Warning: This Misunderstanding Can Ruin a Good Marriage

“Debbie, you really stirred things up last night,” our missionary host said. “When you speak to the pastors’ wives, please don’t mention anything that deals with marriage relationships.”

My eyes widened. Our host had explained the machismo mindset among the men of El Salvador, but I didn’t realize it affected marriages within the church. I never imagined a message on showing consideration to one another from Romans 12:9-10 would fuel a firestorm.

The gospel changes how we treat each other, right? Sadly, I’ve learned, that in too many cases, the message of “honoring one another” has not reached Christian marriages. Worse, in some instances, the church has supported the macho male ego.

Male Domination Versus Male Headship in Marriage

Have you ever pulled weeds? Farmers and gardeners know how “thorns and thistles” choke the life and fruitfulness out of plants. Even though weeds resulted from the curse, I’ve never heard a sermon admonishing us to submit to these renegade plants and let them rule our gardens. No one says to nurture them in the hope they will become fruitful plants.

But in my years of working as a biblical counselor, wives told me how pastors and ministry leaders, ignoring the context of the passages addressing submission, told them to blindly submit to domineering husbands. “Love them into becoming godly husbands.”

Using the curse that Adam and Eve’s fall caused, these teachers confuse male headship in Ephesians 5 with male domination in Genesis 3. From the following, how would you describe the example Jesus set for husbands to follow?

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:25-33 NASB 1995).

Jesus said that we who belong to God are not to “lord over” others, neither in the workplace nor in the home. Notice the behavior that Jesus modeled to replace lording over others.

“But Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many’” (Matthew 20:25-28 NLT).

Lording over someone may garner compliance, but loving and serving brings trust and respect. A husband and wife’s becoming one is better illustrated with a nut and bolt than with a hammer and nail.

It may initially take more strength to follow Jesus’s example of self-sacrificial love and service than to display macho bravado. But Jesus supplies the strength to follow Him. And whether in the role of husband, wife, parent or child, He notices and rewards all who do.

Strength Finder

Do you feel pressured to meet someone’s expectations on how you should function as a husband, wife, or in some other role? What difference would it make if you applied Jesus’s invitation to your marriage or situation?

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)

Do you feel pressured to meet someone's #expectations on how you should function as a husband, wife, or in some other role? What difference would it make if you applied Jesus’s invitation to your #marriage or situation? Share on X

Resources

Here’s an article I wrote for Pastor Resources called, “Why Submission Isn’t Blind Obedience.”

Click here to comment.

Blessings,

Sometimes I link with these great sites:

#InstaEncouragements, #TellHisStory, #Let’sHaveCoffee, #Grace&Truth

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Yvonne Ortega

    Right on target, Debbie.

    Reply
  2. Barbara Latta

    This is a much needed message that does take some courage to be willing to share.

    Reply
  3. Joan Benson

    What a great little post, Debbie, hitting the nail on the head. I will share it with those I think might find answers in this wise article.

    Do you have anything teaching on the Body of Christ and the perfect BRIDE God is wanting the church to be? I have someone who needs to read on this topic.
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Debbie W. Wilson

      Joan, for years clients asked me to write on this topic, but I never felt led to write book or booklet on it. I linked to an article below that recently came out for Pastor Resources. I don’t know of a resource on the topic you mentioned. But I love that idea!

      Reply
  4. Ann

    Beautiful Debbie. This subject truly does bring much misunderstanding and you set it forth simply and clearly.

    Reply
  5. Tracy

    Hi Debbie, marriage God’s way is the best way. We have so many cultural, emotional and traditional “things” that get in the way of Jesus’ way of doing things. Great post.
    God bless
    Tracy

    Reply
    • Debbie W. Wilson

      Thank you, Tracy. We sure do. And those things can certainly distort our understanding.

      Reply
  6. Katherine Pasour

    A wonderful message, Debbie. So needed in every marriage, but I agree that many Christian marriages struggle in this area. Please, keep sharing this message of a marriage with Jesus are the central guide.

    Reply
    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Katherine!

      Reply
  7. Yvonne Morgan

    Sometimes it is easy to preach than live it out which is so sad for these women. We’ve seen in Kenya on our missions also. And it breaks my heart. Thanks for sharing Debbie and I’m praying for these marriages.

    Reply
    • Debbie Wilson

      I bet you have, Yvonne. Especially sad to see it in a community of believers.

      Reply

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