So I want to charge all married people to remember and live by these words that the apostle Paul wrote, and whenever you’re going through struggles, meditate on Ephesians 5:21-33:
Let’s look at verses 21 through 24 first…
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” (Eph. 5:21-24)
Now let’s stop here for a second. A lot of people think that these verses mean that Paul was saying wives should be doormats and cook and clean and do laundry and be at their husband’s beck and call. You ready for that ladies? Well good news, that’s not it! To submit means simply to trust, honor and respect someone- and the rest of life’s duties you can figure out together. It may sound like a swearword in our culture, mostly because of dudes that may even call themselves Christians and abuse this- expecting their wives to be pretty little perfect slaves for their every need, or guys who work all day and then sit on their butts and order their wives around when they get home. But it’s not an ugly thing, biblical submission is a beautiful thing. God created men and women equally, but they each have different roles to fulfill in marriage, and when you both fulfill those roles, things will be flowing and your life together will be full of joy and meaning!
On the flip side, some ladies have read these verses and reacted strongly against them. A feminist in 1969 was quoted to say; “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle .” Unfortunately this spirit of reactionary hate has bled into the mindset of our culture, to the point where women (and some men) view women as superior, and not equal, to men. Interestingly enough, marijuana usage became commonplace in the late sixties. “Marijuana reduces the level of testosterone in men; however, it increases the amount of testosterone in women.” (http://www.uhs.uga.edu/aod/marijuana.html) I don’t find this to be a strange coincidence!
The sixties mentality of feminine superiority over males was also a reaction to the chauvinism of the 1950’s as typically portrayed in commercials such as this 1957 ad for Pepsi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=113mRmchumY There’s nothing awful about the ad, but it does stereotype women in ways that don’t personify femininity. This whole mentality, that was portrayed well in movies like “Stepford Wives” and more deeply disturbing in “Revolutionary Road”, was reacted against strongly with some of the radical feminism, bra-burning, and practically testosterone infused womanhood of many in the boomer generation.
The scriptures, when interpreted correctly, offer a rational, balanced view of femininity and masculinity. Women and men are equal (Gal. 3:28-29), but have different strengths and weaknesses, as well as roles that they will thrive in if fulfilled well. This is impossible to believe unless one puts trust in God and believes that He set things up with our best in mind. When put into practice, these things really work! I can attest to it, because I’ve had both feminist and chauvinist leanings in times of error, as both a non-Christian and a follower of Jesus, and neither mentalities functioned well in reality, or brought peace and harmony into my relationships.
Ladies- men need Ephesians 5:21-24 from you to feel fulfilled as men of the Lord, and you’ll fill them with joy and love for you if you’ll respect, honor, and trust them to point you to Jesus in everything. Dudes are gonna blow it and you’re going to have to forgive them! What scripture is actually asking you to do is to love your men and honor them despite their mistakes.
Wives should be bragging about all of their man’s good qualities to people that they know! Get behind him, support him. Encourage him, believe in him. Marriage and life brings people tough moments, and guys need their wives to make them feel strong, and to know without a doubt that their trust and support is always there. This helps guys to flourish, and this is why God’s Word says that women need to submit to their husbands. It won’t come natural! It doesn’t to anybody! Maybe some a little more than others, but it’s against human nature! God has it there because it’s the way that wives were meant to love husbands. It’s an act of faithfulness- like it is to do what Jesus is asking you to do. We don’t always feel like doing everything God asks either, but when we do, it brings peace and blessing and joy. And that’s also why Paul compares this submission to the church submitting to Christ. Now, no man is Jesus, but as with most things of God, we’re being challenged to the highest level of respect and devotion, which is totally impossible of course. We’ll mess up all the time! But Christ will give us strength to do even what seems impossible!
Now men- check out all these extra verses for you!
“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. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Eph. 5:25-33)
Now too many in our culture have heard those verses about wives “submitting” to their husbands, but have never heard what the Bible says that husbands are supposed to do! It’s a much bigger deal, and a much higher responsibility. I think God just knows that men are so ego-ed out that they really need to be reminded to be loving, self-sacrificing, gentle and humble! Believe me, I’m the first to admit it!
