Last week’s blog addressed Paul’s exhortation to wives. This week’s addresses Paul’s exhortation to husbands, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them (Colossians 3:19).”
Paul’s exhortations to husbands, wives, and other household members are listed in a common literary style of the time (Colossians 3:18-4:1). Greco-Roman household codes were in vogue. However, what makes Paul’s code so striking is not its similarities to others, but the ways it differs. While other codes listed husband’s first, Paul lists wives before husbands – a move that was radical in itself. While other lists only enumerated the duties due the male head-of-household, Paul includes duties for husbands. Most significantly, while in other lists the male head was superior by nature to all other members of the household, in Paul’s list the authority of the male head is subordinate to the Lord Christ. Thus, the household code recorded by Paul transformed the Roman concept of household duties.
Let’s look at the supreme duty of husbands to their wives. The Greek word translated “love” here is the verbal form of the Greek noun agape (ἀγαπη). This Greek word, which was relatively infrequent outside of the Greek translation of the Old Testament, was adapted by both Old Testament translators and New Testament writers to express God’s love, which was supremely revealed in Christ’s death on the cross. The word means to put the needs and interests of another above one’s own. Paul is exhorting husbands to place the needs of their wives above their own. Christ shows husbands the way when he washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17) and then offered his life for our sins on the cross (Mark 10:45). Husbands ought to reflect Christ’s love for his church in their love for their wives. Wives, would you not want to submit to your husband, if he always loved you this way?
A mutual submission is present in the Christian marriage, albeit in different forms. Wives submit to their husbands for the sake of maintaining unity. Husbands submit to their wives by placing their interests above their own.
We are getting closer here to the accessible ideal of marriage as it was in Eden prior to the fall: two people in harmonious relationship, without the threat of conflict to pull apart what God has joined.
Husbands take this exhortation and responsibility to your wives seriously!