How can Christian wives become wives after Christ’s heart? How can a wife help improve her marriage according to the Bible? How can we remain Christ-centered in a demanding marriage?
When the first churches were founded, Christians struggled with the same kind of questions. That is why the Apostles instructed the early churchgoers on how to conduct themselves as Christian husbands and wives. If we look at the pointers they gave Christian wives, we can come up with at least 10 Biblical ways in which a wife can demonstrate a Christ-honoring attitude in her marriage.
1 She is always building on love
The foundation of a Christian’s attitude is always love. It is at the foundation of the way we walk and the way we talk. No matter who is at the receiving end.
This love is the basis of the most important commandments Jesus gave us:
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”” (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV)
God is love (1 John 4:8), so as we become more like Him, whatever we do is going to be done through, in, with, and for this Love. We overflow with this Love and we want to share it with the world around us. With our spouses, our friends, our family members, and even with our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
So, to a wife filled with this kind of love, it does not matter much if her husband is loveable or not, she will love him either way. Because her main motivation for loving him is not because of him, but because of Christ.
That is why a good marriage is not so much a matter of being in love with your husband, but a matter of BEING in Love – the Love of Jesus.
We have seen that married couples imitate the relationship between Christ and the Church. Following that same pattern, Paul tells the men to love their wives with the same sacrificial love that Christ has for the Church, His body. This means that husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. And so: “A man who loves his wife, loves himself.” (Ephesians 5:25-28)
As God is part of the cord of three strands (Ecclesiastes 4:12), He interweaves His love throughout the entire cord. It is what binds you together, what keeps you strong. Without it, the whole cord unravels.
That is why a Christ-honoring wife, never lets go of God’s love. It is what binds her and her husband together into a team so strong, that no person can break it, so long as they hold on to the thread of Love.
2 She acts from a humble heart
When you have a humble attitude, you count others more significant than yourself (Philippians 2:3). It’s important to realize that this too, is done from an attitude of love, and not out of fear for other people. Fear leads to people-pleasing and walking on eggshells while you are looking for some kind of approval from them. Instead, we should be servants of Christ, looking to please Him. (Galatians 1:10)
Counting others as more significant than yourself is an example that Jesus gave us. Although He is the King of kings, Jesus chose to be born in a very humble way, as a baby in a manger. He led a humble life, first as a carpenter, then without the luxury of a roof over His head. He humbly washed the feet of His disciples. And the humblest act of all: He died for us, to save us, while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). Jesus temporarily reduced Himself to nothing, so that in Him, we can become everything. And so we too become the greatest, by becoming the least (Luke 9:46).
In order to be truly humble, we need to understand and feel that our life is not about us, nor about satisfying people’s needs and egos. No, our life is all about Jesus. Even our ministry should not be motivated by the gratification of our flesh, but to please the Lord (Galatians 6:8). In the words of John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30, ESV)
Having a humble attitude towards your husband is doing precisely that: Counting him more important than yourself. And, if you have a husband who is being transformed by Christ, he, in his turn, will also count you as more important than himself. That will lead to both parties trying to outdo the other in honoring one another.
3 She is respectful
Paul says that a wife should respect her husband (Ephesians 5:33). And by the Greek word he uses (phobetai, from phobos), we can conclude that he is talking about reverence, which is a deep kind of respect.
I think that most of us can, to a certain extent, relate to what a respectful or reverent attitude is, since we should all approach Christ this way. And if we truly see God’s awesomeness, there is no way we can be disrespectful. If we do show a disrespectful attitude towards Him, it’s because we make ourselves too big and God too small. And that, as we just saw, is the opposite of a humble attitude.
It is this very reverence that we have for God, that motivates a wife’s respect for her husband. It’s not a consequence of what the husband says, does, or who he is, but it results from a deep respect for what God says, does, and Who He is.
God instituted every authority and we should be subject to those in authority (Romans 13:1). Whether we like the person or not, and whether he or she is a tyrant or not. That is unless the person in authority asks you to go against God’s will. Following God always comes first, since He is our greatest authority.
But if you truly respect God as being the greatest authority, you will also truly respect His choice for giving whomever authority, even if it does not seem to make sense to you now.
