The apostle Paul, writing to the church at Ephesus, laid down some very good guidelines for husbands and wives. To the men he said, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). To the women he said, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). That kind of relationship brings about a lack of tension in marriage.
The husband should be willing to sacrifice himself for the wife’s good. If he loves her enough that he is willing to give himself for her, even as Jesus did for the church, then the wife will be willing to submit to his leadership. She will know that he is always looking out for her good and always willing to put her interests ahead of his.
By the same token, a wife has the ability to make her husband the head of the household by urging him to take his proper role as priest in the home. She should encourage him to seek God, to find out what God is telling the family to do. She can build her husband up and, by being willing to submit, give him a sense of responsibility so that he will assume his proper role.
The one who always insists on “rights” will destroy the marriage relationship. If the husband says to the wife, “You must obey me because the Bible says so,” he is going to alienate her. At the same time, the wife who refuses to submit to the husband and fights him all the time will make him apprehensive about following the Lord. He will start thinking, What if I get a message from God? All I am going to get is opposition from my wife, so I might as well just follow my own desires and let her follow hers. Such attitudes will pull couples apart, whereas God’s standards should draw them together.
The husband who departs from God’s laws, and insists that his wife do the same thing, has lost his mandate of authority. God did not give the husband a mandate to break His law, to abuse his wife, to become involved in bizarre sex practices, or to lead his wife into stealing or lying or cheating or drunkenness. But as long as the husband is following the mandate of the Lord, the wife should submit to his leadership, even though she may disagree with it.
God’s standard is true, yet in many marriages, the wife is more able than her husband. Regretfully, a woman with great abilities sometimes marries a man who does not have much ability. This wife must resist the temptation to dominate her husband. Her husband will sometimes make decisions that the wife feels are wrong. She must either gently persuade her husband that he is wrong, or else pray that God will change her husband’s mind. A woman has voluntarily surrendered a portion of her autonomy to her husband when she marries. She must trust God that His way will work out. However, a husband who wants his wife to deny God, to engage in group sex, or to commit an act that is obviously against God’s law has lost his authority. The wife’s first allegiance is to Jesus Christ and she must follow Him. She cannot submit to what is unlawful or unnatural.
It is important to remember that husbands and wives are partners. Someone has rightly pointed out that woman was taken from the side of man, not from his head or foot. She is not to dominate her husband, nor is she to be supine and let him walk over her as if she were a doormat. A husband and wife are to be partners in life and are to share a living relationship that acknowledges that the man is the head of the family as long as he is submitted to Christ.
In summary, a person must dedicate the totality of his being to a self-giving love for God. Every aspect of his nature must focus on loving God. To illustrate, a person would break the great commandment if his spirit was partially centered on making money to the exclusion of God; or his mind was centered on high fashion, pride, or revenue; or his body was centered on gluttony, alcohol, or nicotine. God demands every bit of all of us!
This is why no human being can satisfy the demands of God merely by going to church or observing external religious ceremonies. No one can say, “I am a good person.” In fact, keeping God’s commandments is impossible unless you have the Holy Spirit dwelling within through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ fulfilled the great commandment perfectly, and He is the only human being ever to do so. Through His blood and His Spirit within us, we can live in a way that pleases God. On our own it is impossible.