Because of the society we live in, we tend to sugarcoat God’s Word. This is no less true than in God’s instruction on marriage. Being a man, I tend to focus on the man’s role in marriage, trying to give an unbiased approach. And indeed the man must be aware of his wife’s needs and desires, loving his wife — as Paul writes to the Ephesians — as his own body (Ephesians 5:28, New King James Version). Scripture does tell us that a man must leave his own family to be joined with his wife and the two of them should become one flesh (Genesis 2:24, NKJV). Easier said than done, but God’s plan is that they become a new entity, a new family — a new body — formed with respect and love for each other and for God. In Malachi 2, God admonishes the husband not to deal treacherously with the wife of his youth — God has joined them tightly in one flesh and one spirit. “And why one? He [God] seeks godly offspring” (Malachi 2:15, NKJV).
In ancient societies, and some societies yet today, the woman has no recourse if her husband tires of her and rejects her. God’s instruction is that this is wrong. Moses allowed divorce only because of hardened hearts (Matthew 19:8, NKJV). God never intended it to be so. On the other hand, we have entered a society where, because of political correctness, that it is difficult to even discuss the proper biblical role of man and woman in marriage. As a church we have been guilty of sugarcoating God’s word regarding marriage, not wanting to be considered sexist or insensitive.
Again, I am talking about the role of man and woman in marriage, not about equality in society or the workplace. In Ephesians 5:23, Paul writes that, just as Christ is the head of the Church, so man is the head of the family. As head of the Church, what example does Christ set? Christ came to serve (Mark 10:45, NKJV) not be served. It is the husband’s job to provide for the family. Christ gave Himself for the Church, willingly dying so the Church might live. The husband is called upon to give himself entirely to his wife, to protect, provide, encourage, help and strengthen — he is to put the needs of the family before his own. Likewise, the wife in a Christian marriage is called to go above and beyond — sacrificing her own individuality for the sake of the marriage, submitting to her husband, to follow his lead as he follows Christ. When tough decisions must be made, it is the husband’s responsibility to make them and the wife’s responsibility to back him up. Peter holds Sarah up as an example for Christian wives. “For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror” (1 Peter 3:5-6, NKJV). Sarah obeyed Abraham even when some of his decisions were potentially disastrous (see the story in Genesis 20).
Peter tells us that it is the wives “chaste conduct accompanied by fear” (1 Peter 3:2, NKJV) – not fear of her husband, but fear and faith in God — that wins the day.
Wesley Higgins is pastor of Celebration Church of God, Ontario. He can be reached in care of The Argus Observer, 1160 S.W. Fourth St., Ontario, OR 97914. The Argus Observer weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.