Husband’s role or wife’s role – which is harder?
This article goes with the recent Part 3 sermon on “is God Sexist?” though I focused more on what God tells us the role of husband and wife is – and even more so, what they are supposed to be depicting: the union of Christ and his Bride, the Church.
First of all, let me state that for 95-99% of us, a good marriage takes a lot of work 24/7, all the time. Maybe even for 100% of us. It takes a lot of self- sacrifice and dedication to bring joy to each other. I also believe there are many marriages in the Body of Christ who are just hanging on but are not enjoying the bliss and joy that a godly marriage should have.
How many really truly great and happily married couples (who are past their honeymoon first 2 years) can you think of? And even of those you think are happily married and truly delight in each other almost all the time – it might surprise you to learn when they’re by themselves, it’s not always so great. I can think of maybe 19-20 couples out of the hundreds or thousands I know whom I’m pretty sure are delightfully happy with and still madly adoring of each other most of the time. Even among those who’ve been married for 40+ years, I think a lot of them, at best – are “companions”, sticking it out, but they could sure be happier. And I wonder how often they express loving adoration for the other and exhibit that love by their kind and loving actions with each other.
Now to my question: Who’s got the harder role or function – the believer wife or the believer husband? Probably most of you would instinctively respond – “the wife, of course!”
Wives are basically told to submit themselves to their own husbands as they would if Christ himself was their husband (“as unto the Lord”) (Eph. 5:22). Verse 23 reminds wives that just as Christ is head of the church, that a husband is the head of his wife. It goes on to say, “Just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be subject to their own husbands in everything” (verse 24).
I don’t believe these verses are being preached much anymore. At least I’m unaware of it. Wives are told to be submissive and to respect their husband. 1 Corinthians 11:3 – where it speaks of woman and man, is translated as “wife” and “husband” in some translations, which to me makes sense: “the head of the wife is her husband”. Titus 2:4-5 adds that a wife is to love her husband and be obedient to him.
That last paragraph is taken as a synopsis of Ephesians 5:22-24, 1 Peter 3:1-6; Titus 2:4-5 and 1 Cor. 11:3. Yes, this is what God’s word says. It’s all there. It’s super, super tough to want to submit to someone, let alone someone you live with. Super tough.
Let’s also remember that Ephesians 5:21 starts the section by saying we are to submit to one another. So as I pointed out in the sermon, there are plenty of times we husbands should also submit to what our wives suggest and desire – as God himself told Abraham to do what Sarah wanted when it came to Ishmael. So we hope more husbands will remember this point too.
And also remember that our roles are for that spouse to fulfill. Husbands are nowhere told to make their wives submit. Wives are nowhere told to make their husbands more loving. Submitting is what a godly wife chooses to do – and men will at times too. Loving as Christ does is something a godly husband also chooses to do.
Husbands (see Eph. 5:25-30) are basically told to love their wives in the same way as Christ loves the church, giving himself for his wife. We are also to follow his example of presenting his Bride to himself and seeing her as being without spot or wrinkle – without fault in his eyes. Men are told to love their wives as themselves. In other words, we are NOT to nit-pick, we are NOT to constantly find where our wife has fallen short or not measured up. Yes, I’ve done that in the past, but am striving to make that a thing of the past.
Yeshua (Jesus) says those in charge are to serve, never lord it over those being led, nor make a point to prove or exert their authority (Matthew 20:25-28). We don’t see our Yeshua barking orders and demanding submission all the time. We just don’t. In 1 Pet 3:7 husbands are also admonished to learn to understand their wives and to honor them, as co-heirs together of the grace of life.
Husbands are also told to bring happiness to their wives and to be satisfied with their wives and rejoice with them (Proverbs 5:18-19; Deut. 24:5; Ecclesiastes 9:5). I brought all that out early in my recent sermon. (Ephesians 5:25-30; 1 Peter 3:7; Matthew 20:25-28). We are admonished to love our wives the way Christ loves the church! Super tough.
Hmm. How are we doing?
All of the above is covered in more detail in the recent Part 3 Sermon on “Is God sexist” – and how we are to depict the relationship of Christ and his church. I hope you will listen/watch the video.
One important point to make is that there is no caveat or exception given to these commands. They’re more than just suggestions. We’re not told we must do our part – but only if our spouse does his or her part. I don’t see that there.
Wives are NOT told to submit themselves but only if their husbands “earn” or “deserve” their submission. There’s no statement that this applies only to husbands who are gentle, kind, loving, respectful and patient. And many husbands ARE mean and tough.
