If you are in my circle, you may have a small view of what has been going on over the last year or so in my marriage. This view may lead you to believe that I may not be the best person in the world to speak on this topic. You may be right about that. On the other hand, with what God has done in my life and in the life of my marriage, I might just be the perfect person since I have seen and been involved in both the good and the bad. I don’t know but regardless, he we go…
I have been studying what a biblical view on marriage and in particular a biblical view on being a husband looks like. I want desperately to be the kind of husband and father that first honors God, second honors my wife, and third honors the rest of my family. I think I am making progress.
As I have been listening, reading, talking, and taking notes, I have noticed that my interpretation on what the Bible says has changed. At first, because of my own arrogance and pride, I would twist the scriptures, in my mind, into an untrue interpretation that backed up how I was feeling. Scripture that I couldn’t distort, I would glance over, and immediately pretend that I hadn’t actually read at all. As healing, forgiveness, grace, and growth invaded my marriage, the passages began to spring to life and force changes that were not easy but at the same time, with Gods loving embrace, were not altogether hard either. The thing that has made the biggest impact on me has been the biblical definition of a husband, and Gods perfect example of how to be one, that flows throughout the Bible.
Lets start with the obvious; Ephesians 5:22-33.
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.
This passage has caused so much controversy and to be honest, when I was first going over it, it bugged me. Not understanding the ideas of headship and submission, it was hard to swallow. As I looked deeper into it though, suddenly a light went off. The key to it is that “husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”. That is a phrase of scripture that is loaded with all kinds of meaning. How exactly did/does Christ love the church? And how does this apply to me?
Christ died for his church. Obvious right? Well hold on, there is far more to it than that. Husbands are called to lay down their lives for their wives, and I believe that to most men this much is easy, but what else did Christ do? If we go back to the book of Isaiah, we can see God referring to himself as the husband and the nation of Israel as his bride. Isaiah 54:5-10 shows God (husband) calling Israel (bride) back to himself. God says that he will always take her back, no matter what, with everlasting kindness and compassion, unfailing love and in a covenant of peace.
These ideas are further explored in Jeremiah, chapter 3. Here God is referring to his bride as an adulteress of such epic proportions that she has “the brazen look of a prostitute”. Even so, he begs her to come back so that he can bless her and forgive her. He longs too bless this prostitute-of-a-woman, no matter the lengths she has gone to show him disgrace. In other words, if we are to follow the example of God, there is no limit to the love, compassion, understanding, patience, and grace that husbands are to give to their wives.
The above examples are reactionary but the Bible has even more to say to husbands on the proactive front. Looking back at the Ephesians passage, we see the church (again, the bride) referred to as part of the body of Christ (the husband). Husbands are to “love their wives as their own bodies”. This means that whatever may be going on with our wives, we must consider it as going on with us. She is a part of us in the same way that our hand is a part of us. If our hand is injured, we need to tend to it, cradle it, help it to heal. If our wives are “injured” (insecurity, fear, worry, self-consciousness, etc.) we need to tend to them, cradle them, and help them to heal.
At the same time, we would not shove our hands into a fire because they would burn, and we should not shove our wives into the figurative flames of abuse, ridicule, judgement, or condemnation, because that is where they will burn. It is our jobs to build up and strengthen, not tear down and destroy.
While our bodies require food, exercise, rest, and the like, our wives require things too. She needs to feel loved, needed, taken care of. She needs to know that she is beautiful, understood, respected and appreciated. She needs her husband to treat her better than himself and she needs to trust that he is there as a competent leader. As we groom ourselves, so should we groom our wives. Teaching, providing, loving. It’s our job and should have a priority at least as high as that of taking care of ourselves, because she is part of ourselves.
As I learn these things, I am coming to understand that “being the head” of my wife is not what I imagined. Being the head is actually all about submission. I submit myself to her by looking after her and taking care of her in the same way that Jesus submitted himself to look after the church and ultimately sacrifice himself for it.
I must sacrifice all I am and all I have to be the head of my wife, and that is a job that is biblical, challenging, and the most precious job that I can imagine.