I remember the day I met my beautiful bride, Teresa. I was a youth minister at youth camp on a college campus in North Georgia. Teresa was working in the college office. When she first looked at me, a whole army of butterflies marched through my insides. Her eyes, her hair, her smile- she captivated me. It was love at first sight!
It has been more than 40 years since that day, and I can say with all honesty that I fall more deeply in love with Teresa every single day. I live life in bewilderment, When I wake up next to her, I sometimes stare in amazement that God gave her to me. She is the love of my life!
Unfortunately, many Americans don’t have the same experience. The newness of a marriage wears off as reality sets in, love’s light dwindles and the butterflies die off. Rather than fix the problems and recover the relationship, many people begin looking for a way out. In these unions, “I do” is replaced with “I won’t” or ” I no longer will.” As a result, the number of Americans getting married has dropped to a 40-year low and, unless something drastic changes, marriage is in big trouble.
After a vicious argument, a wife exploded and said to her husband, “You know, I was a fool when I married you.” The husband replied, “Yes, dear, but I was in love and didn’t notice.” They say love conquers all, but today it seems that either love falls short or many people are living loveless lives in limp marriages.
Believe it or not, the divorce rate has increased by 1,000% since 1968. Marriage is short-circuiting. It is running on fumes. In fact, it is estimated that after 10 years of marriage, only about 25% of modern marriages remain intact. Americans are living longer, marrying later and choosing to live together before marriage, in-between marriages and as an alternative to marriage.
Marriage is even losing its place in our everyday language. Today, people tend to talk more about “relationships” and “intimate partners” than they do about marriage. It reminds me of a pastor who went to speak to a group of 4th graders on the topic of marriage and asked the question, “Do any of you know what God has to say about marriage?” Well, immediately one boy threw up his hand. The pastor called on him and said, “All right, what does God have to say about marriage?” The little boy said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Contrary to what society and culture are saying, marriage is still a good idea. How do I know? Because it is God’s idea, and God never has a bad idea. God wants us to have healthy marriages and happy lives in union with Him and our spouses.
There is far more to say about marriage than I can fit into one article, but I do believe we find principles in Ephesians 5:22-33 that will lay the foundation upon which we can all build a marriage that will last.
Wives are to Fill a Sensitive Role
Paul speaks to the two people who are primarily responsible for a good marriage- wives and husbands. He writes his first words to wives: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord (v. 22).” Now, if you are a married woman reading this, your defenses may already be up and your fists may be clenched because of that nasty submission word. Before you reject the concept of submission, let’s take a minute and learn the “what” and “why” of the word.
The word “submit” means to voluntarily place yourself under the authority of another. It literally means to “give up your rights.” Contrary to what feminists say, it is not a social issue, nor is it a philosophical or intellectual issue- it is a spiritual issue. We are told later in this chapter that ALL Christians are to learn the lesson of submission. You see, submission is not just for the wives, it is for everyone.
More important than the “what” is the “why” of submission. Paul goes on to say, “For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body (v. 23).” For many people, this language is even worse, but the principle runs deeper than the language.
Wives are to submit to the husband because God has placed the husband as the head. God knows that no society can long exist without order. Every organization that is effective and efficient must have a head. Anything with no head is dead and anything with two heads is a freak. Every plane needs a pilot, every ship needs a captain, every army needs a general, and every family needs a head, and the husband is the head of the family.
Now, this does not mean that the woman is inferior to the man! 1 Corinthians 11:3 tells us that there is not only a chain of authority in the physical world, but also in the spiritual world: “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God (NASB).” God the Son is not inferior to God the Father. God the Father and God the Son are co-equal and co-eternal; yet, time and again, Scripture tells us that Jesus willingly submitted Himself to the authority of His Heavenly Father.
Men and woman are absolutely equal to each other in the sight of God. The ground at the foot of the cross is level. At the same time, there are roles to be fulfilled and the wife is to fill the submissive role to the husband.
Wives have a choice. They can complete their husband or they can compete with him. If you complete him, you will confirm him; but if you compete with your husband, you will cripple him. This is because it should be his God-given desire to lead you and the family. You will also have problems with God because it is His will for you, and you will be rebelling against Him when you fail to submit. In addition, you will have problems with your children because you are setting an example of rebellion for them and they will likely follow your example with problematic authority in their own lives. Finally, you will have problems with yourself because a Spirit-filled woman who understands what God’s Word teaches should have a willingness to follow it.
So, if you are not married, but are considering marriage, you need to ask yourself one question: “Am I willing to submit to the spiritual leadership of this man?” If you cannot answer with an unequivocal “yes”, then you don’t need to walk down that aisle.
