I wrote a blog post awhile back entitled, “Submission: The Biblical Call For Wives To Make Sandwiches for Their Husbands”. While such a title is tongue-in-cheek, there is actually some real practical truth to this title.
As we are informed in Ephesians 5:22-24:
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”
This passage fits so nicely with this blog series because it is full of military language. The word that is translated to “subject” or “submit” in other translations is the Greek military term “upotassw” (hoop-ot-as’-so). Upotassw means to subordinate; reflexively, to obey: be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.
When used in a military context, upotassw means “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader”. In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.”
So what does all this mean practically? Well, it means that a wife should “submit” to her husband as though he were her commanding officer. She should follow his leading. Therefore, if we really believe what the Bible is saying here, and Paul is saying wives should be subject to their husbands this way in everything…then yes, if her husband tells her to make a sandwich for him, she should. Yikes! Pretty scary if you’re a wife, no?
Not so fast though! Douse your torches! Put down your pitch forks! There will be a time for burning me at the stake later, I assure you, but just be patient for now for it is not this day.
When we look at this passage in Ephesians that has become so infamous, and has been so often abused, it quickly becomes obvious that Paul has a great deal more to say to husbands than to wives, yet we usually don’t consider this. Only ¼ of the verses (3) in this passage address wives, while 9 verses address husbands. Interesting. What is Paul saying that is so important I wonder?
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
The husband is the head of his wife, as Christ is the head of the husband (1 Corinthians 11:3). The wife takes her orders from the husband, and the husband takes his orders from Christ. This doesn’t mean that the husband is an intercessor for the wife in her relationship with God. Just like her husband, she still has direct access to God through Christ. However, she also has a special call to obey her husband. Why? Because the goal of marriage is to reflect Christ and the church. Marriage isn’t about the husband or the wife, but about Christ.
We also learn that there is a practical purpose behind this method as well when Paul instructs husbands. Husbands are to “give themselves up” as Christ gave himself up for the church.
The husband’s orders are not to boss his wife around and ask her to do whatever he wants, like make sandwiches; rather, the husband is to sacrifice his own comfort and desires for her good.
In other words, when you think about it, husbands should submit to their wives too. Not in the same way that a wife submits to her husband, but as a sergeant who will stay behind to fight off the enemy to allow the men under his command to escape to safety. The husband isn’t really submitting to his wife, but to God, but the end result is the same: he lays down his life for her.
True leadership, the leadership Christ displayed, is sacrificial. The husband should submit his desires to what is good for his wife. If she is hungry, he should make her a sandwich! Yikes!
How can I, or any husband live up to the command to love our wives as Christ loved us? That’s a pretty hefty responsibility. The truth is we can’t, not on our own. We need reinforcements. The only way we a capable is through God’s help.
If the submission of a wife to her husband is stereo-typically encapsulated in the “oppressive” image of a sandwich request, how can we encapsulate the image of how a husband is to “love” his wife? Well, since Christ is our example, the picture is clear: the cross. If husbands say “go make me a sandwich,” perhaps wives should be saying to their husbands, “go die on a cross for me.” Haha!
Practically speaking, though, I think it is probably unlikely that I will need to physically die on a literal cross for my future wife. More likely, I will have to live for her, live for her in a way that requires dying to self, which is much harder in many ways than just “catching a grenade” for her and dying physically. What are some practical examples of what this might look like?
I could try and come up with some of my own examples, but I don’t think I could express it as well as Eric Ludy did in one of his sermons. When Paul told husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church, he was saying that husbands should be each of the following:
- The Advocate (The Defender)
My wife needs to know that I will stand for her, protect her – physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I will be the first-sufferer. As Jesus stood in the gap for me, it is my great privilege to give up my life for my beloved. Nothing touches my Bride!
- The Fan (The Biased)
I am incurably biased in favor of my wife. She is the most precious, most beautiful, most talented, most virtuous, most everything-else-that-matters woman that ever existed! I am her biggest fan! I could never breathe a negative word about her to anyone, and I can’t help but brag about her marvelousness! You go girl!
- The Boaster (The talker-upper)
I am blind to my wife’s weaknesses. As far as I’m concerned, she doesn’t have weaknesses. In fact, I can only see that which ought to be praised. I’m her self-appointed bragger. I’m her built-in P/R department. Have you seen my wife? She’s simply amazing.
