9th November 2014

Marriage: headship & submission

Some of what the Bible says about marriage can offend us, because it doesn’t line up with what society says. We need to understand that what the Bible says is for our joy. It’s for our flourishing.

If I could go back and speak to unmarried, 22-year-old me, there are a number of things I would tell my younger self. Firstly, marriage is a covenant, not a contract. The difference between covenant and contract is that the first asks, ‘What must I give?’, but the latter asks, ‘What can I get?’

If you are married, whether you’re a Christian or not, your marriage is a reflection of the covenant between Jesus and His Church. Jesus laid down His life for the Church, and the Church submits to Him, knowing that when we are hidden in Him, we have all the blessings and benefits of that.

Marriage involves dying to self. It is a covenant that involves laying down our lives and submitting. Submission is a deeply unpopular word today. Sin has distorted this and created an on-going struggle between men and women, and some men have abused headship and others have abdicated their responsibility.

There’s a misconception in regards to equality, that submission means there can’t be equality. That doesn’t make sense, even in society, because though we all have equal value, we have different roles and responsibilities: society couldn’t function without leadership. Also, though, theologically, there is equality in the Trinity, but Jesus said that He came to do the will of the Father. He submitted Himself, though He was still equal with the Father.

We need to understand what men and women are and fight for that. My wife flourishes when I take my responsibility seriously. When I let her be her and she lets me be me, our marriage is stronger. So the second thing I would tell 22-year-old me is to allow her to be her.

The third thing is that I would tell myself to remind her of true beauty every day. The primary focus of 1 Peter 3:5-6 isn’t ‘who are you submitting to?’ – it’s ‘where do you place your hope?’ John Piper puts it this way: “The deepest root of Christian womanhood mentioned in this text is hope in God… A Christian woman does not put her hope in her husband, or in getting a husband. She does not put her hope in her looks. She puts her hope in the promises of God.”

We live in a society that is more concerned by our looks than by our character. What receives more attention from you: is it your outward appearance or is it your heart?

Lesson 4 would be that trusting me is a scary thing! To trust me with her heart, which is precious and needs to be cared for and nurtured, is a scary thing. Peter tells husbands to understand their wives. Your wife’s heart desires to be known by you; she wants to be known and understood by you. Don’t just assume; understand.

The Bible says that if a husband doesn’t honour his wife, his prayers will be hindered. It’s as if you mistreat your wife and then go to her Father and ask for a favour and are surprised when He is more interested in how you’re treating His daughter!

The fifth thing I would tell unmarried 22-year-old me is: Aled, if you never get married, Jesus is enough for you. If you are single, married, divorced, widowed – whatever your situation, Jesus is enough. Marriage is not the goal of the Christian life. Building a strong relationship with Jesus has always been the goal of the Christian life. There is no replacement for Him. He will always be enough for you.

Image: 1 Corinthians 13:4 by Ron Doke

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