The Marriage Mess

Bible Book: Ephesians 
Subject: Marriage; Home; Family; Husband; Wife

The Marriage Mess

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor,

Ephesians 5:22-33:

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."

As we celebrate Valentine's Day, I want us to think about the condition of love in our Christian homes. Anyone looking at the family today must admit that marriage is in trouble. One thing that supports my statement is the increase of violence in the home due to couples being forced to work in the home. One man said, "I love my wife, but twenty-four hours a day under the same roof for weeks has turned us into something I didn't know existed." Facts exist to prove that violence is up in the home. Articles in newspapers, like the New York Times, and studies by groups who monitor family violence reveal that couples are at wits end in how to overcome the depression, frustration, fear and anger that is fueling marriage problems during this period of dealing with Covid restrictions.

The problem is simple, too often we are not following God's guidelines for marriage and family life. A marriage based on God's plan for our lives will cause us to see every challenge in life and in the home as a chance to release greater faith God and God's Word. As we experience small victories in our home, God gives us even more victory.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:14, "Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place." Paul was not speaking of marriage in this passages, however, he was sharing how we walk in victory through every place, circumstance and situation when we are marching behind Jesus. I follow Him and have victory - I don't go out and make my own way and beg Him to bless my mess!

Now, let me say something important here. What I'm going to preach today is not popular today,  but it is biblical, needed and true. If we look honestly at what is happenig in our Christian families, our marriages and our children, don't you think it is time we got back to God's plan for marriage and the family? Sure you do, but we can't do that if we try to appear one way for the world but live another way when we are at home. Oh, sure I know that we need to "let our hair down" when at home. We need a place to relax, to speak straight from the heart, to even make mistakes that will be forgiven by loving family members. Still, we need to avoid a difurcated nature or we will no longer even know we really are.

Please understand that I am not an expert on marriage. One preacher said, "After I had been married about 4 years, I preached a sermon entitled, 'The Ten Commandments For Having A Great Marriage.' Now that I've been married 20 years, I want to share 1 or 2 things that may or may not work in your marriage." Well, I've been married to my wife for 58 1/2 years. I've been studying the Bible for about 60 years of life, so I've learned a lot, but I'm not claiming to be the world's expert of marriage. But I do know the expert - the Lord who created marriage knows exactly what it means to be the husband or wife that He intended you to be.

Also, I'm not a perfect husband - far from it. When I speak about marriage I do so theologically, biblically and spiritually.

I believe it goes without saying that homes in America need help and need it badly. To evidence this one need only consider the fact that we lead the world in divorce, spousal abuse, rape, murder, opiod addiction, alcoholism, and crime in general as it relates to the family. Our homes have become places of violence, broken hearts and death.

If you contrast the problems in our homes with the way most people enter marriage and you can see the problem. Many couples enter marriage thinking that their marriage will be made in heaven. While it may be true that marriage is made in heaven, one needs to realize they must be managed on earth and are often they are marred from hell. That is what happened to Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve had problems with Cain - and that was because that old Serpent got involved in their marriage and family from the beginning.

One can point to many Biblical marriages which underwent great difficulty.

  • Abraham and Sarah certainly had their troubling times (Genesis 16, 21)
  • Isaac and Rebecca did also (Genesis 27)
  • Jacob and Rachel had their troubles (Genesis 30, 31)
  • Moses and Zipporah failed (Exodus 4)
  • David and Michal's marriage was in shambles (2 Samuel 6)
  • Hosea and Gomer ended up back together, but only after much pain and hurt

We need to admit that there is no such thing as a perfect marriage. Perfect mates come only in shoes and gloves. Unlike the children's stories, we don't live happily ever after. Someone said that all marriages are happy, it's the living together afterwards that is tough. Also, marriage can double your trouble and divide your joy, or when you follow God's plan for marriage it can double your joy and divide your trouble, Marriages cause problems because all moving parts cause friction. The key is to keep the friction down with the oil of love.

