If you're a Christian and married, there's no doubt that you're familiar with the often-quoted passage from Ephesians 5:21-33 that details how marriage relationships should operate. There's books, devotionals, and sermons devoted to it, specifically around the concept of "love and respect". I'm convinced, however, that we are missing a much more pivotal point to this scripture in our search for practical marriage advice.
Before we get into that, I
have to admit that I've struggled with the apparent lack of
marriage-related verses in the Bible in the past. If marriage is such a
big deal, how come the New Testament doesn't teach us more about how
these covenants should function? At face value, it seems like all we get
for guidance is these few verses in Ephesians, which only provide a
very high-level overview of the male and female needs for love and
respect. Considering the fact that marriage is so important, those few
verses don't seem like enough. Just being honest.
Through this struggle, however, I've realized a far greater truth. Just
as a Christian's life should reflect Christ's likeness, the Christian
marriage should reflect the gospel story. When
people read Ephesians 5, they often take away practical directions
from it. Wives should submit, husbands should love. I think we're
missing a bigger picture in this passage. This isn't a list of tips for a
happy marriage... This passage is telling us that the marriage
relationship parallels the gospel story. The love story of our marriage
should be the love story between Christ and His people.
Marriage should be a testimony of God's grace. It should also be a
living witness for the world to see, a beacon of hope in a world full of
turmoil. With this idea in mind, we can also observe that, though the
Bible does not provide much in terms of practical marriage advice, we
can find truth about marital love in virtually any verse that talks
about God's love for us.
If you want to know how love and
respect play out in practical terms, look it up in another passage. When
a husband wants to know how love should look in the context of
marriage, all he needs to do is parse through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and
John to see how Christ displayed his affections for us. If a wife wants
to see what submission looks like, she can read about how the church
submits to Jesus. When we look at the Bible through this lens, it
becomes a book filled with marriage advice and wisdom, instead of a book
that curiously lacks it.
Perhaps one of the most terrifying
implications in this parallel is the idea of divorce. God says that our
marriages reflect the gospel, and yet His word also allows an exception
for marriages in the case of sexual immorality. Think about that. God's
love is everlasting and he expects our marriages to be the same, and
yet He allows divorce to take place if unfaithfulness occurs. This is
how big of a deal infidelity is to God. If the Bible tells us that the
God-humanity relationship parallels the husband-wife relationship, then
certainly this notion of unfaithfulness and divorce carries serious
In my next post, I will be discussing this
exception and the dark shadow of divorce both theologically and
practically. I encourage you to read Ephesians 5:21-33 and then use this
new understanding of God's word to enlighten your studies and enhance
your understanding of marriage.