Like Button

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Husbands, Love Your Wives

It is clear (at least to any reasonable reader) that Scripture holds that the husband is to be the head of the household. The Bible repeatedly says that wives are to submit to their husbands (Eph 5:22-24; Col 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1-6) -- that the hierarchy is Christ -> man -> wife (1 Cor 11:3). It takes a carefully turned blind eye and skillful linguistics to wriggle out of this certainty. And, to be sure, the rise of radical feminism has surely produced many a blind eye and skillful linguist. But the Scriptures are not unclear.

It's not surprising, then, that equally blind and skillful linguists have twisted the other view. The idea, you will likely hear from husbands of this other ilk, is that men are to be the head. By this they mean husbands are to lord it over their wives. They are to insure that their wives submit. They are superior; wives are inferior. Headship is lordship and she has to do what he commands. As it turns out, however, no such thing exists in the pages of my Bible.

You see, if you examine the instruction sets for husbands and wives, you will find that wives are commanded to submit, but husbands are not commanded to lord it over them. What are they instructed to do? "Husbands, love your wives." (Eph 5:25-31; Col 3:19) Oh, and "Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life." (1 Peter 3:7) Now, let's see ... I'm looking ... I'm looking ... nope! It's not there. Nowhere does it say, "Husbands, be the slave-master over your wives." Nowhere.

In the Ephesians passage where wives are commanded to do what God commands them to do and husbands are commanded to do what God commands them to do, the text is preceded by a general command. We are to be "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Eph 5:21) Mutual submission, you see. Not "She submits to him and he doesn't submit to her." This is not a position of lordship. It is submission. Now, it is not symmetrical submission. Some (those blind but skillful linguists) will try to tell you that this is about mutual submission, so husbands and wives are supposed to submit to each other in the same way. This conclusion can only be reached by tossing out the explanation that follows. This mutual submission is not identical; it is gender-oriented. She is supposed to submit to her husband as to the Lord and he is supposed to submit to his wife by loving her as Christ loved the Church. How did Christ love the Church? He died. So while women are clamoring, "It's not fair! It's too hard!", men should be responding, "Submitting to a husband is harder than dying?" Better yet, neither of us should be complaining.

I implore you, husbands, to love your wives. This isn't lordship. It is submission. It is ever seeking what is best for her. It is leadership by example, not by fiat. This headship is the power to serve. It is divinely appointed and must not violate divine commands. It understands and honors, not overpowers the wife. It cares for her as he cares for himself (Eph 5:28-29). It mimics Christ's love, laying down His life for sinners. You can't really find in any of this some divine support for the overbearing, domineering, tyrannical husband that "wives, submit" brings to so many minds, including too many husbands -- even Christian ones.

Husbands, love your wives. Love them as Christ loved the Church. Lay down your lives for them. Understand them. Honor them. Constantly seek their best. Imitate Christ for them. Oh, and that whole "headship" thing? There is no command for you to insure her submission. Leave that to her to obey. Your task is to love your wives.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

We know a marriage which was broken because of an abusive husband who always demanded total submission (i.e. slavery) by his wife; he'd use that passage as a hammer.

Three years ago I wrote an article similar to yours - you might find it worthwhile:

I've also collected and posted many quotations by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on marriage. He took your and mine commentaries to even deeper explanations. If only more husbands and wives would really practice the Ephesians passage.....

Stan said...

If only. I've seen too many Christians -- people I know and love and fellowship with and even who are in high standing in churches -- who don't seem to get this ... husband or wife.

Kim M. said...

I agree with so much of what you wrote here. You presented a very balanced view of scripture and the issues at hand.

I just want to add that dying is a mutual responsibility. Christians are instructed to die for each other (1 John 3:16) and die to sin (Rom 6:11-12). That's part of the Christian lifestyle. A Christian woman's responsibility to die doesn't end when she gets married, but it flows into marriage. Therefore, a Christian wife has to submit to her husband, love him (we know that from other passages) and die for him. She's not exempt. She has to do all three, and that's certainly not an easy feat.

There's a tendency in the church to treat Eph 5 and a few other so-called marriages passages as if they exist in a vacuum, but they don't. They are part of the whole counsel of God. Other passages in the Bible tell us how we should treat each other, and that other just might be your spouse.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters
(1 John 3:16).