Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Politically-Incorrect Marriage Advice

Ephesians 5:22-33

New International Version (NIV)
 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

This passage in Ephesians is one of the most oft-quoted passages on marriage in the Bible and many have written about what it means.  "Submission" is one of those dirty words that gets us into trouble and a lot of controversy.  Usually the discussion goes to one extreme or the other--either the focus is on the iron-clad rule of a wife's submission, or it's the other extreme of how we're just supposed to submit to each other (The verse before this says, "Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.")  I really have no interest in those controversies here because I think when we have these arguments we're missing the point of what was being taught.  Suffice it to say that I believe in submitting to my husband's leadership, and if you're interested in arguing about whether I should or not, you can find lots of other places to hash that out online.

So, now that we have the controversy out of the way I can get back to my point.  The point is that I think we often miss the point!  What I see here is God's helpful instruction cluing us in to the greatest needs of our spouse.  We're getting some valuable information here!  Could it be possible that we don't have a clue how to meet the needs of a person of the opposite sex and that we need some help with that?  So what are the instructions we're being given?  Well, for husbands it's to love your wife, treat her with great care, and sacrifice yourself for her.  For wives, it is the instruction to follow your husband's lead and give him your respect.  (This implies that men and women are different and have different needs.  Another politically-incorrect idea, but nevertheless, true.)    

One problem we often have is that we don't read our own instructions!  Husbands are often preoccupied with getting their wives to respect them and submit, and wives are busy pointing out all the ways their husbands fall short and are not worthy of their respect.  I think we can benefit most from this passage by letting our spouse worry about their own instructions while we focus in on what was written to us specifically.  After all, the overarching theme is to submit to the other person and put their needs ahead of your own.  

I can personally testify that when you simply follow your own instructions, you can see miraculous changes in your marriage.  Trying to change your spouse is about like banging your head against a brick wall anyway, so there's not much point.  Yourself however, well, that's something you can do something about!  I have more times than I care to admit, gone to God lamenting all the ways my husband isn't meeting my needs.  The answer that always comes back is this:

Matthew 7:3-5

New International Version (NIV)
   3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Ouch!  The Lord always reminds me to first look at whether I'm following my own instructions.  There is a time and a place to talk to my husband about my needs, but this works a lot better when he can see that I'm making a sincere effort to do my part in the relationship.

So that's my best politically-incorrect marriage advice:  read the instructions!

My favorite resource for learning about marriage is Love and Respect Ministries.  If you are married or ever plan to be, I highly recommend this site and the resources there.  If you are one of my single friends and you get married, their book or audio book will probably be your wedding gift!

I'm hoping to write some more on marriage soon--specifically on wives respecting their husbands.  I'd also love to get to the topics of liberty and political philosophy (Political philosophy, not politics.  There's a difference.  Perhaps that should be my first topic!).  There's just so much to say on this, I'm working on where to start, so I'm open to suggestions!  

1 comment:

  1. I think you've made a terrific start.

    This is also an area where my wife and I had struggled early on in our marriage. Fortunately, God blessed us with some dear older and more experienced Christian friends to show us Biblical instruction such as Ephesians 5.