Let's look at the means for overcoming The Marriage Mess ...

I. Submission To The Head

When Princess Diana married Prince Charles, she had the word submit taken from the traditional royal wedding. Today the word is hardly ever used in a wedding. And that is not all bad, since the word has been misunderstood by so many for so long and in so many detrimental ways. But the Bible has not changed. The word is still there. Wives are to submit to their husbands. Don't throw hymnbooks at me till I explain what this actually means.

Let's look at two issues related to the submission of wives to husbands.

A. What this Submission Does Not Mean

First, lets see what this does not mean.

  • This does not mean that husbands are dictators in the home.
  • This does not mean that husbands make every decision in the marriage.
  • This does not mean that husband do whatever they want in the home and that the wife does whatever he wants also.

One young man misunderstood this verse. He tried to boss his wife around as if he were a supervisor at a place of employment. Finally, she went home crying to her mother. The young guy went to his pastor and said, "I thought marriage would be IDEAL, it has become an ORDEAL and now I'm looking for a NEW DEAL." Friend, you better deal what God's deal when it comes to marraige.

Let me tell you something very important, the Bible does not make the man the master of the home. He is the head of the home, but even a head needs a neck before it can turn. That leads me to the second thing.

B. What This Submission Does Mean

To understand the meaning of headship, one needs to look at the context of the verse. The verse  says that the man is the head of the wife as Jesus is the head of the church. Now, in what way is Jesus head of the church? He is the servant, security, shepherd, and salvation of the church. It is true that He is also sovereign, however, Jesus leads us by example, love and compassion, but not with a fist on the end of His arm or foulness from His lips.

So wives, what does it mean for the husband to be the head of the wife? It means that a man has an ego. It will be the nature of the wife to hurt her husband where he is most vulnerable. She will be prone to attack his ego and tear him down. God knew this, and he tells the wife that it is her duty to bless her husband and to lift him up.

Dr. E.V. Hill was pastor of the great Mount Zion Baptist Church in Watts, California. I heard him preach numerous times and found his messages powerful and inspiring. In one message he told the story of his wife in the early days of their marriage. He came home from his pastoral duties to find the house dark. He went into the house and saw candlelight. His wife ran to meet him and embraced him. Why no lights? She told him that she just thought it would be good for them to have a candlelight supper together. He thought that was a great idea and portended a great evening. He went to a sink to wash his hands, tried to turn on a light but nothing happened. He asked her why the lights would not work. She broke down crying and admitted that she did not have enough money from his salary to pay the light bill. She told him that she had rather have a romantic, candlelight dinner with him anyway. Hill went on to say that his wife could have attacked him. She could have reminded him of the nice home she came from and all the money her father had. She could have told him that she never in her life saw the power turned off in her home growing up because the family lacked money. Hill said that she thought too much of him to bruise his ego, to destroy his pride, to hurt him - even though she could have.

Ladies, that is what it means to make your husband the head of the home. It means to honor him because honor is important to a man. In Proverbs 31:23 we read about the husband of a wife who has noble character. The scripture states, "Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land." His position of honor is directly tied to the wife he has. Now granted, many men ruin their own lives foolishly, but many men have become less than they could have because of a wife who would not lift him up as head of the home.

I know that a lot of you precious Christian wives have been working for years to do just what I'm talking about. It can be hard to make the man the head when he acts like a heel - or some other part of the human anatomy, but that is your job. To help you, let me give you a primer on how to understand your husband. Ladies, I realize that sometimes it is so hard to understand men. Since I am a man, let me help you a little bit. You need to understand what your husband really means when he says something.

  • When your husband says, "Hey, this is really a good movie we're about to see," it means it's got a lot of guns, a lot of explosions and fast cars - but very little romance.
  • Whenever your husband says, "Honey, take a break, you're working awfully hard," what he means is, "the noise of the vacuum cleaner is keeping me from enjoying my television program."
  • When he says, "You look great in that outfit," what he means is, "Don't try on another outfit, I'm starving to death; let's go eat."