IN the same way husbands are NOT told they have to love their wives but only if their wife is a submissive and wonderful wife; but no love is needed if their wife is a horrible and unsubmissive wife. It’s not there.
Nope, those caveats are simply not there. Nope, nopity, nope, nope, nope. Not there.
And yet, let’s face it: that’s how many of us live. But whose role is tougher.
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We ACT like we CAN somehow justify our disobedience to God’s word (and that’s what it is) and not live out our role as a husband or wife in the way God commands us to – because our spouse is not living up to her or his part.
If our wife is not deserving of our love because she’s impossible to live with at times, we men justify refusing to be loving to her. And if your husband is mean at times 0r insensitive to your needs, many wives simply will not cooperate or be submissive to him at all – and some won’t even give him any of his conjugal dues or let him lead in the home – until or unless he “smartens up” or “backs off”.
Am I right?
Remember, these mandates to husbands and wives are not of my invention or really even a choice we have IF we are going to claim we obey God and his word. My read is that I am to put in 100% effort into my marriage regardless of what my wife might be doing and vice versa – and let God be the judge. And marriage takes a ton of work.
In Paul’s day, he wrote the Corinthians that they should do their best to stay together and not to divorce (1 Cor. 7:10-11). But he was also having to deal with a lot of marriages where only one spouse was a child of God (i.e., had God’s holy spirit – Romans 8:9, 14). To those he admonishes they stay together if possible (verses 12-14). He even says the unbelieving spouse is sanctified (set apart as holy) by the believing spouse. You need to carefully read and study this passage, especially if you’re in that very situation.
Paul goes on: but if the unbelieving spouse does leave the marriage, separates or divorces the spouse who is a believer, Paul explains that the believer is not bound to the marriage in those cases (Carefully read 1 Cor. 7:15-16).
1 Corinthians 7:12-16 – “To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?”
If we take our eyes off the ball, and if Christ isn’t the living head of each of our marriages, any one of our marriages – including mine – could end in miserable failure at any time.
I also believe we’re in the fight of our lives against Satan’s attacks on our marriages and relationships. He’s constantly pumping propaganda out there to weaken our resolve. We need to wake up to this fight and get in the battle against his evil moods and spirits and fight back at him and fight FOR our relationships and marriage.
But even from our pulpits at church services – can we say we’re hearing all the above being preached regularly and strongly by God’s shepherds? Can we? If not, why not?
So back to my original question: Whose role is harder?
The answer is …. BOTH wife and husband are to depict Christ. He’s the standard. So both roles are equally difficult, I believe.
Our Messiah is the standard for wives – by his perfect submission to his father, to where he even said he wasn’t here to say or do anything except what his Father wanted. Please read John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38-39; 12:49-50. What a great example of total and absolute submission, love and obedience.
Our Messiah is also clearly the standard for us husbands – by his unfailing love for us, his bride, in spite of the many times WE fall short to be a good or perfect wife to him. We are to love our wives the way Christ loves the church, giving himself for her, and presenting her to himself as without fault or blemish – but perfect – even though we all know that at the moment we fall short of being able to say we are without fault. But thanks be to our Lord, he washes us from our sins and faults, so he CAN be the one to present us faultless. He took on himself our failings. “He made him who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” --2 Cor. 5:21. Hmm…. Think about that, men. Take the blame, take the fall for your wife’s mistakes, as our beloved Christ did. Praise him, glorify him.
Jude 24-25 “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, 25 To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen”
Yeshua is our covering. We are “hidden in Christ in God” – Colossians 3:3. HE is our life now and HE is whom God sees when he looks upon you and me.
When our wives slip up, we husbands are to be their covering and bring them joy and not make a big issue out of slip-ups – just as we see in Christ and his relationship with his bride.
I’ll add this too, men: if we’re kind, loving, gentle and doing everything we can to bring happiness into the marriage, we’ll be a lot easier to submit to.
I hope we’ll all ferociously fight back against Satan’s attacks on us and our marriages and present ourselves to God as ONE, working together. We fight on our knees in prayer and get constant refills of God’s power, endurance, patience and love to fight Satan’s attacks.
Husbands and wives: we are not in competition with each other. We have roles to play out – together. We should be like a well-tuned dancing man and woman who move as one and are a delight to watch. We are to rule our dominion together. We are made in the image of God – together. We are one body, one flesh, moving as one – in harmony and looking more and more like Yeshua our Messiah.
Because we together – picture Christ and his Church. Let’s not let God down on this. Who knows, maybe you and I were born for such a time as this. Let’s do all to the glory of God.