The marriage promise a husband believes is rarely, if ever, discussed. Most men probably wouldn’t be able to put it into words. What exactly does a man expect from a God-honoring marriage?
Check out last week’s post ‘The Marriage Promise A Christian Woman Believes’
Last week we discussed the promise a Christian woman believes and explored how a man can behave in a way that helps fulfill that promise. This week let’s flip that and talk about the part of the word picture that applies to the wife.
Wives are supposed to be the reflection of the Church in the marriage.
The passage from Ephesians starts to answer what it means for women to reflect the Church (and thereby fulfill the promise of marriage for a man) in their marriages. So let’s begin with it.
There are only two words that describe how a woman reflects the Church and one of them applies to the husband as well. The words are Submit and Respect. Men (especially male Bible teachers) often leave out the phrase ‘submitting to one another’ when they talk about the marriage relationship.
The instruction is actually to every believer. Every believer submits to every other believer out of reverence for Christ. So, IF you revere the Lord Jesus, you will submit yourself to your wife, husband, and fellow Christians. Simple.
Paul then goes on to apply the word submit a couple more times to the wife. Why? Because submission best reflects what the Church does. NOT because God wanted to give men a shame-club with which to beat their wives!
Let me cut to the chase and tell you what submission means. It means to make a mindful decision to arrange yourself under another. The Church arranges herself under Jesus. She listens to Him and strives to follow. A wife arranges herself under her husband and strives to follow. Think about it. Willingly arranging yourself under another person takes more strength of will, more character, more self-control, than nearly any other action. It takes a powerful woman to become a great reflection of the Church, to follow a husband that may or may not look like Jesus.
BIG CAVEAT HERE – husbands are NOT Jesus (no big surprise, right)! But as much as any man strives to be like Jesus and succeeds, his wife will want to follow him. If every man were like Jesus, Christian women would not be ruffled by the word submission. And we know that Jesus pours all His love and promises out upon the Church. The same is true toward every woman who is a part of the Church – all the passion Jesus has for His Bride, He has for you. You are cherished by Him. If you felt that from your husband, submission would not be a challenge. But…
If your man is failing to be like Jesus it doesn’t mean you get a free pass to stop reflecting the Church though. Peter addresses that situation with this verse,
‘Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.’ 1 Peter 3:1-2
Whether your man looks and acts like Jesus, or not, you are to look and act like God instructs the Church to look and act. (Don’t miss the promise attached to that instruction – they may be won by your good conduct)
And Peter, like Paul uses our second word, respect. It’s what Aretha Franklin wanted, right? What you may not know is that her most famous song was written and meant to be sung by a man, Otis Redding. Oops. (BTW: I learned that from Emerson Eggerich’s book Love and Respect)
The word translated ‘respect’ is in other places translated ‘fear’. In fact, just a few verses earlier Peter uses it to instruct us to ‘fear God’ (1 Peter 2:17). What can it possibly mean to fear God? The God who, through Jesus, said, ‘fear not’ more times than just about anything else He said. The God who says, ‘therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1) What could God possibly mean by using the word fear to describe how a wife should reflect the Church when it comes to her husband? We’ll talk about that next week.
For now, the challenge to wives, especially those married to disobedient men (and disconnected men are disobedient men) is to strive to reflect the Church in how you react to your husband. If you haven’t read my book, The Disconnected Man, it’s a good place to start learning how to respond, especially to a disconnected man. Also, dig into the Bible and see if you can find passages that tell how Jesus instructs the Church to respond to Him. Find three verses that clearly tell you how to look and act toward Him. (The passage below will give you a good start) Then work at imitating, regardless of how anyone responds. You’ll find that your own heart will begin to change and that kind of growth is exciting! Will you give it a try?
“…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”