What does “the husband is the head of the wife” (Ephesians 5:23) mean?
This statement occurs between two calls for the wife to be subject (verses 22 and 24). The reason for submission is her husband’s headship. The pattern for this headship is also mentioned: “even as Christ is head of the church.” The headship of Christ, as explained in Ephesians 1:20-23 and 4:16, involves authority and supply. The same is true here. A husband’s headship involves authority. Since Christ is the pattern, this will preserve the relationship from becoming tyrannical. His authority over the church is matched by His affection. His control is coupled with care. Such should also apply in the human relationship. Also, as the physical head supplies the human body with direction and nourishment, so the husband in his role of head gives his wife provision, protection, and guidance.
I have discovered that I do not love my wife. What should I do?
Every true Christian husband loves his wife. The moment we were saved, God gave us love for all (Romans 5:5; 1 John 3:14). Likely the difficulty is failing to enjoy her companionship. God intended that the “one flesh” union would make married couples best friends. The word “joined” in Ephesians 5:31 means “to glue.” For two to be glued, there must be removal of irritants that hinder bonding. Implementing the instructions in Ephesians 5:29 will foster companionship. The word “nourish” means to cultivate or to nurture, to bring to maturity. The word “cherish” means to warm with tender love, to foster with tender care. We can add Peter’s instructions that husbands “dwell with them according to knowledge” (1 Peter 3-7). This knowledge causes a husband to understand his wife and helps dispel fears and difficulties as he ministers to her needs, spiritually, emotionally, physically and materially. It implies both true inquiry into the needs of a wife and also warmth that will cause her to respond to his guidance in bringing them to a mature relationship and friendship. Over time, irritations hindering bonding and companionship will disappear.
Having unsaved in-laws at holiday gatherings in the home, how should we handle their alcohol and smoking habits before our children?
As a believer you are responsible for your home and children as part of your testimony Parents are to raise children in the Lord’s fear and love (Ephesians 6:4). Smoking and consuming alcoholic beverages are clearly inconsistent with Christian testimony (Colossians 3:5 and 1 Peter 4:3). While you cannot change your in-law’s behavior, you can control the sphere of your responsibility. It is better that you kindly and clearly inform any invited guests who may normally smoke or drink alcohol that you have established principles in your family refraining from these. Ask them to respect your rules (1 Timothy 3:4). Consistency with your convictions will make a definite impression and provoke consideration of your faith and devotion.
How can we deal with in-law problems? This is complicated by their being in the same assembly.
It is important always to remember that you and your in-laws are all children of God and loved by Him so much that He gave His Son for each of you. We are commanded in 1 John (4:11,12) to love one another, thus proving the reality of our salvation. If problems have developed between believers, the Lord Jesus taught in Matthew 18:15 that we should discuss and clear up the problems privately. If that doesn’t work (verse 16), then one or two brethren with spiritual wisdom and experience should be invited to give unbiased advice. Every effort should be made to avoid involving others in the assembly.
Sometimes the problem is that parents have been so accustomed to the subjection of their children in the home that they forget that their married “child” is now a member of a new family with the husband as the head. The situation should never be left to fester and become worse, or it can develop into strife not only within the family but also in the assembly
Is it best to go for marital counseling outside the assembly.
Believing that the assembly is the Lord’s flock (Acts 20:28) and that He provides shepherds to care for the sheep, we expect believer’s spiritual needs to be met within the assembly. To find spiritual help outside the assembly, especially in a matter so important as resolving marital difficulties, does not allow the Lord to provide the care He desires for His sheep. This places a serious responsibility on the shepherds. “All the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) in assembly teaching will include scriptural teaching on marriage relationships. Watching for the souls of the believers (Hebrews 13:17) includes being aware when marital problems exist. Scriptural shepherding will give believers confidence that confidential, sensitive, and competent help is available. On occasion, shepherds may recognize that problems involved in a marriage go beyond spiritual problems. Physical, mental or emotional issues may require professional help outside the assembly. Where possible, such help should come from those whose principles are consistent with the assembly’s. Any factor that causes a couple to hesitate in seeking help when needed is potentially disastrous and dishonoring to the Lord.