Marriage in the Philippines
Should wives submit to their husbands? As an unmarried Christian from a poor Asian country where divorce is illegal, I believe that, yes, wives should submit to their husbands willingly and without being forced to do so.
While the Bible offers a clear response to the question, many husbands usually mistake it for something else. In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul told wives “to submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22).
It was clear that Paul was speaking to women. Ironically, some men thought that Paul was speaking to them and that Paul was hinting that they should make their wives submit to them.
It is like interpreting God’s command to love one another by thinking that other people should love us, rather than we should love them. What makes an imperative sentence (command) different from a declarative statement is that the first has a particular audience, who are being moved to action and not to receive the action.
Paul, for example, also addressed the husbands. He said “husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Here, it was clear that Paul was not talking to women.
Peter also had the same message for the couple. With a particular audience, he said “wives, in the same way, be submissive to your husbands, so that if any of them do not believe the Word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives” (I Peter 3:1).
With a new audience, Peter said, “husbands, in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (I Peter 3:7).
Paul’s and Peter’s messages are stated in a way that they are addressed to particular audiences – husbands and wives separately. The commands are clear and should not be debated upon. Wives are told to submit to their husbands and husbands to love their wives.
Those are clearly defined roles expected from husbands and wives. These roles overlap when a husband forces his wife to submit to him and the wife demands love from her husband. Between the couple, submission and love are expected rather than forced.
It is not a case of “who should submit to whom” or “who should love whom”, which is rather a question of superiority resulting in a clash of opinion or emotion and spawns controversy. Paul said “each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” There is no controversy in love and respect.
Controversy starts when the relationship is not founded on love and respect or the couple has weak understanding of marriage, which is a lifetime commitment. Then it becomes an issue of “who should submit to whom” or “who should love whom”. If one stops submitting to the other or one stops loving the other, the marriage leads to divorce.
Ironically, the issue of “who should submit to whom” or “who should love whom” is deemed more controversial than the issue of divorce, as if divorce is already a settled issue. Why talk about “who should submit to whom” or “who should love whom”, when there is something like divorce?
Divorce, unfortunately, is not an escape from the question “who should submit to whom” or “who should love whom”. Divorce is sanctioned only in case of adultery.
According to Paul, “A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife” (I Corinthians 7:10-11).
“A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord” (I Corinthians 7:39).
In the first place, God commands the husband and wife to be united in love and sanctions divorce only in case of infidelity. Jesus said that “at the beginning the Creator made them male and female. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthews 19:4-6).
Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthews 19:8-9).
He also warned men against marrying divorced women. “Anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32).
You may ask how I can speak of these things, when I am unmarried and live in a poor country where divorce is illegal and does not experience the real life pressures of marriage in a developed country where divorce is widely accepted and sanctioned by law.
Well, I admit that what I say may sound impractical or even unreasonable to some people. What I believe in may be different from what actually takes place in a relationship in a rich society at this modern age.
But there is one thing I know. The Word of God does not change and cannot be bent according to the practicality of the world. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
The Coming of the Lord
Jesus Christ will come again to Earth, this time to bring salvation to those who believe in Him. “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him” (Hebrews 9:27-28).
He will bring us who love Him together in one body. “Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, together by every supporting ligaments, grows and builds itself in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:15-16).
In Jesus Christ, we have a new life. We rejoice at the fact that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). We say these things to you because these are true, and because God wants you to know that He loves you very much and patiently waits for your acceptance of His gift of eternal life.
Jesus Christ says: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne” (Revelation 3: 20-21).
If you have not yet accepted the love of God in Jesus Christ His Son, we invite you to open your heart, confess that you are a sinner and receive His gift of salvation. Below is a suggested prayer:
God, the most high, I praise You with all my heart. Forgive me, Lord, for the sins I have committed against You and the people around me. I confess that I am a sinner and could not do anything by myself to reach your righteousness. I am humbled by Your love. Though I deserve death, You love me so much that You sent Your Son Jesus Christ to die for my sins instead. From now on, I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and claim the salvation that He offers to me. I allow Him to dwell in me, so that I will always keep Your decrees in my heart. Let me live as a new creation, with love in my heart. Let me love with actions and in truth, as Jesus Christ loves us, to the glory of God in the highest. Amen!
Friends, if you want to know more about the life offered by Jesus Christ and the wonderful things that He has done for us, we invite you to join us in our worship service every Sunday at Emmaus Bible Fellowship Center in Mandaluyong City. We would also be glad to conduct Bible studies at places near you.