How to love your spouse

We have lost true love. What we call “love” is a cheap imitation of love. We have permitted the entertainment world to define and control us with its idea of love. The Hollywood version is designed to make money. You deserve a better love.

In an edition of The Advertiser-Tribune, Margo Howard in her column offers some wedding advice. She recently had returned from attending her son’s wedding in England. The minister presiding at the wedding, Ben Bentham of the Church of England, confronts the present view of marital love.

He said, “In the film ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin,’ Captain Corelli and a Greek girl, Pelagia, have, as Americans might put it, ‘made out,’ and Pelagia’s father says this to her: ‘When you fall in love, it is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake, and then it subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roles have been so entwined that it’s inconceivable you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, not excitement, not a desire to mate every second of the day; it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every part of your body. That is just being in love, which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left when being in love has burned away.'”

We need a new understanding of genuine love. The New Testament was written in a Roman-dominated world with the influence of the Greek culture and language. We Americans use the word “love” to describe countless different feelings we have. The ancient Greeks used four words for love; eros, storge, philio and agape. Would you venture to guess which word Paul uses in Ephesians 5 to describe the love between husbands and wives? It is not eros, which is romantic love. It is not storge love, which is family love. It is not philio, which is friendship love. Paul uses agape. Paul appeals to Christ’s love as an example of how a husband is to love his wife.

Paul rejects the Jewish version of marriage of his day. In Paul’s time, the Jews had a low view of women. In his morning prayer, a Jewish man would give thanks that God had not made him “a Gentile, a slave or a woman.”

In Jewish law, a woman was not a person, but a thing. She had no legal rights whatsoever. She was her husband’s possession to do with as he willed. She had no rights.

A man could divorce his wife by getting a rabbi to sign a document that he presented to his wife before two witnesses. He could divorce her for any reason – burning his bread, growing older, gaining weight or boredom. A woman could not divorce her husband regardless of how he abused her. She was entitled to have a refund of her dowry.

In the Roman world, which included Ephesus, things were worse. Jerome, an ancient writer, tells of one Roman woman who married her 23rd husband – and she was his 21st wife! The Romans could get divorced when they found someone else they wanted, stay until they got tired of her, throw her out and then marry someone else.

Paul’s instructions in his letter to the Ephesians were radical in a Roman world. We need Paul’s wisdom because contemporary marriages are beginning to look like the ancient Roman marriage.

Ephesians 5:25 says – Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. In a Christian marriage, husband and wife are mutually submitted to each other. Submission of a husband to his wife is found in Jesus’ giving himself for us. Jesus is our example of how to love our spouses.

In Gethsemane, Jesus submitted to the will of his Father; in his trials, Jesus submitted himself to the courts; in his beating, Jesus submitted to the order of Pilate; and in his cross, Jesus submitted to suffering and dying for all sinners. Therefore, the husband and the wife are submitted to each other.

Someone has written: “Woman was not made out of man’s head to be dominated by him, nor out of his feet, to be trampled upon; but out of his side that she might be equal with him; from under his arm, to be protected by him; and from near his heart, to be loved by him.”