Seriously ladies, it is your task to treat your husband as the head of your home. And that has to do with honoring him, even when he is less than honorable - and many of us as Christian men are not the nonorable men we are supposed to be.

Now, let's talk about what the head is supposed to do. So, guys, wake up - I'm talking to you now. Yes, that elbow you just felt was your wife getting your attention. Now, listen up husbands.

II. Submission Through The Heart

Here I want to speak about, "Submission Through The Heart." Husband, you are to love your wife - and you are to love her as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her.

A. The Manner of Your Love

Guys, you must understand that romance must remain a part of your marriage even after you say, "I do." Most men are pretty good at showing love and talking about love with a girlfriend, but when they walk down that aisle and get married that usually changes pretty quickly. You men need to be like the fellow from up in the mountains of Tennessee who wrote his wife The Redneck Valentine Love Poem. So I don't miss anything, I am going to read it to you rather than quoting it from memory. It  goes like this:

"Collards is green, my dog's name is Blue,

And I'm so lucky, to have a sweet thang like you.

Yore hair is like corn silk, a-flapping in the breeze,

Softer than Blue's and without all them fleas.

You move like the bass, which excites me in May.

You ain't got no scales, but I luv you anyway.

You have some'a yore teeth, for which I am proud;

I hold my head high when we're in a crowd.

Still them fellers at work, they all want to know,

What I did I do to deserve such a purdy, young doe.

Like a good roll of duct tape yo're there fer yore man,

To patch up life's troubles and fix what you can.

Yo're as cute as a junebug a-buzzin' overhead.

You ain't mean like those far ants I found in my bed.

Cut from the best cloth like a plaid flannel shirt,

You spark up my life more than a fresh load of dirt.

Some men, they buy chocolate for Valentine's Day;

They git it at Wal-Mart, it's romantic that way.

Some men git roses on that special day

From the cooler at Kroger. That's impressive," I say.

Some men buy fine diamonds from a flea market booth.

'Diamonds are forever, they explain, suave and couth.

But for this man, honey, these won't do.

Cause yor'e too special, you sweet thang you.

I got you a gift, without taste nor odor,

More useful than diamonds. IT'S A NEW TROLL'N MOTOR!"

I hope you can express love to that special person in your life better than this poem does, but whatever you do, express that love her love. She needs it. She deserves - after all, she's putting up with you and that's quite a chore.

Of course, poems and candy are not enough. In fact, most wives would appreciate it if you would just fix the leaking pipe they have been complaining about for three months; of if you would put up that mirror she's been asking for during the last couple years. Sometimes the reason a wife has a difficult time lifting her husband up as head of the home is because she can't get him up out of the recliner.

One young bride was so nervous on her wedding day that she told the director she might faint. The director told her to remember just three things: "Walk down the aisle. Walk toward the altar. Walk up  to the groom." The bride started down the aisle to the smiles of people who could hear her whispering, "Aisle, Altar, Him." It sounded to them like, "I'll alter him!" Sadly, too many of us men need altering. Actually, if a man is to be altered correctly, it will be the Lord who alters him. A wife is better off to pray for him to be different than to try to make him different.

Now guys, let me share how we are to love our wives? Let me spell the word LOVE.

  • L is for Listen

Men, have you ever noticed that your wives like to talk to you at the worst times about things in which you have absolutely no interest? Raise your hands. OK, wives, quit elbowing your husbands in the ribs. I'm trying to help you here, don't ruin it. Sir, when you listen to your wife, it means that you love herm. That is what it means to her. Love and Listen start with the letter "L". Wives consider a listening husband to be a loving husband.

  • O is for Open Up

Not only does you wife want to talk to you, she wants you to talk to her. Let me give you an example someone shared with me of a conversation between a wife and husband:

Wife: Honey, did you see Mary today?

Husband: Yeah.

Wife: Well?

Husband: Well, what?

Wife: (little more animated) What did she say?