This respect should of course not be one-sided. The reason why Paul explicitly mentions the respect of wives in Ephesians 5, has to do with the context of this chapter: He compares the roles of husbands and wives with the role of Christ and the Church. (Read what that means in this article.)
But Christian husbands should also respect their wives. As a matter of fact, all Christians ought to show respect to everyone (1 Peter 2:17). And that means that we should be considerate of the feelings and wishes of all of the people we interact with, within the boundaries of Truth. We should see others as valuable and treat them as such.
4 She is pure
In 1 Peter 3:2, Peter says that a wife should present herself in a respectful and pure manner.
We’ve discussed respect, but what does Peter mean by purity?
When in the Bible someone is called pure, purity refers to being spiritually clean. So, free from sin by living in accordance with God’s Word (Job 33:9, Numbers 5:1-3, Psalm 119:9, Proverbs 20:9). This good and loving behavior is so powerful that it might even lead a husband who does not do what the Word teaches to repentance and so to God (1 Peter 3:1).
This only works if it flows from a pure heart (1 Timothy 1:5). One can do something that seems loving, for reasons that have nothing to do with love. For example, if someone gives a gift and expects something in return.
A wife who puts Jesus at the center will always have one motive in mind: God’s glory. Not her own and not her husband’s, but God’s. And that is how she honors her husband with pure motives.
This, again, is not exclusive to wives because all Christians should lead a pure life.
There can be a practical difference between husbands and wives in the way that they live out their purity of course, for example when it comes to modesty. But the principle remains the same: Living a life free of sin, and living it for God’s glory.
5 She is obedient, yet free and assertive
The words submission and obedience make the hairs stand up on the back of the necks of many people, including some Christians. This probably has a lot to do with cultural influences, and with bad experiences instilled by people abusing their power and forcing others into submission. At least, those are the reasons why these words alarmed me for a very long time, and still do sometimes.
For some reason, there is this notion that obedience and submission rob people of their freedom and assertiveness.
But when you look at these words from a Biblical perspective, you will see that the opposite is true. Let me show you:
Everybody starts out being a slave; a slave of sin (Romans 6:18). And as a consequence, people have been mastered by money, their stomachs, sexual desires, fears, drugs, you name it.
I remember that it felt free because it felt like I was the one to decide what was good and what was bad (Romans 6:20). But that was a deception. In reality, I was under a yoke of slavery, working hard for what I believed I needed for being free, happy, and satisfied. But that satisfaction never came. What came instead, was burnout. And when I ever did feel satisfied, it was only for an hour or so, until the race to fulfill my needs started all over again.
Contrary to popular belief, more money did not buy me more freedom. As a matter of fact, the more money I had, the more it became my master.
But when we turn to Christ, He sets us free from all those things. And as a consequence, we become slaves of nothing but God and His righteousness (Romans 6:18, 22). And we even choose that servanthood freely!
Of course God does not need slaves, He is self-sufficient (Acts 17:24-25). We serve because we love Him more than anything and because we want to share what He has graciously given us. It is never about what we give Him, it is always about what He gives us so that He can get the glory (1 Peter 4:11, 2 Thessalonians 1:11).
Freely serving Him is for our good and for God’s glory. And we do it by the strength God provides, and that is why His yoke is easy and His burden light (Matthew 11:28-30).
Once you have tasted that freedom, you realize that the freedom you thought you felt before, is nothing but a lie. The beauty of this true feeling of freedom is that it grows and intensifies the more you obey Christ out of love and the more you become like Him. Over time your freedom stops depending on your circumstances and starts depending on nothing else but God. This means that you can be poor, hungry, deadly ill, or imprisoned, but you will still feel the joy and peace of the freedom in Christ.
Paul says this: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”” (Gal 5:13, ESV)
Because we are free, we have the freedom to choose to do what is right in God’s eyes. And that is the reason why Christians submit to one another and people in authority – because we deeply respect Christ (Ephesians 5:21).
And people who serve their authorities, whether that is a boss, a president, or a husband, are, in reality, serving and obeying Christ (Ephesians 6:5-8, Colossians 3:22-24).
