Ephesians Chapter 5:23-30 has stirred much controversy over millenia.
To circumvent conflict in marriage as to "who's boss"
before it can threaten husband-wife relationships it's essential
to delve into careful and correct interpretation of these scriptural
The culture of Paul's time encouraged men to dominate women, in
marriage and without. Unfortunately such a chauvinistic attitude
continues to this day in societies representing people of disparate
faiths, including Christianity. Unwarranted male dominance and ignorance
have resulted in abuse and divorce, discrimination in education,
job, property and sports rights as well as negatively influencing
female freedom to choose a spouse.
However, the strength and aggressiveness and other characteristics
God built into the male makeup need not be at the expense of women
to the extent of eroding marital relationships in the Christian
context. To the contrary, a closer look at spousal roles from a
proper Biblical perspective can buttress unions.
In the book "Rocking the Roles, the authors write that Paul,
drawing from the life of Christ, "colored" male headship
in marriage with responsibility, not rank; sacrifice, not selfishness
and duty, not domination. And they go on to identify the ideal husband
as more of a "servant-leader," rather than a power-obsessed
God gave man a "helper" not a slave, a partner every bit
his equal whose gifts compensate for his weaknesses. He may be the
head but there are occasions when the wife has a responsibility
for influence and input, such as when she has a higher level of
insight and experience. Caution must be observed, however, and tact
and diplomacy are recommended in exercising such prerogatives. Both
partners should humbly share views and advice paving the way for
In some cultures, even in walking along a sidewalk or street, the
wife invariably remains silent and unobtrusive, remaining some distance
behind her husband, indicative of what takes place in their everyday
male-female relationship. But in God's plan, wives function alongside
their mates. Marital servant-hood should be more like, "I'll
be your butler and you'll be my maid and together we'll staff a
happy household and avoid tension and conflicts." It's not
a matter of supremacy of husband or wife as much as building and
maintaining compatibility through cooperation, candid communication
and caring love.
Of inestimable value in heading off confrontations and conflicts
in marriage is praying for and pursuing the type of love exemplified
in 1 Corinthians 13:4-13: Love is patient, love is kind, etc. Jesus
also emphasized its importance in his lifestyle and in his preaching
and actions. The greatest commandment, he declared, is to love the
Lord your God with your heart, soul, strength and mind and to love
your neighbor as yourself. And who, of course, is a man's closest
neighbor but his lover and mate?
Jesus demonstrated his love and servant mentality in washing and
drying the feet of his disciples, astonishing considering the culture
of Judea at the time. His deep-seated love for women, dimensions
beyond affection, is indicated in Bible stories relating to the
conversion of water to wine at Cana, the woman who anointed Jesus'
feet to the consternation of conservative, hypocritical Jews and
the raising to life of a widow's only son.
It's incumbent to reflect on love and servant-hood in establishing
and maintaining a proper foundation for marriage. Is it necessary
to quibble over the meaning of headship or dominance in unions?
Obviously not but it happens and it is vital to have an understanding
of what the formula should be to ensure harmonious relationships.
And love in marriage can be preserved and energized by how well
males serve their mates with a "Jesus" approach, succinctly
phrased in Philippians 2:5: "Your attitude should be the same
as that of Christ Jesus."
Wise men exercise patience and persistence in attaining joint decisions
in full cooperation with their wives. This spirit of synergy opens
the door to God-given feminine talents, compassion and instincts
to complement gifts their husbands bring to the negotiating table.
As such, wisdom, intelligence and judgement combine from both sides
to plot a less rancorous course leading to improved relationships
and judicious final decisions. (In this connection, it is useful
to keep in mind that in some marriages wives are better educated
and more knowledgeable than husbands) In this way, wives can take
satisfaction in knowing their contributions and special talents
are getting full consideration and respect. By melding male attributes
of strength, confidence, security for his wife and others God designed
the marriage scale can be maintained in equilibrium.
Sharing of duties and workload is a prickly issue on the garden
path to happy marriages. It is well to keep in mind that our society
is long past the pat definitions and walls partitioning male versus
female responsibilities and duties in marriages and families. In
decades past, the men worked in fields of family farms, caring for
livestock and maintaining houses and barns while wives did the cooking,
cleaning and child care. Roles today are dramatically different
and demanding. Wives are often busily engaged in full-time employment
outside the home. They additionally face what is essentially a second-shift
fulltime job attempting to balance hours of hard work to carry out
household and other husband and family duties.
Consequently, even in cases where the exterior duties of wives might
be nil or part-time, a wise man does his part to feather his nest,
so to speak. He gladly wears his servant hat to pitch in with domestic
duties, to the emotional satisfaction of his mate, so often smothered
by a pressure-cooker existence.
In such circumstances, a woman feels loved and appreciated. She
revels in her lover's giving attitude and willingness to make her
life easier. Sacrificing convenience and investing time for a wife
is not specifically the way Jesus paved his road of existence as
a human but he did allude to laying down a life for a friend. And
a loving wife is a far more valuable friend than the favorite household
animal, though the way women are treated in some societies indicates
the reverse is true.
Jesus is the best example, making "himself nothing, taking
the very nature of a servant" Paul wrote in Philippians 2:7.
Rich Warren, in his book "The Purpose Driven Life, " wrote:
"No task is beneath you when you have a servant's heart."
And husbands and wives can learn from Albert Schweitzer, who said,
"the only really happy people are those who have learned to
God designed Adam and Eve-and us-for a lifetime of unique relationship
with Him and each other. No other creatures enjoy this kind of union.
Tragically the first two humans God created made a wrong choice
and sin entered the world. But God has given us His instruction
manual in the Bible and His Holy Spirit to carry out his redemptive
plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, whose shed sacrificial blood
compensates for our sinful natures and restores us to the Father.
God intends that marriage be permanent, an eternal relationship
in which partners irrevocably cleave as "one flesh," in
scriptural terms, joined as one spiritually, physically and emotionally.
That kind of unity is energized by an attitude in which partners
fuse their day-to-day relationships into a healthy lifestyle of
love, open communication and servant-hood to the other. Achievement
leads to the harmonious relationship, sexual satisfaction, joy and
peace God desires for all married couples. Such gifts bolstering
happy marriages will also nurture and ensure security for the children
their unions bring into the world and on into eternity.