Notes From John Gottman on Marriage

These are my notes from John Gottman, author of “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

4 things that kill marriages

  1. Criticism
  2. Contempt
  3. Defensiveness
  4. Stonewalling

Criticism attacks the character of the recipient: “You’re so selfish!” It’s a complaint that says your partner is defective: “What is wrong with you!?”

Antidote: Use “I” statements that express a positive need: “You didn’t do ___ and I need you to ___.”

Contempt is an expression of superiority that comes out as sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, insults, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor.

  • Contempt is the greatest predictor of relationship failure and must be eliminated.

Antidote: treat one another with respect and build a culture of appreciation within the relationship. “I appreciated it when you _____.”

Defensiveness is self-protection through righteous indignation or playing the innocent victim. “Meeting a complaint with a counter-complaint”, or “Whining”.

  • Defensiveness never solves the problem and is just an underhanded way of blaming your partner.

Antidote: accept responsibility, even if only for part of the conflict. “You’re right”

Stonewalling occurs when the listener withdraws from the conversation without resolving anything. Not tracking, checked out, not looking.

Antidote: take a break for at least 20 minutes and calm down, then return to the conversation.

3 Things to Never Say in a Fight

  1. “You never…”
  2. “You always…” 
  3. Anything insulting or acting superior.

#1 & 2 are felt/heard as condemnations of one’s personality.
#3 is talking down to the other. Talk to them as an equal. Say “we both have limitations”, instead of playing god.

Why do couples nag?

The nagger feels like the naggee is blowing them off.

  • Instead of blowing off, respond to the request.

3 Rules to Fight Right

  1. Start the conversation with a positive need: “I need ___.”
  2. Listen carefully and try to understand your partner’s point of view: “Is this what you are saying, ________?” or ask for clarification.
  3. Repair when it doesn’t go well: Say your sorry, express regret, and/or together, look at how it can go better next time.

One thing you can do to improve your marriage:

  • Honor your wife’s or husband’s dreams.

What is the number one thing that makes a marriage work?

  • Friendship (Good communication will only get you so far)

3 ingredients to your friendship

  1. Making love maps: know and want to know your partner: ask questions: open ended.
  2. Fondness and admiration: communicate respect and appreciation/affection in small ways, often.
  3. Bids for their attention: and responding to bids: “turning towards” vs “turning away”.
  • These three ingredients create “positive sentiment override” 
    • (negative sentiment is a chip on your shoulder: hypersensitive to criticism or negative reaction)
  • PSO gives you a buffer to conflict. You don’t feel or get defensive.
  • Healthy couples can have a sense of humor even when they are in conflict.
  • Friendship is the basis for good sex, romance, and passion.


And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.  Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of his body.  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.

-Ephesians 5:18-33 (CSB)

“Wives, submit”, is not a stand-alone verse

I came across an article by Cheryl Schatz, about Ephesians 5:22, where she mentioned that the word commonly translated as ‘submit’ is missing is some of the Greek manuscripts (1).  Sure enough, many translations have a footnote that states this.  For example, the CSB and the ISV translations.


Wives, submit[a] to your husbands as to the Lord.

a. 5:22 Other mss omit submit


Wives, submit yourselves[a] to your husbands as to the Lord.

a. Ephesians 5:22 Other mss. lack submit yourselves

I also looked up the verse in The Passion Translation, which was interesting:

“For wives, this means being supportive[j] to your husbands like you are tenderly devoted to our Lord.”

footnote: j. The Greek word for “submit,” or “supportive,” is not found in v. 22. It is literally “Wives, with your husbands.”

The ESV, NIV, NKJV, and NLT do not have this footnote.

If you open up the Greek NT, and they put the literal words underneath the Greek words, the literal English is:

Submitting yourselves to one another in reverence of Christ, wives to their own husbands, as to the Lord.

I opened up my Markus Barth commentary on Ephesians (2)(3)

Here is Barth’s translation of the whole Ephesians passage:

In particular do not get drunk with wine- that is profligacy- but be filled with the Spirit. Talk to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and play to the Lord from your heart. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ give thanks always and for everything to God the Father. Because you fear Christ, subordinate yourselves to one another –[e.g.] wives to husbands as to the Lord. For [only] in the same way that the Messiah is the head of the church –he, the savior of his body– is the husband the head of the wife. The difference notwithstanding , just as the church subordinate herself [only] to the Messiah, so wives to your husbands–in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as [we confess], The Messiah has loved the church and has given himself to her to make her holy by [his] word and clean her by the bath in water, to present to himself the church resplendent free from spot or wrinkle or any such thing so that she be holy and blameless. In the same manner also husbands owe it [to God and man] to love their wives for they are their bodies. In loving his wife a man loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh, but he provides and cares for it–just as the Messiah for the church because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This passage has an eminent secret meaning: I, for one, interpret it [as relating] to Christ and the church. In any case, one by one, each one of you must love his wife as himself, and the wife . . . may she fear her husband.
-Ephesians 5:18-33 (Markus Barth, Ephesians: A New Translation, With Intro. and Commentary, 1974)

When we get to verses 21 and 22, Barth uses the [e.g.] to say “for example”, that is implied: Because you fear Christ, subordinate yourselves to one another –[e.g.] wives to husbands as to the Lord. 

The (implied) and literal reading is “subordinate yourselves to one another (for example) wives to (their own) husbands as to the Lord.”

If you search for articles, talks, and sermons on Ephesians 5:21 and 22, not very many people bring this out.  You probably already know that the verse numbers have been added by the translators.  When you read verse 22 as saying, “wives to husbands as to the Lord”, you know this verse number splits a sentence, and you know you need to read it with the preceding verse, to understand the “what”. which is “submit to one another.”  Instead, the translators write, “wives submit”.

This is what the Young’s Literal Translation says for Ephesians 5:22:

“The wives! to your own husbands subject yourselves, as to the Lord,”

Here is what The Voice translation does with this verse.  Italics are added by the translators:
“Wives, it should be no different with your husbands. Submit to them as you do to the Lord,”
This is what Manfred Brauch wrote about this verse, in The Hard Sayings of Paul, p. 214:
“The verse in Greek reads literally: “Wives, to your husbands as to the Lord.”  The verb “to submit” is absent and can only be read into the sentence because of the intimate connection between the two verses.  Ephesians 5:21 is therefore transitional, both belonging to what precedes and setting the agenda for what follows.”

Subordination is first for everyone

One of the ways I have thought about it is that if we do not submit or subordinate ourselves to God and to Christ, and then one to another, how can we possibly talk about subordination in marriage?

And think about how Jesus subordinates himself to the Father and we subordinate ourselves to Jesus.

Another thought is that wives have difficulty being subordinate when their husbands are not very loving.

And the command for the husbands is to love their wives, as Christ loved the church.  It’s a taller order for the husbands.

But neither the wife nor the husband’s obedience, subordination, and serving love is dependent on the actions of their spouse.  The source or dependency is Christ.  Even if the spouse is not a believer, the believing spouses actions are no different.

It is very important to know that subordination is not exclusive to a wife towards her husband.  We all are subordinate to one another.  Prophets to prophets, is one example:

And the prophets’ spirits are subject to the prophets. (1 Cor. 14:32)

Husbands are subordinate to their wives, with their wives, before wives are subordinate to their husbands:  submitting to one another in the fear of Christ. (Eph 5:21)

Think of all the ways that Jesus is subordinate to his bride, while he is still her bridegroom and the head of her.  The church is not the boss of Jesus, even if we act like it, but he goes along with us, because of his love.

The larger context of Christ and his bride

Paul talks about submission here, in Ephesians 5, in the context of the church and Christ.  If the church is accustomed to not being submitted to Christ, then how can we imagine being submitted in our marriages?  If submission is a negative thing that we want to run from, how do we reconcile that with the reality that the church is the bride of Christ, who is subordinate to her bridegroom?

Paul is certainly putting Christian marriage on a higher plain in his remarks that men and women in marriage are like Christ is with His bride, the church.  What I am saying is that you might be scared of submission or not know the dimensions of the love Paul is presenting, if you do not see it or can not identify it in the church and with Christ towards the church.

If we don’t know Christ this way, do not see it; them we first need that expanded before we can extrapolate that over into marriage.  What I am saying is that if you are not married to Jesus, if you are not living in the  experience of being the church that is his bride, then you will have no basis for understanding what Paul is saying here about marriage.

If your Christian life is not about being the bride of Christ, if you only know about it and even believe it in theory or principal, but not in practice, then you will not be able to understand Paul’s teaching here.  Men and women first have to be the bride of Christ before they can take and practice Christ in their marriages.

If you are not experiencing the Christian life as being part of the bride of Christ, you ought to be humbled by the void in your life and ask God to fulfill that dimension of what it is to be the bride of Christ, long before you try to understand and somehow implement subordination in your life and then in your marriage.

Positive fear is respect

It is interesting to me that the word ‘fear’ starts and ends the passage: Because you fear Christ, subordinate yourselves to one another   +   In any case, one by one, each one of you must love his wife as himself, and the wife . . . may she fear her husband.  (Barth’s translation)

We fear Christ and Christian wives should fear their husbands, in the same way or in the same spirit.  That is to say, not a fear of punishment, but fear, as in respect and honor.

The CSB says:  submitting to one another in the fear of Christ. + the wife is to respect her husband.

What does it mean?  And, why did Paul say it?

This fear is not the afraid fear or fear having to do with punishment or injury, but reverence, respect, or honor.  The context informs us of this interpretation.

If you do not fear Christ, respect and honor him; then you will not be able to subordinate yourselves to one another.  If you do not respect Christ, then you can not have a Christian marriage.  If you do not revere him, you can not revere your spouse.  So, that is the first thing to get straight, before we even begin talking about submission, headship, and love in marriage.  You can’t build that house without this foundation.

