For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.Ephesians 5:31
This verse is not simply an example of beautiful, poetic language. There is a fundamental reality behind this: Husband and wife are not just two people rooming together. Their lives actually do blend into one another. They actually become one. It is, therefore, true that what hurts the wife damages the husband. It cannot help but do so. If he is bitter toward her, it will eat like a cancer in his own life and heart. That is why, if you have had a squabble with your spouse, you may find yourself unable to do your work properly that day.
In Dr. Henry Brandt's helpful book The Struggle for Peace, he tells of a woman who came to him because of a great fear she had of going into supermarkets. She came to him for help in this problem, and he relied, as he always does, on the wisdom of Scripture. Remembering the verse
Perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18b), he began to look for a violation of love in her life, for fear comes when there is something inhibiting the flow of love. He said to her,
With whom are you angry? Finally she was able to realize that she was angry at her husband for an incident that had occurred a number of years before in a supermarket when they had had an unpleasant flare-up. As a result, she was emotionally disturbed whenever she went into a supermarket. When she dealt with her lack of love, her fear left. What happened, because of her injury toward him, reflected right back on herself. This is also true of the husband toward the wife. If we would understand this and realize that injuring our mate is the same as taking a hammer and pounding ourselves on the head or neglecting some part of our own body, we would stop trying to hurt one another. Injury to our mate is bound to come back upon us in some way.
The final point the apostle makes here is given in verse 33:
However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself; and the wife must respect her husband. Notice that the basis for accomplishing this is that both partners in the marriage relationship fulfill their responsibility to Christ, regardless of what the other does. That is the key. It is not
Wait until he starts loving me, and then I'll submit to him, or
Wait until she starts submitting to me, and then I'll love her, but it is essential to your responsibility before Christ, regardless of what the other does. To do so breaks through the vicious circle of marriage conflict and serves to restore peace and permit the other to fulfill his or her responsibility.
I have seen such unilateral obedience work wonders in marriage relationships. Husbands and wives have been brought together, harmony restored in bitterly divided homes, grace and peace made to reign where there has been battle and conflict, violence, and ugliness before. Therefore, husbands, love your wife as yourself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
God grant to me the willingness and the grace to be obedient to the Lord Jesus, who is with me in every circumstance and every relationship of my life regardless of what the other person does.
Obedience to Christ restores grace and peace in embattled relationships. Do we recognize true submission as deep recognition of the significance of His Presence?