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. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.
Marriage can be hard. It is the relationship that most of us had dreamed of for years before finally finding that one person that we decided to spend the rest of our lives with. Unfortunately for most if not all of us, it is never the happily ever after that we dream it will be. It is hard work and at times heartbreaking. The strong feelings and physical attraction we had at one time can fade and change through the ups and downs of life. Those getting-to-know-you conversations that could last hours and hours become more about routine and how our day was. The things we enjoyed doing together get crowded out by kids and work and life.
Unfortunately, these feelings, common interests and attractions become the focal point of hundreds of marriage seminars and retreats every year. It is about rekindling how we once felt, reconnecting those common interests, and trying to get back what we feel that we have lost. While there is a role that kind of thinking has to play in learning how to love your partner, it does not address the root of the problem. Marriage was never intended to be based on those things. Yet, every message from movies, TV, and the culture is that dating relationships and marriages are about how we feel about each other, things we like to do together, physical attraction, and how much we know, understand, and like each other. While these things do typically play a role in deciding on a future mate, a marriage built on this foundation will constantly be shifting beneath you.
God’s plan for marriage is so much better. In His instruction in Ephesians chapter 5, He begins with the wife. God calls wives to willingly subject themselves to their husbands. This means putting his needs, his wants, his desires, his dreams above your own, and not in a limited way. Even our world recognizes that there has to be some give and take in a relationship. They see that, at times, what you want will have to take a back seat, but that is accepted only so that at some future time you can have what you want while your husband takes the back seat. This is manipulation at its finest. Instead, our Lord calls wives to take the back seat in “everything” (:24). To make His point even clearer, He gives the example of Christ and the church. Would we ever think its right to say, “Ok Christ, we will submit to your will this area, but you’ve got to give some ground in this other area where we really want to do our own thing”? That would be ridiculous! In the same way, the believing wife’s role is one in which she is called to be 100% yielding to the will of her husband. There is no give and take about it. (Husbands: This is not meant for you, and should not be used to demand submission from your spouse. It is something that is meant to be offered freely by your wife.)
Then He addresses husbands. He elaborates more beyond verse 25, but it contains the core of what husbands are called to. We are challenged to love our wives, to cherish them, take pleasure in them, and have deep affection and care for them. And yet, this is not the limited love that most men love with in which they only express affection and care when it is reciprocated. This is not loving and serving her to get her to stop nagging or so that she will understand when you want to go play golf with your buddies. No, the standard for this kind of love is none other than Christ Himself on the cross. It is a love that sacrifices everything for the good of the one loved. This is a call on believing husbands to daily give up their wants, desires, dreams, and goals in pursuit of perfectly loving their wives. Christ’s example is one of going all-in. It is 100% sacrifice that was not based on how He was being loved, because He was not. He gave up His life for an unfaithful, ungrateful bride who rejected Him at every turn. (Wives: This is not meant for you, and should not be used to demand selfless sacrifice out of your husband. It is something meant to be offered freely by your husband.)
In our society, marriage is presented as a give and take relationship, meeting each other halfway, and primarily about getting our needs met. At the core, when you peel away the façade, it is a relationship model based on self-centeredness. If the only way I can get a little is to give a little, then it has got to be worth it. This is the ugly side of relationships that we tend not to want to talk about, but it does not make it any less of reality. God’s way is so much better. We were made for relationships of total submission and selfless sacrifice. When either side is expressing love in this way, it is a beautiful thing, and when both sides are living their roles it can be the most amazing relationship this side of heaven. Keep in mind that this kind of love is impossible to sustain ourselves. The key to this section comes slightly earlier in verse 18, “Be filled with the Spirit.” It is only when we find all that we need in Him and ask His Spirit to work in and through us that we can love the way that He loves.
May we choose today to ignore worldly marital standards of “love” and choose God’s path to an amazing marriage.