One of the things to think about in marriage is respect for the husband.  The wife may have trouble respecting him.  Does she have a problem with being disrespectful, or is he dishonorable?  Does he do things or not do things that make it hard to respect him?

If she does not respect him or if he is dishonorable, it makes things harder; but not impossible.  Subordination is not dependent on the other person.  We are only empowered to be subordinate through Christ.  That is the secret of how you can be subordinate to an unbelieving or selfish spouse.

The big message of Ephesians

The preceding four chapters build up to what Paul talks about in Ephesians 5.  We need to read through the whole letter, to get the context, of what Paul is talking about here.

Ask the question, what is the whole of Ephesians about?  Here is an answer from John Stott:  “The letter focuses on what God did through the historical work of Jesus Christ and does through his Spirit today, in order to build his new society in the midst of the old.” (John R.W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, p. 24)

New society.  The church is a new society.  Others have called the church a new humanity.  God’s new society or new humanity, “is accomplished by the Son and applied by the Spirit.” (Winn Griffin, God’s Epic Adventure, p. 259)  The book of Ephesians is about understanding the purpose of God in the Church, in an individual’s life lived out in the church (Griffin, p. 258), and Ephesians is one of Paul’s greatest books (Barth, p. 3).

“The primary purpose of Paul (in Ephesians) was to instruct those believers about what was involved in their commitment to Christ and his church.  Christianity was not something that one could achieve; it was something that God had done on one’s behalf…  …The new humanity- the church- is the focal point for where the purpose of God is lived out.” (Griffin, pp. 258-59)

Membership of Christ’s body and living in Christ

What Christ is for the church, informs what we are to one another.  We are his body, a metaphor which Paul uses nine times in Ephesians.  Becoming a member of the church is something God does to make us part of Christ’s body.

You want to know about church membership?  Here is is:

I have been born anew, I have been saved by Jesus, and I have put my faith in him; and so God has made me a member of the body of Christ, world-wide, for all time and eternity.

Individual churches are different, but they are all a part of the same body.  The NT is saying that all true Christians are members of Christ’s body, that he is the head of and in charge of.

God is the source and center of the body of Christ, which we are the members of, which is the church.

The source of the church is Christ, no matter what kind of church.  The source is what is most important.  By the same token, we can only have the new society or humanity that Christ gives us, through Christ.  You can say you are conservative, liberal, egalitarian, complementarian, progressive, old-fashioned; and the list goes on and on.  But, these names or schools do not get you to the new humanity.  Only Christ does.  You can say you are one of these and fight and argue for it, but what about the living Christ in your life?  That’s what I care about.

If you have the living Christ in you or rather you are now in him, and living his life, then you are positioned to begin living in submission and reverence, and working out how the husband is to be the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church.

This is how The Voice translations gives us Ephesians 5:21-24.

And the Spirit makes it possible to submit humbly to one another out of respect for the Anointed.  Wives, it should be no different with your husbands.  Submit to them as you do to the Lord, for God has given husbands a sacred duty to lead as the Anointed leads the church and serves as the head.  (The church is His body; He is her savior.)

If we, individually and corporately, are not practicing or living out our lives under Christ’s headship, how on earth can we even start to understand how a husband is the head of his wife?  If we are running from Christ’s headship, how can husbands ever be heads of their wives, like Christ?  And how could women possibly live under their husband’s headship, if Christ is not head of her?

To me this is the key to understanding Christian marriage.

Submission is very scary when you don’t have the living Christ in your marriage.

Subordination is part of Spirit-filled living

Let’s look at how these statements about subordination fit into the larger context of the passage in Ephesians five:

“Subordinate yourselves.”  In the Greek text of Eph. 5:18-21, five successive participles are attached to the imperative, “be filled with Spirit.”  Think of Paul saying to us, “it is imperative that you be filled with the Spirit”.

And Paul gives five ways being Spirit-filled is lived out:

Be filled with the Spirit:

  • Talk to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  
  • Sing 
  • and play to the Lord from your heart.  
  • In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ give thanks always and for everything to God the Father.
  • Because you fear Christ, subordinate yourselves to one another –[e.g.] wives to husbands as to the Lord. 
That was Barth’s translation.  
Here is the CEB translation:

be filled with the Spirit in the following ways:

  • speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; 
  • sing 
  • and make music to the Lord in your hearts; 
  • always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 
  • and submit to each other out of respect for Christ.  For example, wives should submit to their husbands as if to the Lord.
And here is how the CSB has it:

be filled by the Spirit: 

  • speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, 
  • singing 
  • and making music with your heart to the Lord, 
  • giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
  • submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.  Wives, submit[a] to your husbands as to the Lord,

[a] Other mss omit submit)

How taking a text out of context leads to misunderstanding

We have misunderstood the phrase, “Wives, submit to your husbands”, because we have made it belong to it’s following verses, when it should more so be understood as relating to the preceding verses.

This is the way we have heard it, and read it:

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. (He is the Savior of the body.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything.) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. 

But this is how it really should be heard and read:

And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.  Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. 

“Wives submit”,  is not a stand alone statement, but a following statement to, “submitting to one another in the fear of Christ”.  And Paul clarifies that wives submit to husbands in the way that the church submits to Christ: “as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church”.  And this submitting that is as and like how the church submits to Christ, is part of the Spirit-filled life.  “Wives, submit”, is not the topic or subject, but an example of what Spirit-filled living, in Christ produces.


We have said, taught, and preached: “Let’s talk about Christian marriage.  Wives need to submit to their husbands and husbands are the head, but they also need to love their wives how Christ loves his bride, the church.”  Sometimes there is debate or discussion about headship and submission and somebody might say that if a husband is nothing like Christ, then how or should the wife submit.  We debate, if head means ‘source’ or ‘leader’ (4).

Christ is head of the church.  It is silly to say that head means source, but not leader here.  The evangelical church has been very interested in leadership.  It would be absurd, to teach Christ, as the foundation of our faith and our definition of leadership, to just be our source.  It would also be absurd to have a squad or group engaged in an effort, be it military, athletics, or business and define the head of the group as their source.

Wives don’t have to be afraid of their husband’s headship, because it is patterned after and is only rooted in Christ.  It is understandable that if we don’t have Christ as our head individually and collectively, we are naturally going to buck at our spouse functioning in headship over us.

There was a lady pastor, in my area, who was the top leader, senior pastor of her and her husband’s church.  They were not co-pastors.  On the church’s website, it clearly stated this, that indeed, she was the leader.  But then it said who she was married to, and it gave her husband’s first name, and that he was, “the boss of her”.

This blurb, in a nutshell, answered the concerns anyone might have had about a woman leading a church.  She was the leader of their church and he was her leader in the home.  In fact, he understood God’s call for them, to start a church of which she would be the leader, before she did.

The big command is “be filled with the Spirit”

But, this discussion solely on marriage, misses the larger picture of what Paul has written.  The imperative command is, “be filled with the Spirit”.  Being Spirit filled is not an option, for ‘holy rollers’ only, but for every Christian.  By definition, a Christian is Spirit-filled.  We are all charismatic.

It is unfortunate that we have divided ourselves, in the church, by the Spirit-filled label.  Charismatic is also not a good differentiator.  Something like ‘ecstatic’ might be better, because all Christians are Spirit-filled and charismatic.  The Christ life without the Spirit is absurd and not functional.

Being Spirit-filled is not just about speaking in tongues.  Paul lists five things:
  1. Talking to others in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
  2. Singing
  3. Play (make music) to the Lord from (in/with) your heart.
  4. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ give thanks always and for everything to God the Father
  5. Because you fear (respect) Christ, subordinate (submit) yourselves to one another.  For example, wives to husbands as to the Lord.
We can surmise that first, the call to Spirit-filled living is the alternative lifestyle to drunkeness, because in Ephesus, they either had alcoholism or practiced alcohol inebriation as a part of their religions.

And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit. (CSB)

Wives submitting to their husbands is not the point or focus, of the passage, but an example of  subordination, one to another, in Spirit-filled living, which all Christians are called to.  And that example is also the transition from vss. 18-22 into vss 23-33.  

Now, let’s talk about what subordination means.

The fallen state of marriage is described in Genesis 3:16b, “Your desire will be for your husband, yet he will rule over you.”  The NET Bible translates it this way, “You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you.”

Christ takes that and changes it into the new creation.  In Christ, the fall of mankind is redeemed, including marriage.  This is the first point, that Christian marriage is not just a sweetened fallen marriage, but new creation marriage that finds its reference and roots in Christ.

Marriage is restored back to God’s original intention, in Christ.  We may not be all the way there, but that is where we are going.  Any arguing about what subordination means must have as it’s framework the new creation wrought by God through Christ, that comes to bear on Christian marriage.

Consequently, when Paul mentions headship and subordination, he is not at all talking about it from a fallen, worldly framework.   Rather, he has in mind Christ and the Church, in the new creation.

NT subordination, one to another, is about freedom and order:

  • Jesus subordinated himself to the Father: “When everything is subject to Christ, then the Son himself will also be subject to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.” (1 Cor. 15:28)  
  • And the child Jesus submitted to his parents: “Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. His mother kept all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51)  
  • And in the church, we subordinate ourselves to one another: “And the prophets’ spirits are subject to the prophets.” (1 Cor. 14:32)  
  • All believers are commanded to be subordinate to God, says James: “But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:6-7)  
  • And the mystery author of Hebrews says: “Furthermore, we had human fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live?” (Heb. 12:9)

Subordination is patterned after and is only in Christ

Jesus and his relationship to Father is the framework for our relationship to Jesus and then to one another, including family relationships.  There is nothing harsh or brutal about Jesus relationship to his father.  It is all about love and honor.

Paul paints a picture for us, in Philippians 2, of what subordination is all about and what it means:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus,

who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be exploited.
Instead he emptied himself
by assuming the form of a servant,
taking on the likeness of humanity.
And when he had come as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—
even to death on a cross.
For this reason God highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow—
in heaven and on earth
and under the earth—
and every tongue will confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose.

