Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Marriage, Like Christ and His Church

Paul, in Ephesians 5, talks about the relationship of a man and his wife, and how it is similar to Christ’s relationship with His Church.

Christ is the Head of the universal Church (Eph 5:23), and the Church is subject to Him. After all, Christ paid the ultimate price for the sake of the Church; He bore the wrath of God on Himself on the cross so that the Church (the collective members of the Church, that is) could be forgiven of sin. It seems to me that submitting myself under the authority of Someone who loves me so much that He would give His own life for me is a natural and joyful thing to do.

And so Paul says that the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the Head of the Church. Wives are to submit to their husbands… This is by God’s design, and is based on the order of Creation. There would be no problem if a husband would love his wife to the same degree that Christ loves the Church. But that doesn’t usually happen.

This is the thrust behind Ephesians 5:22-33, summed up in the last verse: “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Love and respect – this is the heart of the issue.

What women need is love. Men need respect. Problem is, men aren’t so hot at loving, and women sometimes are found lacking in the giving-respect category (not that we men give them much to work with!)… Thus Paul’s repeated reminders here: Man, love your wife! And Woman, respect your husband!

It’s an amazing cycle actually… as the husband feels respected by his wife, his honest desire is to love her more and more. As the wife feels loved by her husband, she naturally wants to build him up with respect. It’s totally a win-win situation.

So why don’t we do it?? When I feel disrespected, why do I respond with anger and hate? Do I really think that is going to draw out expressions of respect for me from my wife? Of course not. Instead, I have to make the conscious choice to love even if I am feeling disrespected, and eventually respect will come. Same goes for women… not feeling loved? Try some respect, and surely love will be returned eventually (if not immediately).


What do you think? Have you experienced these feelings yourself? Do you think these principles from Ephesians 5 can help your marriage? I’d like to hear about it…


  1. Emerson Eggerichs has a fantastic book called 'Love and Respect' all about this topic. Highly recommended!

  2. I don't know if you really want my comments on this as a non-believer, but I'm bored at the hospital while I wait for the train, so I'm going to give them to you anyway. :p

    I really don't understand the asymmetry here. Aren't husbands also deserving of love, and wives also deserving of respect? To make the analogy "God is to the Church as Husband is to Wife" is incredibly insulting to women. But I admit that if, for the purposes of this conversation, we're taking the Bible as truth, I don't have any way to argue against it. I think this is just one of the instances where I don't understand how anyone can reconcile the Bible with the realities of modern society.

  3. Randy, of course I want to hear your comments. You bring good perspective on all topics.
    As you point out, husbands certainly do deserve love and wives deserve respect. It is not an exclusive one or the other kind of thing. More like both/and... But the reason for emphasizing it this way is because, 1. Respect speaks to men more than love, and love speaks to women more than respect, and 2. Men need the reminder to love and women to respect. It's not easy for us...
    I don't find anything insulting toward women here. I believe women find security in a husband who loves them as Christ loves the Church.
    I also don't believe these principles are at odds with modern society... I think a lot of modern people would be delighted to see these principles at work if they would only give them a shot.
    Hope you didn't have to wait too long for that train...

  4. I'd like to hear some women weigh in on this issue... :)

  5. Bobby, thank you for blogging about this topics. It's extremely interesting and relevant. I will be honest and say that as a Christian woman I have struggled in the past with the concept of submission. At the heart of that struggle was the idea of trust and probably broken trust by men in my life. There's also historical evidence that demonstrates systematic abuse of the idea of submission which kept (or keep) women from achieving their God-given potential. Taking that into consideration it is important to look at what the passage is actually saying. It has been my experience after two years of marriage that both submission (or if I may suggest - deference) and the giving of respect requires a Christ-like love that puts the needs of the other above ones own. It is a mutual deference, a changing of your thinking from "I" to "we". Example - I want to go out with my girl friends but I check in with my husband first, ask him if it's ok - out of respect because decisions made are not just about me and my needs, but his also. Both husband and wife need respect from each other. You do not demonstrate love if you do not respect the person. I agree that the passage is really speaking to the core needs of a husband and the core needs of a wife. As a wife I need to know that my husband will put the needs of our family above his own preferences. To get specific, that might mean that he will sacrifice playing a video game for the sake of meeting the need to get groceries or doing laundry. Those kinds sacrificial acts make a wife feel secure in the love her husband has for her. To love your spouse requires a great deal of self sacrifice - of dying to yourself or what comes natural to you for the sake of the other and of the marriage. Like Christ we are called to die to our own preferences and desires and to seek what is best for the other not for the sake reciprocity but because we are called to be like Him. Jesus has earned our respect by dying on the cross for us and loving us when we did not deserve it. For my part submitting and respecting my husband is often easy because he treats me with respect and values my opinions, insights, and he considers my emotional needs. Sorry if this was a little long....

  6. Thanks for your thorough response Maggie! It is good to hear your take and experience.
    First, I like your word choice - deference. I wonder if there is a difference between that and submission... Thanks for sharing how this area has been hard for you in the past. I know sometimes men are not worthy of respect or following, but does that mean women (his wife in particular) shouldn't respect him? I would ask the same of men... Should you only love your wife when she deserves it? Granted, these cases are harder, but I think they are precisely the path of blessing in a marriage.
    There is also certainly a mutual aspect to this as well, just as you say. In fact, the final verse before this passage starts (Ephesians 5:21) states that very thing. It seems that from v. 22 forward Paul is focusing on the differences... Not that the similarities don't still exist.
    I suppose my next question would be: Are men and women different? And, is it possible for them to be different and equal?
    I think in this case we may get different answers from the Bible and modern society, or if the answers are the same perhaps the path to arriving at the answer is different. But I believe the Bible lays down principles that even modern society would benefit to follow.

  7. I completely agree that a wife should respect her husband even if he is not worthy of it. Likewise a husband should love his wife even if she is not worthy of it. Also I that men and women ARE different and that difference does not unequal make. Sometimes we can get that confused. I will think of a more thoughtful response in the days to come. Currently engaged in a really deep exchange about Communism and Christianity on Facebook. My brain is getting a real work out this week! :D