Husband and Wife Relationships
Obey vs. Love
Husbands, how many times have you said (or thought): “My wife does not obey me.” Wives, how many times have you said (or thought): “My husband does not love and cherish me.” After all, it is in the Bible, in “Ephes. 5:22 (NIV) “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” It looks like that this is what God wants in a marriage. Of course, it also says in Ephes. 5:25 (NIV): “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
Yes, this is what Ephesians 5 does teach. Actually, the word “cherish” is not there, even though the idea of cherishing can be deduced from the passage. Most versions use the word “submit” instead of “obey” which the Living Bible does use. All versions use the word “love.”
How Do We Fulfill These Roles?
So, how do we fulfill these roles in our marriage? How can we make this work? The first thing we must understand is that this command is not making one person more important than the other one. This is not putting the husband over and above the wife. This command is establishing a Chain of Command in a marriage.
Look at any business. The CEO is at the top of the chain of command. The “buck” does stop with him (or her). However, the CEO is not the one who makes the business work. In many ways the CEO is not the most important person in the organization. It is the business manager that makes the business work. It is the treasurer (or CFO) that keeps the business in profit. In many ways, these people (and others) are actually more important to the success of the business than the CEO. However, they are all partners together and that is what makes the business work and succeed.
This is also what is important in a marriage. Neither the husband nor the wife is superior to the other. They are equal partners in a very special organization which was established by God.
So what can we, as a husband and wife do to fulfill the command in Ephesians 5? What can I do to cause my husband to love and cherish me? What can I do to cause my wife to want to submit to me and obey me? Could it be that we are asking the wrong questions?
Why We Cannot Fulfill These Roles
Have you ever stopped to think that maybe, just maybe, the reason that this does not work in our marriage, lies not in your spouse, but in yourself? Perhaps there is something you are doing, or not doing, that is not activating the correct response from your spouse. I know that it is not easy to think this. We should obey what God commands without relying on anyone else. However, neither can we expect our spouse to obey God if we are doing something to hinder it.
We need to stop and ask ourselves some simple questions. “Am I acting in a way that would cause my husband to want to love and cherish me?” “Am I following God closely enough to cause my wife to want to submit to me and obey me?” Remember, Ephesians 5: 25 does not just say to love your wife, but to love her enough that you would be willing to die for her.
The question then becomes: “What is more important to me? Is it what I feel and want? Or is it what my spouse feels and wants? Am I more concerned about myself or my spouse? These are very difficult questions to answer truthfully.
Another question we need to answer is: “Am I more concerned with being served than serving? Perhaps this is why I do not feel loved and cherished. Maybe this is why my wife does not obey me or submit to me. Wanting to be served instead of wanting to serve is something that is very hard to acknowledge in ourselves.
As Christians, we know that this is what God wants us to be doing. However, it is human nature to want to be served. This is something that very easily creeps into our lives. This is especially true if we are in a serving profession. If what we do everyday is to serve and work for others, we just naturally want someone to serve us when we get home. We feel that we deserve to be pampered after our hard day at work.
How We Can Fulfill These Roles
God created marriage to be an institution where both the husband and wife can draw strength from each other. This is one of the meanings of Genesis 2:18 (NIV): “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’”
Yes, the woman was created to help the man. However, the idea behind this creation was that individuals were not meant to live alone. Also, two identical creatures would be competing with each other all the time. So God created two creatures that would complement each other. This is what we should be doing. Yet, this is not what is happening in most marriages.
Modern America has become the “me” generation. Everywhere we turn, we are bombarded with “what will make life better for me.” Every ad we look at on TV declares that we need to make life better for ourselves. And the ads tell us that we can, just by buying their products. Shelves of books have been written declaring that we are “good people.”
Perhaps this is why we are too focused on wanting our spouse to “make life better for me.” We have bought into the idea that life is all about “me.” “If I am happy, everybody else will be too.”
If I am going to have a good relationship with my spouse, the first thing I must do is to get my thinking off myself and onto my spouse. I must put aside what I want and start thinking about what my spouse wants. I need to ask: “What am I doing to make life better for him/her?”
Of course, all of this must be answered in the light of the Scriptures. Is what I want, or my spouse wants, contrary to the Scriptures? If so, it certainly will not make life better for either of us. If what I want is going to be at the expense of my spouse, I should not want it.
This is where we need to understand why God made males and females as He did. He gave each of us different roles to play in our marriage. This is explained in Ephesians 5:22-33. The husband and wife is the earthly representation of Christ and His Church. Through the marriage relationship, we get a better understanding of how we are to relate to Jesus Christ.
The husband is the head, the CEO, of his wife. But he is also to make sacrifices for his wife. He is to love and take care of his wife in the same way he loves and takes care of his own body. The wife is then to submit herself to him and respect him. So the husband is to make the final decisions in the family, but only after he has considered its effect on his wife. He is to put his wife first in any decision he makes.
So what part does the wife have in making decisions? Are you, as a wife, supposed to just sit back and let your husband make all the decisions? Remember the part of the creation story where God says: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Gen 2:18 (NIV) Your job, as the wife, is to help your husband make Godly decisions. You are to help him think through his decisions. But you are to give him the final say.
This Gives Us a Harmonious Relationship
The answer to having a harmonious relationship in a marriage is to accept the roles that God has given you. The way to receive the best from your spouse is to live like God wants you to live. As you both do this, you will find blessings beyond your imagination.