Obedience is not the same thing as blindly following orders, no questions asked.
Moses was an extremely humble man (Numbers 12:3) and he often negotiated with God.
When Moses spoke against God because he did not want to do what God told him to do (out of fear and unbelief), God became angry with him (Exodus 4:14). But when he spoke out of wisdom, love, and mercy, God listened to him (Exodus 32:1-14).
Queen Esther was obedient to her guardian Mordecai and to her husband the king. But even at the risk of losing her life at the hands of her authority (her husband and king), she still pleaded with him for mercy in obedience to Mordecai.
And when you think about it: Isn’t that what prayer is all about? We don’t fatalistically lay back and let the world around us crumble, no we pray to God for mercy and help.
That is part of the relationship we have with Him. Jesus commands us to do things, and we obey Him, but He is also our Friend (John 15:15).
Jesus is infallible, but men aren’t. Even a God-fearing husband can make the mistake of asking you to do something of which you are sure that it is not God’s will for your life. That is why we should sometimes be assertive, with gentleness and respect. This respect has a lot to do with demeanor, but also with the right time and place.
And if we need help, we can always turn to a higher Authority (Jesus) and ask Him to intervene.
6 She is peaceable
Paul and Peter both talk about quietness in relation to wives (1 Timothy 2:11, 1 Peter 3:4). And you are probably familiar with Paul’s seemingly controversial words in 1 Corinthians 14, in which he forbids women to speak in church.
I think that the controversy is not due to what Paul says, but due to unfortunate misunderstanding and misinterpretation of his words.
This is what he says: “the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35, ESV)
If you read these verses out of context, Paul seems to say that women should not open their mouths to speak in church at all. But that cannot be the case because just a few sentences ago, he stated that he wanted all churchgoers (including women) to prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:5, 14:24, 14:31).
Paul says that when people prophesy, they speak to people for their upbuilding, encouragement, and consolation (1 Cor 14:3). This type of speaking is inspired by God and Paul would never stop anybody from speaking God’s words by His command.
So, when he refers to women speaking, he most likely meant inspired by the flesh instead of inspired by God. For example, if they were showing disregard for their men by impertinent questioning. And in doing so achieving the opposite of upbuilding.
I think this to be the case for several reasons:
- Because he relates their speaking to asking questions (1 Cor 14:35).
- He repeats these instructions in 1 Timothy 2 where he says: “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.” (1 Tim 2:11). Here he is also talking about wives submitting to their husbands, and compares the wives’ grabbing of authority to what Eve did with her husband (Genesis 3).
- And because he points to the Law. And yes, there is a law describing that wives should be submitted to their husbands in Numbers 5, and there is also a law in Numbers 30 saying that husbands have authority over their wives’ vows. But there is none that forbids wives (or women in general) to speak in the congregation. As a matter of fact, the Old Testament describes many women who, by ordination, exercised authority over men, and spoke Godly words to God’s people. For example Deborah, a wife herself, who was not only a prophetess but also judged the whole of Israel.
Consequently, I don’t believe that quietness means saying nothing at all.
I do believe that both Peter and Paul are saying that wives should have a demeanor that shows peaceability, tranquility, meekness, and a gentle way of speaking that is upbuilding and encouraging.
That does not mean that it’s never allowed for a woman to be loud and outspoken. For that would mean that a woman could never joyfully praise the Lord with a loud voice either (Psalm 33:3, Psalm 47:1, Luke 1:42). I believe it simply means that women should act in a peace-promoting manner. They should not make waves in a negative way. But on the other hand, men should not do that either.
Isaiah says this beautifully: “But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt.” (Isaiah 57:20, ESV)
Since wives should demonstrate the respect they have for Christ through their relationship, it is not fitting for them to take control without it being given, to talk down to their husbands, to be quarrelsome, or anxiety-promoting. Just as that would be inappropriate in our relationship with Jesus and other brothers and sisters in Christ.
Instead, the speaking of wives should be peace-promoting, respectful, and aiming to maintain unity (Ephesians 4:3).
And of course, this good habit is also not unique to wives, but applicable to all Christians.
