust and respect. Both will benefit.
To take away: If you’re married, whether a man or a woman, what can you do to better live out your responsibility from these verses? If you’re not married, reflect on what these verses teach us about how Christ loves us.
This is the 28th post in a 31-day walk through Ephesians. I’d love for you to join me in exploring this amazing book of the Bible for the rest of the month of May. Every day you’ll find a new post with fresh encouragement from God’s word. I hope this series blesses you, and if it does, please share it with others. Thank you.