A Wife’s Submission; A Husband’s Love

She was his closest friend, his “tower of strength”, for more than three-quarters of his life — the woman who got his attention when she bested him in school, who ran their household and their law firm, and without whom he would have been hard-pressed to enter politics.

This is the love story of  late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his wife, Madam Kwa Geok Choo. A touching love story widely circulated.  If you haven't read about it yet, you may read it here.  Their successful love story was based on this mutual commitment, which sadly, is terribly lacking these days in marriages worldwide.  Divorce rate is on the high even in Singapore. Till death us do part? Well, not anymore (link).

I'm sharing here today, a Christian's perspective of marriage. This passage, taken from Ephesians 5:22-33, is so often heard in Holy Matrimony.  Because it is repeated so frequently, sadly, it is also often fallen into deaf ears (familiarity breeds contentment?).  Today, biblical submission, which is supposed to be viewed as service unto God, is one of the most difficult concepts in God’s Word. Yet this passage is an important passage to maintaining a healthy, godly husband and wife relationship. 

Importantly, I stress that this passage applies to both.  The husband is subject to the wife and the wife is to the husband.  The method is different according to the gender but the principal is the same for each.

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” (verses 22-24)

The basic meaning of ‘submit’ is “keep yourself under” or “put yourself under the authority of”.  It is a matter of headship, and headship means authority.  This is the fulfilment of the Genesis 2:20 “an help meet”.  She is not to be his rival or slave but his willing, loyal helper to accomplish his aims and his goals.  She is to be his help meet and his partner in what he, under God, is led to do in life.  A wife shows submission unto her husband when she allows him to take leadership in the relationship.  The woman is made essentially a follower.

The key phrase is “as unto the Lord”.  The wife is subject to her husband not because he is such a wonderful man (though it would be nice if he really is), but because she has a primary relationship with the Lord.  A woman should not submit to her husband on grounds of her husband’s merits but she submits because it is pleasing to her Lord.  It does not mean worship her husband as though he were the Lord, but submitting to him as unto the Lord without expecting returning in kind.  When a woman submits unto her husband, she is actually submitting unto God.  It is not a gift or favour, nor a subtle form of blackmail but a joyful submission out of a willing heart.  

Submission should be not confused with a person being weak. Sometimes ‘submission’ can be misused and abused.  It is easy to allow culture to change the meaning of a term, we as Christians should be aware of this and be firm in the biblical meaning.  Culture views submission as a weaker person allowing a stronger person to use him/her, a person of lesser value giving up his/her rights to someone of greater value.  Sinners often twist and pervert the term, but that is not what the Bible means when referring to submission. 

A woman is not bound to submit to everything a husband desires.  When a husband desires his wife to ‘go along’ with something not biblical, she should be obeying the Lord instead.  She should obey God rather her man (Acts 5:29).  For example, an unbelieving husband may ask his Christian wife to stop attending church.  She is not bound to obey in this circumstance but to handle this objection by seeking the Lord and asking Him for wisdom.  Her submission as unto the Lord has eternal significance and will be a testimony of the Gospel unto the unsaved husband (1 Peter 3:1-2).  A wife is not bound to the desires that reach outside of biblical obedience, she is not a slave to her husband.

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:” (verses 25-29)

By now, all of you should be able to see that it is obvious that there are more verses allocated to command how a husband should love his wife than how a wife should submit to her husband.  The Lord knows the hearts of mankind.  In a husband and wife relationship, when a husband loves his wife like the way he loves, nourishes and cherishes himself (verses 28 and 29), the wife will reciprocate naturally. The wife will submit to her husband willing, the wife will support her husband wholeheartedly, if she walks right with God.  It is almost a given thing: when the wife is faithful to the Lord, when her husband loves her like how Christ loves His church, she will submit to her husband automatically.

But just why it is so difficult that it has to be taught and to be reminded?  That’s because the particular feature of this love is self-sacrificing, which is the highest form of love.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

When a husband loves his wife to this extend, he usually find no problem in being the head of the house.  But man’s sinful nature tend to hinder this highest form of love, thus the Lord put this in His Word to teach us, to remind us.

Though men are created in the image of God, we need to take note that man (i.e. Adam) was first created then woman (i.e. Eve).  Eve was not created from dust but from a rib bone of Adam.  They were created in the image of God but were created differently and of different status.  Eve would not have existed without Adam.  In this analogy, the man must be the head of the household, the leader that is, and the wife the supporting role, the follower that is. 

When the husband loves his wife that much, he will be willing to give himself up for her.  This kind of self-giving is deliberate and purposeful.  The Lord gave Himself up on the cross for His church, in order to redeem His people by His grace.  This is the example the Lord set for the husbands to follow.

“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”
(1 Peter 3:7)

So the husband must find ways to honour his wife and exalt her in the family.  This is his role and his duty. Just as Christ is the Saviour of His church, so the husband is to be the protector and physical preserver of his wife.  Headship and authority carry responsibility with them, submission by the wife to the husband should not make the husband a male-chauvinist.

“For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”  (verses 30-33)

Prior to marriage, the closest ties are with one’s parents.  From the time of marriage, a man’s strongest and closest tie must be with his wife.  Brides and bridegrooms must recognize this and be willing to leave their fathers and mothers. 

So husbands, love your wives as much as you love yourselves, and wives, show your reverence to your husbands.  There is a great need for the display of such Christian standards in every Christian home, particularly these days.  This passage is a great reminder for my husband and I too.

All bible verses quoted above are in King James version.


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