UPDATED APRIL 20, 2007
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I’ve heard probably hundreds of stories over the years about allegedly Christian husbands using Ephesians 5:22-24 to bludgeon their wives into “submission” without giving one whit of thought to their own obligation to Christ. And I’ll venture a guess that far too many wives have wondered how God could be such a sadistic misogynist because of the way their husbands have treated them.
If you’re a husband who thinks the wife’s duty is to submit carte blanche to you because you’re the husband and God said so, it’s time to step back and look at what He first demands of you. And if you’re a wife whose husband who claims to be a Christian but whose life shows none of His love, I hope this site will help you start to heal.
Let’s start with the passage in Ephesians 5 that too many husbands just throw at their wives without any thought to context:
22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
I think it’s safe to say that half the truth is probably worse than none at all. OK, so according to the Bible, wives are to “submit to their husbands in everything.” But what does the rest of this passage say?
25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body. 31“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Look at verse 25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Did Jesus come demanding blind obedience just because He said so? Not at all! He did not come demanding to be served. Rather, He came to serve and to love. (Matthew 20:26-28; Matthew 23:11; Mark 9:35; Mark 10:35-45; Philippians 2:7) If your wife is submitting you but you are not submitting to Christ as His servant, then your wife is being obedient to Him but you are not. You were never meant to be your wife’s master. You were meant to be her spiritual leader. And if she is obeying Christ by following you but you are not obeying Him by following Him, you will leave your wife bitter and resentful toward you and toward God.
What rights does a servant have? None at all. A servant who obeys his master is simply doing his job. (Luke 17:10) And if you’re not doing your job in submitting first to Christ, brother, you’re missing the point altogether. The purpose of your marriage has much less to do with you and your spouse than it does with how your marriage glorifies Christ. And if you are not submitting to Christ–and if in the process you are not loving your wife as Christ loves the church–then you’re not obeying Him. The point is not your wife. The point is Christ. If your relationship with Christ is not right, then your relationship with your wife will not be where He wants it, either. And if your relationship with Him isn’t right, you’d better do what it takes as soon as possible to get right with Him and to let Him take you where He wants you. And the longer it takes you to do it, the longer you’re robbing the woman He gave you in marriage to love as Christ loves us. What’s it going to take for you to get where He wants you to be? And how long will it be before you start heading that way?
What about your kids?
I think there’s more than enough evidence that husbands who don’t show love to their wives end up with kids whose self-esteem ends up shattered and whose own faith in God is snuffed out because of their image of their earthly father corrupting their image of their Heavenly Father. If husbands claim to be followers of Christ but their lives do not show His love to their wives, don’t think for a moment that you can fool your kids. They’ll see your hypocrisy for what it is. And they’ll turn away from God in a heartbeat.
Pastors: You’re being held to an even higher standard
If the Lord has called you to shepherd His people, your ministry starts at home. Let’s look at 1 Timothy 3:1-5:
1Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. 2Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5(If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)
Here’s the deal: If you are not serving your wife and your children through the love of Christ in your heart, there’s absolutely no way you can expect to serve the rest of God’s people. It’s hard to take the speck out of your congregants’ eyes when you can’t see the tree in your own eye. If you aren’t first loving and serving your own family, then your efforts to shepherd your congregation will be in vain. You cannot serve your congregation with the love of Jesus if you are not serving your family with this same love. You might have the people skills and the Biblical knowledge to be able to fulfill the job description entrusted to you by your congregation–but without Christ’s love shining through your life, you can’t expect Christ’s blessing upon your life and your ministry. You will either be a servant to your family and your congregation with the love of Christ, serving them as you serve and follow Him, or you will lead them down the dead-end path of your own making.
Why I started this site
The short answer is that the Lord told me to. Over the past several months I’ve read news stories about a Tennessee pastor named Matthew Winkler, whose wife was convicted of voluntary manslaughter on April 19, 2007, for killing him with a shotgun blast after claiming that he emotionally, physically and sexually abused her during their 10-year marriage. I will offer no opinion on this particular case but will simply say that I’m sick of hearing story after story after story — whether true or not — that men who claim to be Christians are being accused of living un-Christlike lives, starting with their own families. If we can’t love and serve God’s people at home, then nothing else we do will make a positive difference for the Kingdom of God.
Feel free to discuss anything and everything relevant to this site.
This forum is yours. The floor is open for discussion, and I look forward to hearing from you and talking with you.
If anyone in your congregation–especially your pastor–needs to read this message, please print this out and pass it along.