Paul’s description of marriage makes people uncomfortable because they take bits and pieces of it in isolation and miss the context of the passage. His description of marriage is quite beautiful if it is looked at as a whole.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
For some these verses are difficult to take. However, the real meaning from these verses is quite beautiful. The imagery used in these verses is comparing a marriage between a man and a women to the marriage of Christ to the church. I love the way William Barclay discusses this passage.
“The basis of the passage is not control; it is love. Paul says certain this about the love that a husband must bear his wife. It must be a sacrificial love. He must lover her as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for the church. It must never be a selfish love.”
“It must be a purifying love. Any love which drags down a person is false. Any love which coarsens instead of refining the character, which necessitates deceit, which weakens the moral fibre is not love. Real love is the great purifier of life.”
“It must be a caring love.” Real love loves not to extract service, nor to ensure that its own physical comfort is attended to, it cherishes the one it loves.”
“It is an unbreakable love. for the sake of this love a man leaves father and mother and cleaves to his wife. They become one flesh. He is as united to here as the members of the body are united to each other; and would not more think of separating from her than of tearing his own body apart.”
The real key is this, “the relationship is in the Lord.” “in Christian marriage there are not tow partners, but three – and the third is Christ.”
In looking at a Christian marriage we are looking at a different kind of love than the world typically looks at. It is not merely a feeling but a deep heartfelt love that is shown by action. It is a love that is sacrificial, purifying, caring and unbreakable because it is a “relationship in the Lord”. When you think of your marriage, do those words describe it? Do you show your spouse a love that is sacrificial, purifying, caring and unbreakable? Is the Lord in your marriage? If you are single, when you are looking at a potential spouse, compare your relationship to the perfect example of Christ and the church. Are you willing to sacrifice for that person, are you willing to show a love that purifies? Is it a love that is caring and unbreakable? Most importantly is Christ part of your relationship?