Husbands & Wives

We live in a world of disposable relationships where marriages and the family are under constant attack. Much has been said about the differences that cause friction between men and women. Phrases like "Men are from Mars" and "Woman are from Venus" or comparisons of left-brain versus right-brain thinking are used to explain the different communication styles and emotional needs of the opposite gender.

The Bible, as is often the case, pre-dates all of our modern psychological fluff with the best explanation. In the fifth chapter of Ephesians God explains the different roles and needs of men and woman. These verses are often taken out of context to make Christians out to be "male chauvinist pigs." Before discussing these differences, I want to emphasize that even though the Bible assigns different roles and responsibilities to men and women, it also makes it clear that one is not more important than the other and we are all equal in Christ (Galatians 3:28).

Ephesians 5:20-33 (copied below) discusses the two primary needs of men and women. The following diagram pairs husbands and wives with their basic needs as described in this passage::

Husband/Wife diagram #1.

As this diagram illustrates, the man's need is for respect and the woman's need is for love. In terms of responsibilities to each other, we have the following cycle:

Husband/Wife diagram #2.

When the husband loves his wife and the wife respects her husband, then the relationship can continue with unity and teamwork which, with God's help, will be the type of solid foundation from which the couple can face the challenges life will inevitably give.

There are many reasons why relationships fail. It is truly puzzling how a couple can go from having warm and affectionate thoughts at the mention of the other's name to thoughts of utter disdain and contempt. At the heart of the matter is a disruption in this Biblical cycle, illustrated by the final diagram below:

Husband/Wife diagram #3.

She doesn't respect him because he doesn't love her because she doesn't respect him because he doesn't love her... and on it goes in a vicious and escalating destructive cycle. This crazy cycle feeds itself and spins recklessly out of control until love has been replaced with hate and each thinks that the other is to blame.

So what can be done? I suggest a 2-step Biblical model.

#1 - Women should show respect to their husbands. This is particularly difficult to do when the husbands are acting unloving and ungodly. However, it is God's command for women, and it does not only apply when it is easy. Paul even tells Christian women married to non-Christian men to show them respect and possibly even end up saving them by their witness (1 Corinthians 7:13-16).

#2 - Men must show love to their wives. By this, I do not mean that they should buy flowers on Valentine's Day or chocolates on their anniversary. Men are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church. How much did Christ love us? He loved us so much that He died for us, and even stated prior that the greatest love someone can have for another is to die for them (John 15:13). This is the type of love husbands are told to have for their wives.

The Bible, often to the dismay and disdain of modern thought, describes the man as the head of his family. It does so by stating the following chain of authority: God is the head of Christ who is the head of man who is the head of woman (1 Corinthians 11:3). This is often described as archaic, chauvinistic, and ignorant. I propose to you, however, that this order of authority is not only correct because God said so, but logical and functional in even the most "modern" home. The crucial component is whether or not the husband is doing his duty by loving his wife in the same way that Christ loved the church.

I once heard a speaker state that of the hundreds of couples he counseled that were experiencing marital problems, 100% of the difficulties could be traced to the husband failing to love his wife. He acknowledged the possibility of exceptions that he had not encountered, but said that this had been his experience. I was at first offended by this generalization and tried to find "exceptions" to this rule, but the more I looked the more I came to find this to be true. The broken link in most broken marriages is the husband's failure to love.

Yes, the husband must be the head of the family. Yes, he bears the responsibility of making the final decision on debated matters -- But this is not done as a dictator or sovereign ruler but rather as one who loves his wife so much he would die for her and would, of course, carefully consider all she thinks and has to say. This is the foundation described in Ephesians 5 (below) and the foundation for a lasting and loving relationship.

Ephesians 5:20-33 (KJV)

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

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