by John Meador
From our previous articles you may not have completely comprehended what the mystery of marriage is all about. In this installment I want to unravel it and look at what the Word of God says about marriage—particularly for husbands.
What is their role? Many people are not sure any more. There was a time when our Christian culture in America had the marriage roles pretty well defined and the church seemed to mirror that fairly well. But now we have come to a place of absolute confusion. What is the husband supposed to do in the marriage? What is the wife supposed to do? Besides just bringing home a paycheck and besides just being civil to each other, what is marriage all about?
Ephesians 5:22-26 tells us: "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; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word."
When we look at the roles that Paul gives us, we recognize just how lofty those roles and goals really are. It's hard to imagine how a man can mirror the relationship between Christ and the church in his home. And yet that is what he is called to do. God never calls us to mediocrity. And so the goal we ought to have in our marriage is that biblical ideal.
Even though there may always be some element of our life that does not live up to God's will, it is better to shoot for the ideal and fall a little short, than to aim for mediocrity and hit it squarely on the nose. Too many Christians aim for mediocrity and for culture's idea of marriage instead of God's ideal of marriage.
It has to be possible to experience God's concept of marriage, because everything Paul says is built on a firm foundation. If, as Verse 18 instructs, we are filled with the Spirit, we will be "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with [our] heart to the Lord," and we will be "submitting to one another in the fear of God." As a result, wives, you can "submit to your husbands as to the Lord," and husbands, you can be the head of your wife, "as Christ is the head of the church."
Take Verse 18 out and there is no hope for any of us. No man can live up to the ideal of Christ as head of the church and man as head of his home. No woman can submit to her husband as to the Lord apart from the fullness of the Spirit of God.
The spiritual and moral weakness that results from not being filled with the Spirit leads to the biblical role being twisted. Our concept of marriage roles formerly echoed what we found idealized on television shows like Leave It to Beaver and Ozzie and Harriet. But in reality, it was more like the Archie Bunker family, where the man took control but didn't know how to live it out. And then there was Edith, who submitted but there was nothing to submit to. Today the traditional view of marriage has been rejected by our culture and rightly so. It is the biblical role twisted, which has led to the biblical roles being rejected.
The true biblical role is neither the traditional model nor the 50-50 model, which is popular today. This "equality" view says the husband and the wife are equal in their standing before God—which is true. But then it also says that they are equal in their roles in marriage, which is not true. This pattern creates leaderless homes that have no one leading and no one following.
In redefining the biblical model, we need to ask piercing questions such as: What, exactly, is the head? And what exactly does it mean to submit?
Ephesians 5:23 tells us the husband's role is to love by being a servant and serving leader: "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." It means that which is placed on top and gives direction to the home. In the beginning, God gave Adam responsibility over all the Garden of Eden, and then He gave him Eve, as a helper suitable to him. So you have a leader and you have a helper in marriage.
But the husband's role is to love by being a serving leader. Paul gives clear instruction based on Christ being the head of the church. What is the husband to be to his wife if Christ is his model?
The word "Savior" in verse 23 is the first clue to what it means to be a serving leader. "Savior" means one who delivers and rescues—someone who takes another from danger and destruction and puts her or him in a place of security, peace, and harmony.
A Christ-like husband brings security to his wife. His principle goal becomes not just how high he climbs on a corporate ladder or indulging his hobbies, but to provide security and a loving environment for his wife and for his family.
There are a lot of things implied in that security principle. One is that the husband works to meet the physical needs of his family. Another is providing spiritual security, by providing the godly guidance and example that every wife needs and that every child needs in the home. The husband provides physical protection as well—that is, he is willing to stand in the gap to keep his wife and children safe.
You know what security says to the wife? It says, "I love you" a lot better than words can say it. We husbands ought to say it with our words, but also express it with our actions.
Husbands are called to mirror the role that Christ plays to the church. As I realize what Christ has done as the Savior, I see very clearly that a man is supposed to come to the place of willing sacrifice for the benefit of his wife. When he does, the wife looks at him and says "I will follow you anywhere," because she sees the Lord in her husband's sacrifice.
Philippians 2 gives another important role of the husband: he is to be the initiator. Jesus left His home in glory to come walk on the earth. He initiated love to us. And in the same way, the husband is to be the initiator in a marriage, the initiator of love, initiator of communication. He is to lead the way. Just as men are proactive in courtship they should remain proactive in marriage.
We write the love letters and the poems and we woo and we court. We call them at 3:00 in the morning saying, "You know, I just woke up in the middle of the night and I just have to tell you, I miss you so much." How many of you guys have ever done that? Oh, come on, come on. My wife has a box in the attic that is filled with love letters that she wrote to me and that I wrote back to her during our college years. I can remember being in Western Civilization class, which seemed like it went on forever, and in that class I would write love notes to my wife.
All the way through courtship, men initiate communication. And then it is almost like the challenge is over once we walk down the aisle, and we don't do that anymore. But the reality is, it needs to go on and on. Instead, we forget that we are to be sacrificing ourselves, even our self-comfort, in order to meet the needs of our wives.
And one of the greatest needs our wives have is communication. She needs you to be more than a couch potato with a remote control in your hand. She needs you to put the newspaper down and turn the TV off and talk. She needs to share life with you. She needs you to share life with her as though you are awake. She needs you to be very actively involved in her life.
Actually, communication is a great need we all have. I will tell you right now that it would be very disappointing if I sensed that after Jesus Christ called me to salvation and I heeded that call and followed Him with my whole heart, He never says another word to me. Boy, what a disappointing relationship that would be! But Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me." He gives us a very clear indication that He is always leading, He is always sharing, He is always speaking. And if we care to hear, we can respond to that communication. Communication is a two-way street.
When a husband invests in the life of his wife for the long haul, he is giving her security and himself the future, just as Christ provided security for us, and one day we will reign with Him forever and ever. It is the Christ life.
Proverbs 31, one of those great chapters of the Bible, ends with the writer's words about his wife: "Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all" (v. 28). Husbands, your long-range goal is that her works would have you say, "Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all."
And when you love her and when you invest in her for the long haul, in the end, that is what you get. That is what God calls you to.