Paul is continuing with the practical application of the Christian life. He addresses how husbands and wives are to cherish and treat one another.
Paul first addresses the wife in her role of a helpmeet for her husband. We wives are told to submit to our husbands, just as the church submits to Christ. This is NOT calling us to be doormats or empty of personality or thoughts. What we are being told to do is operate under our husband’s authority. As the head of the family, he is the one responsible for our welfare. He is our covering. And like any covering, if you poke it with sharp sticks it will get holes in it and what is underneath will be ruined.
So how are we supposed to act? I find this verse a little more challenging than some others might because I’m my husband’s caregiver. I make nearly all the decisions in our home out of necessity. But bring big decisions to him and we discuss them. I also let him have the final say on the issues I bring to him.
One example is when I wanted to start giving monthly to a Christian radio station. I could have simply made the pledge and deducted it monthly. He would have been none the wiser. But as his helpmeet I brought my desires to him and let him make the decision. He doesn’t always make the choice I would have made alone but to honor God by submitting to him, I follow his direction.
Another way we submit to our husbands is to build them up instead of tearing them down. In my husband’s case, I try and avoid speaking about any of his memory issues or physical limitations as much as possible. I have gone so far as to email our medical providers updates before our appointments so they will have the information they need for his care without me having to go into detail in front of him. I can’t always do this, but any time I can spare his pride is a plus in my book. I make sure and talk to others about his previous accomplishments too. This is a big help in our relationship.
My biggest submission area is one I have been working on for a LONG time. It has to do with my attitude when interrupted. When I’m in the middle of something and am interrupted to tend to one of his needs, I used to get frustrated and end up snappy with him. It wasn’t his fault that he had a need while I was busy. I have learned to come to him with a smile instead. I sometimes have to remind myself to do this on the way too. Yes, I still get my nose out of joint when he tries to hurry me to do things “out of order” for me. I have to remind myself that he doesn’t see my reason for the order I have chosen and gently explain my reasoning. He probably won’t remember it again the next time but he still deserves a kind answer, no matter how many times I’ve said it. “A gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1).
Paul then moves on to the husbands’ role. His first words are “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (verse 25). Christ gave Himself completely for us; His church; His bride. He held nothing back for Himself. But He also didn’t compromise who He was or His purpose in doing so.
Jesus gently corrected when correction was needed. He never beat His disciples or cast them away because they didn’t “get it” fast enough. He helped them learn their role by modeling it in front of them. He gave them authority to act in His name after He taught them. He supported their efforts and rejoiced with them at their “accomplishments.” He provided for their daily needs. He protected them from the storms. He taught them how to pray and introduced them to His Father. He trusted them with His life KNOWING that they would fail at some point. He loved them, warts and all.
So how does this translate into our lives? The first step is the “love” piece. Love is not just a “tingly feeling.” It is a commitment. Feelings may come and go but a commitment to care for your spouse lasts a lifetime. Just like Jesus, don’t bail when the going gets tough. Jesus even forgave Peter when he denied knowing Him during His darkest hour. “Love covers a multitude of sin” (1 Peter 4:8).
Another way of caring for your wife is to protect her. In this day of “women’s lib” that is sometimes looked on as condescending. But a husband who stands up for his wife, in word or deed, is a real man. He is honoring her and God by protecting her from danger. This can be as simple as stopping someone from talking down about his wife, to putting her first in the life raft.
One of the things that popped out to me as I was looking at our reading is Jesus’ motivation behind His treatment of the church. His primary motivation is love but His actions result in a betterment of the one He is loving and ultimately receiving the BEST bride for Himself. He loves His bride as she is, as she is becoming, and as she will finally be. And He takes part in the process of her becoming. He is gentle and patient while also being firm. He doesn’t give up on His bride no matter how long it takes for her to complete the process of becoming His perfect partner. In fact, we WON’T be perfect until we are finally with Him. So husbands, don’t expect your wife to be perfect until then either.
Father God, I want to be a good wife to my husband. I know I’m not always what I should be or behave how I should either. I am trying though. Thank You that my husband loves me enough to bear with my learning curve too.
Thank You Father for the husband You gave me. He is not perfect but I know that I am loved by him every day. Thank You that we can support one another in our walk together. Help me always find ways to honor him and submit to him as You would have me do. I know I have to take a stand in some areas but even there You have helped me do so with love. Thank You for growing my love for him over the years as well as my love and commitment to Your plan for me as a wife.