7 She is beautiful from the inside out
Inner beauty relates to the quietness we have just talked about, because a peaceable demeanor can be verbal and non-verbal, and both flow from a transformed heart. And someone with a wicked heart can also make waves in a bad way with their clothing (or lack thereof).
That is why when we put on anything in the morning, we need to ask ourselves an honest question: Why do we do it? And the only correct answer to that is: For God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).
For example, does putting on all of that makeup glorify God? I can think of various situations where it would, for example when you work in theatre. But in some cases, you might be signaling a lack of gratitude for the way God created you.
And, what does wearing an expensive sweater with a huge brand name written on your chest signal to people who look at it? Probably not that you want all focus to be on Christ.
In 1 Peter 3:3, Peter warns us that the way we adorn ourselves for our husbands, should not be external. He encourages us not to focus on outside beauty, and spend a disproportionate amount of time working on that, but to work on the beauty of our hearts.
If you focus on your physical beauty to convince your husband to either love you or to love Jesus, you will lose the race. Physical beauty is subjective, culturally influenced, and fleeting. Disease, accidents, and other hard to control influences like aging, leave marks on our bodies. So, a love based on appearance won’t stand the test of time.
Besides, outward beauty is not a means by which we demonstrate the light of Christ. According to Isaiah 53:2 Jesus Himself was average-looking. That makes sense too because He came to prove that pleasing God is not about appearance, but about the state of our hearts. He continually steered us away from focusing on physical things. Instead, He taught us to focus on the spiritual aspects of life.
That doesn’t mean that you should never wear that pretty dress that your husband likes so much, or never do your hair a certain way he likes. It should just not be your focus. When you let God shape your heart, you will automatically radiate your true beauty outwardly. It will translate in how you carry yourself, in the way you dress, in the way you talk, everything. You will shine with God’s love and power, and that beauty will never perish.
8 She is diligent
In Titus 2:4-5 we find instructions for young wives to exercise love for their husbands and children, self-control, purity, working at home, and kindness.
We’ve discussed purity and love, and we know that self-control and kindness are fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) – these should be exercised by all Christians. But what is meant by working at home?
We know what it does not mean. It does not mean that wives never have jobs outside of their homes. We see that Priscilla, the wife of Aquilla, worked in the field with Paul. Together with her husband and other hardworking men and women (Romans 16). We also have the previously mentioned example of Deborah who clearly had her hands full with ruling and defending the country. And remember the woman described in Proverbs 31? Proverbs 31 portrays a supermom who diligently took care of her household and earned an income outside of the home.
Paul mentions this instruction in another text too: “So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.” (1 Timothy 5:14, ESV).
Both times, Paul is talking about young wives specifically. Both times, he is talking about wives with children. And both times, he says that they should do so to protect the reputation of the faith: To prevent slander (1 Tim 5:14) and to prevent maligning of the Word of God (Titus 2:5).
So it seems that a young wife, who was not at home taking care of the children and doing household chores, would somehow bring shame to the Word of God in those days.
A reason for that is given in the context of 1 Timothy 5, where Paul warns Timothy against making wives who lose their husbands at a young age financially dependent on the church and giving them a special role of devotion to the church. Since they would not have had the time to grow mature in devotion and firmly rooted in Christ, their passions could drive them away from Christ. They could become idlers, and on top of that busybodies and gossips. And that would make it easy for the enemy to speak badly about her, the faith, the Church, and the Word of God.
Christ’s purified people are zealous for good works (Titus 2:14). Working at home for Christ demonstrates the opposite of being an idler or a sloth, and spending all of your time for God’s glory means that there is no time (or need) for being a gossiper or a busybody.
As a matter of fact, for a mother with children living at home, managing her household and so teaching them the way of the Lord is doing good works.
9 She gives generously
Every Christian should give generously from the heart (2 Corinthians 8:1-15, Psalms 37:21). Whether it concerns finances, talents, or time, we should not be greedy but share freely.
Within a marriage, the exact same rule applies, maybe even more so: Spouses should share what they have freely, abundantly, and joyfully, following a principle of “What is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine.” Just like it was the case in the early church (Acts 4:32-35, 2 Corinthians 8:13-15). So that neither lacks anything and they are truly one body.
