Some women have admitted to their class leader that living in submission to their husbands on a daily basis is extremely difficult. In the beginning, their learning of God’s design for women offered them hope for a better marriage. With excitement and anticipation of favorable results, they began to apply His truths to their lives. However, after a few days or weeks, their original enthusiasm wanes, and they fall back into their old patterns. This particular problem surfaces when their attempts to be biblical wives appear to make little, if any, immediate change in even Christian husbands’ lives or attitudes. They then blame the concept of submission as the reason for their struggle, and some even decide that God’s design for marriage is impractical in today’s world. (I even remember one woman who had just learned about submission in the morning and came knocking on my door at 8:30 that same evening telling me, “It didn’t work!”)
In dealing with this issue, let’s set aside the concept of submission for the moment. Instead, let us consider how God desires a Christian to treat all believers.
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35; see also, John 15:12-13; Romans 5:8; Ephesians 5:25; 1 John 3:11, 16 and 23, and 4:11-12).
What is our Lord Jesus Christ asking of us in these verses? What does it mean to love one another? My husband performed a Bible study on the topic of a believer’s relationship with other believers. I will be drawing from his research for this post. (In the next post, I will cover how a Christian is to express love to an unbeliever, especially to an unbelieving husband.)
The most important believer-to-believer relationship is love.
Of course, only one who is born from above (and thus possessing spiritual life) and who is allowing the Holy Spirit to control them at the time can express this type of love (Galatians 5:22-23; 1 John 4:7-8, 11-12 and 16). God’s Word clearly states, For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die (Romans 5:7). Humanly speaking, no one can even like every other person, let alone sacrificially love all of them. In another verse, Jesus stated the universal principle, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Christian love for another believer goes far beyond the timeless commandment given initially to the Jews about their treatment of each other.
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).]
How does a Christian woman express the type of love toward her husband that she is commanded to express even to a neighbor? It surely includes all of the commandments by which God’s people are to treat everyone.
“You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:9-10).
But for the Christian wife, love not only includes those commands but goes far beyond the Old Covenant laws as we saw in John 13:34, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
Your husband may be a believer or an unbeliever; a dedicated Christian or not so much. Nevertheless, let us consider several ways a wife can spiritually prepare herself to carry out this humanly-impossible command.
- Make it your primary, personal objective to become spiritually mature (to learn enough of the Word of God by serious Bible study to know all you can about the Person, the Work, and the Purpose of Jesus Christ). (See Isaiah 28:9-10; 1 Corinthians 2:12-13; Ephesians 3:17-18, 4:13-14; Colossians 1:9-10; and 2 Peter 3:18.) Only when one completely depends on God’s powerful Word can one hope to love as God desires.
- Begin by reading, studying the meaning of each word, and then meditating on each definition of biblical love that is given in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:
Love suffers long [and] is kind;
Love does not envy;
Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
Does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
Does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
- Also, commit yourself to treat your husband in Biblical love (the type of love that mentally desires the best for another person and then sacrificially acts in carrying out that desire). Biblical love prohibits mistreating another person by violating God-given prohibitions concerning relationships among people. (See Mark 10:19-20; Romans 13:9-10; and 1 John 5:2-3.)
- Choose to express your love in attitude, words, and acts toward your husband by serving his best interests. (See Galatians 5:13-14 and 1 John 3:11-12, 5:2-3.) Biblical love is not just responsive, it is proactive.
- Biblical love includes restricting your own freedoms in order not to confuse or trip-up an unbeliever or immature believer (i.e., one ignorant due to his lack of knowledge of the Word concerning Christian freedoms). (See Romans 14:13-21 and 1 Corinthians 8:7-13.)
- Another demonstration of love toward believers means having an attitude of tolerance for those with less knowledge of the Bible than you have (Romans 14:1-13, 15:1-7; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Galatians 6:2). God does not expect a spiritually immature husband to act mature neither should you. Live by example, not by condemning.
- Do not judge another believer’s service to God (Romans 14:4, 10-13; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; 2 Corinthians 10:7; James 4:11-12). Your husband is accountable to God, not to you.
- Always encourage your husband (Hebrews 3:13, 10:24-25).
- Be patient toward and forgiving of your husband (Colossians 3:12-14; Ephesians 4:1-3, 32). A godly wife must not dictate to God how and when He will bring about changes in her husband.
- Be tolerant of difficult personalities. (Ephesians 4:2-3; Colossians 3:12-14). After all, God tolerates each of us.
- Do not expect thanks for your sacrifice (2 Corinthians 12:15). Sacrificially loving others may act in your own best interest. By doing so, you can receive the joy of Christ in time (John 15:10-12) and blessings in eternity (1 Peter 3:8-9).
As you can see from the above points and verses from God’s Word, there is a great similarity between how a wife is to treat her husband and how she is to treat others. Someone once told me that IF we would just treat others in some kind of undefined love that we would not need “rules” for a successful marriage relationship. In some ways, this is true if we would love our spouses in the same way as God loves us. However, there is no denial that God’s Word gives us detailed instructions for differing relationships.
He gives us specific instructions on how we are to live under a government, how to train our children, and how we are to fulfill our roles as a husband and a wife. If a woman would treat her husband by these rules, she is likely to have a greatly improved marriage. It is correct to obey God, whether the Spirit moves you or not! (See James 4:17.) However, when she also incorporates those expressions of love with her submission to God, she not only will have an improved marriage, she will have a closer relationship with Him.
Jesus also said, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34). Sadly, few believers today are completely willing to deny their own thoughts, desires, and wills to accept whatever costs there might be for following Jesus’ teachings and examples. If you have a difficult marriage, could it possibly be the cross God has given you to carry? Is it the testimony God uses to testify of the power of His Word?
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, [you are] blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always [be] ready to [give] a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:14-15).
Are you willing to serve God by obeying His Word about loving your husband? This answer requires your commitment first and then your daily follow through. You CAN do this if you will depend on the knowledge of God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Please do not be discouraged. The Christian life is a journey, not an event. God intends for each believer to, grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (See 2 Peter 3:18.) God allows you the time to grow, will you allow your husband the same?
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart (Galatians 6:9).
May God encourage you to follow Him, Virginia Ruth Fugate