Marriage is regularly given a very bad rap in our current modern culture. Marriages are considered “normal” if they consist of a couple where the husband always wants intimacy and the wife never does, where the husband does not want to communicate and the wife is always nagging, or where the husband either rules with an iron fist or else is bulldozed by his overbearing wife.
Sadly, not one of these commonly-considered “normal” marriages represents marriage as God designed it. God’s design for marriage is infinitely better! And while we do live in a fallen world characterized by sin, we nevertheless can have far more fulfilling marriages than the culture would have us believe, if only we walk by the Spirit and surrender our lives and marriages to Christ.
There is to be a mutuality in submission.
One of the unbiblical stereotypes mention above which is far too prevalent today is a marriage wherein the wife tries to be the overbearing ruler of the home. Another common stereotype is the flip side of this, wherein the husband tries to be a macho ruler himself, where whatever he says always goes, with no questions asked. Neither picture is representative of how God designed husbands and wives to operate in marriage. Ephesians 5:22 says that wives are to submit to their own husbands, Ephesians 5:25 says that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (we will see in a moment what love has to do with submission), and both verses are issued in the context of Ephesians 5:21, which shows that all believers were to have their lives characterized by a “submitting to one another in the fear of God.”
There is to be love as God defined it.
First Corinthians 13:4-8 speaks to love as God designed and defined it. Love is to be patient and kind and it is also to never insist on its own way. This willing surrender of your own desires, plans, and wants, this active love, is what husbands are called to in Ephesians 5, which again shows that there is to be a mutuality of submission in marriage, where each spouse regularly heeds the words of Philippians 2:3-4 – “in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” This is marriage as God designed it.
There is to be unity as a new family.
God described marriage as He designed it all the way back at the beginning of time using these words, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” From the moment two people get married, they become a new family all their own. Old bonds of allegiance to parents are broken as new bonds of allegiance to one another are formed. Husband and wife are to always be on the same team, making decisions together, and viewing each other as their immediate family and all others as being their extended family. This is marriage as God designed it.
There is to be mutual pleasure and interest in physical intimacy.
Another common (and yet completely unbiblical) stereotype is that men are all about sex and women have no interest in it. Every couple is different, certainly, but we see clearly in both 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 and throughout the entire book of the Song of Solomon that women were designed by God to enjoy, be interested in, initiate, and look forward to physical intimacy just as much as men were. Certainly hormonal imbalances, life seasons, background, possible baggage relating to intimacy, past abuse, and a host of other factors can affect how intimacy looks for each husband and wife, but to say that women are not meant to initiate, enjoy, and be interested in sex is unbiblical.
God designed marriage to be the clearest sermon of the Gospel which can be preached. We read in Ephesians 5:22-33 that the marriage relationship is to be one that points back to the picture of Christ and His church. Husbands are to lay down their lives for their wives as Christ did, and wives are to submit willingly to their husbands, as the church is also called to do to Christ. It’s a truly beautiful design indeed, but one that can only be grasped and lived out when we forsake common mirages of marriage and instead embrace the real thing as God designed it.