Mr & Mrs
O what joy to be given this passage! I must tread very carefully here!
18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
Paul recognised that there are many things on earth which are a foretaste of heaven. The pattern of obedience such as children to parents and wives to husbands are a mere shadow of the church’s subjugation to the head, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. However, the standard set by Jesus as the preeminent leader suggests to me there is an awesome responsibility if you are given a position of authority, in a God-given role. The small print in this verse is the phrase ‘in the Lord’, and suggests that this principle is to be applied to those who accept the divine order of things.
Perhaps it is also worth mentioning the context of Paul’s writing. The gospel possibly caused an explosive change to the rights of women in that Roman age, the truth had set everyone free. However, there was still a holy order to maintain. The authority of a husband is a God-given responsibility and not an acknowledgement of any form of abusive superiority.
This is not one-sided, as the husband is to love his wife, and as you are probably aware there a several words of love in Greek. It will be no surprise that this version of the word ‘love’ is agape – the highest form of love sourced from God himself which is the sacrificial love, fully demonstrated in Jesus. This is far removed from any form of tyranny or negative domination. Paul makes it more explicit in Ephesians 5:25. That love of his wife should be “…just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” A high standard indeed.
Also, there is the small print in verse 19, husbands are not to be harsh. The word used is literally ‘not to make bitter’. Bitterness would be a result of uninspiring leadership or hollow love. A high standard to maintain.
We won’t get it right all of the time, but Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth said, “A good marriage is the union of two forgivers”.
We thank you for Christian marriage which is a holy triangle of love and union. We pray for the protection of those marriages in our church, to be a true witness to the love of the church as the bride of Christ. We pray for husbands to be wise leaders in their marriage and to learn to love as you loved. Also for the wives too, to attain true fulfilment in their marriage, as they submit to their husbands and both in turn submit to the Lord.