The subject of wives submitting to their husbands has been contentious for years. In some circles and eras, it has been the catalyst for chaining women to the sink and turning them into second-class citizens or slaves in their own homes. This one-sided controversy was never God's intention. When we read of the Virtuous Woman in Proverbs 31:10-31, we better understand women's capabilities and how husbands should treat and nurture them.
"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."
Today I want to put the spotlight on the role of the husband, which is far less discussed and considered than the subjection of wives.
Our key scripture says the husband is to be Christlike in marriage. The Apostle Paul didn't mean for the husband to perform miracles like Christ did but rather to focus on his own character, ensuring his marital pursuits follow Christ's with His Church. Paul wrote this so husbands could mould themselves into the person their wives could not only respect but follow in that context. The passage also encourages potential husbands to be committed to and ready for a Christlike marriage when the time comes.
Christ is not yet married. He is ready, but His Church, His bride, will not be fully prepared until this world is over.
Before discussing some of the more apparent aspects that husbands and potential husbands are to epitomise, let us remember that Christ became head by first becoming a servant. Only by accomplishing that perfectly could He become the head of the Church and Saviour of the Body. (Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it).
How did He love the Church? He devoted His life to humility and obedience, learning skills and character from a child with His wonderful marriage in mind. He enjoyed prayer and prayed much, always staying in touch with His Father God. He ensured His relationship with God was intimate. He loved and helped people in need. He didn't ram information down listeners' throats but gently led people, using practical ways like parables to get points across.
Fathers would do well to raise their sons the same way—with godly marriage in mind. The trouble is, not much training goes on. Therefore, we end up with Christian husbands entering marriage unprepared as if they are kings or great household leaders, their only thought on marriage roles being the wife's subservience. They themselves lacking the essential attributes or understanding of their own role. Hence, they learn on the run with all the unnecessary arguments, and the marriage goes through ups and downs and a possible breakdown.
Men, we've done ourselves an injustice by not examining our roles and changing our undesirable aspects before leaping into marriage. Too often, we hold onto our immaturities, even into old age, without addressing them as instructed. A good Christian marriage should never break down. Yet, many do. Jesus, our model husband, said in Mark 10:9, "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." In Mark 10:1-12, He talks about marriage breakdowns, and we already have many in the Church, which should have none!
How does one sanctify a wife? (That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word). Part of a husband's role is to nourish and cherish the wife (and the family when it comes) in biblical love, holiness and knowledge—in Christlike leadership. Women, like anybody, respond to this loving manner. They develop trust and faith that God is indeed leading their husbands along the path of purity.
In the end, a husband will be presenting God with the wife he has nurtured and fed, and I have a feeling we husbands might be judged on how well we have done that. We are not to leave our wives as stunted baby Christians to fend for themselves spiritually, or to watch them drift away from God because they can't recognise Christ's attributes in us. Neither are we to lead these precious jewels we have been given into wickedness and depravity. We are to help them grow into spiritually mature women of faith.
Like any Christian, the wife has responsibilities to herself, to become all she can in Christ. To biblically educate herself and put on the fruit of the Spirit. But that doesn't let the husband off from his Godly leadership duties. What if Jesus expected the Church to develop itself? Would it resemble the model sought by God? Or end up a mess like the distorted churches in Revelation 1-3? Why did God write the letters to those churches? To give them time and guidance to correct their sin and deficiencies before the marriage of the Lamb occurs. (Revelations 19:6-9).Let's make sure we're listening to His voice.
I'm hoping husbands will not now demand their wives sit like school kids at the kitchen table and listen to them prattle on about marriage and all the things they think they know. Marriage is a long road of commitment, and the underlying principles in Godly marital leadership are love, nourishing and cherishing. If behavioural change is needed, the husband must lead the way, so the wife can see Christ in him and follow voluntarily. Yet, it is often the other way around.
I'm not saying the husband is to blame for every problem in the marriage. Not by a long shot. But when Christians leave God's tuition out of the institution of marriage, we must expect trouble.
The husband and wife are one, and no man yet hated his own flesh.
Today's prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the reminder of a Godly marriage. Please help me in my development as I take my role more seriously.
Photo by Sandy Millar