“He brought me to the banqueting house,
And His banner over me was love!” (SS 2:4)
The Bible has clear marriage guidelines. These commands apply only to the believers. An unbeliever may read them and try to apply Biblical precepts to make his marriage better, but he cannot really obey the Word of God. For us, the children of God, the Bible is our Life Manual. The Word of God is written to us, sinners who are saved by grace.
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” (Col 3:18, 19). In the marriage set up, there are two basic rules: The wives submit to their own husbands (as Christ submitted to God the Father). Secondly, the husbands must love their wives, not their own way, but ‘as Christ loves the church’ (Eph 5:25). The husband and wife are equal before God. Their salvation experience is the same. But in the area of marriage these simple rules must be obeyed: wives submit and husbands love! Both these actions are first of all spiritual and they must glorify Christ! The submission and the love are inspired by Jesus Christ and must give Him alone the glory! The Holy Spirit gives both the husband and wife the power to obey.
In the scripture above there is another element. It says that the husbands should love their wives and ‘do not become bitter towards them’. This is a special warning giving to the married men. Please pray for understanding! It means that the husband must recognize the tendency to become bitter against their loving wives. They must fight the strange temptation to become bitter as husbands at home. This is warning!
Bitterness is a terrible thing. It is an emotion very difficult to bear. A root of bitterness ‘defiles many’ and fights against the grace of God in marriage (Heb 12:15). Marital bitterness poisons the home and makes everybody miserable. A bitter person makes others sad or angry. When you see a man or a woman afraid to marry, it is because they have experienced this bitter taste in a previous relationship. To them, marriage is like drinking poison every day, like having with an incurable disease, with no hope of being happy ever again. That is why they prefer staying single. Bitterness causes piercing, sharp emotional pain, like the sting of a wasp. The wounds of bitter words are long lasting and difficult to forgive or forget. In particular, a bitter husband is harsh, hot tempered, holds grudges, is mean, greedy, hard hearted, stubborn and difficult to teach. In Nigeria people describe disappointed love as ‘soup when sour’. As a pastor I counsel many women who suffer terribly in a marriage with a bitter man who discourages them to be happy. Only God can help!
I am a woman. I am a wife. I am a mother and a grandmother. By the grace of God, my husband and I are married for 45 years. I had to study this subject of submission because I need to fight the demons that will attack my husband. He does his own fight. But I am his helper. I should not be ignorant of this temptation. I must help him fight bitterness and not foolishly add to it. As a wife, I have tried to keep close to my husband, spiritually in particular. It pains me when he quotes a Bible verse or teaches me something new, and I am totally ignorant of that subject. I challenge myself to study the Word of God so that when my husband needs somebody to talk to about the Bible, I am ‘current’ with it. I have learned many things about subjects that I do not like in particular. I know much about politics and current affairs in Nigeria. I am not a politician, but I need to know these things, if they are good or bad. Ignorance has never helped anybody. I need to know my husband’s plans, dreams and God’s purpose for his life. I need to pray for those. I need to grow as he grows. We are not competing one against each other. But we must complement each other. To complement my husband I need to grow too. As the vision for our lives and ministry increases with time, so we must grow with it. To be left behind spiritually, to be a passive wife, it is sin. If I am lazy or careless with our relationship, and I just walk too slowly behind him with nothing new to add to our marriage, that sin is almost like spiritual adultery. My husband will be tempted to be worried, angry, disappointed and bitter against me, his wife, helper and friend. As a wife, I should not be found to be too fast and lead my husband. I should also not be found to be too slow and leave him alone. Marriage is two people learning to be one. Each one of us must grow in grace towards God and towards one another. I should not take his love for granted. I should be watchful for any virus of disappointment towards me that I sense in my husband. I must be filled with the Holy Spirit so that I will help him be the man God wants him to be. We both work hard at making our marriage a success. But the hard work is bringing a greater than expected harvest of peace, joy and ministry to those who call us parents in Christ. I boldly declare that in Christ alone, our marriage is free from the virus of bitterness! Love has won the battle! May these words challenge you! God loves you! God loves your marriages! Glory to God!
(My husband, Pastor Richmond Leigh and I. We took this picture about 10 years ago under a palm tree in Israel).