In the early church of the first century, many of the Christians were Jews who had come to believe in Jesus Christ. To explain to the Jews how they were dead to the law, the Apostle Paul used the example of a woman married to a man. Romans 7:1-3 “Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.” It appears that the first century Christians understood the law of a woman’s husband so the Apostle Paul used it as an example. We are told that a woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives; if she marries another man while her husband lives, she shall be called an adulteress. If her husband dies, she is no longer bound; if she then marries another man, she is not an adulteress.
Divorce is very common today in America and many other countries, even among those calling themselves Christians. I believe that one of the main causes of divorce is a lack of commitment. For some, the lack of commitment is evident by the mindset going into marriage that if it doesn’t work out, they can get a divorce and try again. For others the lack of commitment is evident by one or both of the married partners giving up when the going gets tough. And for still others, the lack of commitment is evident when they find someone that they feel better meets their needs. Based upon Romans 7, we come to understand that the commitment needs to be for life, regardless of whether the marriage appears to “work out”, the going gets tough, or someone else comes along that seems to be more attractive.
Husbands are commanded to love their wives. Ephesians 5:25-33 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” The kind of commitment that Christian husbands need to make is to obey the command “husbands, love your wives”. This is not a love where the husband necessarily feels amorous towards his wife. This is a commanded love where the husband is to love his wife like Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. I believe that when a husband loves his wife that much, and his wife sees that he loves her that much, the vast majority of marital problems will be solved.
Interestingly enough, the wife is not here commanded to love her husband. She instead is commanded to respect her husband. Instead of respect, some translations use the word honor or reverence. Why the difference in the commands to the husband versus the wife? I believe that husbands often lack love for their wives and wives often lack respect for their husbands. Similarly, I believe the husband has a great need to be respected by his wife and the wife has a great need to be loved by her husband.
For those of us who are married, let us renew our commitment to our spouse for life. As husbands, let us love our wives and as wives let us respect our husbands. For those who are not married, realize the commitment you need to make when you do marry.