Ten years ago, I made a vow before my family and friends to love and cherish my wife for the rest of my life. We unconditionally and exclusively covenanted ourselves to each other and an unknown future until death separates us. Honestly, I was clueless about marriage then. I had no idea what was awaiting me. Thankfully, my wife was better prepared. I look back at my wedding day as an inflexion point in my life because my marriage has brought me closer to God. Today, it’s my conviction that God orchestrated my marriage to save me as I was going astray.
In retrospect, my ideas about marriage were flawed in the beginning. My expectations of marriage based on what I had seen growing up and cultural norms quickly became recipes for disaster. This unsurprisingly contributed to numerous challenges in our first few years together. I think we often forget that marriage is God’s idea, not ours. As the Architect of marriage, God has laid out the principles we need to make our marriages work. Sadly, many of us ignore God’s blueprint in favour of cultural norms and worldly ideologies. There are even churches and ministers who perpetuate flawed teachings about marriage. Consequently, godly marriages are rare, and this translates to fewer role models for young people. As a result, many people today are getting married with very little understanding of what a godly marriage entails.
I often see many young people who can’t wait to get married. However, after ten years, I’m convinced that no one who truly understands what God expects of them in marriage would be in a hurry to get married. For the men, Scripture provides two fundamental requirements: First, love your wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. And second, love your wife as you love yourself [Ephesians 5:25,28]. For the women, there are also two fundamental requirements: First, submit to your husband as to the Lord. And second, respect your husband [Ephesians 5:22,33]. Both sets of instructions are commands, and they’re also countercultural. So, we’ll naturally recoil at the thought of them. Nevertheless, that’s God’s blueprint for marriage. Feel free to take it up with Him if you disagree.
It’s noteworthy that Jesus is at the centre of these instructions as the ultimate role model for both parties. God has given the husband the responsibility of headship in the home [Ephesians 5:23]. But that role is to be fulfilled in a very specific way. Headship doesn’t make a man superior, nor does it give him the right to dominate his wife and become a dictator in his home. It makes him the chief servant in the home, just as Jesus, the One who came to serve, not to be served [Luke 22:24-27]. Like Jesus, a man must give up himself in marriage. We often think of this in terms of chivalry, like the man taking a bullet for his wife. But in reality, opportunities for such chivalry are rare. However, in a godly marriage, the man must die to his ego. His choices can no longer be dictated by his ambitions or desires, but by what is best for his wife. He’s also to teach her God’s word and help her to live a godly life so that he might present her holy and blameless before God [Ephesians 5:26-27]. This is how to love like Christ. Are you willing to love your wife like this?
Our culture has made submission a dirty word, especially in marriage. But it isn’t a dirty word to Jesus. In God’s kingdom, submission is a sign of humility. It’s done without coercion out of reverence for authority. So, though God, Jesus submitted to His Father and will continue to do so for all eternity [1 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Corinthians 15:28]. He is the pattern for the wife. As such, as a wife, are you willing to freely submit to your husband’s God-given authority over you, although you’re his equal [1 Peter 3:7]? Just as there’s no battle of wills between Jesus and His Father [Luke 22:42], there should be no battle of wills in a godly marriage if there’s submission. Furthermore, the wife must die to her ego too. Because just as a man’s ego is an obstacle for him to serve his wife sacrificially like Christ, the wife’s ego is a barrier for her to respectfully submit to her husband. Ultimately, there isn’t enough room for our egos and Jesus in a godly marriage.
For years, I was ignorant of God’s marriage principles. I’d heard of them, but I just wasn’t willing to apply them. However, when we live outside God’s principles, we give the devil an advantage. So, predictably, I suffered the consequences of my ignorance and stubbornness. My home wasn’t a happy place and I certainly didn’t enjoy my marriage. However, things are different today. I would choose my wife all over again, and she would choose me too. Our kids have also benefitted from our decision to apply God’s principles in our marriage, and we have also found purpose. I can confidently say that this will remain the case for as long as we continue to apply these principles.
Although these commands are unconditional, they’re impossible to apply in our strength. We need grace and guidance from the Holy Spirit to produce and sustain a godly marriage. Interestingly, whenever I complain to God about my wife, He’s always more interested in my behaviour because I must do my part regardless of what my wife does. Lastly, if you do have a godly spouse, it’s worth asking them how well you’re applying God’s principles. It can be ego-stinging, but they’re best placed to comment on how you’re doing. Listen, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing.