A unique place to serve God—marriage. Ephesians 5.21-33
Think of it: ~a man could marry a woman, when she was not even five years old, and consummate the marriage by the time she turned nine … ~a woman could be horribly abused by her husband, but had no right to obtain a divorce … ~a husband could beat his wife ‘at will’ and not get arrested or even punished … ~a wife had no right to tell her husband ‘no’ (for any reason) to sexual relations ... ~a wife had to share her husband with three other wives at the same time, and could have nothing to say about it
Truly, life in the first century was not easy for a wife … she was the property of her husband, and had virtually no rights. Then again, the above examples were not from the first century, but acceptable parameters under Sharia law … today. Sharia law is practiced in at least 34 countries.
Here’s the thing—when we read Scripture, we usually look through our own lenses—what it looks like from our perspective, our part of the world, and in current day, right? As we look at Paul’s teaching that closes out Ephesians 5, we must be broad-minded. When Paul wrote, his word to husbands about loving their wives was absolutely revolutionary! While a wife was of course expected to be courteous, even submissive, to her husband, there was no owe-ness on husbands, until Paul … until Christianity. Jesus was the first on the scene to treat women with love and respect—to look past their gender and social mores—and into their hearts.
From Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” - “Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.
Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.
Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.
No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband.”
There it is--husbands and wives loving one another, endeavoring to serve one another, because God loves first. (And yes, we remember the beginning—when at the very start—God created Adam first, and then Eve, to be his helper, which does indeed give her a submissive, supportive role to her husband. And conversely, gives Adam the role of protector, provider and shield to Eve, his wife. It is the ying and yang of the created sexes when the two become one. As it was meant to be->beautiful!)
Life takes its toll … business, pressure, a pulling from this way and that, but in truth, marriage provides a forum for natural service. I think of when Jesus talked about ‘whenever you did it for the least of these, you did it for me.’ (Matthew 25) Because when we give of ourselves, to whomever—wherever, with right motive, our actions bring glory to God. When we serve our mates selflessly, in turn, we serve God.