Consider the lyrics of one of Frank Sinatra’s beloved songs,
Love and marriage, love and marriage
They go together like a horse and carriage
This I tell you, brother
You can’t have one without the other
One might question the crooner’s belief in his own song, as he had four wives as well as various relationships outside of marriage. Nevertheless, the song is true if you consider the Bible’s definition of love and marriage.
We begin with Jesus’ famous quote on the greatest commandment from Mark 12:29-31:
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
This “love” is God’s agape love, the love of God, the self-sacrificing, completely committed, divine love and affection that pours blessings on the recipient.
Now we move to Ephesians 5:22 and 5:25:
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:25)
These verses have become quite controversial. They shouldn’t be. The only reason for the controversy is our own sin-filled, self-centered filters that are applied as we read.
Consider Jesus’ words in Mark 12; We are to LOVE God and LOVE our neighbour. Who would be our closest neighbour in terms of human relationships? Our spouse, if we are married, and that’s what we’ll go on.
We can safely conclude that the submission and the loving that Paul teaches in Ephesians 5 has to do with this great love that Jesus commands in Mark chapter 12. We also conclude that the husband loves his wife with a self-sacrificing love that only has her best interests in mind.
The wife submits to her husband, “as you do to the Lord.” In other words, the wife submits out of love. Love for God and love for her husband. Her love is expressed submitting to her husband because of her love for God and her husband. An entire and self-sacrificing devotion.
A husband loves because of submission. It is still submission in the sense of an entire and self-sacrificing devotion to God expressed through an entire and self-sacrificing devotion to his wife.
Albert Barnes has this to say,
Where commands begin in this relation, happiness usually ends; and the moment a husband requires a wife to do anything, it is usually a signal of departing or departed affection and peace. When there are proper feelings in both parties in this relation, there will be no occasion either to command or to obey. There should be such mutual love and confidence, that the known wish of the husband should be a law to the wife; and that the known desires of the wife should be the rule which he would approve. A perfect government is that where the known wish of the lawgiver is a sufficient rule to the subject. Such is the government of heaven; and a family on earth should approximate as nearly as possible to that.
By this love, we have a true, God-honouring marriage. It is hard work to love in a completely unselfish way. It is hard work to submit to someone else’s authority. The fact is, by both husband and wife paying the price required, the benefits and pleasures will be so much greater.
Love…in your marriage.