- The Partner (The Helper)
If my wife needs a hand, look no further than my own. In fact, take my hand, my other hand, my right and left legs, my back, and my two shoulders, too. Put your burdens on me, dear wife. I’m built strong so that I can serve you. If a baby is crying let me go help them. If a room needs to be picked up, you stay seated and let me get it cleaned up. If a dish needs to be scrubbed, I’m on it. We are in this thing together.
- The Student (The expert, the PhD.)
If there is something to know about my wife, then I’m going to make sure I know it. I desire to be Earth’s resident expert on my wife. I must know her longings, her dreams, her fears, and her insecurities. And I don’t just know my wife for the sake of gaining random trivial data, but for the sake of serving her better as a husband.
- The Friend (The loyal-no-matter-what)
If hard times come, I will still be here. If accusations come against you, I know the truth. If you lose your health, I’ll remain by your side. If you lose your physical beauty, my devotion to you will not wane in the least. I am here, always and forever, and I consider it a great privilege to call you my dearest friend.
- The Counselor (The bringer of Truth and perspective)
When my wife is struggling to see straight, it is my privilege to be the one ready to supply God’s Word. When shadow sweeps across our living room, it is my opportunity to turn on the light of Scripture. When anxiety knocks, I must hit it in the teeth. When foreboding baits, I must strike hard and fast with the sword of Truth. When false accusation, mockery, and lies fill the airwaves, it is my privilege to trump them with the power of a Heavenly Perspective.
- The Encourager (The one who always sees the Silver lining)
No matter what, I have words of life for my wife. I must never be the source of anxiety or depression, but rather the source of life. Even in the darkest hour, I must see the victory of Jesus, and I must labor to fill her mind with thoughts that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, virtuous, praiseworthy, and of good report.
- The Thoughtful (The considerate, the gift-giver)
I must labor to keep my wife always in my mind’s eye. I must think about how she can be strengthened, encouraged, blessed, and built-stronger. I must think of special, meaningful ways to express my adoration, my respect, and my love. And I mustn’t skimp on these expressions.
- The Affectionate / The Intimate (The Lover)
I must be the sort of husband that is trustworthy with my wife’s innermost feelings, thoughts, and concerns. I must be trustworthy up-close – to handle her heart with the utmost care, to handle her inmost person with heavenly delicacy and softness. I must be the man she wants to love and be near, not the man she is just supposed to love and be near.
- The Empathizer (The Sharer of Sufferings)
When my wife is hit with any difficulty, tribulation, or trial – I will carry it with her, and if at all possible, for her. I feel her pain, because her pain is my pain. Her heartache is my heartache. Her concerns are my concerns. And her sufferings are my sufferings
Eric Ludy Sermon entitled “The 5 Arts of Intimacy”.
I was in awe after hearing Eric Ludy describe this list. He is exactly right, and I want to be all of these things for my future wife. This is the “mission” that this blog series is about—to become each of these for my future wife. I am so far away from where I need to be in these areas. I’m not even married, and I felt almost hypocritical just writing down those first-person descriptions, saying I am all of those things when I am not. Obviously, most of them can’t actually be carried out until marriage, but I could be doing more to prepare now for that eventuality.
Each one of the descriptions in this list are examples of what Jesus does for us—The Church, His bride. It’s my job to reflect Jesus’ love for the church with my love for my wife. This is what Ephesians 5:25 means when it says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Who knew one little verse could mean so much!
It’s such a huge burden that sometimes I just want to run away entirely from the idea of marriage. It would be so much easier to just live a single-life where I only have to look out for myself, right?
Of course, even if I were to remain single, that is not the correct way to live. We’re ALL preparing for marriage, or should be. We’re betrothed to Christ, and the temptation just to live for self would not make me a very good “Bride” either (it feels so awkward typing that as a man).
The truth is, a life devoted to self is not a better way to live. To believe such is to believe a lie of Satan. The sacrificial life of Christ, as difficult as it may be for our worldly minds to believe, really is the best life we can possibly live.
And yes, it may seem impossible to live up the responsibility that husbands are called to, but that’s because it is—for us—but not for Christ. Christ is ultimately the only one who can truly love, and protect, and provide for a wife the way she needs. Therefore, we need to seek first the Kingdom (Matthew 6:33), and allow Christ to work through us. It’s so easy to forget this truth, and yet everything hinges on it. This is the high ground that must be taken if we are to hold off the Enemy.