Marriage Copied from Divine Patterns
WHEN we think of marriage it is fitting to think of Jehovah. He is the Author of marriage. He arranged for the first marriage. In Eden God saw that it was not good for the man to be alone, that he needed a helper as a complement to him: “And Yahweh God said, It is not good that the man should remain alone, I will make for him a helper as his counterpart.” Jehovah filled this need when he made “a woman, and brought her in unto the man”. Immediately thereafter the two are spoken of as man and wife, as being of “one flesh”.—Gen. 2:18-25, Ro.
Marriage is used in a figurative way to illustrate the close ties in certain heavenly relationships, and brief consideration of these divine patterns will deepen our appreciation of the earthly marriage relationship. First, Jehovah God uses the figure of marriage to show the relationship between himself and his universal organization, referring to himself as the Husband of his womanlike organization. (Isa. 54:5) Again, the marriage relationship is used to illustrate the close bond between Christ and his church, he being spoken of as the Bridegroom and the church as his bride, and their marriage as being consummated in heaven.—2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:7.
Just as in Eden the man and the woman are spoken of as being “one flesh” and also human marriage partners thereafter, so God and the chief one of the universal organization, Christ Jesus, are called one. And Christ and his bride, the church, are referred to as being one. (Matt. 19:4-6; John 14:10; 17:21-23) However, the Bible clearly shows that Jehovah and Christ are not one in any mysterious pagan trinity. Nor are Christ and the 144,000 members of the church class literally made into one; no more so than do man and wife, two persons, literally become one after marriage. In all three cases the oneness is in aim, purpose, goal, desire and direction of effort. And these divine unions that make two or more unite as one require some sort of headship, for a head is required to give intelligent direction to the energies of those united. A headless union would lack proper directive force. On the other hand, a two-headed union would be freakish, doubtless divided against itself, and hence unable to stand. (Matt. 12:25) Everyone has a head over him, except Jehovah God. “I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn, the head of a woman is the man; in turn, the head of the Christ is God.”—1 Cor. 11:3; 15:28, NW.
EXACTING DUTIES UPON HUSBANDS
In some countries, such as the United States, where there is a strong tendency for many women to try to share or take over the family headship, loud objections rise against the divine assignment of man to be family head and the woman to be subject to him. It is viewed as oppressive and discriminatory against women, and too difficult a load for them to bear up under. However, sober reflection will disclose that it is the husband who has assigned to him the more difficult role in the marriage arrangement. He must strive to copy the flawless examples of Jehovah God and Christ Jesus as they play their husbandlike roles in the figurative marriages.
Jehovah God, as the Creator of the universe and the Father of all living, is the supreme Head over all creation, visible and invisible. He brought all things into existence, established the laws that both animate and inanimate creations must follow to exist, and provides for their continuance. Even in his own acts Jehovah consistently follows righteous principles and conducts his headship in justice and wisdom, and, above all, in love. Jehovah’s example is copied by Christ Jesus, as that one administers his headship over the church. Justice and wisdom, love and compassion are outstanding. Did not Jesus work tirelessly in the interest of his body members when he was on earth, teaching and preaching, providing the spiritual sustenance that is so much more vital than literal bread? Did he not show exemplary patience and long-suffering in dealing with his earthly disciples, making allowances for their fleshly frailties? Did he not endure persecution and torture in maintaining integrity toward God, and thus making himself a safe model for his followers? And finally did he not go the limit and lay down his life for his bride and wife, the church class?
So it is in the case of human husbands. They must try to measure up to the perfect way Jehovah plays his husbandlike role as Head of his womanlike universal organization, and the excellent way Christ Jesus enacts his headship as Husband over his wife, the church. The human husband must provide food, clothing and shelter for his wife. He must give proper direction to their united efforts by making wise decisions, shoulder the responsibilities for these decisions and cope with any consequences that may follow in their wake. And at all times in the exercise of his headship he must show a patience and long-suffering, a mercifulness and forgiveness, and, above all, a love that are patterned after that shown by Jehovah toward his universal organization and that shown by Christ toward his Christian church organization. To measure up to such high requirements is certainly more difficult than being submissive under such upright headship.
