Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God…
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. – Ephesians 5:1; 21-33
When our brain is disconnected to some degree from our bodies, we become disabled. A complete breakdown between of communication between the brain (or head) and our body causes us to become a quadriplegic.
When my body acts against my brain, we refer to the condition as things like auto-immune disease, or aphasia, or epilepsy.
Our brain naturally acts to protect our bodies from pain and harm. If I accidentally place my hand on a hot stove, my brain has an automatic reflex reaction to remove my hand from the source of pain rapidly. My brain protects my body if it is functioning normally. If my body is functioning normally, it will always obey the direction of my brain. If the body and brain are working extremely well together, it results in excellent eye-hand coordination. For a guy, he may be a great hitter in baseball.
Paul is using these facts about the relationship between our brain (our head) and our body to illustrate two other relationships, that of Christ and the church and that of a husband and wife. We can learn volumes from these analogies.
First, Paul makes it clear that the real objective of this section is not marriage, but the relationship between Christ and the church. Christ is the head (or brain, in modern parlance) and the church (we who are Christ-followers) is his body. He has such care for his body that he died for it to save it and protect it from ultimate pain and destruction. When the communication system between the head and the body is functioning properly (we are listening to the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit) we are kept from the pain and destruction of sin in our lives. The Holy Spirit functions like our nervous system; he communicates the commands from the head to the body. Every analogy is limited, so stick with me, it isn’t perfect, but hopefully, it will get the point across.
The function of the head is to love, that is to care for, the body, The function of the body is to obey, that is revere and honor, the head so the whole person can behave in a coordinated fashion and not in a spastic fashion. Paul then takes this analogy from the church and applies it to marriage. The husband is analogous to Christ, the head or brain, and the wife is analogous to the body or church.
It is because of this analogy that the husband is called the head of the wife and is called to love her in a manner analogous to Christ’s love for the church. A husband is to lay down his life to provide for, protect and love his wife, that is what Christ does for the church. The wife is to revere or respect her husband in a manner analogous to the church’s call to fear God in Christ.
There are several lessons to be learned from this picture.
- Jesus had given himself fully for us both corporately as the church and individually as member of that body of Christ.
- Jesus continually gives himself on our behalf as he dispatches the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts to purify us as his bride.
- The responsibility of a husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church. Fellas, this is a tall order. It sounds impossible and probably is, but it is still the standard given to us for how we are to love our wives.
- A secondary lesson is that our loving our wives like Christ loves the church is not contingent on having a perfect wife. Christ loves an imperfect church. Therefore, we are to love an imperfect wife.
- One result of loving our wives as Christ loves the church is that it will bring our wives closer to being the perfect wife we would like to have just as Christ’s love of the church brings us to a place of being holy and without blemish.
- Maintaining this standard will keep us humble in our love as we find ourselves regularly falling short of the mark of loving with the kind of love Christ demonstrated in his love for the church. There is no place for an arrogant, self-righteous husband.
- The responsibility of a wife is to revere, respect or fear her husband. I use the word fear here for a couple of reasons; first because that is one proper translation of the Greek term. It is used many times in the New Testament regarding the fear of God. It is the fear of reverence, not the fear of being beaten. Second, this underscores that there is an analogy between the role Christ has to the church and the role a husband has to his wife.
- The one thing a man most needs from his wife to be a happy man is her respect. A man can endure lots of failure in life if he comes home to a wife who demonstrates her respect for him.
- No matter how successful a man may be in his career, if he doesn’t have the respect of his wife, he will never be a happy man. Many other desirable traits may be missing in a wife, but if she demonstrates her respect for her husband, I will almost guarantee he will love her and treat her well.
It is critical that husbands and wives only concern themselves with fulfilling their responsibility to love and to respect.
Husbands, never, and I mean never, try to “enforce” submission and respect from your wife. If you do, respect is the last thing you will get.
Wives, never, and I mean never, try to “enforce” the kind of love you want and Christ demonstrates, from your husband. You will never get it.
Guys, if you feel your wife doesn’t respect you, take a look at how you love her. Are you acting with love like Christ toward her? Do you live as a self-sacrificing man? Let’s be really practical. Do you ever run the vacuum or wash the dishes?
Wives, if you feel you aren’t being loved as you should ask yourself, are you genuinely respecting your husband? Of course, he may not be the breadwinner you expected when you married him. Or, he may not be the handyman you want around the house. If you show respect rather than contempt, you are much more likely to find him attempting to meet your expectation.
A beautiful, harmonious marriage is one in which the head and body are well coordinated. The head is caring for (loving) the body and the body is working in submission (revering) the head. It takes practice and submission to the Lord and his word to get this right, especially if we haven’t seen it modeled by our parents. Our model for how marriage is supposed to work is not Mom and Dad, but Christ and the church and it is found in Scripture and applied by the Holy Spirit in prayer and submission to God. It’s a beautiful thing.
How can I write with authority on this subject? I have over 52 years of making mistakes in my marriage and failing to properly love and getting to repent and get it better next time around. I still have quite a ways to go, but I am on my way. I am also blessed to have a wife who is wise enough to show respect for me even when I don’t deserve it.