Ambassador of Reconciliation
12/2/14 at 02:55 PM 0 Comments

Husbands, Love/Wives, Submit

text size A A A
John McPherson

A man is a person who, if a woman says to him, “Never mind. I’ll do it myself,” lets her.

A woman is a person who, if she says to a man, “Never mind. I’ll do it myself,” and he lets her, gets mad.

A man is a person who, if a woman says to him, “Never mind. I’ll do it myself,” and he lets her and she gets mad, says, “Now what are you mad about?”

A woman is a person who, if she says to a man, “Never mind. I’ll do it myself,” and he lets her and she gets mad and he says, “Now what are you mad about?” says, “If you don’t know I’m not going to tell you.” [1]

Marriage is challenging! Primarily because both men and women are sinful, but also because we are very different. Men are mystified by women’s minds, and women get exasperated with men’s behavior. Learning to live together successfully is a life-long process, with daily lessons. One high school student didn’t quite get it. His religion teacher read Genesis 2:24, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife,” and asked, “From this Scripture, what do we learn is important in marriage?” The student blurted out, “Cleavage.”

This fall in Bible study we are looking at women in the Bible—both the lives of specific women and the biblical model of womanhood. In recent weeks we have explored the Bible’s teaching on marriage.

Books and sermons on biblical marriage often focus on passages like Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, 1 Peter 3, and Titus 2, which speak specifically of the husband-wife relationship. [2] But we noted that all of the commands that tell how to treat other people in general apply to husbands and wives in particular. For example, the “one another” passages in the New Testament give extensive instructions on interpersonal relationships. Carl F. George has made a helpful list of the “one anothers” of the New Testament: [3]

Be at peace with one another (Mk. 9:50).
Wash one another’s feet (Jn. 13:14).
Love one another (Jn. 13:34 [2x]; 13:35; 15:12; 15:17; Rom. 13:8; 1 Th. 4:9; 1 Jn. 3:11; 3:23, 4:7; 4:11; 4:12; 2 Jn. 5).
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love (Rom. 12:10).
Honor one another above yourselves (Rom. 12:10).
Live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16).
Stop passing judgment on one another (Rom. 14:13).
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you (Rom. 15:7).
Instruct one another (Rom. 15:14).
Greet one another with a holy kiss (Rom. 16:16, 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12).
When you come together to eat, wait for each other (1 Cor. 11:33).
Have the same care for one another (1 Cor. 12:25).
Serve one another in love (Gal. 5:13).
If you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another (Gal. 5:15).
Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another (Gal. 5:26).
Bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2).
Be patient, bearing with one another in love (Eph. 4:2).
Be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph. 4:32)
Forgive each other (Eph. 4:32).
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19).
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21)
In humility consider others better than yourselves (Phil. 2:3)
Do not lie to one another (Col. 3:9)
Bear with one another (Col. 3:13).
Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another (Col. 3:13).
Teach one another (Col. 3:16).
Admonish one another (Col. 3:16).
Increase and abound in love for one another (I Th. 3:12).
Encourage one another (1 Th. 4:18; 5:11; Heb. 10:25).
Build one another up (I Th. 5:11)
Always seek to do good to one another and to everyone (1 Th. 5:15)
Encourage one another daily (Heb. 3:13).
Spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24).
Do not slander one another (Js. 4:11).
Do not grumble against one another (Js. 5:9).
Confess your sins to one another (Js. 5:16).
Pray for one another (Js. 5:16).
Love one another deeply, from the heart (I Pet. 3:8)
Live in harmony with one another (I Pet. 3:8)
Love one another deeply (I Pet. 4:8)
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling (I Pet. 4:9).
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another (I Pet. 4:10)
Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another (I Pet. 5:5)
Greet one another with a kiss of love (I Pet. 5:14).

If husbands and wives followed these instructions, there would be no problems in marriages! All of the commands apply equally to men and women. As 1 Thessalonians 5:15 says, “always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” Verse 14 gives some specifics about how to do good to others: “admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” Sometimes the wife will be the fainthearted one who needs encouragement. Sometimes the husband will be the weak one who needs help. Either might fall into idleness and need admonishment. We are all in need of patience.

Following the one another commands would be enough to make any relationship healthy, but we must not neglect the passages that deal specifically with the husband-wife relationship. These passages are often cited to show that there is a hierarchical structure in marriage, with the husband as the head and the wife in submission. They have been used to keep women in subjection and allow men to domineer. Sometimes women react against this authoritarianism and reject these passages altogether. [4]

So what does God want us to learn from His instructions regarding husbands and wives? What does Paul mean when he says in Ephesians 5, “Wives, submit to your own husbands” and “Husbands, love your wives”? We know from earlier in the chapter that both husbands and wives are to love one another (v. 2) and both are to submit to one another (v. 21), so neither love nor submission is a one-way street.

John McPherson

Paul is saying that both love and submission are to be mutual, and I have wondered if perhaps in verses 22-33 he is not so much establishing a hierarchy but rather taking human nature into account and zeroing in on respective weaknesses of men and women. Men seem to have more trouble than women in the love department. Women tend to be more caring and thoughtful and sacrificial and tender and intuitive by nature, but men tend to be focused more on themselves. They know how to love and care for themselves but have difficulty putting others’ needs first. Therefore Paul exhorts them to “love their wives as their own bodies” (v. 28). They need to be thoughtful—to think about their wives’ needs and actively try to meet them, just as they care for their own needs. As Paul says, “He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church” (vv. 28-29). Men need to recognize that they are one flesh with their wives and to love their wives as they love their own flesh, nourishing and cherishing them as Christ does the church.


Women, on the other hand, have a way of being controlling and manipulative. We may not have the physical strength or the authoritative power of a man, but we do know how to get our own way. We can exert subtle control by being scheming or passive-aggressive. We play games to get men to bend, and we know all the tricks in the book, like crying, nagging, and sulking. Therefore Paul exhorts women to be submissive and respectful toward their husbands from the heart, not with ulterior motives, not in a manipulative way, but with the same genuine honor they would give to Christ. When both partners are doing their part, the husband feels respected, the wife feels cherished, and both grow in holiness.

In the healthiest marriages I know, the whole business of authority and submission is practically a non-issue; the husband does not lord it over his wife, and the wife does not manipulate her husband. Rather, they are in an intricate dance. Both partners know each other, know their moves, and stay in step with one another. The husband may often take the lead—not to dominate but to love and guide—and the wife willingly flows with him. Other times it is wise for the husband to acknowledge that the wife should take the lead, and he humbly defers to her. In the best marriages there is such a mutual submission between husband and wife that there is no hierarchy, only harmony. One or the other may be wiser or more skilled in a particular area, but together they are better than either one alone.
Don't forget humor!

[1] Katherine S. Beamer
[2] For a look at 1 Peter 3, see “Sarah Obeyed Abraham, Calling Him Lord.”
[3] From Carl F. George, Prepare Your Church for the Future (Tarrytown: Revell, 1991), 129.
[4] Many women want no part of a system that feels oppressive to them and does not allow them to exercise their gifts. Sadly, many young women, in particular, have abandoned the church altogether because of excessive emphasis on male authority and female submission.
CP Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).