Starting at the very beginning, then (as I've heard, it's a very good place to start - HT: The Sound of Music) we should be aware of what the Bible says about this responsibility of a husband towards his wife. (And yes, I am limiting the scope of this series to that relationship, unless specified differently for a specific instance.)
Why should we care what the Bible says, as opposed to what society says? Well, first of all, God Himself created the institution of marriage, and so should have some not insignificant role in defining how spouses should interact. Second, the marriage relationship involves unique social and moral considerations, and the Bible speaks often and clearly to those moral issues. Finally, society of late has proven quite unable to even agree on what the millenia-old institution should be. Our culture is not a sufficient source of information in regards to marriage, even if it's not as bad as the standard assumption makes it seem.
In my opinion, the Bible is as clear on the marriage relationship as on vritually any other topic. Besides describing the origin and procreative purpose of marriage (Genesis 2), the roles of husband and wife are passed along to us, and the spiritual purpose of marriage are revealed. It is to these last two points that I would like to direct the rest of this already-longer-than-I'd-planned post. In the NT, Paul and Peter give the following Apostolic commands regarding marriage:
- Ephesians 5:25-28:25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
- Colossians 3:19:Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
- 1 Peter 3:7:Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
Pretty high standards. But what does it mean to love our wives "as Christ loved the church"? What does it mean to treat them "as the weaker partner"? And how do verses like these impact the associated verses, usually instructing women to be submissive? These are the questions I'll be answering over the next few days. If you have additional questions, please use the comments or email me. This marriage relationship is a very important one, and I want to make sure that (a) I'm not teaching error, and (b) that I'm teaching clearly. If our marriages are reflections, or types, of the relationship between Jesus and His church, it behooves us to try and get them right.