PATTERNS FOR WIFELY SUBJECTION
The outstanding member of Jehovah’s universal organization, Christ Jesus, did not find it galling to be in subjection to the great Husband and Head of that organization. He delighted to do Jehovah’s will, declaring the work that God assigned to him to be as vital food for his sustenance. (Ps. 40:8; John 4:34; Heb. 10:7) His endurance of persecution and torture and death was not only a fine model for his followers, but also a dramatic testimony for Jehovah’s side of the issue concerning integrity, a heavy contribution in vindication of Jehovah’s name. It showed Jesus’ complete subjection to Jehovah’s headship. Never did he seek to seize that headship from God or try to share it as an equal of God: “Keep this mental attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.”—Phil. 2:5-8, NW.
Christian wives should have the mental attitude of Christ, and not the attitude of many worldly wives that clamor for equality with and ofttimes even dominancy over their husbands. Christian wives will not even untheocratically consider seizing a part or all of the husband’s divine assignment of headship. They will be submissive to the marriage arrangement as it has been ordered, not by any man, but by God himself. To rebel against the arrangement is to rebel, not against man, but against God. Jesus delighted to do the good will of Jehovah; Christian wives should be pleased to have the theocratic headship of their husbands. It was the covering cherub in Eden that was headstrong and felt cramped and oppressed by Jehovah’s headship and thereupon rebelled and became infamous as Satan the Devil. Wives who are not submissive to their husbands are copying Satan, not Christ.
Again, there is an example for wives in the submission of the church to its Head, Christ Jesus. Taking on the obligations to preach as one of Christ’s anointed body members brings upon one a certain amount of persecution and tribulation in the flesh, but the joys of serving under the loving headship of Christ far outweigh the fleshly tribulations. Submission to such an upright headship is not difficult or degrading, though heady and haughty ones down through the centuries have thought so, and in these last days such ones have made themselves into an “evil slave” class by their rebellion against Christ’s headship. It is the “faithful and discreet slave” class that finds real joy by submissiveness to Christ. Rebellion brings no happiness to the “evil slave”, for he lands outside with the hypocrites, and “there is where his weeping and the gnashing of his teeth will be”. (Matt. 24:45-51, NW) Christian wives who are not submissive to their husbands are copying the “evil slave”, not the “faithful and discreet slave”.
EACH A HELP TO THE OTHER
Hence the sum of the divine patterns is, properly exercised headship is not oppressive to the one under it. The husband must strive diligently to act as a just and wise and loving family head. If he does this to the best of his ability, wifely subjection to him should not be too difficult. And if the wife meets her duties to the best of her ability, the husband’s administration of proper headship will be that much easier. Both are imperfect. Both make mistakes. Both need to receive and extend patience and forgiveness, love and respect. Because of differences in mental and physical and emotional make-up, each needs the other, each can supply a lack in the other, each is made to be a complement to or counterpart for the other. But to mesh all these qualities harmoniously requires each one to play the role assigned by God. Neither can grasp at the other’s duties. Remember, Adam was Eve’s head, but when she ran ahead of him and ate the fruit she ducked out from under her head, and lost her life. And when Adam tolerated her rebellion and weakly tagged along the trail she blazed he discarded his role as head, and it cost him his life and the life rights of his offspring. All man’s troubles are traceable to rebellion against proper headship, to the time when the covering cherub in Eden refused to submit to Jehovah’s and when Eve stepped out from under Adam’s.
So it is for the mutual good of both marriage partners to stick to the roles assigned them by Jehovah God. The wise family head earns wifely respect, and the submissive wife increases the husband’s love. God’s Word counsels: “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord, because a husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation, he being a savior of this body. In fact, as the congregation is in subjection to the Christ, so let wives also be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it. In this way husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself, for no man ever hated his own flesh, but he feeds and cherishes it, as the Christ also does the congregation, because we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh.’ Nevertheless, also, let each one of you individually so love his wife as he does himself; on the other hand, the wife should have deep respect for her husband.”—Eph. 5:22-25, 28-31, 33, NW.
