A Model for Marriage

Rev. Wayne D. Mueller

A marriage based on the Bible will help couples fulfill their God-given roles and experience true and complete oneness.

The bride did everything wrong. Again and again, she brought grief to her husband. He was the perfect spouse, but she willfully offended him by her public unfaithfulness.

The marriage came to the point of breaking up. On several occasions, communication between the two stopped completely. The husband refused to talk to his bride for long periods of time, hoping she would again long for his voice and his company. But each time contact was reestablished only to be quickly broken off again. The husband longed for the intimacy he had pledged to his wife. He did not cause the rift, but he knew that as the head of the marriage he was responsible for restoring the union.

Finally, he carried out his ultimate plan of love. He assumed the role of a servant and entered his bride’s home in order to restore the marriage. Because he was dressed like a servant, his bride didn’t recognize him. But he humbly went about his work of restoring the marriage. He did all the things that his bride refused to do. He exhibited perfect faithfulness in matters where she had been unfaithful. And when she was tried and found guilty of her many crimes, he willingly substituted himself to the executioner.

Acknowledging Roles

This is the story of a real marriage — the marriage of Christ to his bride, the church. This bridegroom bride picture appears over and over on the pages of Scripture. It shows us how we break our own relationship with our Savior and how he renews our trust in his faithfulness. But beyond its application to all sinners, Jesus’ servant role toward his church is also the motive and model for our roles as husband and wife.

The very idea of assuming a humble role rankles the secular mind. Yet God’s greatest act of love asked Jesus to do just that. We are amazed to learn that Jesus did not take on this role as an obligation or duty. Rather, his love for his bride moved him to accept his role willingly. Jesus said, “I lay down my life for the sheep. . . . No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:15,18).

How and why Jesus brought us back to God is key to all good human relationships. There is no unity in families unless children and parents honor their distinct roles. There will be no peace in the workplace if the roles of employees and supervisors are ignored. Society devolves into anarchy when the line between rulers and citizens is obliterated. Even our anti-authoritarian society seems to have some respect for these role distinctions.

Ignoring Roles

Society’s pagan logic becomes, strangely inconsistent, however, when it labels marital roles politically incorrect. In their relentless pursuit of money and professional accomplishment, many husbands and wives neglect each other’s need for companionship. More often than not, husbands fail their role as spiritual leaders. Young women refuse to submit to their husbands. Divorce is common. Children are offended. Schools struggle. Crime rates rise. Morality declines.

Marital unity is the cornerstone of a stable society. In spite of secular aversion to servant roles, humble, mutual service is more important in marriage than in any other social relationship. Except for our unity with God himself, marriage’s one-flesh union is the closest possible relationship between two individuals. As Jesus reunited us with God by humbly accepting a servant’s role, marital unity is promoted by our willing acceptance of husband and wife roles.

Let’s admit that our sinful flesh will naturally side with the sinful world on this issue. That’s why God in his Word so often appeals to our new man when he speaks about roles. He invites us to see our assigned roles in life as an opportunity to serve the Lord, who assumed the form of a servant for us.

Accepting Roles

To elicit this kind of willing response to our roles, the holy writers frequently tie their role descriptions to Jesus. “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord” (Colossians 3:20). God urges employees, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23). To citizens, St. Peter writes, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men” (I Peter 2:13). Christians fulfill all their roles with this willing, loving acceptance for the sake of the Lord Jesus: “Each one of you should retain the place in life that the Lord has assigned to him and to which God has called him” (I Corinthians 7:17).

Important as it is to accept all our servant roles in society, it is most important to accept the roles God gives to husbands and wives in marriage. Home is where the Holy Spirit creates our spiritual attitudes toward every role God will ask us to accept in later life.

Yet, because of its intimate nature, marriage is also the most difficult place to accept our roles and put them into practice consistently. So, where we need the most help in accepting roles, God provides the most incentive. He preaches his gospel of forgiveness and hope with his many pictures of Christ’s marriage to his church.

Isaiah pictured God’s love for his church as marital bliss: “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5). Jesus explained the spiritual working of God’s kingdom with parables of wedding feast and bridesmaids. Heaven itself is pictured as the consummation of the perfect love of Jesus for his church: “For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear” (Revelation 19:7).

The most quoted picture, of course, is Paul’s address to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:22 33. There, too, God appeals to the new man we have in Christ. Jesus’ love moves husbands and wives to imitate the Savior’s actions toward each other. One pastor I know asked newlywed couples to read these words to each other daily.

Husbands and wives who accept humble roles of submission and sacrifice epitomize the whole life struggle of every believer. Every day with every breath, we fight to put down our selfish flesh and exert the power of our new spirit to serve others.

When the Lord empowers grooms and brides to fight this fight of faith, love radiates from their marriages in every direction. Their children mature to accept servant roles in their jobs and marriages. Fellow Christians draw strength from their example. Coworkers covet their unity. Unbelievers who admire their togetherness learn that it has its source in Jesus. This world becomes a better place to live. And more are won for the world to come.


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