-Phil. 2:3-13
There it is.  You can not be subordinate in the church or in your marriage outside of Christ.  Our subordinate relationships are modeled after Christ.
The idea of subordination is, “You go first”.  It is letting others be in line, in front of you.  In the church, there is always a, “You go first”, and then the reply of, “No, you go first”.  It could be with speaking, with walking, with the buffet line, or letting someone do something before you.
Today, God is subordinate in the church.  He loves the people who misrepresent him.  He loves people who are a mixture of right and wrong.  What I mean is that God does not walk away or refuse to play with imperfect people.

Broadly two kinds of subordination that are different

There are broadly two kinds of subordination in the New Testament (Barth p. 709).  1 Corinthians 15:28 says, “When everything is subject to Christ.”, Ephesians 1:22 says, “And he subjected everything under his feet and appointed him as head over everything for the church”, Romans 13:1 says, “Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God”, and Hebrews 2:8 says, “and subjected everything under his feet.  For in subjecting everything to him, he left nothing that is not subject to him. As it is, we do not yet see everything subjected to him”, and finally Luke 10:17 says, “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

The Greek scholars tell us that these verses have the active verb for “subordinate”, that illustrates hierarchy, unconditional power over; and rank, order, or status.  But, when ‘subordinate’ is in the middle or passive indicatives, participles or imperatives; it describes a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.  He (Paul) expects this kind of subordination only of Christ and of persons who are “in Christ”.  (Barth, p. 710)

Church staff insubordination?

I asked a pastor, one time, what happened to a number of pastors who had been on staff, but, one by one,  suddenly disappeared.  And he told me, “they were fired for insubordination”.  I was shocked.    Insubordination was not a word I was familiar with, and I had been fond of these pastors.  Their sudden disappearance was a sad thing and this backstory was disillusioning for me.

How does the insubordination of a staff member who gets dismissed fit into subordination in the NT?  If a member of the body of Christ is not subordinate, do they get fired?  No, because subordination in the body, in Christ, is voluntary.  Same thing with husbands and wives.  But if there is not subordination among Christians or in a marriage, because it is voluntary, what then?  Then you have people who identify as believers, but they don’t live as so; and the ones without subordination in their marriage simply don’t have a Christian (Christ-ian) marriage.  In other words, “in-Christ” means subordination to one another, and in this case, through being Spirit filled.

Back to those pastors who were fired, who went from leading, being up front on microphones, and carrying out the ministry of that church, under the leadership of the pastors above them, in a leadership hierarchy.  They were fired for insubordination and suddenly went from visible and honored to obscurity.

Although they and their supervisor pastors are both called with us all, to live out Ephesians 5, their story of insubordination and dismissal is not at all an application of Ephesians 5.  This boggled my mind and grieved me at the time and still does.  I had idealized those pastors, because I only saw a know them from ‘on the stage’.

Insubordination among Christian brothers and sisters

If you have ever led a home group and had a disruptive person, like a goat that keeps ramming itself into others harmfully, and you have asked them to stop and they don’t, there will come a time when you will possibly ask them to leave.  Somebody that missed the group for a couple weeks comes back and says, “what happened to sammy?”, and you say, “I had to ask them to leave”.  They ask you why and you tell them why.

Years ago, I read a book called, A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23.  In one section, the author wrote about a sheep that was out of control and keeps doing bad things to the other sheep, that the shepherd had to deal with, for the sake of the others.

Back when I was a green-horn pastor, I led a group, where a lady was very verbally abusive to the others and I said nothing.  I was just shocked.  Later in time, one of the participants told me that they had wished that I had exercised authority over the verbal abuser and told her to stop and leave, but she knew that I was totally new at this, and she forgave me.

I asked the pastor who told me that insubordination was the cause for firing all these pastors, “what do you mean”, and he said, “they didn’t follow orders.”  When you and I have a job, we have to follow orders; and if we keep not following orders, we will get fired.

The playing field of staffing a church is different than being brothers and sisters in Christ.  We say we are brothers and sisters, but then fire you.  Is that Jesus shaped leadership, or do you have to bring back Moses?

The explanation is that the hierarchical leadership model really is not in the New Testament.  We don’t see Paul or Peter or others dismissing people from ministry teams for insubordination.  But, we do see conflicts; like Paul with Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41).  Paul and Barnabas parted ways painfully over an interpersonal issue.  Paul very well could have said, “Mark is being insubordinate, and I will not have it!”

We are all equals and Christ is the boss.  And leadership is relational.  There are many conflicts in relationships, but we never fire our brothers or sisters.  We always reconcile and in the rare instance when we can not, we part ways, with grace, and are always open to future reconciliation.

It is something different when our divergent assignments from the Lord cause us to part ways.  Sometimes that breaking up is hard to do, but the Lord is calling us in different directions.  And sometimes we just disagree, neither is bad or good; but we see it differently and both love Christ; and we part ways.

“There ain’t no good guys, there ain’t no bad guys.  There’s just you and me, and we both disagree.”

Subordination is a hard word, a hard thing, even a bad thing; if you only think of it as me over you or as winner over loser.  That is not at all what subordination is about “in-Christ”.

The big picture context of Ephesians is the new creation in Christ, where we all are his bride, his community, and his army.  A wedding party, a community, or an army all have order.  They are not just a crowd.  Willing, cooperating subordination is orderly.

Think about a group of individuals, each gifted in unique ways, on a journey and a mission together.  Sometimes they are in a circle, sometimes in a line, and sometimes single-file.  The leader is a role that one person fills and then a different one may fill it at a different time.  And the leader may lead by going first or by going last, depending on the task at hand.  And this dance happens through mutual subordination that is in-Christ and always joyfully voluntary.

Subordination as a lifestyle

The subordination in Christian life is different than the submission of the powers to Christ and our subordination to the laws of governments.  One-another subordination is out of love for and in and through a person, Christ.

Subordination here is voluntary, cooperative, and enthusiastic, for those who are in Christ and filled with the Spirit.  Only people who have faith, hope, love, and fear of the Lord can be subordinate, in Christ.  We are set free in Christ to be humble, gentle, bear with one another, and keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Eph. 4:2-3).

Subordination, in Christ, is voluntary and “among equals”.  The equality of the husband and wife, is restored, in Christ.  In the fallen state, we have the proclamation: “Your desire will be for your husband,yet he will rule over you.” (Gen. 3:16)  The painful hierarchy is from the fall.

In Christ, subordination in marriage is redeemed from blind obedience to voluntary subordination.

The context here tells us the story.  The saints are equipped (ch. 4) to grow up into Christ as his body.  And there is an order about it, like a wedding procession.  We are all in that procession, as Christ’s bride.

Marriage is yoked together in Christ

We have that line, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate”, that we say at weddings, taken from Matthew 19:6 and Mark 10:9.  This means that the two are brought under one yoke, together.  In Philippians 4:3, Paul called an unnamed person his ‘true partner’, ‘true companion’, or ‘true yokefellow’.  In The Passion Translation, Brian Simmons has these words as, “my dear friend and burden-bearer”.

The commonality is in the yoking.  This person was yoked to Paul, voluntarily, for the sake of Christ and others, for Jesus ministry and church.  Joined together means yoked together.  This means work together.  It is about order rather than giving orders.

I have a friend, who got married before me who said, “marriage is like a three legged race”.  And it is true.  To be joined together, we have to be yoked together.

Eschatological expectation, missionary passion, and an obligation to Christ

Why would Paul use such a word, subordinate, that has military connotations, in his teaching on marriage?  Because of eschatology, mission, and spiritual warfare.

Order and coordination is required for all three, for married couples.  The time is short, we are living in the end times, and Christ is soon to come again.  It’s like, “all hands on deck!”, from Paul’s time through our time.

And we have a responsibility to be on mission and be missionaries where we live.  We have to coordinate and cooperate in our married lives, to be evangelical.

And spiritual warfare, with human persecution, requires the husband and wife to stand together in unison against the forces or people who oppose Jesus.  We can’t just be doing our own separate things, and meeting up for leisure and recreation occasionally.  But we are born into a war and must fight together, now that we are married.

If we have no eschatological expectation, no missionary passion birthed by an obligation to Christ, and no awareness of spiritual warfare or being in a battle; then subordination makes no sense and we want to throw it out or find a different way to frame marriage.  If we are just consumers and citizens of earth, who are going to heaven someday, who are animated by individualism; why would we want to subordinate ourselves to other believers or to our spouse?

In that context, subordination seems archaic.  We must find a way to reinterpret Paul for modern times.  The same people also have to reinterpret Jesus too, or just ignore most of his words, saying they were only for first century Jews.

Oy vey!

Our homes are supposed to be our primary missionary outpost, where evangelism, discipleship, healing, fellowship, and deliverance happens; with tremendous hospitality.  All Christians and all Christian homes are meant to be hospitable, for the gospel.

Our conduct in the most private spheres of our marriages creates a platform from which we minister with our lives.  A husband or wife who resents this and wants to do his or her own selfish thing is simply out of line.  They are insubordinate, voluntarily so; because subordination is voluntary and according to the Spirit and Christ.

Freedom and dignity

Subordination is from a place of freedom and dignity.  Same with husband headship.  He is free and she is free.  It is not slavery or undignified coercion but free to be dignified.  It is about honor and order.

The husband is a child, a brother, and a husband and a father

The husband is subordinated to others, including his own wife.  Think about a group of adult Christians together, all subordinate to one another, because they are filled with the Spirit and in Christ.  Jesus always was subordinate to his father and even to other people.  This subordination is not about being walked on or in slavery to, but is done enthusiastically, in and with love; or is doesn’t work.

