A few weeks ago, after a church service, Linda and I had lunch with friends. The sermon during the services had a reference to Ephesians 5: 22 – 25. I was surprised at how belligerent the woman became about the verse “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Her attitude was “I am not submitting to any one!”
I suppose this shouldn’t be too surprising! Men have been abusing women for thousands of years, expecting their wife to satisfy their every whim. However this is not what this passage is saying. Many men don’t read any farther than verse 24. Three small verses that for many people say it all. But wait, the corresponding command to the men is nine verses. Three times the instructions to the men as to the women. It sounds like this is more important. Let’s see what it says.
The first command; “Husbands, love your wives…” The operative word, love, is the Greek word ‘agapao’. This Greek word agapao is the root word for agape. Agape is the word that 1 Corinthians 13 is about. The word which we translate love. I have spent the last ten months writing about the different aspects of the how Paul tried to practically convey the meaning of this word to the Corinthians. Here it is again to refresh your memory. Live is patient, love is kind and is not jealous, love does not brag and is not arrogant, love does not act unbecomingly, it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth; love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. So men, if you examine your love for your wife in light of this definition do you measure up?
That first command,” Husbands, love your wives” comes with an example. This example is “just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her;” Then the text tells us why Christ gave Himself up for the church. Why? That He might sanctify her. What does this mean. The word sanctify in the Greek is hagiazo which means to make holy, to consecrate, The first definition of holy in Merriam Webster’s online dictionary is “exalted or worthy of complete devotion”. The rest of verse 26 and 27 confirm that thought; “having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and blameless.”
How does that example translate to the way men relate to their wives? You should put your wife’s needs above your own self interest. Be totally devoted to her greater good. Ephesians 5:28 confirms this. “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.”
I’ve heard an anecdote that a couple were in counseling and this came up. The husband said to the counselor, “I’ll love her when she submits.” The wife replied, “I’ll submit when he starts loving me.” I see no conditions in the biblical commands. We are each to be obedient to Christ, no matter what our spouse does.
Ass sinful creatures, we are hard pressed to obey any command much less this one. These commands are really one and the same.
The command really is to put the needs of your spouse ahead of your own needs. In this way you honor God and His Son Jesus. Really, isn’t that what life is supposed to be all about?