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In my last post, There Can Only Be One President, And One Vice President (Part 1), we looked at the Biblical leadership of a home. According to God's Word as seen in Ephesians 5, Christ is the ultimate head of the home. In a perfect scenario, the husband should be in submission to Christ's leadership, and the wife should be in submission to her husband's leadership as he follows the Lord.
Our families get into trouble, though, when at any time this leadership hierarchy is altered. For example, if the husband attempts to lead his family in direct disobedience to the leadership of Jesus, then there are going to be problems. Or, even if the wife is following the leadership of Christ but moves ahead of her husband in the chain of command, there are going to be problems.
Mutual Submission, Love, and Respect
There are a couple of other marriage and family issues in this Ephesians 5 passage that I need to address. If we were to just talk about the submission of the husband to Christ and the wife to the husband, then we really are only addressing part of the problem. In this passage, the Apostle Paul also discusses the concepts of mutual submission, love, and respect.
First, let's look at mutual submission. In Ephesians 5:21 we read, Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Before Paul talks about the wife submitting to the husbands leadership, He mentions that there should be mutual submission. Hmmm, how in the world does that work? What would and should that look in a Christian home? My best guess and interpretation of that verse in the context of the entire chapter would be that husbands and wives listen to each other. They converse and do their very best to make decisions as a team, after all the two have become "one flesh" (Ephesians 5:31). If the husband and wife reach an impasse and can't move forward with a decision, then we see that we follow a "chain of command" where the wife submits to the husband as the husband is (hopefully) submitting himself to the Lord.
Second, the husband is called to love his wife. In the Middle Eastern world, the majority of women are treated horribly. This is putting it mildly. They are typically treated like property, with the husband ruling his home with an iron fist. This is not what God intended for the family unit. In Ephesians 5:25-33a we read,
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself…
Husbands should love their wives with the same self-sacrificing, agape love as Christ displayed when He hung on a cross and sacrificed everything for us. Husbands should place the needs of their wives over those of their own needs. The greatest need a wife has is to know that she is loved and cared for by her husband.
And third, the wife is called to respect her husband. After the command is given for husbands to love their wives, then the wives are called upon to respect their husbands. The greatest need a man has is to know that he is respected by those around him, whether it be his wife, children, boss, co-workers, and so on. When the wife respects her husband, then she is displaying an attitude of consideration and holding her husband in high regard. She honors him in the God-given role of leader in the home.
It Just Works
The marriage dynamic and the Christian home is a fluid, dynamic organism. There's never a simple "one and done" kind of approach to fixing problems. It's a lifetime process of doing all of the things from these last two posts. There's a learning curve. It takes years of learning and practice to figure out one another because men and women are so different in the first place. Unfortunately, though, a lot of husbands and wives (even in the Christian community) give up and throw in the towel because they fail to work through these issues of mutual submission, agape love, respect, and roles of Biblical leadership.
For those of you who are married and reading these posts on marriage, I would encourage you to hang in there. Work through your problems as husbands and wives. Submit to one another, and at the same time follow the leadership structure of first Christ, then husband, and then wife. God's way is the best way.
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