If you are already married, you may be reading this and thinking, “You don’t know my husband. He is a wimp, he’s hard to talk to, and he’s not as spiritual as he should be.” Look at this a different way. When you have a runny nose, ringing ears and a splitting headache, do you cut off your head? No! The Bible says that the husband is the head of the home. The answer is not to cut off the head.
Unless it is unscriptural, unethical, or ungodly, you should submit to your husband. If you want to be treated like a queen, crown your husband as king in your home and submit to him, support him and strengthen him.
Husbands are to Fulfill a Spiritual Responsibility
Don’t think husbands get off easy. In fact, far more is demanded from the husband than from the wife. Luckily, we are told specifically what the husband’s role is to be. First of all, husbands are to lead their wives. “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body (v. 23).” God desires for the husband to be the head or leader of the home.
Now, that doesn’t mean a husband is to be a dictator or a bully. This Scripture does not mean that the husband makes all the decisions and the wife has no input. Leadership here refers to the way you live before your wife and children, the way you love your family, the way you walk, the way you talk, the way you apply God’s Word in your own life. It is Christ-like, Godly leadership talked about here, and that is the kind of leadership husbands should give their wives.
Husbands are also told to labor for their wives. The Bible says, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (I Timothy 5:8, NASB) Husbands, you are to provide for your family. It is primarily the husband’s, not the wife’s, responsibility.
I heard a story about a young husband who asked his wife, “Why don’t you make biscuits like my mother used to?” She replied, “Why don’t you bring home the dough like my dad used to?” It is not much of a man who pressures his wife to work because he wants more money, a bigger house or a nicer car. If our wife desires to work, that is one thing, but a man should not satisfy his material lusts on the altar of the welfare of his marriage.
The real meat of being a husband is found in this statement: “Husbands, love your wives…(v. 25a).” Husbands are not just to love their wives, but to love their wife the way Christ loves the church. But how does Christ love the church? Christ loved the church enough to die for her. Paul continues, “Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it (v. 25).” Husbands, ask yourself this question: “Do I love my wife enough to die for her?” You must be able to respond affirmatively and believe it!
But it goes deeper. Christ died for the church “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 blameless (vv. 26-27).” The Lord Jesus is making His bride as beautiful as He possibly can.
Husbands must do the same for their wives- make them beautiful. Husbands must always make their wives look good. They must never criticize them in public or put them down before anyone else. In fact, Jesus loves us in spite of our faults, He does not dwell on our faults. Love your wife the same way. Husbands, if you are not making your wife better, you are making your wife bitter.
As a matter of fact, we are to love our wives as much as we love our very bodies! “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their bodies,” writes Paul. “He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church (vv. 28-29).” That’s pretty strong stuff! What does a man do with his body? He satisfies it. When the body is hungry, he feeds it. When the body is tired, he gives it rest. Many husbands today would do well to take away from satisfying their own body with gold, potato chips and playoff games, and feed their marriage relationship instead.
Men, why not commit a day in the coming week for loving your wife God’s way? Go out of your way to do something special. If your wife needs strength, lift her up. If your wife needs encouragement, become her greatest cheerleader. For just one day, meet every single need she has at every opportunity God gives you. Your eyes will grow weary of amazement when you see how she responds.
Any woman can tell you that there are several basic needs that women have. If we, as husbands, will meet those needs, it’s amazing how much our stock will go up in their eyes.
First, wives need attention. One lady commented, “My husband pays so little attention to me that if I died, I don’t think he could identify the body.” Often, a woman needs nothing more than her husband’s ears and eyes—his full, undivided attention.
Second, wives need affection. (Stop grinning men!) When I write about affection, I am not just referring to sex. Affection can be nothing more than a simple touch. It can even be verbal. Love must constantly be on your lips. Here is some easy-to-memorize math: affection is greater than sex. Affection does not equal sex; affection is more than sex. Sex may be a component of affection, but it is the whole affection package that wives need.
Finally, wives need adoration. I constantly brag about my wife, Teresa. I tell her how beautiful she is. I tell her what a great job she does. Husbands should be constantly telling their wives how much they matter.
On Father’s Day, a teacher had her class make a card for their fathers. She gave the little five-year-old boys all the materials they needed, then suggested they draw something like a fishing pole, a golf club or a pet. One small boy raised his hand and asked, “May I draw a picture of my mom? My daddy likes her better than anything!” Men, that’s exactly the way we ought to adore our wives.
When husbands and wives understand and accept their roles in marriage, a lost love can begin to blossom once more. The monster of matrimony becomes the reward of relationship. That doesn’t mean that you will never run into snags, struggles, or suffering; but when you do, you will be equipped to come out of it in loving partnership.
Several hundred years ago, Martin Luther describes a Godly and good marriage in this way: “Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.” You have God’s permission to bring back the butterflies and fall in love all over again.