Marriage equality is a tenuous topic at the best of times, given any human’s propensity to waver so much between the poles of submission and aggression.
To aggress a partner is to take too much of what is just for the self. To submit onerously to a partner is to receive too little of what is just. Then there is the Christian commitment to “mutual submission.”
The apostle Paul addresses the Ephesians on marital relationships in Chapter 5, verses 21 and following.
The first astounding thing he says — which is not astounding at all when we think rightly about it — is that both husband and wife are to submit to each other: out of respect/reverence for Christ; for what Christ has brokered for them individually, and in partnership, at the cross.
Verse 21, then, handles the couple’s commitment, individually, to the other.
Verses 22–24 are instructions for the wife to “submit” to her husband’s leadership — as the church submits to the headship of Christ. Men, what power we have! But, men, let us not get ahead of ourselves...
For, verses 25–33 (yes, that’s nine verses versus three, as instructional for husbands versus wives) lay out for the male partner what is required of him as “Christ” to the “church,” his wife. A husband has triple the instruction, and is set, perhaps, in the powerful position, but his responsibility is infinite.
Can a husband suffer for his wife like Christ suffered for the church? Can he sacrifice himself for her as Christ did for the church on the cross? Finally, can her husband serve her as Christ willingly came to serve and not be served? Husbands, this is an incredibly tall order — enough that, with diligent consideration for what it actually means, would make us groan in despair.
I think this is Paul’s point. He makes it achievable for wives to obey his instruction, whereas husbands could only hope to aspire to an elevated standard that reaches into holiness — of which all us men will fail and fall.
Jesus makes the same point in his Sermon on the Mount. His teaching is too high to attain to all the time, which propounds how grateful we ought to be for grace. We can never be “good enough,” and we are eternally fortunate that Christ is “good enough” for us!
Husbands, it would be better to learn how to submit to our wives, as Christ submitted to the Father’s will and was hung on a tree for her. Then, our wives will trust our leadership. Wives can only “submit” to trustworthy and humble husbands.
A husband’s commitment to the Lord,
Insofar as his wife’s security,
Is to love her like Christ loved the church,
Which is the test of her husband’s maturity.
Don’t forget what Christ has done,
For the church he went to the cross,
The lesson there for the husband,
Is to consider Christ truly his boss.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.