All those Christians together are subordinate to one another.  Now, if you did not already, add children to the picture, teens to tots.  They are filled with the Spirit too and are being subordinate.  The men who are married, are subordinate towards everyone, other men, other women, and all the kids; and it is mutual, and this includes their own wives.

When they get home, nothing has changed; but it is of note that the wife subordinates herself to her husband, just like they both did, back there, with the church gathered.  It is like there is a task to be done, but it is dead serious, like a military operation, and the two must coordinate.  One goes first, and the timing or goals must align.  And that is where the wife voluntarily, because she is Spirit-filled and in Christ, subordinates herself to her husband.

The husband is not suddenly insubordinate to his wife and kids, when they get home.  It is just that in the family, their subordination comes under his subordination; while he fulfills the tall order of loving his wife, sacrificially, pretty much laying down his life for her.

Freedom and responsibility

Christ liberates us to the freedom to live this way.  It is not patriarchy or bondage, but freedom and harmony, unity and oneness.

Christian marriage is founded upon responsibility to Christ, of whom they both spouses are loved and whom they both fear.  They are responsible to Christ, to one another, and to the task of being Christians in their lives.  And the only basis for a wife subordinating herself, to be subordinate to her husband, is the order of God’s kingdom.

Subordination is voluntary and is done as one who is a dignified and a respected member of the bridal procession and a kingdom servant.

Christian marriage, final notes and summary:

  • Christian marriage has its basis in Christ and grace.
  • Christian marriage is a reflection of the whole church’s subordination to Christ.
  • A husband’s love is to be a reflection of Christ’s much greater love.
  • In her subordination to her husband, a wife serves Christ.
    • She’s not bypassing her husband, but serving him as she serves Christ.
  • A husband’s genuine love for Christ is reflected in his love for his wife.
    • He can’t say he loves Christ and not be loving to his wife.
  • The wife’s subordination to her husband in everything (5:24) need not compete with her devotion to Christ.
    • She has one husband and one Christ.
    • She is “in Christ”, “fears Christ”, while being subordinate to her husband.
  • Women who feel incapable of this subordination to a man in marriage, should not marry or remarry (1 Cor. 7:8-9, 25-40).
  • Wives “go first” in being subordinate, and the husbands follow, with loving their wives as Christ loves the church.
  • Husbands “go first” in loving their wives, and the wives follow with fearing (respecting) their own husbands.
    • The final word in Ephesians 5, is that husbands are to love their own wives, garnering her respect (honoring fear). 
  • The subordination of the wife to her own husband is not equated here with obedience. 
    • Children to parents and slaves to masters are to be obedient, but not wives to husbands.
    • Peter, however, does tell wives to obey their husbands (1 Peter 3:6).
  • Paul lays out order, rather than hierarchy.
  • Paul’s idea of subordination here is akin to yielding or recognizing (recognition).
  • Jesus’ dignified subordination to the Father is our first example.
    • The person who voluntarily yields to and serves another is dignified and free.
  • Eph. 5 does not support blind obedience or the breaking of the wife’s will.
    • We have instead a picture of people respecting order, in freedom and equality, under the crucified Servant-Messiah, where we joyfully renounce our rights and instead exercise our new right to imitate Christ.
  • Marital subordination is all about freedom and not subjugation. 


1. Cheryl’s blog posts on Ephesians 5:22.

2. Scot McKnight: “I like Markus Barth and have ever since college when I spent gobs of time working on Ephesians 4. His was one of the early Anchor Bible commentaries and he managed to find one volume inadequate..”

3.I was introduced to Markus Barth, by Dave Black, who posted a link to Barth’s lectures on baptism from 1970, that greatly helped me in forming my understanding of baptism: linked here by Matthew Montoni.

4. See Wayne Grudem, “Does kephale(‘Head’) Mean ‘Source’ or ‘Authority Over’ in Greek Literature? A survey of 2,336 Examples,” Trinity Journal 6NS (1985):38-59; idem. “The Meaning of kephale: A Response to Recent Studies,” Trinity Journal 11NS (1990):3-72; and idem, “The Meaning of kephale (‘head’): An Evaluation of New Evidence, Real and Alleged,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 44:1 (March 2001):25-65.

Notes From a Relationship Expert

What makes for a great marriage and what spoils a marriage?  These are some notes from Eric Barker’s post on a conversation with John Gottman, author of 40 books, and counselor for over 40 years. “The 4 Most Common Relationship Problems – And How To Fix Them“.

Four things that ruin your relationship:

  1. Criticism (pointing out flaws in your partner)
  2. Defensiveness (reacting by counterattacking or playing the victim to perceived criticism)
  3. Stonewalling (tuning out and not caring)
Three things that help your relationship:
  1. Knowing your partner inside/out (by engaging in curious intimacy and self-disclosure)
  2. Responding to and engaging with your partner (not ignoring but seeking to sync up with)
  3. Admiration (thinking about and expressing thoughts about them that are gracious and positive)
The best predictor of your relationship’s future is the couple’s “story of us”:
  • negative or positive?
  • discontent or cherish?
  • resentment or gratitude?
The most important aspect to a healthy relationship is acceptance:
  • Accepting one’s own responsibility
  • Accepting listening (stopping to unconditionally listen)
  • Two-thirds of disagreements will never be resolved through arguments (love as acceptance)

Admire Your Husband and Save Your Marriage

To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.

-Ephesians 5:33

Did you know that there is no verse that says, “Wives, love your husbands”?  Most wives do love their husbands, and I would imagine, do not need to be admonished to do so.  But, husbands do need to be admonished to love their wives.

At least that’s what it seems like.  Husbands need to get better at loving.  Husbands have the high calling of loving like Christ loves.

Wives seem to not need to be called to love better.  We are all called to love and to grow in loving.  Husbands get a special or particular command to love their wives.

Wives get a different command, direction or calling.  Wives need to be admonished to respect their husbands.  The wife is called out to respect or give admiration to her husband.

Many husbands, after a period of time in marriage, strangely, do not feel like spending time with their wives.  What happened?

I am reading Gary Smalley’s book, For Better or For Best: Understanding Your Husband.  In chapter seven, “How To Increase Your Husband’s Desire To Spend Quality Time With You”, Gary’s advice is for wives to admire their husbands.

You can view this article, based on Gary’s book, as being for women.  But for men, this book and this particular chapter help answer the question of why you don’t want to spend time with or be around your wife.  If you feel repelled, you may have a wife who does not respect you or does not know how to show her respect or admiration for you.

Gary Smalley makes the argument for women admiring their husbands to have a better marriage.

Many wives either do not admire their husbands, or do not know how to show it.  They do not know that being admired is a huge deal for men.

Gary Smalley died in 2016.

These are my notes from chapter 7: How To Increase Your Husband’s Desire To spend Time With You.
Admiration.  Husbands need admiration.

Admire means:

  • to respect or to honor
  • to place a high value on.  

Smalley says that people are attracted to those who admire them and are repelled by those who belittle them.  Belittle means to look down on.

Here are some of the ways that wives drive their husbands away (admiration deficit):
  • Expressing more appreciation or admiration for other men.
  • Criticizing your husband.  
    • Especially bad when you do it in front of his friends or children. 
    • Wives who critique their husbands in public mortally wound their marriages.
  • Nagging.  
    • Being nagged makes a man feel like a boy who is inadequate.
  • Arguing about everything.  
    • Arguing makes him feel like he is not able and not smart.
  • Questioning him, like you don’t trust his judgement.
  • Complaining.  This is repulsive to husband.
  • Comparing him to yourself. 
    • Like you are expecting him to be like a woman.  
    • Saying, “you should have known, realized, or paid attention”; when he was just being a man!
Here are some ways that wives can begin to admire their husbands.  These are the opposite of the list above and will help the husband to desire spending time with the wife and will strengthen your marriage.

With each of these points, especially if doing this is unnatural or goes against something in you, you might ask, “why?”  And the answer always is, “because I admire him”.  If you do not admire him, this is about cultivating admiration.  Circle back to what the words says.  Ask God to help you and give you a revelation about this.

Remember that admire means to respect and honor, or to highly value.  Admire comes from respect, and both are something you do.  These are some ways that you can respect or admire your husband:

  • Ask your husband for advice.
  • Remember what your husband’s likes & desires are, and fulfill them, when possible.
  • Draw attention to or praise your husband’s positive qualities, around other people.
  • Cultivate appreciation for what your husband does for a living.  
    • Help him know that you are in his corner and understand how hard he works and how valuable his work is: that he is worth-y and esteemed.
  • Really listen to what he says, with a loving ear.  
    • Don’t disagree when you haven’t heard all of what he wants to say. 
    • Being submissive does not mean blind obedience nor unilateral husband decision making.  
    • Let your husband be a servant leader.  
    • You can object to his ideas, while being submissive and letting him serve you. 
  • Express your appreciation for something your husband said or did.
  • Find out his goals and support him in them.
  • Non-verbally admire your husband:
    • Be attentive when he comes home.
    • Look attractive for him.
    • Cook delicious meals.
    • Be interested and ask him questions about his world.
    • Give him eye contact.
    • Don’t multi-task when he is speaking to you.
  • Genuinely desire your husband’s forgiveness when you offend him.
    • Cultivate a life-style of forgiveness and saying you are sorry.
    • Learn to say, “I was wrong”.
      • It is harder to forgive someone and restore the relationship with them, who never admits they were wrong.
    • Learn to say, “I apologize”.
  • Cultivate a positive attitude.
    • If prior abuse or brokenness hamstrings your ability to be positive, get into recovery and seek personal transformation.
  • Become someone who is desirable to be around, for your husband:
    • Find and cultivate mutual interests, that your husband enjoys.
    • Take steps to be a more desirable to your husband.
    • Make it your mission to be the most enjoyable woman to be around for your husband.
    • Be interested in his interests.
    • Make your home say, “Welcome home”, to your husband.
  • Seek your husband’s opinion in your areas on interest.
    • Ask him for help.
    • Need his help.
    • Never criticize the help he gives you.

