Many marriage books, studies, videos, and seminars were built on verses in Ephesians chapter 5 starting with verse 22, "Wives, submit to your own husbands...", verse 25 "Husbands, love your wives..." Etc.
Then the lessons start, answering questions such as:
- What does it mean for wives to submit to their husbands?
- How and when should wives be submissive?
- How are husbands supposed to love their wives?
- What does it mean to give himself up for her, sanctify her, and cleanse her?
- How should they argue and resolve differences?
- Who has a say, or the final say, in important family and financial matters, such as which church to attend, education for the children, caring for elderly parents, etc.?
Then the analogies start in order to boost the authority of whatever anwers that particular marriage seminar, workshop, or retreat provides. Instructions about marriage become heavenly, godly, and lifted up with phrases like, "as to the Lord," "as Christ is the head of the church," "as the church submits to Christ," and "just as Christ loved the church." Pray for each other. Pray with each other. Share devotionals. Schedule date nights. Cook for the one. Pay the bills for the other. Etc. Perform your spousal roles and occasionally offer to help the other.
However, these verses in the context of Ephesians 5 are actually relevant for anyone, married or not. How? Simple. The marriage-seminar-minded have it backwards. Christ and the church is not the analogy for a godly marriage. The godly marriage is an analogy for Christ and the church, and being united with Christ is neither dependent on, nor enhanced by, one's marital status.
Let us not be so focused and concerned about the earthly roles of husbands and wives. Let us not exclude ourselves or others because we or they are not married. Instead, let us turn our attention to the "profound mystery" that Paul was really talking about: Christ and the church. The two shall become one.
"In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you." (John 14:20 ESV)
"I do not ask for these [my disciples here with me now] only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17:20-21 ESV)
"There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:4-6 ESV)
Verse 33 is an incidental "by the way." Of course, for those who are married, let the husbands love their wives, and let the wives respect their husbands.
But, let neither husbands nor wives, nor any of us, lose focus of what's really important here, which is the marriage that was truly made in heaven, with Christ. For all who believe are His body and made One with Him. Let us apply the marriage seminar advice and tips to Christ and the church.