Friday, June 25, 2010

S-Word, L-Word: What's It Matter?

This is the third post in a three-part series on Ephesians 5. Please refer here and here for the previous posts.

What would Christian marriage look like if wifely submission and husbandly love really mattered? What would happen if we truly conceived of the husband as being the head of his wife as being correlative to the wife being his body? What would it be like if Christians saw wifely submission and husbandly love as daily, all-inclusive commands, not as emergency orders to be executed in dire cases of need?

Remember, neither submission nor love can ever be forced. I mentioned this in my post on submission, though I did not expound on it in my post on love due to space and scope for clarity's sake. I will reiterate and elaborate here.

In order for submission to be submission, it must be chosen by the one submitting. Otherwise, it is merely obedience or even subjugation. In the same way, love, in order to be love must be the choice of the lover, not the beloved. Love that is coerced or manipulated is not love. Note also that, submission means that the submitter is submitting to the will of someone else. No "neck controlling the head" manipulation; true submission.

I want to make one final point in this regard, and that is regarding sacrifice. If we can agree that Christ's love was sacrificial and that the husband is called to love his wife "just as Christ loved the Church," then we can agree that a husband is also called to sacrifice himself for his wife. This means that, even as he leads his wife as the head, the husband will be called upon by God to give things up for his wife, to deny himself things so that she might benefit, and to do things on her behalf that he would otherwise rather not do. This is not an abdication of headship; it is the nature of sacrifice. A sacrifice is not a sacrifice if it is something that the sacrificer doesn't mind doing. If something isn't being overcome or given up, then sacrifice has not occurred. A husband cannot love his wife sacrificially if he doesn't conciously and willingly make sacrifices.

So, wives, what will your choice be?

Couching your own ideas so that your husband thinks they're his is not enough. Submitting only when you're at loggerheads is not enough. Submitting only when he shows you love is not enough. Will you choose to live in rebellion to God's word, or will you choose to willingly and joyfully submit to your husband's God-given headship? I'm not diametrically opposed to gray areas in theology, but in this instance, there is no gray area; there is no middle ground.

And husbands, what will your choice be?

Remember as you reflect on your options that God never called any man to "become the head" of his wife. A husband is already the head of his wife by virtue of being her husband. There's no glory in being the head of your wife. That's like saying there is glory in being left-handed or being born in June. You didn't have anything to do with it; you just are. Man is the image and glory of God, but headship is not the glory of man--as a matter of fact, woman is (1 Corinthians 11:7)! It is good for a man to live out his headship in a righteous way, and God will call him to account for his, but merely being the head is no more an act of righteous obedience than being a man. Moreover, executing his headship honorably in no way supercedes or exempts the husband's specific duty to love his wife.

To put it another way, when a husband stands before the Gates of Glory, the Lord will not ask him whether or not he took charge as the head of his wife; that was never in his job description; it was his God-given title from the get-go. The Lord will ask, though, whether the husband lived up to this title and how well he executed his duty to love his wife, to what extent and to what degree. If the husband is just waiting around, proudly boasting how he'd be willing to take a bullet for his wife should the opportunity ever arise, then he's not likely to have much to say for himself. But, if he considers Christlike love to be a way of life in his marriage, then it's Christ who will have something to say on the Day of Judgment, the sweetest words any man or woman can ever hope to hear:

"Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" (Matthew 25:23)


  1. What a powerful post. Thank you for sharing it.

    ~Mrs. M

  2. This was wonderful. I agree completely. God bless you.

  3. I agree, wonderful post--I plan to refer back to these as I think they are very helpful. I will also be sharing this with friends, and they would make wonderful topics for Bible study! Thank you again! Holly N.


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