Marriage is a holy vocation, where two people attempt the greatest feat against natural odds together…living in love and agreement until death separates them. When we romanticise marriage, we diminish the obstacles against its success in our minds, while not acknowledging and addressing them in reality. We set ourselves up for failure with unrealistic expectations, an ineffectual strategy and a weak resolve to overcome inevitable challenges.
Every spinster or bachelor in their 30s knows by now that love doesn’t just happen! You’ve got to make it happen. Likewise, every married couple who have kept their vows to love for better or for worse, knows what a challenge it was and is to keep peace and understanding in their marriage. Love takes effort. Marriage takes work!
Effort and work are the basic facets of discipline. Discipline requires submission to a method, to a standard, to an authourity. For any company to grow and succeed, they need discipline. They need basic processes, structures and principles to be upheld for everyone to work effectively and efficiently towards a common goal. Most important to this is the principle that there must be a leader/ship structure.
When two or more people come together to work on a united goal, they are engaging in a discipline, and there must be a method, a standard and an authourity to submit to. Fundamentally, there must be an overall leader. This is true also for marriage. In the absence of a leader, there will be disorder, strife, confusion, and most certainly failure!
In Christian discipline, we submit to the Way (method), the Truth (standard), and the Life (authourity), in the Person of Jesus Christ (John 14:6). He is the epitome of discipline, of love and of wisdom. He calls us into discipline with Him, by bearing our own crosses, and abiding in love and righteousness. If and when we are submitted to Him, our lives will show forth His Way, Truth and Life. Our marriages, therefore, would also submit to His wisdom.
The Apostle, Paul, showed us how marriage between a man and a woman represents the mystery of the great love between Christ and His Church (or Bride) (Eph 5:22-33). The model for a great and successful marriage is one that reflects this relationship between Christ and the Church. In this model, as Christ is the Head of the Church, the man is the head of his wife. As the Church honours and submits to Christ, the woman should honour and submit to her husband. And as Christ loved and laid down His life for the Church, the husband should love his wife, even unto death.
The husband imitates Christ in love and leadership, and the wife responds, like the Church, in submission and respect. This is a spiritual model for marriage, by the God who ordained marriage and who seals two in covenant and makes them one flesh (Matt 19:5-6). A husband that models the humility, love, wisdom and strength of Christ in marriage is competent to lead his wife, who will readily respond with humility, love, trust and respect.
The process of submission is never forced, because a true leader doesn’t require force to lead, but rather leads by service, by example (Matt 20:25-28). The husband first submits (Eph 5:21), so that the wife learns what submission looks like and responds in submission. That’s how Christ taught us to love and submit, by being the perfect example, and first laying down His life for us! So godly submission in marriage must begin with the husband, as the leader. A man that is too proud to submit to his wife in love is too foolish to lead her in marriage.
So let’s connect this to the real world. In our world we have to recognise the shortage of true leaders and genuine followers. Leadership has been misunderstood and abused for far too long. Also, we need to recognise that the leadership trait is not limited to men, nor is the follower trait limited to women. Women also make great leaders, and men must be counted among their followers, because not all can be leaders. However, in marriage, the spiritual and flawless model is of a man who leads and a woman who follows. This is the secret to finding your perfect mate, if there is such a thing.
It is not wise for a woman to follow every man! There are men that she will definitely rule over, even more than lead. Men who are not submitted to Christ cannot lead a Christian woman in marriage, and it would be foolish for a woman to put herself under such authourity (2 Cor 6:14-16). But even the most powerful leader among women CAN and should submit to her husband. It will take a very humble man, who is secure in who he is in Christ, to lead a strong-willed and powerful woman. He doesn’t need to be above her in societal status. He doesn’t need to make more money. He just has to be humble and strong enough to lead her, without feeling insecure about her status or his leadership.
Feminists might disagree, but I strongly believe that every woman wants a man that she can follow. No woman wants to follow a fool or live with a man she doesn’t respect. No woman wants to battle in marriage for authourity and leadership. She wants to be led, without being made to feel inferior. She wants the space and freedom to be a woman, to be comfortable and safe in her weakness, and to be celebrated and prosperous in her strength. Any man who is able to lead his wife in this way, without being controlling, demeaning or oppressive, will find that his marriage is filled with love and free from strife.
Proverbs 31 illustrates the virtues of a strong woman, who though prosperous in many things, is submitted to her husband. If he was the controlling, demeaning or oppressive type, then she would not have been able to flourish in the many things she set out to do. There are lessons for both men and women in this chapter about godly marriage.
Just as all women desire a man they can follow, all men desire a woman they can lead. No man wants to battle in marriage for authourity and leadership. He wants a woman who recognises his submission to Christ, and willingly submits to his leadership out of love and respect for him. Being able to lead his wife is an expression of his love.
He wants to protect her, provide for her, and give her room to flourish, the way Christ watches over and guides the Church to flourish like a tree that nourishes the Earth (Matt 13:31-32). He wants her to trust him to lead the way, and obey, even as he follows and obeys Christ. And he wants to be appreciated for the many ways he enables her and empowers her to be all that she can be!
When a man who wants to lead and is competent to lead, being already submitted to Christ, meets a Christian woman who wants to be led, and respects him enough to follow his godly leadership, they have found their match. These two, who have love and agreement, are able to venture out into the country called Marriage, knowing that they are a strong unit that is able to withstand and overcome whatever challenges may come their way – together. Even at the beginnings of romance, when a couple are dating or courting, it is important for both of them to consider if they are a compatible match of leader and follower.
Are they two leaders battling for authourity? Are they both followers, looking for someone to take responsibility? Is the man leading in a direction the woman wants to follow? “Can two walk together unless they agree?” (Amos 3:3).
Some key questions you should be asking yourselves, are: Is he a good leader? Is he submitted to Christ, and therefore, humble and wise? Does she understand godly submission? Is she submitted to Christ, and therefore, humble and wise? Do I respect him? Do I love her?
If you love her, but she is not submitted to Christ, back away from the relationship! How can she submit to your leadership, when she is not submitted to God? If she is Christian, but has pride issues, or doesn’t understand godly submission, it is not your place to teach her. Leave her to mature in Christ, and look out for someone who you don’t have to force to respect you. It could be that you are not the leader she needs. Also consider if you are showing a good example of submission.
If he is submitted to Christ, but not a very good leader and you struggle to respect him, then back away from the relationship! Not every Christian man can lead every Christian woman. You don’t know what he is still resolving spiritually, and until he gets himself together, he can’t lead you in marriage! If he is insecure, proud, arrogant, oppressive and/or carnally minded, you have to wonder if he knows Jesus at all. However, if you struggle with respecting authourity in general, it could be that the problem lies with you.
So I have written all this to show that more than looks, riches and emotions, spiritual compatibility between a godly man and a humble woman is the key to success in marriage. For a marriage to grow strong and bear fruit, this foundation must be laid, upon the foundation of Christ. Remember, seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, and all other needful things will be added unto you…and your marriage (Matt 6:33)!
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