Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Ephesians 5:22-27 (ESV)
These words of Paul have caused no lack of pain and distress in marriages throughout history. Yet these same words have caused an abundance of joy and freedom for men and women throughout that same history. How is this so? In the case of the former, “submit” means “be a doormat.” In the case of the later, “submit” is more biblically understood. Indeed, in the case of the later, the husbands who are exercising their headship are doing so with a clearer sense of how Christ himself exercises his headship, and are striving – by God’s grace – to love their wives with the same self-sacrificing love that Christ has for his bride, the church.
Bryan Chapell’s Each to the Other: Marriage as it’s Meant to Be is an amazing contribution to this discussion. I only wish I had known about it earlier.
I’ve talked with many women who worry about Paul’s command to “submit,” but who have next to no concept of what Paul is saying. They do not see his command as freeing because they cannot imagine a submission that is not tyrannical. Thus rather than enjoy the fulfillment God intends by complimenting another, these women live in long-term unhappy relationships dominated by their own desire for control instead of trusting that God himself is the one who truly is in control. Chapell’s book aptly describes biblical submission, a self-sacrificing submission to a man who is leading with self-sacrificing love. Woman will find true freedom within God’s boundaries.
On the other hand, I’ve met men who view their headship as license to be lazy, selfish and proud. They spend money without consulting their wife because they’re the head. They refuse to help with chores because, after all, they’re the head. They expect to be served because, once again, they’re the head. They’re the head just like Christ and as we all know, Christ never stooped down to do menial work like wash dishes or babies or feet … er, oops. Chapell’s book powerfully speaks to true Christ-like headship.
Because a husband’s headship should reflect the ministry of Christ, the head of a home is Christ’s chief representative there. A wife and children should better know the love of their Savior through the head of the home. He is to display Christ’s grace, making sure that God’s standards guide the family and that his love governs its relationships. In short, the head of a home is to be Christ to his wife and family – Jesus should shine through him. This is an immense responsibility, so overwhelming that it requires every man to humbly seek God’s aid.
This is a great book. Now that I’ve read it, Each for the Other is taking a place alongside Dave Harvey’s When Sinners Say “I Do” on my shelf of essential books for marriage. Are you preparing for marriage? Read this book. Are you newly married? Read this book. Are you going on 10 or 20 or 30 years of marriage and still not entirely sure what submission and headship is really about? Read this book! Thanks to Bryan Chapell and his wife Kathy for an outstanding guide to understanding God’s word as it relates to our marriage relationships!