Sacrifice & Submission

by Ryan Joy

Fun with Magnets

Magnets give us a helpful illustration for how positives and negatives can work in a relationship.

1. The principles of magnetism are about both attraction and repulsion. Magnetic fields are caused by moving electrically charged particles.
2. A magnet has two sides: a north and south pole, sometimes called positive and negative.
3. The opposites attract—north to south, positive to negative, to create a complete union.
4. When we twist the magnets, the forces that held them together now repel one another.

For our purposes, we’re not as concerned with initial attraction as what holds the union together. We’re talking about marriage. Now let’s look at how our differences can hold us together or push us apart.

    When we twist the magnets, the forces that held them together now repel one another.

    Fear & Pride vs. Love & Respect

    How can a man and a woman stay together with our differences and problems? How can we THRIVE together, given our differences? We’re so different, but each has a negative side that can push us apart.

    We often hear about the male ego, men’s pride. It’s a problem our wives are probably more aware of than we are. Scripture speaks of women winning over their husbands with inner beauty, following after Sarah (1 Pet. 3:1-6). This passage ends, “and you are her [Sarah’s] children if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Pet. 3:6). What does following your husband have to do with not fearing anything frightening? Why is that brought up there? Fear can push her away and compel her to protect herself against her husband rather than trust him. Likewise, a man can be so selfish and isolated that he pushes his wife away. But the Lord gives an antidote: “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Eph. 5:33).

    “You Complete Me”

    Notice that husbands and wives have different instructions. Men: love. Wives: respect. Where my pride can be a barrier to oneness, love forces me to overcome it and put my wife’s needs first. And where her fear can push me away, her decision to respect me — despite her fears — draws us closer. Where fear WAS present, NOW “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). As she sees my wholehearted commitment to her, she learns to trust me. Where my pride isolated and made me small, her respect for me made me humble, strong, and more fit to be her husband.

    Learning to Lead

    It’s easy to say, but then we have to live it. Young men often wonder, “What does it mean to be the ‘Man of the House’?” When we turn to the central passage about the husband’s headship (Eph. 5:22-33), the primary command to husbands is clear: “love [agape] your wife” (Eph. 5:25, 28, 33). How often are wives told to agape love their husbands? Zero. Of course, God commands all of us to agape everyone (Mark 12:31). Still, Scripture emphasizes the selfless, loving sacrifice of the home’s leader (cf. Eph. 5:23-33). So take the weight of leadership upon yourself, and lead with love. Christ taught his disciples that leadership isn’t the privilege to rule but the responsibility to serve (Luke 22:25-27). So what does it take to be a good “head of the house”? Imitate Christ by giving yourself up.

    Regardless of who caused the problem, you take it upon yourself to resolve it. When the tough decisions come up, don’t delegate it. Seek your wife’s counsel, listen to her concerns, anticipate her needs, and then YOU take it upon yourself to make the call. Take full responsibility, own any mistakes, and put your wife ahead of yourself as you lead. In his book Disciplines of a Godly Man, R. Kent Hughes rightly identifies three aspects of a husband’s love in this passage.

    1. Sacrificial Love: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). Are you willing to die for your wife? It’s both a symbolic and a literal question. God didn’t call husbands to be doormats but to die! Some men like to tell jokes about how marriage is like death. It is a death to our rights, time, and pleasure. It’s a beautiful death that can bring life to our marriage. “This is a truly male thing, a masculine thing — for it takes a strong man to die” (Hughes, ibid.).

    2. Sanctifying Love: Christ loved his bride “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:26-27) Is your wife more holy because of you? Or is she Christ-like despite you? Do you elevate her spiritually as a man of the Word, a man of prayer, a man of God?

    3. Self Love: “… husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Eph. 5:28). Are her priorities my priorities? We talk a lot about “selfless” love, but Christian husbands have a higher standard: to love AS ourselves. Her body is your body; her comfort is your comfort. To quote R. Kent Hughes again: “Envy the woman who is loved like this. Even more, envy the man who loves like this — for he is like Christ.”

