As we look at this passage, it is essential that we accept two principles: 1. That husbands should read the commands Paul had for them and wives their commands. One of the great errors in twentieth century Christian living has been through the alacrity of men citing what women should behave like in a marriage and glossing over the extraordinarily high demands which Paul gives them in their attitudes and actions with their wives! I have witnessed many very happy Christian marriages and been blessed by them personally, but I have also seen how Scripture can be twisted to excuse some, generally male, appalling attitudes, even to the point of physical abuse, where the woman has stayed with the man because the marriage commitment was made before God and the church encouraged an 'until death' position. 2. Reflect on what things were like for first century women. Yes, there were successful businesswomen like Lydia and leaders in the church like Junia (cited by Paul in Romans 16 as a fellow apostle), but generally Greek wives lived a completely secluded life seeing only their husbands and children and rarely permitted to go out. Jewish women had the life of a third class citizen. Jewish men used to thank God that He had not made him 'a Gentile, a slave or a woman'. Jewish Rabbis often gave permission to men to divorce their wives for almost any reason, whereas wives could not divorce their husbands at all unless they caught leprosy. Christianity elevated marriage to a high position. The idea that one could remain faithful to one person for a lifetime would have been considered obscene to Greeks. I remember that when news broke in our Cornish town where we lived that the church youthworker was to get married without having first lived together with his wife to be, it caused a scandal. Non-Christians were scandalised that they could make a lifetime commitment without a try out first! The husband, then, should: 1. Love sacrificially. 2. The love should be purifying, that is it should enhance their love relationship with Christ. 3. It must be a caring love. It shouldn't be what one gets out of the marriage, but what one puts in. 4. It is an unbreakable love. The commitment, the intention, must be for life. I've witnessed marriage breakdown and the recognition that there had to be a parting, but I've also witnessed marriages go through hard times and come out successfully. 5. It is to be lived out 'in the Lord'. In Christian marriage there are three partners, not two. The third is Jesus Christ.
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