It’s So Easy to Fall in Love

There is a song by Buddy Holly, called, “It’s So Easy (To Fall In Love)”.

Is ‘falling in love’ in the Bible?  And do we marry our spouse because we fell in love with them?

One story about falling in love, in the Bible is the story of Jacob and Rachel.  He had ‘love at first sight’ with her.  Then he met her dad.
The problem with falling in love is that it is as easy to fall out as it was to fall in.

A person says they got divorced because they ‘fell out of love’.  And then there is the statement: “I love you, but I am not in love with you”.

Somehow, ‘the feeling’, has been lost.  There is more to love than the engulfing experience of falling and feeling ‘in love’.  
As a young man, one day, I saw a couple where the wife was in a wheelchair, disabled; and her husband was pushing her along.  And I had an epiphany where I saw true love.  C. S. Lewis made the point in his book, The Four Loves, that deep love is not only love that loves unconditionally, but receives unconditionally.
As Christians, we hear and read that we ought to be unconditional lovers, as we love one another.  But the other side of the coin, that Lewis brings up, is the exercise of letting yourself be loved unconditionally.
We have been a people who have tried to love others.  For many, it has been hard and we have not done well.  Maybe it is because we have failed to learn to be loved.

There is another love issue about getting married.  We have this idea of ‘looking for the one’, or our ‘soul-mate’.  In Christian culture, we get this idea that God has one person for us, in the whole world.

A lady named Hannah, wrote a much read and commented on blog post called, ‘My Husband is Not My Soulmate‘. I have come to the same conclusion as her dad has, who said, “There is no biblical basis to indicate that God has one soul mate for you to find and marry. You could have a great marriage with any number of compatible people. There is no ONE PERSON for you. But once you marry someone, that person becomes your one person.

Some people state as their reason for divorce, and these are people with children in their homes; that they are no longer ‘in love’ with their spouse.  Maybe they have already ‘fallen in love’ with someone else and maybe not.  This illustrates that being ‘in love’ is not enough.
I believe that everyone should have pre-marital counseling before they get married.  And authentic counseling should cause about 50% of engaged couples to postpone or break off their marriage plans.  When you look at something very carefully, you must be open to finding out that you are wrong and be willing to change your mind.
Bibliography/For Further Reading:

Day After Day, Loving God

I will sing praise to your name forever, as day after day I fulfill my vows.

-Psalm 61:9 (CJB)
The place that we are living towards, with the Lord, is being His bride.  The place where we are going to is marriage with Jesus.  All of our lives bring us into union with Him.
Our lives are lived day by day.  Believers live in the present with God.  The gospel message in not just good news for the future, but good news for now.
The vows we make to the Lord, and fulfill daily are like wedding vows.  The promises we make and keep are rooted in love.  When we get married, we make vows out of our love for our bride or groom.
But the vows we make to Jesus are all because of his love.  When we see, hear and experience his love; it is perfectly natural to love him back and make vows to love him and serve him.  
Our vows we make are completely free will.  They are freely given offerings expressing true love.  You get to write your own vows.
Your vows to God are your free choice to make and say as you will, from your heart to God’s.  Our vows are not some sort of payment or contractual obligation.  To make a vow in order to procure God’s favor is wrong and foolish.
The vows we make to God, to Christ, are made from love and from a life that is already under His care.  Our vows are given in the context of already having begun to experience God’s faithfulness.  Making vows or giving offerings comes out of and from knowing God’s faithfulness and goodness.
Everything we do in the kingdom is inspired by the king.  He is good, so we are good.  He loves, so we love.
We don’t do anything towards God to get God to do something.  But we do things towards God because of what God has done and is doing.
When I endeavor to keep my promises to God and make every day a love gift to God, I find fulfillment.  True peace and tranquility comes from loving and serving God.

Headship: God, Christ, The Husband, and The Wife

But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ.

-1 Corinthians 11:3
What is the foundation of a Christian marriage?  Who is the key to a happy, joyful, abundant husband and wife relationship?  And what is the Christ-following husband’s role in regards to his wife?

These are questions that cross the minds of Christians who are married, thinking about being married, or have been married in the past and are looking back or looking forward.  In society, getting married is much easier to do, even though some single people who are searching or waiting might not agree with this; it is easier to do than getting a drivers licence or all sorts of other things we commonly do.

Being married and staying married are much, much harder.  Two people living in a space together, even with rings and the paperwork, does not a marriage make.

Christian marriage is a covenant between two people, both who are in Christ, that is held together by God.  The legal marriage certificate is a contract that in enforced by laws that will come into play if one of the spouses ends the marriage through divorce.

The covenant only works when we work with it.  God holds our marriage together, as we hold onto God.  It is all about our relationships to God and to one another.

We are all in a covenant, the New Covenant, in Christ, with God.  There are always two sides or two parties in a covenant.  Even though God does all the saving in our covenant with him, we must participate or be engaged in it to actualize the covenant in our lives.

We can’t say, “I’m saved”, and then go back to our lives, running our show.  Being saved means we have begun a journey with God, where we give up everything we have and God gives us everything we need.  That may not be the gospel message that you have heard or believed in, but this is the gospel of the kingdom.

When we say we are in the covenant of salvation or the covenant of marriage, the next step and life style is to live in the covenant relationship.  We don’t leave Christ or our spouse at the altar, so to speak, where we said “I do” and then go off on our own, saying, “see ya when I need ya!”.  But that is how some people live towards Christ and towards their spouse.

Before we look at this issue of head and headship, we need to make sure we are saved and look at our salvation.  If a man or a woman is not in a vital union with the living Christ, where they are dying to their selves and living to Christ, marriage will not work.

Many people are legally married, but not living in marriage.  The Bible gives clear instructions on how to live in marriage as Christians.  If you are not first living as a Christian, then you will not be able to or will have troubles participating in marriage, God’s way.

What Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 11, is, “this is the way it is and the way it is supposed to be”.  If you read the whole letter, you will see that the Corinthians had problems and Paul is addressing the problems and their questions.  Some of them were not doing great in their being in Christ.

Before Paul addresses the issues that were coming up regarding hair and head coverings, he says the statement that I am highlighting, as a foundation or backdrop to a discussion on hair and head coverings.  Paul could have said: “Thanks for remembering a lot of the stuff I taught you about being Christians.  Now, before I get into this issue of hair and covering or not covering one’s head, I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ.”

In case you did not realize it, and the Bible translation, HCSB, that I quoted has a footnote to flag this: scholars say that Paul meant husband and wife, when he wrote man and woman, here.  The ESV, for example, does this without a footnote:

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

Before Paul gets into the hair and veil customs, he grounds things in Christ; and that is how we get this verse and that is the context, which we will go through broadly, in a moment.  The back story to Paul’s admonitions on head coverings, may have been questions or problems with this issue at Corinth.  And Paul brings them and all his readers from then till now, back to our relationship to God and each other.

Before we get into head and headship and the wife being under her husband’s head, we have to say this:  A married Christian woman is a person who is herself in Christ, under Christ, and living her life from Christ; while also being and living under her husband’s headship.  A married Christian man is a person in, under, and from Christ; while also the head of his wife.

There has been an ongoing discussion, a theological debate, about what “head” here means.  Over on one side, some scholars have said that head here means ‘source’ or ‘origin’; while the other side says that head means ‘chief’ or ‘ruler’.  Head (kelphale’) also means the ‘end-point’ of something: the top of a column or the end of a pole.  The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is also called the head of the year. 

Also, head (kelphale’) means controlling agent, but not preeminent.  Our physical heads, having our brain within, rules and has authority over our bodies: our head is the controlling agent of our bodies.  This has nothing to do with preeminence, but everything to do with function.  The head is the boss, from which control emanates, but is not bossy nor controlling.
A body without a head is dead.  It is normal for a body to be under the rule and control or authority of the head.  When we take headship as a metaphor, we see that Christians can and do live without being under Christ’s headship.

In Christ, there is life and outside of Christ there is not life.  If a Christian is not living in Christ, functionally, then they are not living in his life.  Imagine a person who is legally married, but does not live in a marriage.

Living as a room mate, living self centered, not sacrificing, not sharing everything you have, and not laying down your life for your wife; are examples of the husband who is not living under the headship of Christ.

Christ is head of the church, head over all things, the head corner stone, and head of man; and God is the head of Christ and husbands are heads of their wives.  The church can ignore, set aside, or give lip service to Christ being it’s head.  And wives can also not believe in or live under the headship of their husband; and both of these can be happening today, to our detriment.

After studying, reading, listening, looking things up, and reading some more; my conclusion is that ‘head’ (kephale) here in Paul, means ‘authority’, and not ‘preeminent’, ‘source’, or ‘origin’.  There are links to articles, in the bibliography at the bottom, for your further study, if desired.

There have been Christians who are confused about Christ and God, saying things like, “the man upstairs”, or “God is my co-pilot”.  The truth is that God and Christ is king and we need to bow and surrender our lives.  But God is also good, love, and full of mercy and grace.

Christians are the bride of Christ and the children of Father.  God and Christ are not this incredible religion or philosophy that we adhere to.  Being a believer means we give up everything and God gives us a different everything.

It means death and resurrection.  It means leaving our mother and father and getting married to Christ.  It means that we are no longer orphans, but get adopted and become God’s children.

If you do not have these basics, these staring points down; if you are not in and on the pathway of Christ; then having Christ as chief, head, authority, and boss of your life might be a strange and off-putting topic for you.  And it would follow, that if you are a wife, to have your husband over you in any chief, boss, or leader role would possibly be foreign, unwanted, incorrect, and rejected as archaic and bluntly crass.

