God expects Christian couples to nurture their relationship according to His counsel. From time to time, our own sins and Satan’s cunning and cruel devices can leave our marital relationships in great peril. To prevent Christians’ marriages from being victimised by sins and Satan, our Sovereign Lord, in His Word, has given husbands and wives peculiar duties, which they owe to each other.
Failure to perform biblical duties not only engenders matrimonial disunity, but also bring great dishonour to the LORD and the church. Scripture reminds every Christian couple that their life together as husband and wife is to be a witness to the relationship of Christ and the church. “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:31-32).
The well-being of every marriage is assured if the man and his wife fulfil their duties as defined by the Scriptures. So, knowing marital duties and taking every care not to neglect God-given duties within marriage is necessary. The Lord has commanded, “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). Not working to foster matrimonial unity and togetherness is disregarding God who has joined them in marriage. Neither the husband nor the wife should undo the marriage; rather, with God’s help, they should build up their marriage in obedience to God.
The Mutual Duties Between Husband and Wife
- A special, sweet love for the other must be maintained passionately and persistently, for it is demanded in the Scriptures (cf. Eph. 5:25, 28; Col. 3:19; Tit.2:4). The marital love for each other is more special than the common love for parents, brothers, sisters, or friends. Husband and wife ought to always express deep and profound love towards each other. She ought to be “the wife of thy bosom” (Deut 13:6; 28:54). “The wife of thy youth” is always to be regarded as “the wife of thy covenant” (Mal. 2:14). The man must always think of his wife with loving affection, and so should the wife love her husband (Titus 2:4). The husband’s love for the wife should be like that of Christ – “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). Like Christ, the husband must love his wife at all times, in all circumstances. His attitude, speech and actions towards her must be flavoured with love. Love must be the reason for his reproofs, admonitions and instructions. Such love will set aside disappointments and bitterness caused by the flaws and sins of the spouse, and work to sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word (Eph. 5:26). Genuine love covers the sins of the other, and seeks to restore, refresh and renew with the truth and wisdom of God’s Word. True love that originates from the Saviour and Lord is not retaliatory, but restorative. A tender-hearted outpouring of love into each other’s bosoms will express plenty of forgiveness and dearness. It overcomes hurts, and then ministers grace with patience and diligence to the other. Such mutual affection will produce fresh and beautiful fruits of marital love that bespeak the mystery of Christ’s love for the church.
- A cheerful care for one another must always be expressed without hesitation. “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it…” (Eph. 5:28-29). Just as a man expects care and honour from his spouse and others, he must show genuine care for his spouse by nourishing and cherishing her, both spiritually and physically. Negligence and abandonment of the spouse are forbidden and not worthy of a Christian. The spouse’s spiritual growth and physical well-being are God-given marital duties. While the husband provides the overall care for the wife and the family, the wife is to be his helpmeet, as God has designed for her to function. The wife is to be with her husband as his suitable help (Gen. 2:18, cf. 3:12), and also a keeper of the house in loving and nurturing the children (Titus 2:4). Every Christian wife should conduct herself in such a fashion that she is presented as a favour which her husband has obtained from the LORD. Mutual tender care between husband and wife is expected of them by God.
- A humble and mutually honouring relationship with the other is in order. Scripture calls Christian wives to live submissively with their husbands. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:22; cf. Eph. 5:24; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1-6). Wives’ submission to their husbands is commanded, even in cases where their husbands have been unreasonable, profane and ungodly. The motivation and strength for the manifestation of humility and submissiveness are drawn by looking at the glorious Christ, rather than at the conduct and disposition of their husbands (cf. 1 Peter 3:1; 1 Cor 7:13-16). It is unbecoming of Christian women to be quarrelsome, domineering, abusive and violent. Such women inflict great pain and trouble upon their husbands; instead of being “a crown” to their husbands, they become “as rottenness” in their husbands’ bones (Proverbs 12:4). Christian wives ought to be meek, gentle, submissive and obedient to their husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. The husbands too are expected to be gentle, helpful and honouring to their wives. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel…” (1 Pet. 3:7). Husbands ought to understand the weakness of their wives and be sensitive to their deepest physical and emotional needs. As heads of their wives, husbands are not to be tyrannical, intolerant or unforgiving. Every husband should be like Joseph who, though deeply troubled in his heart, cared for Mary’s reputation and was “not willing to make her a publick example” (Matt. 1:19). Christian husbands should refrain from bringing public shame to their wives. Instead, he must patiently and gently seek to guide her to virtue and honour. When both husbands and wives seek to honour one another in Christ, as Christians are instructed (Rom. 12:10; 1 Cor 12:23-24), their marriage will be honourable before God and all men.
More of the biblical duties of the married Christians will be addressed, God willing, in next week’s bulletin. Where the husband and wife perform their God-given duties, there will be a happy family of peace, virtue and honour.