Teammates: Husbands and Wives
By Tom Greene
Aug. 19, 2012
Ask a husband with even marginal biblical knowledge to quote a passage of Scripture regarding marriage, and he’ll probably quote or paraphrase Ephesians 5:22-24: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (NKJV).
I haven’t met a husband yet who doesn’t warm to those verses at least a little. But I haven’t met a husband yet (including myself) who has been able to perfectly live up to the demands of the verses that follow.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself” (vv. 25-28).
As Christian husbands, we are quick to identify ourselves as the “head of the house” while too often forgetting that we must also live up to the example of the Head of the Church. To the extent that we submit to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and follow Christ’s example, I’m convinced our wives would joyfully offer a response of biblical submission.
To love our wives as Christ loved the Church is not some call for super-spirituality. It is a call for God-ordained passion and practical, self-sacrificing expressions of love. I have a theory: The divorce rate in the United States would plummet if men would work as diligently at staying married as they did at getting married.
Ask yourself a few honest questions. When you were dating were you determined to be chivalrous at every opportunity? Did you give flowers and gifts to make an ordinary day special? Did you communicate regularly by phone and notes or cards? Did you look for every way you could find to express your love in order to impress her with what a catch you would be as a life partner?
Now run those same scenarios through the grid of your marriage. Six months after “I do,” why can’t she open the door herself? Want flowers? We have a garden.
Of course, the knee-jerk reaction most husbands offer is tied to their role as providers. We’ve all heard sermons reminding us, “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). “Hey, I’m working 40-60 hours a week,” the husband says defensively. “I’ve given her a dream home, clothes, spending money.”
But that’s the easy part. We forget that providing material things is just the tip of our responsibilities as husbands. It’s remembering to create time along with those 40-60 hours a week and share life dreams and affirm your love and simply be together that is the hard part. Offering a listening ear and a genuinely responsive heart in the midst of the rat race is a gift you have to intentionally develop.
Life comes in chapters. So does marriage. And just as there is a plot arc in a great book, there are key chapters in your marriage. The first five years can be the biggest challenge. My observation as a husband and minister and counselor has been if you can weather those first five, you will probably be on course for much of your married life. If you establish a successful game plan early on, you’re well positioned to make the most of your years with your partner.
If I were to identify another key chapter in marriage, it would be the years beyond year 25. The children are likely on their own, and you and your wife need to reestablish intimacy as empty nesters.
Pam and I have experienced all those marriage phases. Our first five years were challenging. We didn’t have much beyond our love. I still remember going to the grocery store and figuring out how we were going to eat for a week on $15.
But those early years prepared us for our years as parents and now empty nesters. And during our 39 years (and counting) together, we’ve been reminded again and again that biblical principles for a successful marriage boil down to practical expressions of love.
Do you want to love your wife as Christ loves the Church? Never forget that some of the most basic daily tactics are vital components of meeting that biblical mandate.
• Treat your wife like the royalty that she is. Be polite and respectful. Look for ways to remind her of the supreme position she holds in your spectrum of human relationships.
• Verbally express your love. Those affirmations don’t always have to be somber or serious. Inject some lighthearted reminders of your love into your conversation. “You hang up first.” “No, you hang up.” “I love you.” “I love you more.”
• Determine to make yourself as physically attractive to your wife as you expect her to be for you. If she’s going to the trouble each day of putting on that makeup or favorite dress of yours, the least you can do is attempt to stay in shape and dress appropriately.
• Set aside special times alone. I’ve seen marriages destroyed because a husband and wife couldn’t figure out how to take a vacation without the kids.
• Remember those special occasions. You’ve probably heard it said, “The best way to never forget an anniversary is to forget it once.” The same holds true for birthdays and Valentine’s Day. But don’t allow the special days to look like islands in a sea of routine. Be creative. Find ways on random days to create memories she can cherish for a lifetime.
Anytime I have stood behind a pulpit, I’ve delivered my sermon with myself in mind as well as my audience. After 39 years of marriage, my relationship with Pam is still under development. I’m striving to apply every principle I have shared.
But no matter how effectively you apply yourself to your marriage, you’ll fail your wife miserably if you fail to make Jesus Christ the foundation of your identity as a husband. From the time Pam and I began to discuss marriage, we both knew our shared faith in Christ was our only hope for a fulfilling lifetime commitment. That remains true today.
I am a strong believer in the inevitable damage resulting from an unequally yoked couple. Perhaps that expression is a little too King James for you. But read 2 Corinthians 6:14 in any translation you like, and the fact remains. You cannot establish a healthy marriage between two people with incompatible spiritual identities. And while this might seem obvious when considering Christians and non-Christians, there are more subtle considerations.
Pam and I are both Pentecostal. The baptism in the Holy Spirit and the full expression of spiritual gifts are vital to our walk of faith. If you truly understand the role that speaking in tongues plays in your spiritual vitality, why would you consider marrying a Christian who does not believe speaking in tongues is for our day?
You can also be “unequally yoked” in terms of your life philosophy. During our engagement, Pam and I openly discussed our goals for our home, our beliefs for how our children should be raised, and our dreams for our lives. We shared our convictions on family entertainment, the role of TV, appropriate music styles, etc.
No, not every detail was hammered out before marriage. We had plenty to talk about during our early years of marriage. But we set a clear outline of what our marital identity would look like. Pam and I went to the altar knowing there were no hidden agendas. We could rest assured we were embarking on a lifetime partnership and that each of us would wholeheartedly support the other.
Every couple will have their own designs when it comes to the details of their marriage. Why? Because every marriage is a different divine creation by the God of infinite variety. But the basics never change. Every successful marriage must be built on the foundation of Jesus Christ and the faithful application of His life-giving Word.
From The Game Isn’t Over: Principles for Every Inning of Life (Springfield, Mo.: Onward Books, 2011). Excerpted with permission.
TOM GREENE is the national director of Assemblies of God Men’s Ministries.
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