Years ago, a church John and I attended did a series on Christian marriage unlike any marriage teaching I’ve heard before or since. The pastor used passages about Christian relationships in general and applied then to marriage in particular. Although his approach seems novel, it actually makes a great deal of sense if we want to teach younger women how to love their husbands and children. Being childless, however, I’m uncomfortable saying much about dealing with children, so I’ll follow that pastor’s example by showing you a few Scriptures that you can use to love your husband in ways that reflect Christ.
In considering where to begin these discussions, I couldn’t get away from the familiar passage in Philippians 2.
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.~~Philippians 2:5:11 (NASB95)
Typically, I read this wonderful passage as an affirmation of Christ’s deity and His Incarnation. It’s most often used to substantiate these conjoined doctrines, which is perfectly legitimate. I in no way want to diminish that aspect of these words, which some scholars believe to have been a First Century hymn that Paul was quoting in this letter. How can we ignore such a magnificent ode to the fact that the Second Person of the Trinity set aside His glory to become a Man Who would suffer a humiliating execution and then be exalted by His Father? Truthfully, I could easily forget my purpose in quoting this passage and instead write an entire article praising Him for His Incarnation.
As glorious as this passage is, Paul places it in this letter because he wants to address the problem of pride disrupting the church in Philippi. In Chapter 4, he gets to the specific situation at the root of the disharmony, but right now he introduces the importance of humility as the foundation for unity. Look with me at the verses preceding verses 5-11.
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. ~~Philippians 2:1-4 (NASB95)
Clearly, Paul cities Christ’s Incarnation as an example of humility that promotes unity within a church body. When church members lay aside their own agendas and rights (real or perceived) so that they can serve each other, the whole church becomes unified. Christ showed us, by His example of coming to earth and dying on the cross, how to demonstrate the sort of humility that leads to real unity.
Yes, the primary application of Philippians 2:5:11 is focused on relationships in a local body of believers, and we mustn’t lose sight of that application. Integrity demands that we remember Paul’s purpose at all cost. At the same time, we can also apply the principles in this passage to our relationships with our husbands.
Marriage constantly puts us in situations where we must set aside our own preferences and desires in deference to ways that our husbands lead us. Such situations understandably frustrate us, especially when we can come up with a dozen legitimate reasons why our plans should be followed. But if we honestly want to love our husbands as Jesus loves us, we need the same humility that He displayed in the Incarnation and His work of atonement.
I can hear some of you saying, “Wait a minute, Deb — Ephesians 5:25-30 commands self-sacrificial love from husbands, not wives!” And you’re absolutely right! Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. If you think about it, however, wouldn’t you conclude that the submission verses 22-24 call for also require self-sacrifice? Maybe the form is different, but submitting to husbands sometimes means letting go of what we want and trusting our husbands to make wise and godly decisions. In doing so, we imitate Christ’s humility.
Philippians 2:5:11 gives us wonderful guidance in becoming godly wives. Without losing the wonder over Christ’s humility in coming as a Man to suffer a horrible execution to atone for our sins, we do well to apply His example in our marriages. God’s Word indeed provides everything we need to be wives that honor the Lord.