THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE WAY FORWARD IN CHRIST
MARRIAGE AND FAMILY
A tripod of our three-pronged mission is family renewal (the
other two being evangelization and work with the poor). Unlike
the other two, not as much is directly said in the Bible about
marriage and family life (unless it is about the virtues needed
for godly family living). Today we go to the basic relationship
between husband and wife as directed by God.
that is about headship and subordination (submission). This
is a very contentious topic, which many men today do not know
how to live out and many women have rejected. But it is the
key to unity, peace and order in the home. Husbands in different
cultures have resorted to lording it over their wives, including
abusing them. Wives in turn, especially in the West, led by
radical feminists but which has become mainstream, have rejected
this as culturally-unacceptable paternalism (they have also
used this in the Church, opposing what they consider patriarchalism).
between the extremes of patriarchalism and radical feminism,
there is headship and subordination. Let us understand it
(please read my book “Families in the Holy Spirit”).
First, and very important, there is mutual subordination
between husband and wife. “Be subordinate to one another
out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph 5:21). One does not
lord it over the other but rather serves the other. They give
each other the respect and reverence due a child of God. The
leader is in fact the servant. Both look to Christ who is
the one head.
second, there are proper God-given roles. This is
for good order in the body. The role of the husband is to
be the head of the family, which includes his wife. The role
of the wife is to be a helpmate, a strong support for him.
To be subordinate does not demean a person. It merely indicates
one’s proper place in a hierarchy (just as a leader
in community is not necessarily better, wiser or holier than
those under his care). The problem in marriages today is that
some wives do not accept the husband’s being the head,
and some husbands have ceded this responsibility, whether
out of ignorance, convenience, fear, irresponsibility or whatever.
In other marriages, both strive to be the head, but two heads
in one body is a monster.
“wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to
the Lord.” (Eph 5:22). Sisters, your husbands might
not act as such (help him to grow in this), but God has assigned
him this task to be the head. This is not just a cultural
mindset from bygone years, but is an everlasting truth,
such that God related it to the headship of Christ over the
Church. “For the husband is head of his wife just
as Christ is head of the church” (Eph 5:23a). And just
as Jesus is “himself the savior of the body” (Eph
5:23b), God intends the husband to help bring his whole family,
starting with his wife, to salvation (yes, sisters, I know,
oftentimes it is the other way around; but we are talking
of God’s order, not of today’s misplaced and distorted
any of us reject Christ’s headship? That would be crazy.
But both husbands and wives routinely reject this teaching
that is related to Christ’s headship. So here is it
again: “As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives
should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.”
(Eph 5:24). In everything! Wow. But just as today Christians
submit to Christ selectively, such is also the case in most
marriages, if wives even submit at all.
is headship a license for abuse by husbands of their wives?
Yes it becomes so, if it is not understood correctly
(and most husbands do not understand it; or prefer not to
practice it due to non-acceptance by their wives). But God
also has instructions for the husband. And it is this: “Husbands,
love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed
himself over for her” (Eph 5:25). This is a pretty strong
instruction. Love does no wrong. Love is not overbearing.
Love is patient and kind. But not only all of that. Love is
self-sacrificial service. The husband, who is the head, is
actually the servant of his wife! Some Christian husbands
make fun by carrying their wives as a manifestation of carrying
the cross. But it is true! (yes, sisters, you too carry your
husbands as your crosses). The point is: there can be no tyranny
or abuse by one who truly loves.
Paul say the husband is savior of his wife as Christ is the
savior of the Church? Indeed. What Jesus did for us all (his
body the Church) was “to sanctify her, cleansing her
by the bath of water with the word” (Eph 5:26). Jesus
does this “that he might present to himself the church
in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that
she might be holy and without blemish.” (Eph 5:27).
Husbands are responsible for the spiritual well-being of their
wives (and of course vice versa), and help ensure their making
it to heaven. So sisters, stop focusing on cosmetics or beauticians
to remove spots, wrinkles or blemishes. Look to your husband!
As you look to Christ.
do nothing to your wives that you would not do to yourself.
The second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.
Your wife is your closest neighbor. “So husbands should
love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife
loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes
and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church” (Eph
5:28-29). Outdo each other in love and service. You are after
all one body. “For this reason a man shall leave his
father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two
shall become one flesh.” (Eph 5:31). And both, as well
as everyone else, “are members of his body.” (Eph
is a mystery (yes, husbands, you still cannot figure out your
wives). “This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference
to Christ and the church.” (Eph 5:32). What a wonderful
relationship! Marriage reflects the very relationship of Jesus
and his Church. So it is indeed a very high ideal, so don’t
be discouraged if this very important principle is not yet
being fully lived out in your marriage. But strive hard to
understand and to implement it, for it is God’s way.
It is God’s prescription for a happy and Spirit-filled
is what Paul taught about the husband-wife relationship good
only for his time, but no longer applicable to our present
culture? Well, if the relationship between Christ and his
Church can change, then yes. But obviously, it cannot. Jesus
Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. The prescription
for headship and subordination will always remain relevant.
In fact, it is quite surprising, but Paul understood quite
well the psychology of men and women, which transcends time
and culture. He knew that what the wife in particular needed
was to be loved, and what the husband needed was to be respected.
“In any case, each one of you should love his wife as
himself, and the wife should respect her husband.” (Eph
5:33). Of course each should both love and respect the other,
but given the respective roles assigned by God, God built
into man the psychological need to be respected, which has
to do with authority, and built into woman the psychological
need to be loved, to be appreciated deeply for her support
to her head.
Now if both husband and wife obey God and follow His prescriptions,
then their marriage and family life will work out well. “Blessed
are all who fear the Lord, and who walk in his ways.”
(Ps 128:1). They will prosper in their livelihood. “What
your hands provide you will enjoy; you will be blessed and
prosper” (Ps 128:2). They will be blessed with children,
the wonderful fruit of their love. “Your wife will be
like a fruitful vine within your home, your children like
young olive plants around your table.” (Ps 128:3).
ways are mysterious and His directions difficult, but He is
always right. His ways are revealed through His anointed mouthpieces
through the Bible. Such is the case with the prescription
of headship and subordination, as taught by Paul. Do not go
against God or against His ways. “Just so will the man
be blessed who fears the Lord.” (Ps 128:4).