As Christ and the Church

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.

Suzie Kuiper

God’s Command to the Woman (2)

Genesis 3:16b “And thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”

A few weeks ago we looked at the first part of this verse where God tells Eve that she is going to bring forth children in sorrow and learned our responsibility as young women in the covenant to bring forth and raise the children God gives us. God’s word does not stop there though. He also gives Eve a duty toward her husband, a duty to respect and honor him as her head. Ephesians 5:22 puts the idea this way, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” Sarah called Abraham her “lord,” the leader of her life, the one she respected and honored as a picture of Christ in her life. And this too is the way we need to view our husbands. They are the head of their wives, even as Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 5:23). So therefore, it is the duty of the wife to let her husband know that she respects his decisions for the family.

Does this mean that women are just a tool in the hands of their husbands? That a husband can “boss her around” so to speak or expect her to do whatever he tells her to? This is not the kind of relationship Christ has with His Bride, and this is not the kind of relationship husbands and wives should have either. Christ as the head, serves His bride, loves her, and in dying for her and saving her He showed how deep His love for her is! He is not a tyrant ruling over His church without meeting her needs. But, we shouldn’t focus on the way a husband treats his wife, because the focus of the passage is on the wife serving her husband and desiring to serve and respect him.

This can be applied to women who are not married as well, especially because Christ is our real Husband. We can learn especially in our single lives, when the cares of a household, children, and a husband are not taking up our time and energy, really to put Christ first in our lives, to love to learn more and more who our God, our Husband, is. 1 Cor. 7: 34 speaks of the unmarried woman caring for the things of the Lord, while a married woman is busy with pleasing her husband. The need for young women in the church is often looked past or not thought of, but young women can be such a help to the other members of the church. Single life is a great time to babysit, to visit the elderly, or to make cookies for a mom who just had a baby. I’ll admit that when I was single and even now that I’m dating, I often think of these things and then think I’m too busy or have other more important things to do. My excuse is that when I’m married and have my own house, then I’ll have time for those things. But really, I know that won’t be true either. So let’s get into the habit of doing these things now! Serving the other members of the church is a great way for us to learn to put others first in our lives. Then if the Lord wills that we marry someday, we will have a beginning in understanding what we will need to do as wives and mothers in a life of service to our husbands and families.

LK