Daring to Talk About the “S” Word

So when you are asked to speak at a bridal shower on what the Word says about marriage, where do you turn?

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22-24)

Somewhere between the silly (yet fun) shower games of ‘Who Has the Strangest Items in Her Purse?’ to watching the brides race to pull on pantyhose over their jeans with oven mitts, I spoke on submission.

Yup, talk about a difficult transition!

(By the way, it turns out my purse is fairly normal, which meant the prize went to the lady with the suitcase – but, in my opinion, should have went to the one with the breast pump stashed between her wallet and her makeup.)

I LOVE speaking about the biblical roles of wives and husbands in marriage because I believe it is vastly misunderstood in today’s culture, and even in the church. And if we as Christians did this marriage thing right – biblically – the world would definitely take notice. Christian marriage is radically different than marriage in the world.

In a Christian marriage each spouse puts the needs and desires of the other first.

In marriage in the world, your spouse exists to make you happy, and if he doesn’t, it is reasonable grounds to end the marriage.

Before we talk about the dreaded “s” word, remember:

  • God designed marriage and pronounced it “very good.”
  • there are no spiritual distinctions among men and women, only different roles in marriage.
  • marriage is a two-sided equation. If we are going to talk about the role of the wife we need to talk about the role of the husband as well.

Submission is not a word our society is particularly fond of. God commands wives to be subject to their husbands. This means the wife voluntarily places herself under the authority and headship of her husband out of love and obedience for the Lord. This does NOT mean the husband makes the wife submit.

Submission goes beyond actions to an attitude of the heart. The passage from Ephesians says wives are to submit to their own husbands. In other words, this is not a general submission of women to men.

Did you notice those two little words at the end of verse 24? In everything. Not only when we think our husbands are right. However there is one exception: if a husband is leading his wife into sin she must obey God rather than men.

Why do we as women struggle so much with submitting to our husbands (hopefully I’m not the only one?)? I think it goes way back to the garden. After Adam and Eve sinned, when God was handing out the consequences, He said to Eve, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). This is not a physical desire, but a desire to dominate and control. I have to admit, I feel that in me. I have that urge to control what my husband does and how he leads our family. It is only with the indwelling help of the Spirit that we as wives can walk in obedience to this command to submit to our husbands.

But we can’t stop here.

Ephesians 5 has more to say about marriage:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church (Ephesians 5:25-29).

The command to husbands is to love – but not as Hollywood loves – as Christ loves the church. This is a sacrificial and unconditional. This kind of love is willing to die for another. This kind of love nourishes, cherishes, and protects, putting the desires and needs of his wife first. This is the kind of love that comes home from work early to scrub the toilets when his parents announce they are arriving early and his wife is overwhelmed with her never-ending to-do list (thanks, honey!).

Notice husbands are one of God’s instruments in the process of sanctifying the wife (Ephesians 5:26). As he leads her in prayer and studying the word, she is purified, becoming more as God created her to be.

We must remember, this command would have been a shock to Paul’s readers. Instead of the women walking away in disgust at this passage as they do today, it would have been the men. In a culture where women were easily second-class citizens, the husbands were called to be “Christ” to their wives, treating them as precious and cherished.

A godly husband will take his wife’s opinions, knowledge, intuition, and discernment into consideration and they will make decisions together. It is when the two can’t come to an agreement that the husband will exercise his leadership role. A godly husband will listen to the wise counsel of his wife and lead the family in a way that honours God. And remember, he is held accountable before God for the decisions he makes on behalf of the family. Wives must respect the position of authority God has placed their husbands in.

Okay ladies, if your husband doesn’t love you like I’ve just described, are you still required to submit to him? Absolutely! We are all responsible before God for our own actions. And as you are obedient to the word, your husband may grow in his understanding of his role.

Incidentally, I truly think the role of the husband is much harder. We only have to submit, but they have to be Christ to us! Talk about a high standard! Being under the leadership and headship of my husband is a wonderfully safe and secure place to be.

In eternity past, as God was thinking about His design for creation, He knew He needed a physical picture of the spiritual reality of the relationship between Christ and the church. And so He created marriage. The husband represents Christ and the wife represents the church. God has so much invested in marriage and therefore we have an incredible responsibility to live out the biblical mandate for marriage. We have the privilege of displaying the gospel to a world in which marriage is treated so lightly.

When we do marriage God’s way, it doesn’t mean it will be perfect. It doesn’t mean we won’t have disagreements or struggles in  our relationship. But it does mean you will grow closer together and to God and we will fulfill His mission for our marriage.

And if you ever find yourself needing to put on your pantyhose with oven mitts, just know, it is possible to do in 39 seconds flat.