God and Christ is and are our source, and that is a Pauline idea (Acts 17:28, Rom. 11:36).  But that is not what 1 Cor. 11:3 is saying.  It is also not saying that one is superior and one is inferior.  Paul is not saying the husband is the inferior to Christ and the wife is the inferior to the husband and Christ is inferior to God.

The text is neither saying that the husband is inferior to Christ nor is Christ inferior to God, and not that wives are inferior to husbands.  But it is saying that there is a hierarchy.  Some of us don’t like that word.

God’s headship of Christ gives us an example to follow.  Jesus lives under his father’s authority.  He did all the good things and said all the good things, under his father’s headship.

The husband lives out his life under Christ’s headship and his wife lives out her life under her husband’s headship.  The wife has her own walk under Christ, while also walking under the headship of her husband.  Christ is the wife’s savior and Lord, but she functions under the authority of her husband.

The husband has Christ as his model for leadership.  Christ’s leadership is sacrificially loving.  The husband is called to sacrificially love his wife, who he is head over.

Men and women are equal before God.  Husbands and wives are equal in value before God.  But husbands and wives have different roles in marriage.

Different positions in the hierarchy does not mean superior/inferior.  That is a worldly perspective and not part of Christ’s way.  Jesus and the Father are one.  Jesus Christ is Lord, and not just a man who was a carpenter and a traveling teacher/prophet/healer, who had and still has followers.

“God is the head of Christ”, means God the Father has a role of authority over Christ.  It is a function and role issue.  While the husband is not God, Christ is also the head of him; and again it is a role and function.

Remember how in the great commission, Jesus says, “all authority has been given to me”?  Father gives authority to Christ and Christ gives authority to us.  The one is functionally over the other and gives authority to the other.  Jesus has a oneness with Father, but is also under his headship.

In marriage, the two become one; but the wife is under her husband’s headship.

This is an aside, but if Christ calls a woman, a married lady, to be a pastor; her husband is obviously still her head.  If she is married, a blurb on their church’s website might read, “Sue Jones is the pastor (or lead minister) of Tall Mountain Jesus Is Lord Fellowship, and her husband Larry Jones is the boss of her”.  For anyone worried that she is not under her husband’s headship, that settles it.

To every pastor, preacher, or standing up in front of people in a leadership role person; I would simply ask, “has Christ called you?”  If Christ calls a woman and if Christ gives a woman the desire to serve and teach and speak and minister, and gives her his authority to stand in leadership; who are we to argue with him?

If elders are men and the elders are the pastors, then it makes it difficult to be a woman pastor.  But if Christ not only gifts a woman with gifts and then calls her to serve as a leader, and there is much discernible fruit from her ministry, then we call her a pastor, agreeing that Christ has made her one and his.  He has ordained her and we bless his work in her life.

Also, it would be ideal for a woman pastor to have a qualified elder husband.  His being qualified as an elder actually is an endorsement or qualifier of her standing up and speaking and thereby leading other people.

However, most people don’t make it to the ideal, and being divorced or never married should not disqualify anyone who Jesus desires to use, and he does.

Is Christ the head of all Christians, male and female, husbands and wives, young and old?  Yes, of course.  This passage or section does not need to say that because Paul is talking about roles and functions.

Husbands and wives have equal value and standing before God, in Christ.  But they have different roles, and that is what this verse is saying.  Imagine a narrow path, where only one person can fit at a time and one goes first and the other follows.  That is a picture of roles, not about one person being valued more.

Think about a car, where there is one steering wheel in front of one seat that the driver sits in.  The one who drives and manages the wheel, is not superior, but only in the role, function, and service of driving.  Drivers who drive recklessly, speed, blare the radio, where headphones, text while driving, have their eyes off the road, tailgate, cut off other drivers, or drive the wrong way may be called bad drivers and get in trouble or hurt themselves or others, but being in the role, function, or service is not a bad thing.

And that is the way it is with bad husbands.  Their God given role of being head is not the problem, but what they are doing in their role is the problem that needs correction.  Egalitarianism might be saying that the role thing is the problem, so we need to get rid of that and be equal in the roles.

But the complimentary roles and functions, unique to each sex, are given by God; and are not the problem.  The problem are people who do bad things, act in bad ways, and are ungodly.  Egalitarianism seeks to set us free from ‘archaic’ roles, ‘patrimony’ and ‘misogyny’.

The Bible and the roles for husbands and wives are not wrong and don’t need a re-write.  We need to separate the people who have done wrong, lived sinfully, even while saying they are walking with God, from the God we serve, who has created man and woman, with equal value, but different roles as husband and wife, that compliment each other.

The only way to have a Christian marriage is in and through Christ.  We know that Christ is under the headship of God, but the husband must also be intimately aware of his being under Christ’s headship, for his wife to take her place under his headship.  It is about function and relationship.

But before the husband begins to exercise his authority, as head of his wife,there is something to check.  Is he under or functioning under the headship of Christ?  If he is not, then he needs to come under Christ and let Christ be his authority.

This is the subject I wanted to talk about.  Everything I have said up to this point is an introduction to what I am about to say.  There is a problem today, with Christian marriages failing or being dysfunctional, because the husband is not living under the headship of Christ.

I could and am tempted to give you a list of bad things that Christian husbands do.  I could also give you a list of problems that Christian wives have that are to an extent, the result or fruit of their husband not being under Christ’s headship.  Obviously, Christian wives may sin themselves in ways that are not the fruit of their husbands lack of relationship with Christ, but that is not what I am talking about.

This word, that I am focusing on, that says that, “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ”, is found in the context of Paul’s words about hair and the covering of a person’s head.  It may be stating the obvious, but we know that Christ and his headship is for all time and universal; but the issues of hair length, and the covering of one’s head, in Corinthian, Grecian society are particular.  

The challenge for us with passages like this, is to find out how the passage applies to us today.  And we can broadly place many things in the Bible into two categories: custom and command.  The statement, that Christ is the head of the husband is a command, for all Christians: to obey.
But, the words that follow in 1 Corinthians 11, about hair length and veil wearing are in the custom category.  Paul is referring to the customs of their culture and  reflecting on how to be loving, in Christ, in the midst of their particular cultural customs.
The husband being the head of the wife is also in the command column.  If you place that piece into the custom column, then you must also place Christ and his headship over man  in the custom column as well.  And some people do that, who say that the whole Bible is just customs.
At the other side of the spectrum, some might say that this whole passage is of the command type, and we must strongly transpose Paul’s words then to our lives now.  And what this point of view would say, is that, “women must wear head coverings, for the Bible commands it”.
What is funny, in an ironic way, is that if you were to grow up, or be raised up and discipled in a church culture today, where you were taught, “women must wear head coverings, for the Bible commands it”, you would hear, and we could say, be indoctrinated, by an argument, that would lead you to believe that veils or head coverings are required by scripture, and the rest of Christianity and secular society that does not practice head coverings, is wrong.  Does that sound like any groups of people today?
This is why critical thinking and cross-pollination is so important and beneficial for Christian strength of learning.  Indoctrination and sectarianism are religion.  Christianity is centered in Christ.
Today, many Christians are centered on their beliefs, doctrine, and customs; rather than Christ.  They say they are centered on Christ.  But if they were centered on him, they would love what he loves, both the lost and all of his different flocks.
Now, here is the context of the first half of 1 Corinthians 11:

Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.

Now I praise you because you always remember me and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ. Every man who prays or prophesies with something on his head dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since that is one and the same as having her head shaved. So if a woman’s head is not covered, her hair should be cut off. But if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, she should be covered.

A man, in fact, should not cover his head, because he is God’s image and glory, but woman is man’s glory. For man did not come from woman, but woman came from man. And man was not created for woman, but woman for man. This is why a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, and man is not independent of woman. For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman, and all things come from God.

Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her as a covering. But if anyone wants to argue about this, we have no other custom, nor do the churches of God.

-1 Corinthians 11:1-16
If you use this passage to say that women should wear head coverings, I might say that is ok, but please do not try to force it on others.  It is interesting to note that in Paul’s day and today, in Judaism, in their worship; the men where the skull cap and women let their hair flow down and about.  How did Paul get from that to the other?

The answer is tradition or custom or culture.  If you look around the world, you will see different styles of dress.  In various cultures, women cover up their heads and even their faces.

Corinth and Greece at the time had a culture that the Corinthians lived in.  They had to live and witness for Christ within that culture.

This hair and head covering part is a cultural discussion that we can transpose and glean some wisdom from for today, which is what many even handed preachers try to do, when they speak on this passage.  But that is not the point of my message.

My message is this:  Christ is the center and Christ is the head of man and head of the husband.  The husband is head of his wife, but that will not work out very well, unless that husband is under the headship of Christ.  Any Christian husband who is not under the headship of Christ, needs to start living in and from that place, and any wife who in not under her husband’s headship needs to start living from, in, and through that place.

If we refuse this calling, we are living a double life that is exhausting and not in the peace of Christ.  We will do the religious things to feel good and then be selfish and lash out at others and even make disciples in this wrong way.  Please don’t do it.  Please come home to Christ.


Brauch, Manfred T.; The Head of Woman is Man?, The Hard Sayings of Paul, The Hard Sayings of The Bible, pp. 559-602, (1989)

Bruce, F. F.; The New Century Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Corinthians; pp. 103-4, (1971)

Grudem, Wayne; Does Kefalh (“Head”) Mean “Source” Or“Authority Over” in Greek Literature?A Survey of 2,336 Examples (1985)

The meaning of κεφαλή (“head”):An evaluation of new evidence, real and alleged, (2002)

Kroger, Catherine; Head, The Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, Hawthorne & Martin eds.; pp. 375-7, (1993)

Nathan, Rich; Why Vineyard Columbus Encourages Women To Preach, Pastor & Church Plant, (2014)

You’re My Best friend

This is my love, and this is my friend.

-Song 5:16
Who is your best friend?  I have had many best friends in my life, beginning with my brother.  I have  thoroughly enjoyed my friends.
Today my best friend is my wife.


