Keep Calm and Marry On


 The Hardest Word in a Marriage

If you know some basic biblical concepts about marriage, you've probably read Ephesians 5. Most people assume that what the apostle Paul had to say on marriage in this chapter begins with verse 22: "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." And unfortunately, I've met a number of men who drop that verse like a hammer on their wives.

But that's unfair to do relationally because it's out of context biblically. The idea of submission in Ephesians 5 actually first appears in verse 21, where Paul was speaking to all believers: "Submitting to one another in the fear of God."

If you're a guy and you're thinking, Wait. I'm supposed to submit to my wife? I'm saying, "You've got it." That's exactly what the text is saying. What does that look like for a husband? In a word: Jesus. As verse 25 says, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her." There's no greater act of submission than giving yourself up for another person—than being willing to die for them.

Likewise, wives are called to be subject to their husbands "in everything" (v. 24). By that, Paul meant in everything that is consistent with Christ's character—in everything that does not go against His Word. Obviously, a husband telling his wife to come barhopping with him or to neglect the kids doesn't fall in line with God's Word. But neither does physical or verbal abuse. When a man fails to love his wife as Christ loved the church, she is not required by God to submit to abusive behavior.

The attitude behind the mutual submission of a husband and wife makes all the difference. When a man sees his wife as a daughter of God and realizes he's going to answer for how he treats her, he will learn to love her sacrificially. When a woman sees her husband as God's designated leader—answerable to God for his leadership—she's going to offer him respect and encouragement, even when he misses the mark.

God established mutual submission for the same reason He establishes any boundaries: to protect you as He leads you into a closer relationship with Him and, in this case, with your spouse.

Submission also has a higher purpose. When a wife submits to her husband "as to the Lord" (v. 22) and a husband loves his wife "just as the Lord does the church" (v. 29), their marriage becomes a reflection of their relationship with Jesus—and the church's relationship with Him, too. Is your marriage in this area of submission pointing people heavenward, to the redemption we have in Jesus?

Tip #6: Broker your responses to your spouse wisely. Husbands, trade neglect for attention: Focus on your wife. Find out what she needs and when she needs it, and give her your attention. Turn your thoughts toward her thoughts and feelings, and work on expressing your own. Wives, trade nagging for grace: Ask yourself, Can I say it kindly? Can I relay the message so that he can hear the grace in my intent? And remember: timing is part of grace. Love him enough to let him be wrong and give him grace when he is