A lot of major issues that people have with the Bible are directly related to people taking verses out of context. Often times, this results in confusion and occasionally even abuse. Let’s face the facts: slavery in North America was “justified” in God’s name, as were the Crusades, the Inquisition, witch hunts and so on. We could never deny that horrible things have happened when people distort and abuse a source of power; the Bible being no exception. Marriage is a Biblical institution. Therefore, commands in the Bible regarding marriage are fully capable of being distorted and taken out of context, which could also easily end in confusion and possibly even abuse. I want us to take a brief look at a few common commands in the Bible regarding marriage and iron out some areas of concern that I’ve heard before.
Ephesians 5:33 “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
Q: Does this mean that wives are exempt from loving their husbands and that husbands are exempt from respecting their wives?
A: The first thing we need to is understand the Biblical perspective of marriage. Ephesians 5 points out that human marriage is a representation of Christ’s relationship to his church. Paul rightfully labels this as a “mystery,” and shows us that our marriages are a mere shadow of the God’s relationship with his people. So does this mean that wives are required to love their husbands? Well, does the Bible command that we are to love God? Of course! Jesus says in Matthew 22:36-40 that loving God is the greatest commandment! Therefore, if marriage is a representation of Christ’s relationship to his people, where Christ is the husband and his people are the wife, then the answer is obvious. Wives are called to love their husbands as well, because we (the church) are called to love God. We see this explicitly in Titus 2:4 where older women are told to teach younger women to love their husbands. This is not a suggestion, but a command.
Regarding husbands, we see that they are to love their wives as they do themselves. This verse calls for a little introspection: “Would I feel respected by my wife if she did not love me?” The answer is no. Love is a foundational human need. I must also ask myself: “Would I feel loved by my wife if she had no respect for me?” Absolutely not. So, if I am to love my wife as myself, and I need love to feel respected, but I also need respect to feel loved, then the answer is obvious—I am to respect my wife as I respect myself.
Therefore, if we isolate these verses without taking the greater picture into context, we have lopsided, unbiblical marriages. Unfortunately, we could easily see how confusion and abuse could ease it’s way into marriages if we do not study the meaning and purpose behind marriage as it is laid out in the Bible. This is not God’s design. Husbands must love their wives by also showing them respect. Husbands must treat their wives as themselves, and husbands want respect. Therefore, they respect their wives. I would love to meet a wife that is disrespected by her husband that still feels loved. Likewise, wives must love their husbands. Marriage is a symbol of Christ and his church, and the greatest commandment is for the church to love Christ. Iit would be difficult for a husband to feel truly respected if he wasn’t loved. Marriage is not totalitarian. The design for marriage is mapped out from the early pages of scripture to the end. While the Bible does lay out specific roles within marriage, let’s not take important passages out of context or think little on the subject.
1 John 4:1