There are thousands of books on the market these days that deal with the subject of family, and most of them disagree with each other. Every couple of weeks or so, some author will come out with the perfect guide on how to have a happy family, only to have another one come along in a couple of weeks that has a completely different idea. Wouldn't it be nice if there was one book that had a tried and true, time-honored design for a great family? There is! The Bible has a lot to say about family and the roles of its different members, but there is one particular passage that sums it all up in just sixteen little verses.
Ephesians 5:22-6:45:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.5:24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,5:27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.5:28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.5:29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:5:30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.5:31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.5:32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.5:33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.6:2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)6:3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
This short passage gives us all the instructions we need in order to build a healthy family structure. Each family member, husband, wife, and child, is given specific instructions on how they are to act and relate to the others in the family. When a family strays from this pattern God set for them, it allows the devil to get a foothold and can eventually lead to the total destruction of the family. The only remedy for this situation is for the family to turn back to God's design and stick with it. Each family member needs to set aside self and trust that God knows what is best.
The first part of the passage is directed to the wives. Wives are instructed to submit themselves to their own husbands as they would to the Lord. The reason given is that the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church. If a church decides to not follow where Christ is leading, but instead goes another way, does He turn and follow the church? No! He continues to lead in the right way as he pleads with the church to turn around and follow Him again. Likewise, a wife should not try to lead her husband. In Genesis 2:18 we read concerning Adam, "And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. " God made Eve to help Adam, not the other way around. There can only be one head or there will be nothing but confusion, and I Corinthians 14:33 tells us that God is not the author of confusion.
The next part of this passage is directed to the husbands. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Christ died for the church, and husbands should be ready and willing to die for their wives if necessary. He is to put her safety and wellbeing ahead of his own, even at the loss of his own health and comfort. He is to lead and provide for his wife. In Genesis 3:17-19 we read about the curse put on Adam (and therefore all men after him).
Genesis 3:17-1917 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
It is interesting to note that God began his statement to Adam with the words, "Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife." Adam knew what was right, but instead of leading like he was supposed to, he stepped out of his role and followed. Men, we will be held accountable to God at judgment for how we lead our families. This is not a game. There are eternal consequences to what we do in this world.
The last part of this passage is directed to the children, with a final warning to the fathers. Children are instructed to obey and honor their parents. That is simple enough for even very young children to understand. The passage closes telling fathers to not provoke their children to wrath, or "violent anger" as Webster defines "wrath," but to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. According to Webster, "nurture" means, "that which promotes growth; education; instruction," and "admonition" means, "gentle reproof; counseling against a fault; instruction in duties; caution; direction." It is the duty of fathers to train their children in the ways of the Lord. This cannot be stressed enough.
In closing, there are no conditions put on any of the instructions given to any of the family members. Husbands are not commanded to love their wives as long as she submits herself to him. Wives are not commanded to submit themselves to their husbands as long as she can tell that he loves her. Children are not commanded to obey and honor their parents as long as they think their parents deserve it. We are to follow the instructions for our role regardless of what anyone else does. Each of us will be held accountable to God for our own actions, not the actions of others.