Dictators rule over their subjects oppressively and to their physical and mental and spiritual hurt. The Christian husband is to be no dictator in that sense. His appointment to headship is no license to be a tyrant. He loves his flesh, provides for its needs, inflicts no deliberate injury upon it, and strives to keep it in comfort. He should show the same love for his wife, who is one flesh with him. And as the man’s flesh never fights against his head but takes its direction through nerve impulses from the head, so the wife, who is part of his flesh, must show similar submission. For all this blending of two different dispositions and temperaments and personalities a high degree of love is called for. Just how great that love must be is shown at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NW): “Love is long-suffering and obliging. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” Nor will a marriage founded on such love ever fail!
A MARRIAGE BRACE THAT IS THEOCRATIC
Today’s matrimonial seas are cluttered with the wreckage of many marriages that have gone on the rocks. Often strange flesh outside the marital union rises up as a lure that draws the marriage to its final crash. Such marriage triangles are common in this delinquent world, and occur when the marriage is built on the shifting sands of fickle flesh. The safeguard is to build the marriage on the rock foundation of God’s Word. Conform to its requirements. Let each one measure up to the divine standard, each one supplying what his or her assigned role requires. Then the marital union will stand, unwrecked by the stormy assaults that collapse so many marriages today.
No strange flesh will intrude to form a lusty triangle, for the place of a love stronger than that between man and wife will already be filled. Not by the minister or civil official that officiates at the ceremony, nor by the legal papers required by the state; though such services and documents are necessary. (Luke 20:25; 1 Thess. 5:22) It will be occupied by Jehovah God. He is the real witness in the theocratic marriage ceremony. It is not just a matter of a man and woman entering into an agreement between themselves, but of the two of them entering into an agreement before God. He is witness to the theocratic marriage vows, and the real uniter of the two, since Jesus said: “What God has yoked together let no man put apart.” (Matt. 19:6, NW) Hence if the married couple abide by his marriage regulations he will become the unselfish Friend in a theocratic marriage and will brace it against the worldly pressures and strains brought against it. If the man and woman reserve their greatest love for God, put him first, obey him first, give him first call on their time and energy and substance, their marriage will not become more driftwood on the matrimonial seas.
This putting of God first by married couples is shown by the apostle Paul, at 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, NW: “Moreover, this I say, brothers, the time left is reduced. Henceforth let those who have wives be as though they had none, and also those who weep be as those who do not weep, and those who rejoice as those who do not rejoice, and those who buy as those not possessing, and those making use of the world as those not using it to the full; for the scene of this world is changing.” Paul is not here saying to withhold the various marital dues and responsibilities, for in this very chapter he admonishes that these should be rendered. (1 Cor. 7:3-5) What he is admonishing is that whole or chief attention should not be given over to personal, selfish matters relating to the flesh, whether these be enjoying a husband or wife, or rejoicing overmuch in pleasure pursuits, or allowing ourselves to be swallowed up in our sorrows and griefs and even drawing an unhealthy satisfaction from self-pity, or seeking to accumulate extensive possessions by unduly entangling ourselves in worldly businesses—all of which excessive caterings to the flesh are characteristic of this old world and are to pass away with it. Hence the Christian should not bury or sink himself too deeply in these things to the neglect of what is eternal, and specially so now that the “time left is reduced”. Nothing should be allowed to so engross the Christian’s time that he has none left for Jehovah’s service. So it is within this qualified view that the married couple lives as though unmarried, always putting Jehovah first.
Only marriages meeting the foregoing divine requirements are truly successful marriages, and they have the opportunity of succeeding gloriously. They may endure on into Jehovah’s new world, wherein earthly married couples will finally carry out the mandate first issued by God in Eden, to “multiply and fill the earth”.—Gen. 1:28, Ro.