“Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4) Paul’s great and universal declaration about marriage is hardly considered great today, and certainly not universally. In fact, it would be more correct today to say that marriage is honorable among some, but fornicators and adulterers are also to be honored and celebrated. Such is the pitiable state of our culture. Really, according to many translations, Paul is making an imperative declaration, regardless of how the culture regards marriage. In other words, we are exhorted and commanded to hold marriage in the highest esteem. Note the following renderings.
“Let marriage be honored by all…” (Twentieth Century New Testament)
“Marriage, in every way, must be held in honor…” (Knox)
“Let marriage be held in honor by all…” (American Standard Version)
We have a sacred obligation to preserve, defend, and protect the honorable estate of marriage, especially in a culture and climate that is desecrating this holy institution which God himself established and sanctified. Jesus forever defined marriage when he declared, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6) Note that according to Jesus marriage is between a man and a woman, God joins them together, and there should be no separation. Marriage is for life – they are no more two but one. If we honor Jesus, we must honor His description of marriage.
We live in times when marriage is under relentless attack. How can we maintain the honor of marriage? How can we sustain our own marriages in this decadent age? The Apostle Paul gives the ingredients for a successful and honorable marriage in Ephesians 5:22-33. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Just as a Christian woman submits to Jesus by humbly following the Lord’s leading, she is to follow the lead of her husband. “For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church.” A Christian wife does not want to be the head of the family; she willingly accepts the role God has given to her to follow the lead of her husband. Many women boast about being liberated from men and from God’s divine order, but not Christian women. Godly women honor God, and marriage, by honoring their husbands.
Now, when Paul declares that the husband is the head of his wife, and the wife is to submit, he is certainly not saying that the man is to be a dictator and the woman has no rights whatever. In fact, in verse 21 of Ephesians 5 Paul teaches we all are to “submit to one another in the fear of God.” If a husband fears God he better treat his wife with the greatest respect and honor. Peter echoes the words of Paul in I Peter 3:5,6 by telling wives to be submissive to their husbands, reminding them that Sarah even called Abraham lord. But then Peter adds a word of warning in verse 7. “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers be not hindered.” Remember, Peter says, the husband and wife are in this thing called “life” together. It is not all about you, husband. Be understanding and considerate of your wife – honor her! If the husband does not honor his wife his prayers may be hindered, a terrifying prospect indeed.
We know Paul is not giving the husband license to be a dictator over his wife because right after he declares the husband to be the head of the wife he writes, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her.” Continuing he says, “So husbands ought to love their own 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 the Lord does the church.” He concludes these remarkable exhortations with a grand summary of the marriage relationship as God desires it. “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.” I affirm without the possibility of contradiction that if that one statement were adhered to in every marriage there would be no more divorces. Happy husbands, wives, children, and homes would be the result, not to mention a better society and world.
Based upon these wonderful principles in Ephesians 5 let me make some more specific suggestions.
- Wives, show and verbalize respect for your husbands. Men need and want respect, especially from their wives. Do not demean him in public (or private for that matter) by constantly disagreeing with his decisions or pronouncements. I have heard women talk about how foolish and foolhardy their husbands are in front of others. Not only is that contemptuous and unwise; it is wrong. If you have a problem with a decisions of your husband take it up in private in the spirit of love, but do not shame your man in public. As a Christian wife, you are commanded to show respect for your husband.
- Husbands, do not belittle your wives in public either. Remember, Paul says you are to love your wife as you love yourself. You would never belittle or make fun of yourself before others, would you? You would not embarrass yourself in front of others on purpose, as I have seen some men do to their wives, and then laugh about it. Well, you are commanded to love your wife as you love yourself. Do not do that to her either! When you dishonor her, you dishonor yourself, and more seriously you dishonor the Lord.
- Fight fairly! Make every fight a fair fight. Now, I am not talking about a physical fight, or what we used to call in Texas, “a knockdown drag out!” I am talking about an argument, or if someone prefers a more polite term, a discussion. I believe that some marriages would benefit from some healthy fighting, or if you please discussions. What happens too often is one spouse or the other has a grievance but instead of getting it out in the open, holds it in until it festers into an open sore that is all but impossible to heal. A good lancing of the grievance before it festers would help stave off a fatal infection. In other words, get the problem on the table and work it over! Focus your emotions, however, on the grievance and problem, and not on your spouse. That is what I mean by fight fairly. Never, in the middle of an argument, say, “You are just like your mother!”, or, “You are just as worthless as your father!” That is not fair, and though it may make you feel better, and cause considerable pain to your spouse, it will not solve the issue. Now you have made matters overwhelming worse. Also, if you are not faring too well in the discussion do not resort to out of bounds blows such as, “Just like twenty five years ago!” You promised to forgive and forget. Now you wound your spouse by bringing up the past. That is not fair. Again I say, focus on the problem and not on your spouse. You are commanded to love your husband or your wife, and it is a sin to vent your anger and bitterness on your mate. You dishonor yourself, your marriage vows, and your Lord who joined you together as one. Fight fairly!
- Forgive. No one is perfect, not even you. When you misspeak, forget an important date, or show a lack of sensitivity and good sense you expect your spouse to be forgiving. Your husband or wife forgave you the last time you messed up so you need to remember and forgive too. Someone has said that love is blind, but marriage is an eye opener. If you go into marriage thinking that you are going to find perfection you are going to get your eyes opened. Again, I say no one is perfect, not even you!
- Let your husband or wife know you love him or her, in words, as well as actions. Certainly, you should show by your actions that you love your spouse, but I really want to emphasize the importance of saying the words, “I love you!” For some reason men more so than women have a problem with this. Your wife, and your husband too for that matter, will never tire of hearing the words, “I love you!” I was in a meeting one time and made that statement and after services a woman walked up with her husband at her side. She said, “My husband has never told me he loves me in all the years we have been married.” I asked how long they had been married and she replied that they had been married over forty years. I looked at the man and asked why he never told her he loved her and his reply was, “She knows I love her.” I answered, “Maybe so, but she wants to hear you say the words.” Do you know he would not say it, even after some of the other members of the church came up and joined in the conversation. They urged him, “Go on and tell her you love her.” He did not do it. I guess really, for some reason, he could not get the words out. Surely, as he said, after forty years she knew he loved her but she wanted, and needed, to hear the words. Always let your spouse know that you still love them. You need to verbalize it. “Honey, I love you. More than my mother and father. More than my job. More than my car, or my boat, or my motorcycle. I love you more than anything or anybody in this world.” Paul avers in I Corinthians 13 that lover never fails, and a marriage based upon and sustained by the kind of love he describes there will never fail.
Article written by: Jerry Dickinson