So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the imagery of marriage in the Bible. Particularly, how the marriage of a man and a woman is compared to the marriage of Christ and the church. I Cor 11:3 says, “…the head of every man is Christ, and the head of a woman is a man…” Lots of people take this and other verses to imply an authoritative relation between man and wife. After all, if we are to them as Christ is to us, don’t we have the right to subject them?
The answer to that question, I feel, is irrelevant. Whether or not man has the right to subject his wife is, as implied, the same issue as whether or not Christ subjects us, His bride. Christ, while clearly our leader, is anything but an authoritative governing figure. That relation is left to God the Father, who chastises His children in love to correct them. Nowhere, however, is a marriage relationship between a man and a woman compared to the Father-child relationship between ourselves and our Creator.
We can think of Christ as the perfect husband. Christ didn’t “boss” his disciples: while He may have asked things of them, He did so politely, and they did as He asked not out of fear of retribution, but because they wanted to do it for Him. Neither did Christ espouse the “stay in the kitchen” mentality with His disciples. In fact, he did the opposite. Christ, when there was no one to wash their feet, tied a towel around His waist and washed them. The Husband washed the feet of His wife before the meal. “The Son of Man comes not to be serve, but to serve,” he said. So, too, must it be with husbands to their wives. Our wives are not our servants. We are their servants. At the same time, that does not imply that they can boss us, because Christ was never bossed by His disciples. When He served, He did so willingly, and of His own accord.
Therefore, to become the perfect husbands to our wives, married men must look at Christ’s example of relating to His followers. Christ is their shepherd, their guide through dark places, their protection from wolves, not their commander. Christ is their servant, not their master. Christ is their sacrifice, not the one who sacrifices His people. As husbands, as Paul tells in his letters, we do have authority over our wives, but we must not exercise this authority in abuse of its purpose. A good shepherd does not chew out his sheep when it gets lost. A servant does not order those he serves to do his bidding. A sacrifice does not require performance from the one for whom he sacrifices.
Women are a beautiful, wonderful creation. John Elderidge in his book “Wild at Heart” shows a compelling argument that woman is, in fact, the pinnacle of God’s creation, His “most perfect” work. Men have been given the place to safeguard this most precious of all creatures. No, not just to safeguard. Men have been given the place to love this most precious of all creatures, even as Christ Himself loves us. To live for them. To serve them. To die for them.