    The Christian’s Secret Strength

    A woman may ask: “Submit to him? But I’m afraid he might take advantage or  make a horrible decision.” But the Bible says, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (Eph. 5:24). Submission is a great gospel theme. As Christ submitted to God’s authority, he also submitted to our needs. In this way, he illustrates two kinds of submission: Personal submission (Eph. 5:21) and positional submission (Eph. 5:22-24). This kind of commitment might seem impossible if marriage were only about the relationship between a man and a woman, but it’s not. Let’s go back to the preamble of this passage on the family: submitting “to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). The husband’s sacrificial love and the wife’s submissive respect are two different ways to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. In other words, Christ says, “Give your all to her, out of reverence for me. Submit to him out of reverence for me.”

    An “Insanely Great” Marriage

    Ephesians 5 is not a to-do list for husbands and wives. It’s much bigger — a bold, humbling vision for our marriages. Our marriages are living parables of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31-32). Sometimes, the difference between something good and something extraordinary is the standard we strive to achieve. Steve Jobs distinguished the development teams for two Apple computers (the Lisa and the Mac) by their goals: “The Lisa people wanted to do something great. And the Mac people want to do something insanely great. The difference shows.” 

    Some might say, “My marriage is fine; we don’t really fight.” But God’s vision of oneness isn’t a good marriage or even a great one. He wants us to have “insanely great” oneness! He wouldn’t give us this model unless he wanted us to keep reaching for greater heights all our lives. Here’s how second-century Christian (and husband) Tertullian described a Christian marriage: 

    “How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in home, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice … Nothing divides them either in flesh or in spirit … They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side, they visit God’s church and partake in God’s banquet; side by side, they face difficulties and persecution and share their consolations … They have no secrets from one another; they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts … Seeing this Christ rejoices. To such as these, He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present.”

    Sacrifice and submission are the path to healthy, beautiful, godly marriages. They bind us together. They bind us to God. Jesus Christ saved us and showed us the way through sacrifice and submission.

    5 Ways to Love Your Wife

    There’s a popular book by Gary Smalley called the Five Love Languages. It lists ways we communicate love, and these are languages we need to become versed in. If we’re willing to put forth the discipline and courage to agape love, it usually shows up in acts of service, affirming words, quality time together, physical affection, and gifts. Do you give your wife the physical affection she needs? Are you too busy to give your wife quality time? Or are you the “I told her I love her once, and I’ll let her know if anything changes” type?

    If you’ll permit an unauthorized amendment to Gary Smalley’s book, here are “Five More Love Languages,” five more ways husbands can show their wives love.

    1. Work to understand her (1 Pet. 3:7). Begin a lifelong pursuit of understanding what moves, interests, awakens, and breaks her. Women, help us out—or we may never figure it out.
    2. Treasure her (1 Pet. 3:7).  “Honor” means valuing her. Consider her precious.
    3. Nourish and cherish her (Eph. 5:29). Protect and sustain her physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Hold her up and care for her. Provide for her needs (1 Tim. 5:8).
    4. Lead her (Eph. 5:22ff). Make it as easy to follow you as you can. Create partnership and alignment, shepherding the family. Share your thoughts and listen to hers. Deciding to yield to the desires and needs of your wife is a strength, not a weakness. Authentic leadership is very different from how the world imagines it (Mark 10:42-45).
    5. Intercede for her (John 17). Just as Christ interceded for his bride, we must intercede for ours. Do you keep a list of her needs and raise them to God?

    5 Ways to Respect Your Husband

    I’ve never heard anyone talk about ‘Respect Languages’, but like love, respect must be communicated. Men are pretty simple, and simple respect goes a long way. The respect of our wives sustains us and builds us up—it’s a powerful gift that only you can give.

    1. Appreciate his efforts. Give him credit for the little things he does. It’s true he shouldn’t be looking for credit, but you can express your respect for him by acknowledging all the ways he tries to do right.

    2. Support his goals. It’s an extraordinary expression of a wife’s respect for her husband when she tries to commit entirely to his goals. If he says he would like to pray together every night or to cut back financially and save, work to make it happen.

    3. Express his worth. Not just to him. Never put him down to others. If you want to say something about him, build him up, appreciate him.

    4. Follow his lead. Follow, don’t direct. Don’t parent him, even if you think he needs it. Advise him, ask him questions, and then try to embrace the direction he sets and let him know you’re with him.

    5. Trust his wisdom. Value what he has to say and have a little faith in him.

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