My post on divorce yesterday struck a nerve with a few people.  I understand.  It is an emotionally charged subject and for some the topic is a very bitter one from either personal experience or through seeing parents go through a divorce.

One thing I want to be abundantly clear on – God’s grace permeates through all of this, and I don’t want anyone to think that because they have gotten a divorce and perhaps have subsequently gotten remarried that they stand condemned forever.  My thoughts yesterday were mainly centered around the idea of remarriage and how Jesus guides us in this.  One thing that I have seen in my years of ministry is people who end up in a cycle of divorce and remarriage or unhealthy relationships.  It is a proven fact that 2nd marriages fail more often than first marriages, third more than second, etc.  Mainly because there is often an attitude about marriage and problems with both parties that never really end up being addressed.

Basically, when you marry it is no longer about you.  Many times this is not taught, and worse, not modeled.  Not just out is society, but in the Church as well, and we wonder why the divorce rate is climbing and the collective attitude about marriage in general is sour.  Far too many people go into marriage in order to have their needs, both felt and unfelt, met.  When you go into it with that expectation – either party – it will lead to disappointment.

Now after 15-years of marriage I am still working on applying this.  I can be selfish, self-centered, stubborn, and want to make sure my needs are being met.  I can be a complete jerk.  That is backwards – it isn’t how marriage is supposed to be.  Paul paints an excellent picture of marriage as being symbolic of the relationship between Christ and His Church.

First let’s see what Paul says to the wives:

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, (Ephesians 5:22-24, ESV).

Now I know there are feminists who would love to rip this passage out of the Bible.  “That’s sexist!” they cry.  “You are a male chauvinist if you interpret that literally,” others may say.  At best some would just look at those of us who teach this as being old-fashioned.

On the other hand there are men and pastors who have interpreted this to mean that women are to be doormats and subservient to the wishes and desires of the husband.  That interpretation of this passage is, I’ll put it nicely, flawed.

The Greek word for “submit” seen above (or “be subject” in some translations) is “hupotasso.”   It is a Greek military term that means, “to arrange troop divisions in a military fashion under the command of a leader.”  When used in a non-military sense it means, “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.”  Submission isn’t something to be demanded, but freely given.  It is voluntary, not forced.

Wives are to voluntarily cooperate, voluntarily “give-in”, put your husband’s needs before your own.  Carry his burden so to speak.  Not because it is demanded of you, but because of the love you have for him.  Just like the church does this for Christ, we certainly obey yes, but we do this out of love because of what Jesus did on our behalf, (Romans 5:8).

Now something that is often overlooked by those who demand submission is the verse that precedes the passage above, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ,” (Ephesians 5:21, ESV).  Same Greek word – “hupotasso” applied to everyone, at least those who claim to follow Christ.  So husbands we are also to carry a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, etc. to our wives.

And all those who follow Christ are to do this with every brother and sister in Christ.  Paul exhorts us in Philippians to “do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” (Philippians 2:3-4, ESV).

Paul gets specific with the guys in Ephesians 5.

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. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, (Ephesians 5:25-29, ESV).

Gentleman we are to love our wives by giving ourselves up for her.  To watch over her and guard her.  To encourage her and pray for her.  To love her as we would our own selves.  How did Christ love His church?  By dying, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8, ESV).  Men who would do this would not abuse their wives, cheat on their wives, lie to their wives or exercise a dictatorial style of leadership over their wives.

Simply put both husband and wife are putting the other first.  Marriage means sacrifice, not to sacrifice begrudgingly, but out of love.  I guarantee you that when marriages start to look like this our divorce rate will go down.

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