Click here for the reading: Ephesians 5:22-33.
The pattern of marriage is Christ and His church. After that pattern man and wife should live. If the church cannot imagine not submitting to Christ or respecting Christ, then the woman should not imagine not submitting to her husband or respecting her husband. If the church cannot imagine making light of Christ’s authority or blathering to someone else about how stupid Christ is, then the woman should not do the same things to her husband.
If Christ would never not give up His life for the church, then the husband should never not give up his life for his wife. If Christ makes it His aim to sanctify and cleanse His bride, then the husband’s goal in marriage should also be his wife’s sanctification. If Christ became one flesh with His church, then husband and wife should leave father and mother and cleave to one another and become one flesh. None of this would be what it is without Christ, and none of it makes sense except in Christ.
Portrayals of love and sacrifice from the man will be easier to preach than portrayals of submission and respect from the woman. Father’s Day is usually a fiery sermon about how much men need to do to man up. Mother’s Day is a gentle paean to the innate glories of the female sex. This should not be so among us. We can no longer delude ourselves that abstract “equality” is anything other than a pretty lie. We must attend to Scripture, which shows two fallen human sexes (only two) with their own attendant besetting sins.
The man will want to shirk his duties because his father Adam did so. He won’t want to sacrifice or to nourish and cherish someone else’s life because he’s got his own to worry about, and Satan will use his laziness and inaction as an opportunity. He will seek easy comfort over hard purpose and self-love over the love of his wife. In this path of least resistance he will even submit to her leadership because although it is not sacrificial, it is surely easier than leading.
The woman will want to rule over her husband as her mother Eve desired to do. She won’t want to submit to him and his leadership because it’s irksome and she knows all his foibles anyway. She won’t want to respect him because he’s a man and Netflix has shown her how stupid and venal men are. “No one ever hated his own flesh,” but perhaps husband and wife – one flesh – have from time to time despised and regretted each other’s existence. Perhaps something more exciting is out there – one day.
We cannot live in this way because Christ and His church do not live in this way. The church is not in rebellion against her Lord and His leadership, His protection, His guidance, His love. Christ is not shirking His duties and allowing His bride to coddle her resentment, her self-seeking, her assertion that she does not need any Man. If Christ and His church live in harmony and love, can’t a man and a woman do likewise? This mystery is profound, and I am saying that in speaking of Christ and His church, we are also speaking of husband and wife.