Our entertainment-saturated society helps feed all sorts of illusions about reality. The fantasy of the perfect romantic and sexual relationship, the perfect lifestyle, and the perfect body all prove unattainable because the reality never lives up to the expectation.

The worst fallout comes in the marriage relationship. When two people can't live up to each other's expectations, they'll look for their fantasized satisfaction in the next relationship, the next experience, the next excitement. But that path leads only to self-destruction and emptiness.

Marriage is the capstone of the family, the building block of human civilization. A society that does not honor and protect marriage undermines its very existence. Why? Because one of God's designs for marriage is to show the next generation how a husband and wife demonstrate reciprocal, sacrificial love toward each other.

But when husbands and wives forsake that love, their marriage fails to be what God intended. When marriage fails, the whole family falls apart; when the family fails, the whole society suffers. And stories of societal suffering fill the headlines every day.

Now, more than ever before, is the time for Christians to declare and put on display what the Bible declares: God's standard for marriage and the family is the only standard that can produce meaning, happiness, and fulfillment.

Divine Directives for Wives

One of the most explicit passages of Scripture that outlines God's standard for marriage is Ephesians 5:22-33. Wives often bear the brunt of that section, but the majority of the passage deals with the husband's attitude toward and responsibilities for his wife. Nonetheless, here's the wife's responsibility before the Lord:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything (vv. 22-24).

Submission in no way implies a difference in essence or worth; it does refer, however, to a willing submission of oneself. Wives, submission is to be your voluntary response to God's will-it's a willingness to give up your rights to other believers in general and ordained authority in particular, in this case your own husband.

Husbands aren't to treat their wives like slaves, barking commands at them; they are to treat their wives as equals, assuming their God-given responsibility of caring, protecting, and providing for them.

Likewise wives fulfill their God-given responsibility when they submit willingly to their own husbands. That reflects not only the depth of intimacy and vitality in their relationship, but also the sense of ownership a wife has for her husband.

Keep in mind that the wife's submission requires intelligent participation: "Mere listless, thoughtless subjection is not desirable if ever possible. The quick wit, the clear moral discernment, the fine instincts of a wife make of her a counselor whose influence is invaluable and almost unbounded" (Charles R. Erdman, The Epistles of Paul to the Colossians and to Philemon [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966], 103).

Elisabeth Elliot, writing on "The Essence of Femininity," offers a fitting summary of God's ideal for wives:

Unlike Eve, whose response to God was calculating and self-serving, the virgin Mary's answer holds no hesitation about risks or losses or the interruption of her own plans. It is an utter and unconditional self-giving: "I am the Lord's servant … May it be to me as you have said" (Luke 1:38). This is what I understand to be the essence of femininity. It means surrender.

Think of a bride. She surrenders her independence, her name, her destiny, her will, herself to the bridegroom in marriage … The gentle and quiet spirit of which Peter speaks, calling it "of great worth in God's sight" (1 Peter 3:4), is the true femininity, which found its epitome in Mary (John Piper, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood [Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1991], 398, 532, emphasis added).