This chapter section is entitled “Wives and Husbands” and I know that I personally have skimmed it because I didn’t feel it pertained to me since I am single. But it does affect me. I know some people who felt it did concern them but misused it, or ignored it because they didn’t like what it said. But they are reading it through fleshly eyes and not spiritual eyes.
Verses 22-24 read,
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”
Are the more barbarous husbands cheering? Are the feminists groaning? Let’s dig in together and find out what this means. Verse 32 reads,
“This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”
God gave us marriage as a picture of Christ and the church. The church is often referred to as the Bride of Christ. We are His beloved bride and He is our Redeemer and Bridegroom. So when wives are commanded to submit to their husbands as the head, they are being commanded to reflect the relationship they have with Christ.
Does Jesus order us about and make life difficult? Does He shout and yell to get His way? Does He force His will on ours? Never. Submission to Christ is easy, because we know He loves us deeply and completely. We know He wants what is best for us. We let Him do the leading, because He is leading us into a deeper relationship with Him, He is leading us to a place of spiritual purity, and He is leading us down a path that requires a guide. We couldn’t go there without Him.
We serve Him out of joy and gratitude. We gladly do what we can for Him. He gives is gifts, we use them for Him. We honor Him as our Lord and leader. We don’t nag. We don’t tell Him His ways are wrong. We lean on Him and depend on Him. Are you doing the same for your husband? Do you openly listen to him and follow his lead?
It is easier for us to grasp the idea of submission when we can see a concrete example of it. Marriage provides that illustration. When you are married, you understand that you have to give up many of the desires you had before you joined your life to another. You get better goals in return. Did you always want to visit Machu Picchu when you were single? Getting married meant that you might have had to sacrifice that dream because your budget couldn’t save for a home and travel to exotic places. You gave up Machu Picchu and took the family to Disney World instead. Would you really rather have remained single and childless in order to see some mountain? Disney World with your husband and children is probably something you would never give up now, even if you never thought you wanted it before.
Submission to Christ is like that. We give Him the reigns of our lives. We find that things we used to want get changed and we want what He wants. He gives us new, better, different opportunities and experiences we would never have known before we followed Him. I lived my life desperate to be a wife and mother. But in submission to Jesus that dream dissipated and now I am an author, I have a street ministry, a blog, a volunteer position, and the honor of helping my parents in their home. Had I been married, I couldn’t have done any of those things the way I do them now. My old goal is gone replaced with a better path.
The Neanderthals that quote verses 22-24 to their wives like to ignore the next section. While wives are told to submit to husbands as the church to Christ, husbands are commanded to love their wives like Christ loves the church. To me, it seems the husbands have much more to do and live up to in this relationship. Verse 25 reads,
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,”
How did Jesus love the church? He gave up His godhood and humbled Himself to be born a man. He lived perfectly. He served people. He sacrificed His life. Husbands do you love your wife like that? Are you the king of your home, expecting to be treated as such? Or are you like Jesus humble and gentle and serving? Do you endeavor to imitate God and follow Jesus completely so that you can lead your wife properly? Are you your wife’s redeemer? Do you protect, rescue, and provide for her completely? Does she need to nag you? Or do you actively listen to her and give her what she needs (including your friendship)?
Jesus’ love for us sanctified us and made us able to receive the rewards of the promise of eternity. His love for us made us like Him, perfect and without blemish. Even though we are flawed, Jesus love sees us through the cover of His blood and we are made worthy to have a relationship with God.
Jesus’ love for us guides us into more wisdom and conformity to His image. The longer we are in the relationship, the more we look like Him and behave like Him. Do you act and behave in a way that you want your wife to act? Do you lead by example?
Jesus’ love leads us into a continually deepening relationship with Him. His love is so big, so all encompassing and amazing. His love causes us to love Him more and more. Husbands, does your love for your wife cause her to love you more every day or make her regret the choice to marry you? Do you speak together often? Do you watch out for her, keep her safe and provided for? Jesus’ love for you does that, your love for your wife should be the same.
Are you and your spouse united completely? Are you so united that you are one flesh and inseparable? Verses 28-31 read,
“In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
Under the old covenant a man could divorce his wife if he chose to. Under the new covenant Jesus in Matthew 5:31-32 says, “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
Under the new covenant, there is no divorce except for sexual immorality. You cannot be separated from communion with Christ and you cannot be separated from your spouse. Rather than divorce, you forgive, you work through the problems. You work out your marriage with sweat and perseverance. You can’t throw it away. Sexual immorality is grounds for divorce because sexual immorality is a sin against oneself. But even in that case, Jesus doesn’t divorce us. In fact in John 8:1-11 Jesus forgave an adulterous woman. In His example even adultery should be forgiven and divorce shouldn’t happen.
Jesus’ love forgave every sin and every flaw and sees us as perfect. Husband, does your love of your wife forgive her completely or does it hold onto infidelities and other transgressions? If it does then you are not loving your wife as Jesus loves you. For a more complete look at what Jesus love for you looks like read 1 Corinthians chapter 13.
Verses 32-33 end this chapter,
“This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband”
Both husbands and wives have an active role in the relationship with one another. Just as in our relationship with God, we and Jesus have active roles. Submit to Jesus. Respect Him. And remember that you are the temple of God. He resides in you and you are the demonstration of Jesus to the world. So love others the way Jesus loves you.