“Pastor, my wife is not obeying God,” the man sitting across from me was sincere and concerned. I asked what he meant, and he told me that his wife was not taking Ephesians 5:22 seriously.
I quoted, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.”
“Yes,” he replied.
“Oh,” I said. “Well, let’s talk about that. Tell me what Ephesians 5 tells us about the husband’s role?” Unsure, he looked it up, and read aloud verse 25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
I asked, “Would you agree that the earlier verses are speaking to wives and these later ones are speaking to husbands?”
“Well, yeah,” he impatiently replied.
“Well then, what we need to focus on, as husbands, are the instructions for the husband, and your wife needs on the one for wives. Instead of looking at the expectations of your wife, ask yourself ‘What does God expect from you as the man in the relationship?’’.
“You can’t really talk about your wife’s responsibilities without seriously considering the responsibilities set out for you.” I continued.
These passages don’t define husbands’ roles as superior to wives or as permission for husbands to control or intimidate their wives. Unfortunately, sin, selfishness and pride have often skewed interpretation of these verses and been used to dictate the role of a wife. Compounding that misuse of Scripture, the verses addressing husbands have been virtually disregarded.
Respect, Value, and Mutual Submission
Paul didn’t pen these verses to identify who had the ultimate “power” in a marriage, or to give “sanctified” permission to men to be autocratic in their relationships. Instead, these verses are a message to each partner (for each partner to apply to themselves) about the need for unity, mutual respect, and service.
This message reminds us just how counter-cultural Jesus was when he gave voice to women. Jesus respected and valued women. These verses encourage us to build a relationship centered around and under the authority of God. It is a message of encouragement and respect for both husband and wife. It tells us that husbands and wives have different roles but are equals. Men and women are made in the image of God and are equally a part of His kingdom; they are equal in love and value.
I have often reflected on this passage, both as a husband and as a pastor. That frustrated husband in my office could be any of us and may be each of us from time to time. He was focusing on the wrong part of the passage. He wanted his wife to obey God’s word (which when expressed in mutual love and submission is a beautiful thing) but was missing out on his responsibilities.
Ultimately, it is a decision that we all must make as men of God. Husbands, we must choose whether we will honor the calling that God has placed on husbands—sacrificially love and care for our wives and families.
We can talk about both sides of the relationship and what it all means, we must focus on the role we have in the relationship.
Ephesians 5:25 instructs us, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” The love Paul speaks of is not love as defined by society or our world. This love does not begin with us but flows from the love of Christ. In His love, Christ died for us.
Prepare to Sacrifice
To love our wives as Christ loved and game Himself, we must ask, are we prepared to sacrifice for our wives?
As I prepared to propose to my wife, I asked myself this question. Am I willing to give up my life for her? Was I ready to sacrifice my dreams so that I could see her succeed? Would I ready to take up the call to protect and care for her and our future family, to love and support her, to put sacrifice certain desires as we built a life together?
If we answer yes to these questions, then how do we show this love?
- Value our wives and appreciate all that they do for us.
- View the relationship as mutual, meaning that while we make sacrifices for them, we acknowledge that they also make sacrifices for us.
- Acknowledge their value and contributions.
- Be supportive of our wives as they work toward becoming the women God has made them to be.
- Pray with and for them as they grow in their abilities and giftedness.
- Cherish them, thinking of them first, before ourselves.
Our wives need to know that we are there for them, that we have “got their back” and care for them. We are to be there for them and help them in whatever ways we can so they can be spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy.
That is following Christ’s model of sacrificial love.
Marriage is much more than a mere partnership; it is a relationship in which two individuals become one. If one or both of the spouses attempt to only “work” the marriage so they can “win” and have the advantage, the relationship will never grow, and hurt will arise. However, if two equal members within this relationship work with and for one another and think of the other above themselves, then and only then can the marriage be happy and strong.
Are you loving your wife like Jesus loves the church?
For a workshop for husbands to learn to Love like Jesus, visit impactus.org/workshops