Husband: Oh, the usual stuff.

Wife: What usual stuff?

Husband: You know, about family and all that stuff.

Wife: What, what, what about the family?

Husband: Same old stuff.

Wife: Would you please talk to me.

Husband: (little more animated) What have we been doing for the last five minutes?

Guys, if you have been there and done that, you blew it! Plain and simple - you blew it!

Talking to your wife, tells her that you love her. Not talking to her tells her that you don't care.

  • V is for Verify

You need to verify your love a least 7 times a, make that 7 times a day. A wife needs to feel secure and confident. A husband is to be a "band around the hoose." That is where the word "husband" comes from - it is an old Anglo-Saxon word. The "band around the hoose" is the husband. You need to give your wife a sense of security in your love, and she needs to know that she is attractive to you. More than anything, she needs to know that you will always be there for her.

  • E is for Enjoyment

Ask yourself what you have done lately just to make your wife's life more enjoyable. You see, we men sometimes have a problem with selfishness. We know what we want and we set out to get it. Our wives would appreciate it if we would stop to see what they need and what would make life a little more enjoyable for them.

B. The Measure of Your Love

Just in case some of you men are thinking that you do a pretty good job when compared to other husbands you know, please remember that the love you have for your wife is compared to Christ's love for His Church. No where do we see a husband's love for his wife as being measured by how another man may love his wife. My love for my wife is to be measured by how Jesus loved the church and went to the cross to prover it.

Think of how much Jesus loved you and what He sacrificed to show it. That is what we are to do for our wives. I'll be honest with you, men, we need to step up in our devotion to our wives. We, too, are to submit - and do it with the heart. To love your wife as Jesus loves the Church is to express a "bleeding" love. That is what Jesus did for us at Calvary. How many husbands in this service love our wives with a sacrifical love? That is what we are told to do. It other words, loving our wives is not about what we can get but how much we can sacrificially give.

Now, probably wives and husbands are asking right how, "How can I possible be what the Bible is stating that I ought to be in my marriage?" Well, God has the answer.

III. Submission To The Holy Spirit

How can a husband or wife live up the expectations presented here? Look at your Bible with me once more - turn to Ephesians 5:15-21:

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God."

How is a marriage to last through the years, with all the tensions, personality conflicts, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and poor skills which most of us possess in this mysterious relationship? There is only one way, we must submit to the Holy Spirit. That is actually what this passage is all about. Paul stated clearly that we are to be filled with the Spirit. Only then are we ready to be what we should be in marriage.

A. The Power We Need

The songwriter penned,

"We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout,

We been talking about Jackson, ever since the fire went out."

You can be sure that the fire will go out, unless you are filled with a heavenly fire from above. That fire from above is found in the person of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is the power and fire we need to help us fulfill God's will in our marriages.

B. The Presence We Have

God's presence is with those who have trusted Him as Lord and Savior. Sadly, we don't always submit to Him as we should. Do you remember the first miracle Jesus performed when He went to the wedding at Canaan? He was the honored guest at the wedding. The hosts ran out of wine and Jesus took water and turned it into wine. When you have a marriage, you need to invite Jesus. He can turn bitterness into sweetness; He can turn emptiness into fullness. He can turn hardships into opportunities.


One little kid in Sunday School heard the story of Jesus turning the water into wine, and was asked, "What is the lesson of the story?"

The little boy answered, "When you have a wedding, it's a good idea to invite Jesus."

Well, let me tell that when you are in a marriage it is a good idea to invite Jesus to be the ruler and blesser of your marriage.

That is what we need to do today. Let's invite Jesus, through the person of His Spirit, to empower us to be the husbands and wives we are meant to be. We can begin by asking God to forgive us of the time we have been insensitive to His Word, His plans and His way of loving in our marriages. We can continue by pledging to recommit our homes to Him. We can finish by looking in the eyes of that person we pledged to love in the best and worst of times and express gratitude for all that has been given and then commit to God all the days that lie ahead for our homes and marriages.