To recap from the last post: marriage is based on the Christ/church relationship and pictures the Christ/church relationship. Marriage is closely connected to the gospel. That means my question – how should the gospel shape our marriages? – is not incidental but essential. The gospel must shape our marriages because our marriages are based on the gospel and point to the gospel. So how should the gospel shape our marriages?
First, there is to be a sacrificial giving of ourselves. Let’s start with husbands, whose role is based on Christ. Christ sacrificially loved the church, giving of himself for the good of the church. So the husband is to sacrificially love his wife, giving of himself for the good of his wife. Christ nourishes and cherishes (takes care of) his church. So the husband is to nourish and cherish his wife, providing for her needs. Christ is the head of the church, providing leadership for the church. So the husband is the head of the wife, providing leadership for the family.
This latter point of course irritates many people. But we must see it in the context of what we said before. This leadership is sacrificial, seeking the wife’s best, and providing for the wife. There is no room for self-centered demands in this leadership. It is a sacrificial giving of the husband for his wife. This is a gospel shaped marriage.
Then wives too are to sacrificially give of themselves. This is done through submission to the husband. This too irritates many people. Some want to argue that Paul is stuck in his own culture, and this is the twenty first century! But notice again Paul’s statement is based on the Christ/church relationship. If marriage is based on and pictures the gospel, the wife must submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ. But this is degrading to women many might say. But dear church – do you feel degraded because you are called to submit to Christ? No? So submission need not be degrading. Jesus says that if we love him we will obey him (John 14:15). So the church submits to Christ out of love. And so the wife can submit to her husband out of love. As the church cheerfully, joyfully, freely submits to Christ, so can the wife submit to her husband. This indeed requires a sacrificial giving of herself, but in doing it she points to the gospel. This is a gospel shaped marriage.
So a gospel shaped marriage acknowledges different roles for the husband and the wife based on the roles of Christ and the church. Both of these roles flow out of a sacrificial giving of ourselves. We’ll consider further aspects of a gospel shaped marriage in the next post.