God created the institution of marriage when He created Adam and Eve. He told us through His Word that men are to love and honor their wives, and women are to respect their husbands. Our marriages work better when we follow God’s design. Even our conflicts are useful, if we encourage one another to be more like Christ — more loving, compassionate, forgiving, and patient.
Ephesians 5:33 (NKJV): Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
1 Peter 3:1, 7 (ESV): Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands. … Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel.
MODERN MARRIAGES ARE IN TROUBLE … EVEN CHRISTIAN ONES.
WHY IS THIS?
Some marriage counselors point to the obvious culprit of “selfishness,” in which both the husband and the wife marry their partner for self-centered reasons.
Their energy is focused on making certain their spouse makes them happy.
Yet, a marriage that survives in a loving and tender way requires the opposite energy — selflessness, in which the husband and wife are asking, “What can I do to make you happy?”
So, instead of husbands and wives taking from their partner, they give to their partner.
GOD INTRODUCED MANKIND to the marriage covenant while he was in the state of innocence, in the Garden of Eden, before sin entered the world.
Marriage was a “good” thing that God designed to bring one man and one woman together “as one body,” in which each partner brought his/her strengths to the relationship, covering the other’s weaknesses.
The Holy Bible tells us that God made man and woman in His image, so we know that in creating Adam, the first man, He took some of His characteristics (such as courage, bravery, and strength) and gave those traits to him.
WHEN HE MADE EVE, the first woman, He took other characteristics of Himself (such as beauty, grace, and charm) and gave those traits to her.
Both were created to be equal in God’s eyes but with different characteristics and abilities so as to complement each other and prepare them for different tasks.
God didn’t leave the marriage life to chance.
GOD GAVE US DIRECTIONS on how husbands (men) and wives (women) should act and react, think, speak, and desire in this intricate and delicate relationship.
The marriage relationship, the Bible tells us (Eph. 5:32) is so fundamental that it mimics the relationship between Jesus Christ and His Church.
In that model, the husband takes the sacrificial role of Jesus, while the wife takes the obedient role of the church.
UNFORTUNATELY FOR MANKIND, most of marital history has occurred after the Fall, when sin entered the world.
Part of the curse God proclaimed was that Eve (and subsequent women) would desire to rule her husband Adam (and subsequent men), while God placed ultimate responsibility for the marriage’s success on Adam (and his successors).
This tension set up the current difficulty in marriages, where the husband and wife wrestle with each other, usually in quarrels, arguments, and ultimatums, to gain the upper hand, when God wants us to work out our issues peacefully.
Yes, our struggles are useful for smoothing the edges in our relationships, but in the end, we’re to find a common level of accord. That can happen either by chance (not effective) or by following guidelines set by God (effective).
GOD SPOKE THROUGH HIS APOSTLES to guide men and women in their marital roles.
Both Paul and Peter point to this maxim: Men (husbands) are required by God to love their wives, and woman (wives) are required by God to respect their husbands.
Well, counselors tell us that men crave respect more than love, while their wives are more willing to offer love; and women crave love more than respect, while men are more willing to offer respect.
So, God tells us to focus on the trait our spouse most desires and that we have the most trouble giving.
VARIOUS AUTHORS HAVE EXPRESSED this point in recent books.
In Sacred Marriage (Zondervan, 2000, 2015. p. 11), Gary Thomas asks:
“What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”
Emerson Eggerichs, in Love And Respect (Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2004), said this about what God expects of husband and wives:
“Wives are made to love, want to love, and expect love. Many husbands fail to deliver. … Husbands are made to be respected, want respect, and expect respect. Many wives fail to deliver.” (Kindle, p. 5)
What happens, Eggerichs asks, if husbands and wives fail to act according to God’s design? He writes:
“[W]ithout love from him, she reacts without respect; without respect from her, he reacts without love.” (Kindle, p. 6)
WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?
In every case, when we are obedient to God’s design, we benefit; when we chart our own course, we fail.
God knows us. He created us, so He can tell us what will work and what will not work.
We need to listen.
We can use the wisdom that God gave to Solomon as our guide:
“Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17 (NASB)
Another translation says it this way:
“As iron sharpens iron, so people can improve each other.” – Proverbs 27:17 (NCV)
Our marriages are designed for husbands and wives to challenge one another to become more holy, more committed to God, and more committed to one another. Through that connection, we are to become the “one flesh” He intended.
OUR GRACIOUS HEAVENLY FATHER, we humbly come to You, repenting of our selfishness, as we (husbands/wives) seek our own pleasure, our own happiness, our own needs from our spouse, when You have designed us to serve our spouse, to seek his/her happiness over our own. Lord, You showed us how to do this when You stooped before the Apostles and tenderly washed the encrusted dirt from their smelly feet. O Lord, how much love the Savior has for His creation. Create within us, Father God, a new heart. Remove our hearts of stone, O Lord, and give us hearts of flesh. In the matchless name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray. AMEN