The Sanctity of Marriage: The Pursuit of Holiness
Read Ephesians 5:22-33
"As the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything, Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church."
Ephesians 5 has long served as one of the foundational passages on marriage in the Bible, yet is the one passage that is abused by some and ignored by others. For some, the passage became a club to weld in their hands to justify the husbands' domination over the wives in all things. Others have viewed the passage as an example of Paul's male chauvinism and his disregard for women. While standing on the opposites of the spectrum, both views are a distortion of scripture. Correctly understood, we see the foundation for godly marriages and insight into Christ's love for the church.
Paul writes to the men that they are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. In doing so, Paul sets the foundation for the husband's attitude toward his wife. Having set forth that the husband is to be the head of the family, Paul now describes what this means. Contrary to the male domination over women, the passage calls the husband grounded in and governed by his love for his wife. This is not "Me Tarzan, you Jane" leadership. Instead, it is leadership that sacrifices their wellbeing and desires to meet the needs of the wife. The problem is not Paul's call to men to be leaders in the home; the problem is our failure to understand biblical leadership. Biblical leadership is not about authority and power; rather, it is about becoming a servant where one sets aside their own needs to serve the one they lead (see: Mark 9:35). This leadership is governed by an eternal perspective. His leadership aims to direct his family in a life of holiness so that he is leading his family in spiritual transformation. The husband becomes the servant leader when he sacrifices himself to develop and promote godliness and holiness in his wife and children. Rather than pursuing his interests, he nourishes and cherishes his wife by providing for her needs.
This also gives us a perspective of what it means for the wife to submit to her husband. Again this does not mean that she has no say in the family's decisions, and she is to say at home in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant. The Woman of Wisdom described in Proverbs 31 is anything but quiet, meet a wife who makes no decisions. Not only does she labor to provide for her family, but she conducts business by purchasing land. The submission that Paul is referring to is submission to her husband as he leads the family in spiritual growth, maturity, and holiness. She is to support him in his role as he leads the family towards sanctification and godly transformation. She is to support him as he "brings his children up in the disciple and instruction of the Lord." Far from a hierarchical view of authority, the issue of leadership and submission is grounded in mutual love and the mutual desire to grow in their relationship with Christ. The focus is that both the husband and wife are to set aside their pursuits and mutually pursue a life of following Christ.
This not only then becomes the foundation for a loving and godly marriage, but in this, they fulfill the ultimate purpose of Christian marriage. The ultimate goal of marriage is not companionship or happiness; these are the bi-product. The ultimate goal is to pursue Christ mutually and then reflect his love for the church to the world. Marriage is ultimately grounded in redemption. In your marriage, is your goal to be happy, or is it to be holy. It is only when we pursue holiness in our marriage do we discover true happiness.