22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 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. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 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.
I’ve learned a lot about this passage over the past few years. I wanted to make sure I included verses 25-27 today because in our society, men tend to forget there is more to the story than just wives being subject to their husbands.
Being the head of household, the head of the marriage, is a huge responsibility. Quite honestly, I don’t think most of us are up to the task. As men, we are naturally egotistical, we expect respect instead of earning it, and we tend to have a sense of pride and entitlement. I’d like to flip back a bit in the bible to the book of Genesis, when the first wife was created:
Genesis 2:18 18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” It is common in our “manly” minds to snicker at this verse and think “she is just a helper.” However, how often do we pause to really think about this: what does it say about the one needing the help?
As men, we are accountable for our wives (and children). We see that in verse 26 and 27 Paul talks about the duties of a husband to his wife are exactly like the duties of Christ to the church: us. Therefore, we must be careful to follow His example. He didn’t walk around with a sense of expectancy or authority. Certainly, He spoke with authority, but He acted with love. In a premarital seminar we attended before getting married, my wife and I learned that a husband wants to be respected and a wife wants to be loved. So true. This is exactly why Paul lays it out the way he does: wives be subject to (respect) your husbands, husbands love your wives. Not only does he say to love our wives, but to do it as Christ loves the church: unconditionally and to the death. Can’t get much more absolute than that, can he?
I found a repeat of this message in Colossians, another letter Paul wrote:
Colossians 3:18-19 18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. Did you notice the caveat? “as is fitting in the Lord.” How many times have husbands demanded something of their wives that was disrespectful to God? What does that say about the man? What does that say about the woman? I must say, women are much stronger than men. Why? Because they find ways to honor God and their husbands. Through that, they actually lead their husbands to Christ. Many, many times I hear of men coming to church or participating in church activities because of their wives. Our wives actually set the example for us, men, even though we usually get the credit for an upright and God fearing family:
1 Peter 3 1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3 Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
I think about how we are called to act to others, regardless of how they treat us. Unconditional love means just that, we love them anyway. We love them even though they spit on us, they disrespect us, they curse and mock us. Looks to me that women exemplify this. Look at how they act towards children! Despite how the kids act, the woman still loves them and cares for them. So too, they treat us men. We tend to think this is because they are weak and powerless, when in all actuality, they are meek and humble.
Men, we need to swallow our pride and start taking some cues from the women. We only get respect if we earn it. We cannot expect to be loved by our women if we don’t love them. We love Christ because He first loved us. Likewise, we must love our wives so that they may love us in return. This is an ongoing effort, it doesn’t end at marriage, rather it begins.
How can you love more today?