Some years ago I owned a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible. I got an amazing deal on it, and it was in perfect condition. I loved to drive that car. But the problem was the color: Tropical Turquoise. I liked it, but no one else did. So I would drive the car around, but my wife wouldn’t ride with me. She said she felt like we were in a parade. When I would take the car to pick up my son from surfing, he would say, “Dad, could you not pick me up in that car?” The only one who would ride with me in the car was the dog.
But wherever I would go in the Bel Air, someone inevitably would ask, “What year is it?” And why did people want to know that? Because it was amazing to see such a gorgeous car still on the road. You just don’t see classics like that very often anymore.
The same is true in marriage. When you have been married 30, 40, or 50 years, that is pretty unusual today. But your marriage can turn into a classic too.
Having said that, I want to also say there is nothing this culture offers that will help a hurting marriage. For the most part, our culture is hostile toward the family today. So where do we find the help we need? We find it in the Bible.
The Bible’s instructions for marriage are current. They don’t need to be updated or refreshed. They don’t need to be rewritten to align with what is politically correct. They just need to be implemented, because they are God’s words on how a marriage should work. And every couple I know who divorced was not following these biblical principles.
I’ll begin with what the Bible says to husbands: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. … So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:25, 28 NKJV).
Guys, there is no getting off the hook here. You are to love your wife. But what does the apostle Paul mean by “love”? It is translated from the same Greek word, agape, Paul used in 1 Corinthians 13 when he wrote:
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (verses 4–7 NLT).
Are you loving your wife in this way? That is the kind of love Scripture tells husbands to have.
Realistically, I think most men would say they are falling short. I would be the first to say that I don’t always love my wife this way. But this is what we should aspire to. It is not something abstract or passive. It is active. It is functioning. Love doesn’t just feel patient; it practices patience. It doesn’t just have kind feelings; it does kind things. Love is only love when it acts.
Now we’ll look at what the Bible says to wives: “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. …” (Ephesians 5:21–23)
These verses are not implying that men are better than women. They aren’t. Nor are women better than men. They are just different, that’s all. And when God calls a wife to submit to the leadership of her husband, it is not saying that women rate any less than men. The fact of the matter is that we have equal access in our relationship with God.
I realize that some people choke on the word “submit”: I don’t like “submit.” I don’t do submission. Really? Actually, we all do every day. When we get in our cars and obey the traffic lights and the signs, we are submitting. When the government demands we pay taxes, we submit and pay them. When we have a job and an employer, we submit. When we have a teacher who tells us to do an assignment, we submit. We are all submitting in life. So I am not convinced when someone says they “don’t do submission.” They do. They are under authority and are perhaps in authority over someone else. That is just the way society works. And God has an order in the Christian family as well.
But notice that before anything is said about wives submitting to their husbands, the Bible says, “Submit to one another. …” That means marriage is a partnership. And it means that you have your mate’s best interests in mind. You want to do whatever you can to lift each other up and to build each other up. You are his No. 1 fan and vice versa. That is the idea of submitting. We are holding one another up, building one another up.
You are partners. I have a difficult time recalling an instance in 38 years of marriage where I have said to my wife Cathe, “We are going to do this, because I am the head of the home.” I always talk over a decision with Cathe, and I value her input. I value her wisdom. I listen very carefully to it. And we usually come to a decision together. A wise man will listen to his wise wife. But there is an authority structure in the home. Even so, there are still limits to submission. If a husband ever asks his wife to do something that is unbiblical, she is not expected to submit to him.
May I make a suggestion? Stop reading each other’s mail. By that I mean, a husband needs to stop quoting the verses about the wife’s responsibilities to his wife, and a wife needs to stop quoting the verses about the husband’s responsibilities to her husband. Each should be focusing on their part and doing what they are supposed to do. Just do your part, and watch what happens.
I understand there will be differences in marriage. In fact, there is no one more opposite than Cathe and I – we see everything differently. And when you put two people together, you will have differences. Yet in our culture, somehow those differences have become irreconcilable.
They don’t have to be. If your marriage is hurting, there is hope today. Come to God and ask him to help you. He has given you the instructions. The question is, will you start following them?