I'm involved in a wedding this weekend. I've been working with the bride and groom to develop the actual ceremony. It's given me a lot to think about. So I'm going to share them with you.
First, A successful marriage starts with a wedding and ends with a funeral. If you have a successful marriage, either the bride is going to bury the groom, or the groom is going to bury the bride. Unless, of course, the Lord Jesus comes back to get us first. I certainly don't mean to be morbid, but the fact is that a marriage that ends without a funeral is a failure.
Scripture doesn't say as much about marriage as we might expect. There are a few passages that address marriage: Ephesians 5, 1 Corinthians 7, Colossians 3, etc., but for all the importance Scripture places on it, it doesn't give us a lot of detail. I think the foundational truth Scripture teaches about marriage is in Ephesians 5. Ephesians 5 lays out the most important fact about marriage: marriage was given to teach us about Christ and His love for the Church. Thus, the Scripture teaches, there are two important roles in marriage: the husband is to love his wife, and the wife is to reverence her husband.
A husband is to love his wife like Christ loved the Church, laying down His life for her. In the same way, husbands are to love their wives, laying down their lives for them. I noticed several years ago that Scripture doesn't say Christ was willing to lay His life down for the Church, but He actually did it. I interpret that to mean that a man ought not merely to be willing to lay his life down for his wife, but he ought actually to do it. If we take this literally, the husband's job is to die first. The husband's job is to give up his life for his wife. In a more figurative sense, there is a metaphorical laying down of a man's life for his wife. This is hard: really, really hard. It's possible a man might need to die to save his wife, but it's more likely a man would need to choose to put his wife ahead of himself.
Colossians 3:14 says, "Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them" (JND). Colossians warns against the main danger to a husband: becoming bitter against his wife. Why would he become bitter? Because he gives up his own life for her.
So what's the wife's job? The husband is to love his wife, she is to reverence (or respect) her husband. If he is to lay down his life for her, perhaps we might say her job is to lay down her pride for him.
It's obvious that many women are married to men who really might not deserve their respect. So does that mean she doesn't need to respect him? Perhaps we could ask another question: when a woman isn't very lovable, is her husband excused from loving her? Of course not! A man is to love his wife, regardless of whether she's lovable. A woman is to respect her husband, regardless of whether he deserves it.
Scripture does tell us more about marriage. Ephesians 5 isn't the only passage in Scripture about marriage. But I'm sure Ephesians 5 is the most foundational. I'm no marriage counsellor: I'm not trying to give marriage advice. But it's important to remember the underlying principle.