And exclusively within marriage, that generosity extends to the giving of bodily pleasures.
Paul says: “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5, ESV)
When a woman marries, she becomes one with her husband. Then her husband has authority over her body, and vice versa. This automatically implies respect for each other’s wishes and preferences.
But it also implies a responsibility: Both have the responsibility to give the other person what they long for, within the bounds of purity.
And both have the responsibility to be open about their needs. How else will a spouse know if he or she is depriving the other?
This way, intimacy becomes a matter of giving, rather than of taking, while both are trying to outdo one another in demonstrating their love and respect for each other. Blessing themselves as they go, for it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
This selflessly giving “of your flesh” is a very Godly act. It’s something to be uniquely enjoyed between spouses, and very symbolic in many ways.
Think about it: Jesus came to earth in the flesh, and then He sacrificed His body so that we, His Bride, the Church, can be united with Him and be made whole.
Intimacy between spouses demonstrates this agape love in a special way. And when it is met with true love in return, the experienced pleasure and joy can be overwhelming.
By being intimate in a way that embodies all the virtues we have discussed so far (love, humbleness, respect, purity, assertive and voluntary obedience, a gentle and upbuilding demeanor, inner beauty, and diligence), we have a recipe for quality of intimacy only Christian spouses can experience to the fullest. And that is a thing to be celebrated.
For most of us, the experience doesn’t start out feeling so perfect. It takes practice and spiritual and mental growth. For we live in a broken world with broken people and that brokenness is taken into marriage. Experiencing a love life enjoyed in freedom can sometimes take a lot of counseling, prayer, and practice. Don’t give up, because nothing is impossible with God.
10 She is his friend
Since all Christians together form one body, the Body of Christ, we should have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7). No Christian should be alone and we should all help each other.
Eve was created for Adam to be a suitable helper, and so that he would not be alone (Genesis 2:18). God knew that Adam could use a helper and a friend to be complete, and fully joyful. He put that desire in Adam Himself. We too are helpers and friends of Christ. And we help Christ because we love Him. Not because Jesus needs our help, but because by helping Him, we grow and become like Christ.
Similarly, wives are not just helpers of their husbands. Husbands and wives are, in many ways, friends too (Song of Solomon 5:16). They are companions by covenant (Malachi 2:14).
Being friends can express itself in various ways. For example in:
- loving each other (Proverbs 17:17, 1 Samuel 18:1-3)
- supporting and caring for each other (Acts 27:3)
- showing each other kindness (Job 6:14)
- weeping and rejoicing with one another (Psalm 35:14, John 3:29)
- sharing wisdom with each other (John 15:15)
- trusting each other (Psalm 41:9)
- interceding for each other (Psalm 42:10)
- giving each other counsel (Proverbs 27:9)
All of these attributes of friendship are very important for maintaining a healthy marriage. And the longer you maintain this friendship and operate as a team, the more in tune you will be with each other.
My personal experience is that when you continue to focus on Jesus, difficulties in your marriage are experienced differently. Jesus can bring an incomprehensible peace into your marriage. And with the help of the Holy Spirit and practice, it is easier to forgive, to be patient, and to love even when your spouse does not deserve it.
In the line of that: It is always important to look at yourself first and to take the log out of your own eye before judging the speck in your partner’s eye. And that is why I feel that the following is also crucial to a flourishing marriage: Repenting when you make mistakes.
Everybody messes up now and again. In my case, I can be pridefully argumentative, cranky, or have thoughts that aren’t beneficial for my marriage. In those moments, or after the realization of my mistake, I try to humble myself. Then I ask God (and usually also my husband) for forgiveness and proceed to do my best to change my ways. That isn’t always easy, but it is crucial to experience renewal and growth in your relationship with God and your spouse, from the inside out.
I realize that all of this is a lot to digest, so thank God that you made it this far. May He help you to digest this information so that it becomes a part of who you are in Christ.
Then hopefully these 10 virtues will inspire you to find ways to pour Christ’s peace, joy, and light into your marriage. May they help you find wisdom and strength in Jesus whenever you are challenged.
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