So far we have considered the role of the husband in a Christian marriage. But what about the wife? What is her responsibility?
Here we are told that the wives are to “submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Eph. 2:21: NKJV). The text goes on to elaborate: “For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church. . . Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (vv. 23,24).
This is an extremely difficult concept for many women to swallow, especially American women. We are used to thinking in terms of freedom and equality; and we want to read the values of American democracy back into the Bible. And submitting to someone else’s authority just runs counter to human nature. Why would anyone want to do that? And so marriage should be a “50/50” proposition, we say, and the wife should not be required to do anything that she does not want to do.
But how many of us, husbands or wives, are willing to be subject to Christ? As Christians we are all members of His church, and He is supposed to be our Head. If we are living for ourselves, if we are going through life simply pleasing ourselves, we are not submitting to Christ. And if we have not turned our lives over to Christ as our Lord and Master, are we really Chirstians?
As for the wife, then, her duty is to submit to her husband. The passage ends by saying that she is to “respect” her husband. The Greek word that is used here is actually another form of the same word for “fear” that was used in verse 21. (The old KJV translated it “reverence.”) The wife is to take her husband’s authority seriously and always respect it.
In a healthy marriage a husband and wife should be able to talk freely with each other about everything. A wife is her husband’s most intimate companion and confidant. A good husband will want to know what his wife thinks about things. Whenever possible they should try to reach a consensus. The very fact that the wife thinks differently from her husband and has a different perspective helps make that final decision a better one. But after they have discussed a matter and no agreement was reached, it is the husband’s decision to make. If they are still arguing and bickering after that the wife is just plain not submitting to her husband. The ensuing acrimony will poison the relationship.
But at this point someone will protest: “What Paul is describing is an ideal situation. But we do not live in an ideal world. We have to deal with reality as it is.” God knows all that, but He still expects us to obey Him. The key is found in verse 22: wives are to submit to their husbands “as to the Lord.” Your husband is not a perfect human being, and there will undoubtedly be times when you will not feel like obeying him. But do it anyway for the Lord’s sake. Do it because Christ wants you to. This is a situation in which we need to learn to “trust and obey.” We must make it our aim to do what Christ wants us to do, and trust in Him to take care of us and meet our needs. To do anything else is to surrender to evil.
Our Creator know what He was doing when He ordained the institution of marriage. He created an arrangement designed to meet the deepest physical and emotional needs of both a man and a woman. When both the husband and the wife agree to submit to God’s plan for marriage, it can be a supremely satisfying relationship. If fulfills a romantic ideal and can be one of the greatest joys we experience here on earth. But when we are determined to do it our own way, the result can be devastating. Domestic strife, emotional estrangement, and eventually divorce are commonly the result.
The reason we are often such poor husbands and wives is because we are such poor Christians. If we were to have Christ work through us, if the fruit of the Spirit were more fully manifested in our lives, there would be a lot less acrimony in our homes. Romantic love depends on a good relationship, and a good relationship depends on Christian character. In marriage, as in every other area of life, the lesson is unmistakable: God’s way is always best! “Let Him have His way with thee!” (Cyrus S. Nusbaum).