Whether you are married, engaged, dating or single, the issue of marriage should be important to you. The thought that goes into marriage is so skewed in the world today, that we as Christians must take heed to not let it affect us. In the last few months, I have put a lot of thought into my upcoming marriage, and how marriage is perceived by so much of the world. The world is so set on equating men and women, and if they can’t make that happen, they try desperately to set women above men in any way possible. Traditional marriage is so often seen as nothing more than an excuse for male chauvinism. It’s not. It’s an incredible balancing act, a cooperative, working relationship between two people, who, although they are not equal in authority, are equal in value.
The Form for the Confirmation of Marriage Before the Church that is used by the PRCA shows clearly our stance on marriage, that being male headship. It exhorts the bride to be the biblical help-meet for her husband, using phrases like “honor and fear him” and even uses that scary word “obedient” that so many women seem to be afraid of. That scary word comes up again in the portion of the form that contains the vows, where the bride vows to “be obedient to him, to serve and assist him…” This is not simply the opinion of an old fashioned, old school denomination either, this is backed up by the very Word of God (see Genesis 2:18, 3:16, Ephesians 5:22-24).
So no, marriage is not a fun-filled, co-dependent, equal-opportunity relationship. The only relationship in which persons perfectly co-exist without any dispute over cooperative ruling is the relationship of the persons of the Trinity. In any human relationship there simply must be a leader. In marriage it is to be the husband.
So what if we (women, or the world’s viewpoint of women) stopped being so selfish (because that’s what it is), and quit looking at what we have to do, don’t get to do, or who we have to listen to, and what if we looked at what men have to do, don’t get to do, or who they have to listen to. Let’s go back through the marriage form and look at traditional marriage from the groom’s side, and maybe we will see why marriage isn’t cruel or controlling, but rather an amazing bond.
First, we had looked at the exhortation to the bride, so let’s look at the exhortation to the groom now. In this section we find a call to “lead her with discretion, instructing, comforting, protecting…” That may not sound so bad, but think of the selflessness all of those things take. The exhortation goes on even further about the incredible love commanded of the husband.
Next, we looked at the vows in the form, in which the husband now swears to “never forsake her, to love her faithfully; to maintain her as a faithful and pious husband is bound to do…” Again, see the selflessness here, as a man vows to work hard (see the end of the exhortation again) to provide physically, emotionally and spiritually for the woman he loves, the woman God has given him. Again, this is not the opinion simply of an old fashioned church, but Scripture backs this up. See Genesis 2:24 and Ephesians 5:25-29.
Is this what we are afraid of submitting to, this kind of authority? When a woman takes marriage vows, she isn’t vowing to obey a controlling, careless spouse. She is promising to submit to a man who has just sworn that he will love his wife as tenderly and powerfully as Christ loves his Church.
I found something interesting while researching appropriate passages for this article. As I searched online for common wedding texts, I found that Ephesians 5 came up several times. That is fitting, and I did use it several times as you’ve seen. However, the verses that were selected were only the verses regarding the husband’s duty to his wife. There were no verses found about the wife’s duty to her husband. The world is so afraid of submission that they pick and choose verses that do not require that of them.
Are we so afraid to submit to a man who is called to behave himself toward us as Christ does to the church? Do we think it will be miserable? Are we miserable when we (as the church) submit to Christ? No! Submitting to Christ is what the church does joyfully, as our duty to the Lord who loved us unconditionally, so much so that He gave up His life! Greater love has no man (John 15:13)! So don’t let the world’s jaded idea of marriage fool you, a Christian’s marriage is a beautiful picture of Christ and the Church. A man and woman must understand that in marriage, they do have different roles to play, but when they are played correctly, God is glorified and our lives are enjoyable and blessed.