Marriage is sometimes used in the Bible to describe what our relationship with Christ will be like in Heaven (Revelation 19:7 is one example). Matthew 22:30 indicates that there will be no marriage in Heaven, and the implication in Scripture is that all of our needs will be fully met by Christ. In making this connection, God creates a framework for earthly marriages that reflect how our relationship will one day be with Him.
This framework is found in Ephesians 5:21-22, which says for spouses to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” In other words, out of respect for Christ and His submission to the will of the Father, we submit ourselves to our spouses within our marriages. Unfortunately, our flesh often bucks up when we hear the word submission because we think it means a sort of dominant/submissive type of relationship. But that’s not what God intended.
For the wife, submission means following her husband’s leadership in Christ. This includes deciding to be committed completely and without reservation to the relationship, cheering him on instead of trying to fix and change him (that’s God’s job anyway), and determining to build him up whenever possible. On an individual level, a godly wife can focus on developing her inner beauty as encouraged in 1 Peter 3:3-4, which says, “Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” Note that the scripture doesn’t say to NOT pay attention to one’s appearance; it just says to not give that the greater focus.
For the husband, submission means laying aside his own interests in order to care for his wife. In doing so, a husband will seek to understand and protect her and will strive to be gentle and tender with her. In addition, his leadership will be godly and without superiority. By submitting in this way, the husband is “giving honor to [his] wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together in the grace of life, so that [his] prayer may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7) What 1 Peter is saying is that a good marriage benefits a husband’s spiritual life. Logically, the opposite is also true.
As husbands and wives submit to one another “in the fear of God,” they show their trust in God. Doing so indicates a willingness to let go of self, which is the enemy to submission. They are deliberately and intentionally choosing to prefer one another. In essence, they are indicating that they are choosing to love one another in the way God designed a marriage to exist.
Within this choice is the idea of emotional harmony. The definition of emotion indicates a constant moving or agitation of strong feelings while the definition of harmony indicates a more stable fitting together of parts to form a whole. Emotions seem to exist as an individual experience, meaning a person can only feel his/her own emotions completely and no one else’s. In contrast, harmony exists only when separate wholes come together in an agreeable way to make a new whole. Harmony, then, is a shared experience. In a godly marriage, each spouse makes a choice to experience his/her own gamut of emotions and to still continually work to tune the voice he/she brings to the marriage so that harmony can prevail. This tuning is done through biblical submission within a godly marriage.
DISCUSSION: How can each individual experience his/her own emotions and at the same time manage those emotions in a way that benefits the relationship and not the individual? Can two so very different individuals bring the whole of who they are to create a better whole? Can that harmony be maintained over the long term within the framework of godly submission?
Note: This post is inspired by the sermon “Harmony in the Home” given by Pastor Steve Miller at New Hope Assembly of God on February 12, 2011.