Speaking of ego, some Christian guys misinterpret these verses. They think that they’re the ones that are going to make their wives holy and blameless by their sacrificial love. But notice what Paul says at the end; “This is a profound mystery- but I am talking about Christ and the church”… It’s a lot like the passage to women- the word of God is setting up the highest standard possible. Husbands should strive to imitate Christ and His sacrifice for the church in their relationship to their wives. And guess what? We’re going to blow it all the time, because we’re not Jesus! There is no way that we could ever do what Christ did for the church- He was with God from the beginning of time in heaven, then came down to the earth in human form, lived a perfect life, and then was willingly murdered so that He could take the punishment for all the sins of humankind, and so that instead of having that punishment, we get to have the love from God that He has for Him! But the more we admit that we’re not able to be like Christ, the more that Christ will be our strength to be the husbands we’re called to be.
See here’s the way of Christ men- for our wives to be able to submit to our spiritual leadership with joy, we’re going to have to give up our rights for them! This will draw them closer to Jesus! We’re to serve our wives with all our heart and lift them up. We’re to make them the most important thing in our lives besides Jesus Himself! We’re to always make them more important than friends, passions, hobbies, our jobs, and yes, I know it’s tough, but even our kids (who come in at a very close third place behind our wives second and God first!).
We’re to strive always to provide for our wives spiritually, emotionally, and financially. We’re to stay strong and pour ourselves into the Word! We’re to make our wives our number one ministry- the number one person that we are serving and loving, even more than kids if we have or will eventually have them. We’re to pray with our wives, serve them, love them, and ask them what they want to do on Friday and Saturday nights! We’re to value their opinions and always consider them! We’re to give them the best of what we have! We’re to put them first in everything. I’m not talking about being miserable and not doing anything that we love guys, I’m talking about being considerate of our wife’s needs, her dreams, and her desires, as well as gently leading by example and word. We need to do all we can to put our wife’s needs before ours! They’ll be free to follow Jesus if we love them recklessly! Care for them! We need to be our wife’s shoulder to cry on! We have to always be there to listen to her. And yes- just like Jesus cares for His kids- the church- so we should care for our wives. We must strive for it! We’ll miss it all the time, take it from me! I’m no expert at this! But if we always keep our eyes on Christ and His love and sacrifice, and we’ll continue to grow!
For all of us married folks- we need great people in our lives that we can be open and transparent with. These are people who will challenge us to walk with Jesus. They’re people who won’t judge us or condemn us for the things we’re struggling with! Tough times happen in marriage, and when we lean on others who love Jesus for strength, we are encouraged to keep moving forward with mercy and grace. We need to get a great community of friends like this around us and keep em’ close!
Parents must be reminded what verse 31 says; “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Out of respect for married couples they have to understand that their kids are becoming one flesh- which in one sense means that they’re a new family. Not that parents won’t be there for their tots, but they’re going to have to let them make a few mistakes!
I know this is hard when you love your kids, but you need to respect them as adults now, trusting that the Lord will always continue to work in their lives and put people in their midst to speak truth in love to them! Believe me, I’ve got a cute little baby daughter named Charlotte and can’t IMAGINE what this day is going to feel like when she gets married! In so many senses you’ll always be their parents, but in so many other senses you’re going to be their friends and supporters now. You have to let them live their lives out on their own, and you need to do the thing that’s going to seem impossible without faith and Christ’s help. Let them go- and don’t try and control their lives in any way! Just support them and be there for them. Don’t try and get in the middle of their problems and have a sermon for every thing that they do wrong, but by the grace of Christ, love them and support them. You guys will grow closer and closer as a family if you all play the right role!
Ultimately for all of us, both married and single, it’s good to be truthful with each other, and it’s ok to be angry. But it’s not good to sin in anger, and it’s not good to say anything at all that doesn’t build another person up, and shower them with God’s grace. Ultimately, we need to let go of bitterness, wrath, anger and slander, and be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving each other as God in Christ forgave us.
When we live, operate, breathe and walk in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ- that He laid down His life and shed His blood as a free gift after living a perfect life, and took the punishment for us when it would have been fitting for us to bear, we will create a LEGACY of the gospel that will be handed down to our children and their children’s children.