Friendship in the Bible is defined as an affection and love between two people.  The affection begins with association:  he/she is a associate.  This then progresses into loyalty: a bond forms wherein that person becomes a part of your life, a special person to you that you care about, do things for & with, and spend time with.  Finally, this can progress to having an affectionate bond between us.
We can be friendly to everyone and there are people who are so friendly, that we say that they are “everyone’s friend”.  But friendship comes about through mutuality: both people have to desire friendship with the other, for a bond of friendship to come about.  It is like dating: one invites and the other responds or chooses not to and a friendship begins or continues, or it does not.
We have times when there is not mutuality and a friendship does not grow.  Also, it is notable that the majority of friendships fade or end.  The association that brought you together might change or end; and you realize that the loyal bond was based on that original association.  When the association ends or changes, the loyalty weakens, and the affection fades; and “a best friend” shifts to being just “a friend” and might go out of focus completely, transitioning to “a former close friend” that we eventually become estranged from.


A stranger is someone you don’t know and estrangement is when you transition from close to distant or friend to stranger.  Many of us can recall people we used to speak with every day or very often, to who we have not spoken or seen for a year or a decade or decades.  We usually do not have a “going away party” and have a last goodbye with a best friend, but instead a shift happens and the friendship changes and fades.


Friendships shift and are often lost when associations change.  Another dimension that affects association is that we outgrow certain friendships.  If the friendship was centered around something you have outgrown, but your friend still lives there, it might be hard to relate.
We are all designed to grow and we mostly grow at different rates and in different ways.  A friendship’s association may be very good in that we are both growing and encouraging one another, or one of us may be ahead of the other and in a mentoring role that is enjoyed by both of us.  But eventually there is a state where it is not ‘working’.  
If the friendship was heavily based on the association and possibly the loyalty that was garnered out of the mutual enjoyment and the association shifts, then the the friendship must shift or die.  The shift is into just enjoying one another’s company.  This is hard when the roots and the history of that friendship were always that previous association.
An example might be becoming friends in a transitional, and perhaps crisis laden time of your life.  When the crisis is past, can we still be friends?  The friendship will have to shift into the unconditional love of just enjoying another’s company and sharing life together.

General, Special, and Best Friends

We can generally address people as friends, because we want to be friendly and associated with them.  When I give a speech, I might say, “friends, family, and loved ones”, and I am calling out associations that people in my audience have with one another.  But when I speak, and say to an audience, of whom are many strangers to me, “friend…”, I am speaking to them as an acquaintance/associate.
We can call many people friends, because there is an association there.  We might introduce someone as our “new friend”, meaning that we just met because of some association.  But, these are not close friends or best friends; although they have that possibility of becoming one.

Bad Friends

Jesus called Judas, “friend”.  When we hear that scene, we might gasp, because Judas is betraying him.  Have you ever been betrayed, by a friend?
Betrayal usually only happens among friends, because the association is the doorway, and the more loyalty and affection that previously existed, the deeper and more painful that betrayal is.  Betrayal is real and it hurts.
Other pitfalls in friendship are when ‘friends’ are really ‘fake friends’, people pretending to be your friend, perhaps for some ulterior motive, but they are really not your friend.  Someone who really is your true friend, might intervene and strongly encourage you, saying, “____ is not your friend!”
Friendships are tarnished when we loan a friend money and they do not or can not pay it back.  Friendships are ruined when we gossip about a friend.  Friendships are weakened when we do not show loyalty and affection for a friend when they are wounded in life.  We call people “fair weather friends”, who are only around when things are fun and easy.

Jesus’ Definition of Best Friend

Jesus said that the highest form of friendship is when we lay our lives down for our friends (John 15).  He said that we demonstrate that we are his friends when we are obedient to his commands.  He invites us all into a friendship, where we serve him and know him.

Best Friends in Marriage

Now, what about friendship in marriage?  Is your spouse supposed to be your best friend, or does marriage surpass and glide above friendship?  Can you have that exclusive romantic relationship with your spouse and have them be your best friend, and does that mean that we can be missing something if we don’t have a best friendship with our wife or husband?

In the Bible, we have this verse, Song of Solomon 5:16, that is a statement that makes the suggestion that there is the possibility of being in a relationship filled with adoration, romantic love, unabashed sexual feelings that desire fulfillment, and authentic friendship.

His mouth is sweetness. He is absolutely desirable. This is my love, and this is my friend, young women of Jerusalem.

Do we dismiss this as part of the starry-eyed infatuation that this woman is experiencing, or embrace it as a bold fact, that breaks new ground for lovers, and is divinely inspired scripture revealing to us the depths of a relationship between a woman and a man who have become a couple?

Do we exclusively interpret this verse and the whole of this book as an allegory of God’s or Christ’s love for his people?  No.

I believe that it is both.  The relationship between a man and a woman is actually a reflection of God’s love for his people.

This Hebrew word here for friend,  “rea“, רֵ֫עַ, (“ray’-ah”), falls into the Biblical definition of association, companionship, neighbor, fellowship, another, and friend.  And in the Bible, the word neighbor is much richer than we often use it and has to do with community and relationship; rather than houses, condos, apartments, property lines, walls, fences, and stick figures of people we really don’t know and might wave at, as we drive by, with our car’s windows up.

The Context Usually Defines The Depth of a Friendship

Friendship in the Bible, is pretty much defined by the larger context.  I can say that Peter, James, and John were Jesus’ best friends; because of the extra time and experiences they had with him.

John was Jesus’ very best friend, because of how John identifies himself as, “the disciple whom Jesus loved”.  John displayed special affection for Jesus, and was a bit more loyal than the others, when Jesus suffered on the cross.  And Jesus asked John to take care of his mom, when he was dying.

In the context of The Song of Solomon, with all the adoration, respect, romance, and sexuality expressed through the larger story; this lady exclaims, “And he is my friend!”  To me, this implies that two people can have a good marriage, but lack the best friendship.  And I think it was that way then and is that way now.  Friendship is the great “And” in a marriage.

Some quotes and notes on this revelation from three theologians:

  • Friendship goes far deeper goes than mere sexual compatibility and excitement.  Happy is the husband or wife whose spouse is also a friend. -G. LLoyd Carr
  • The Song of Solomon is unabashedly erotic. Yet it is never satisfied to be content with the physical alone. A normal person finds the erotic ultimately meaningful only if there is trust and commitment, delight in the other’s person as well as in their body. The writer of the Song understands this. Our hero is her lover, but he is more: he is her friend. -D. F. Kinlaw
  • With this ringing declaration the woman expresses not only her love and commitment but the depth of their relationship.  Her beloved is not any man whom she finds desirable – he is her friend.  This speaks of an intimacy and a sharing, an engagement that goes beyond and yet is expressed by physical closeness.  Certainly, there is intimate friendship manifested as erotic passion at work, but the passion arises out of deep love, understanding and commitment to the other.  The love is entirely mutual, the love of two equals:                                                                                                                                        “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine …” (6:3)                                                                                                                                                                                         We have here no idea of female subservience to the male, but two equal human beings who have found true love.  -Peter Vardy

My love and my friend

I have had many dear best friends, starting with my very special brother.  And it is my goal and passion to be a friend of God and like John, Jesus’ best friend.  But it is also my great desire and joy, to be best friends with my wife.  I want to adore her, romance her, respect her, support her, champion her, mentor her, protect her, affirm her, facilitate her, sacrificially love her, and be her best friend.

My Best Friend, by John Deacon (Queen)

Ooh you make me live

Whatever this world can give to me
It’s you you’re all I see
Ooh you make me live now honey
Ooh you make me live
Ooh you’re the best friend that I ever had
I’ve been with you such a long time
You’re my sunshine and I want you to know
That my feelings are true
I really love you
Oh you’re my best friend

Ooh you make me live

Ooh I’ve been wandering round
But I still come back to you
In rain or shine
You’ve stood by me girl
I’m happy at home
You’re my best friend

Ooh you make me live
Whenever this world is cruel to me
I got you to help me forgive
Ooh you make me live now honey
Ooh you make me live

You’re the first one
When things turn out bad
You know I’ll never be lonely
You’re my only one
And I love the things
I really love the things that you do
Ooh you’re my best friend

Ooh you make me live

I’m happy at home
You’re my best friend
Oh you’re my best friend
Ooh you make me live
You’re my best friend



New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 1:254-60
C.S. Lewis: The Four Loves
Jacalyn Eyre, Faithfulness: The Foundation of True Friendship
G. Lloyd Carr, Song of Solomon
D. F. Kinlaw, Song of Solomon
P. Vardy, The Puzzle of Sex

Come Let Me Love You, Love me Again

You fill up my senses
Like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again

Come let me love you
Let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter
Let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you
Let me always be with you
Come let me love you
Come love me again

You fill up my senses
Like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again

“I am a song. I live to be sung. I sing it with all my heart. And that is the essence of who John was and is.” -Annie Denver

Photo: Pixabay
I recently watched the wedding video, of my nephew’s recent wedding, and I saw so much joy and pageantry.  The smiles on the faces, the celebration, and the sheer beauty.  It was outdoors, in a beautiful vineyard setting.
We make a big deal of our weddings, because they are a big deal.  Two lives are being joined, becoming one, and then they will usually have the awesome responsibility to be parents.  God’s plan or design has always been for a man and a woman to find each other, and come together, uniting their lives.
As wonderful as that is, there is something more awesome and deeper about the wedding, because of what it points to.  That is, the relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ, and his bride, the church.  The church is Jesus’ bride, we are the bride of Christ.
The reason why weddings are awe inspiring, whether they are small of big, on a shoe-string budget, or extravagant; is because of how that event, that wedding, resonates with the impending event of Jesus Christ’s wedding to his bride, the church.  You can not make too big a deal of your wedding, because it is a reflection of the very big wedding to come.
What does that have to do with John Denver’s song?  I believe in common grace and prevenient grace.  Whether a poet knows it or not, God created love.  Whether a poet believes it or not, God and his son are worthy to be praised, worshiped, and adored.
I believe that the love that people have and display towards one another, whether or not they are believers, comes from God.  Romantic love, friendship love, and parental love are gifts from God.  God also invented erotic love as well.  The Bible teaches us about all these.
John Denver wrote this song for his wife, Annie.  John had a gift with words and music.  He tapped into a love that men and women perhaps can only have fully fulfilled in their relationship with God.
We might love our spouse, or spouse to be, so much that we feel our heads spin, like we are floating, and we call it “head-over-heels-in-love”.  God invented that.
John’s poetry is about his love for his then wife, but it resonates with God’s love for me, for us.  I’m not saying that God put the words in John’s mouth, but what I believe is that, in John’s longing for his wife, he tapped into God’s love for us and our reciprocation of that love.
John Denver was the oldest son of an alcoholic, air force bomber pilot, of German ancestory, “who was stern and could not show love towards his children”, according to his wikipedia bio.  He had and Irish Catholic German grandmother that imparted a love for music to him.  
John had personal brokenness and was looking for meaning in life.  He died in a small experimental airplane accident, in 1997, at the young age of 53.  He was low on fuel and the levers that controlled the two fuel tanks were dysfunctional.

