I’ve been leading a study through the book of First Peter, and we recently took a look at 1 Peter 3:1-7, some pretty interesting words for wives and husbands. Paul sums up pretty well in his letter to the Christians at Ephesus:
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her. — Ephesians 5:25
Men, it looks like we have it easy. After all, our wives have to “submit” (Ephesians 5:22), whatever that means, but we just have to “love” them. What could be simpler? Flowers from time to time. Chocolates on special occasions. Perhaps even a power tool or two she can claim as her own even though we store it on our work bench. We might even manage to mumble “I love you” just to make it clear. Submission sounds hard. It involves yielding to someone else. That someone would be the husband. Does that mean what it seems like it means? We’re in charge? We call all the shots? We give the orders? Let me know how that goes for you.
The movie, My Big fat Greek Wedding, had an interesting analogy about who’s the head in the marriage or family. The bride’s mother says that the husband is the head, but the wife is the neck who is able to turn the head in any direction she chooses. I thought that was too funny.
Let’s go back to Ephesians 5:21. Wait a minute, there’s something here about “submit to one another.” Seems like that could be a problem. Ephesians 5:22 tells her to submit, and Ephesians 5:25 tells me to love.
Take a look at that little phrase “just as Christ loved the church.” It tells us that my examples of loving (in my paragraph above) don’t really apply. Jesus never sent flowers to the church. He never picked up a box of chocolates on the way home from the carpentry shop as a peace offering. He never mumbled “I love you” through a mouthful of hamburger. Jesus loved by dying. He loved by suffering, hurting, and sacrificing. His kind of love sounds hard–almost as hard as submitting. Maybe even harder.
Loving that way might just take everything we’ve got, but here’s the deal. I believe that one of the primary reasons our wives struggle with submission is that they often have little real confidence in our love. Genuine love paves the way for submission (not the other way around). Jesus died for the church before the church was around to submit.
Real dying love doesn’t come naturally for men, face it, we’re selfish. If you figure out how to love your wife, you probably won’t have to bring up the issue of submission.