Annie’s Song, Wikipedia
John Denver Bio., Wikipedia

Loving Your Wife As Your Own Body

In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

-Ephesians 5:28

Photo: Pixabay

In Ephesians, Paul uses the metaphor of the body, to describe the church, and it’s relationship to Christ.  Then Paul draws a parallel between Christ’s and the church’s relationship, with the husband and the wife’s relationship.  As Christ loves his body, the church; husbands also love the their wives, as they love themselves.

There is a method of teaching “the husbands and wives passage” in Ephesians 5, where the teacher says, “this is for you, wives”, or, “and now, this is for you, husbands”.  Worse than that is to talk to the men, the husbands, about, “what those wives need to to”, or to talk to the ladies about, “what those husbands need to do”.  We end up blaming the other party for our lack of obedience.

“If she would just be submissive”, men lament, or, “If he would be more loving, like Christ”; ladies cry.  And both of these whinings are wrong.  If you have a crazy, wild, rebellious wife; love her.  If you have a un-Christlike, boar of a husband, then submit to him anyways (1 Peter 3:1).

When we only look at one verse, there is truth there, but we have trouble understanding it and applying it, unless we look at the context.  The context of Christian marriage is Christ.  And, Christians are members of Christ’s body, metaphorically speaking, which is the church.

Christ loves his body.  And, like a human body, all the parts of the body follow the head and work together, in harmony.  Working together is inherent and learned.

When the body does not work together or follow the head, metaphorically speaking, then, it does not work, and if you press the metaphor onto that situation, you have an absurd picture of a body, not connected to it’s head or parts of the body operating independently or out of harmony with the rest of the body.  Today, Christ’s body, the church on earth, is much like this; not always following it’s head and with body parts acting independently or unharmoniously.

The body metaphor of Christ and the church is that Christ cares for the body and the body submits to him and comes under his headship.  As I stated above, how a husband or wife functions in Christian marriage is not predicated on how well their spouse is doing, but upon their own obedience to Christ.  And where Christ guides, he provides.  What he asks of you, he will help you to do.  In fact, Jesus called the Holy Spirit just that, “the Helper” (John 14:26).

It is very common, for a person to be angry at their spouse.  But, anger is a reaction to something.  Anger is a secondary emotion.  Perhaps, you got hurt or your expectation was not met.  Or you are afraid or disappointed.

Remember that anger never accomplishes the righteousness of God (James 1:20).  You might be angry at your spouse.  There is healthy and unhealthy anger.  Jesus got angry.  But he did not punish and abuse or harm people with it.  We can learn to express and release our anger in healthier ways.  Passive-aggressive anger or “stonewalling” are also dysfunctional (they do not help you or the other) and sinful.

Christ is the mediator in all conflict.  Christ is your healer, for all your damaged emotions.  You must cultivate your own relationship to Christ as the one who is making you whole, and then relate to your spouse as a person also being made whole.

Each one of us is responsible to have our love relationship with him and to let him give us the ability to have grace, speak truth, and forgive.  He’s got patience and truth together.  We are his disciples, learning to live his way.

Christian couples who forget Christ and just just see their spouse, put too much on them.  Christian marriage has Christ holding the couple together in their covenant.  Christian marriage is impossible without Christ in the center of it.  You must actively participate with him.

The husband and wife relationship is written about in Ephesians, by Paul, in the context of the body metaphor.  Husbands love their wives, as they love their own body.  You don’t get mad at your body, but you nurture it.  You care for your body.

Even though you are a man, you are called to nurture.  Nurturing is not effeminate, but Jesus-style leadership.  Remember that Christian leadership isn’t bossing, but serving (Matt. 20:25-28, Mk. 10:42-4, Lk. 22:25-6).

Let’s look at the body metaphor in Ephesians, from chapter’s one through five:

And He put everything under His feet and appointed Him as head over everything for the church,  which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way. (1:22-23)

In His flesh, He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. He did this so that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it. When the Messiah came, He proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.

The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling—  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (4:4-6)

And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,  for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ. (4:11-12)

But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ. From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part. (4:15-16)

Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives are to submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of His body.

For this reason a man will leave
his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two will become one flesh.

This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church.

To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.

If we want to find out what it means for a husband to love his wife as himself, we find out by looking at the previous verses.  It is right there in verses 25 to 32.  Paul compares the relationship of husband and wife to Christ and his church.

Look at how Jesus treated people.  That is how husbands should treat their wives.  Husbands get to be disciples in learning how to live in Christ.  Then we get to learn how to treat our wife the way that Jesus treats his bride.

God wants each of us to walk in a one flesh relationship with Jesus.  Husbands and wives also live in a one flesh relationship with each other.  On both fronts, it is profound and mysterious, yet real.

When we do not take our relationship with Christ seriously and walk in him, it is not a surprise that we would be flabbergasted by the call to a marriage just like that.  The calling for husbands is very high, but God is happy to help us learn to walk in it.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless.” 

Here is the “tall order”.  I see agape love, sacrifice, and a call to holiness through the word.  It looks like husbands are called by God to do every good thing they can do, to help their wives to be Christian women – women who are like Christ, godly.

I don’t think this means that the husband has no life other than this ministry to his wife, but that it means that this is how you relate to her.  And the Christlike life of the husband is a life of being on-duty or on-call for his wife and not absent, like a good shepherd.

“In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of His body.”

The husband has a relationship of being one with Christ.  He is a disciple.  He is a Jesus follower and servant.  He serves Christ and serves his wife.

Remember the word and command, to, “love God with all your heart, mind, and strength; and then to love your neighbor as your self”.  When you are loved by God, you begin to love your self in a wholesome and healthy way; with dignity, based on self-esteem from God.

When the word says, “husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies”, we are talking about the love of God, not selfish, self-centered love.  This is reflected in the next statement, “He who loves his wife loves himself.”  If you are not loving to your wife, or others for that matter, it says that you don’t love your self.

Selfish people are not lovers.  Authentic love is godly love and godly love is giving, generous, and sacrificial.  Giving, generosity, and sacrifice is when you share your time, and resources.

The more relational that these acts of love are, the more authentic are.  Every recorded moment of Jesus life shows us what God’s love is like.  Jesus’ life is love actualized.

A husband might worry that if he really goes with what the word of God prescribes for him, then he will get lost and pretty much cease to exist.  “What about ME?!”, the soul of the husband cries.  The truth is that the husband is called to follow Christ, taking up his cross and following; becoming a person who says, “I no longer live, and the life I now life is by faith in the Son of God” (Gal. 2:20).  You will not disappear, but become what God wants you to be.

A side note, is that we do not crucify our selves.  There is no masochism in Christianity.

You must lose your life, for His sake, to find your life (Matt. 10:39, 16:25).

One last note, is that a Christian man can be very devoted to Christ, but not be a very good husband.  In other words, neglectful.  He is “doing great things”, while his wife and children suffer the ongoing loss or absence of a husband and father.  This is a failure on the man’s part and has never been God’s plan for any man.

You can not be too devoted to Jesus.  But if that life is not lived out in your marriage and your fathering, then your life is not really Jesus’ life, but a misshaped caricature.

How can it be, that a Christian speaker, author, or musician can be effective in ministry; while failing in their personal life?  All of us are broken, cracked-pots, who are on-the-mend or being sanctified.  We are all becoming more Christlike.  And, it is the God who touches people and saves, heals, and delivers them.

You are not the gift.  A man may be something special and effective, in his giftedness.  But when he comes home, his wife still asks him to take out the garbage, and he serves her, with love.

We don’t expect perfection from anyone’s life.  But when someone has a gift from God and people are blessed by that gift, then the person’s life can become driven by the “success” that the gift brings to them.  On the one hand, God gave that person the gift (we are not arguing that point) and God raises people up into particular leadership roles.  On the other hand, that person is still called to their second role as husband or wife and fathering or mothering.

Loving God comes first, loving your spouse and children comes second, and then everything else comes in a distant third.  In this “third tier” is ministry and vocation.  The man or woman that puts ministry or vocation before their spouse or family has failed and is wrong.  A mistake, delusion, or error is when you believe that ministry or vocation come before spouse and children.

Christianity is not “the new legalism”, but life in Christ.  His guidance and restraint is actually easy (Matt. 11:28-30).  That means that, walking with and living through him is life-giving, to and through you and not that zapping burnout or work.

Walk with Jesus who loves you.  Love yourself as He loves you.  Then love your wife with that love.  Repeat.

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