The whole issue of male and female relationships is a powder keg in our culture today. But behind it there is a more basic issue. Before we can decide what is the right behavior for men and women, we need to ask what is the appropriate behavior for human beings in general. Now Scripture say s that the proper basis of behavior is love toward God and others (Matthew 22:36-40; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:13,14). This involves a willingness to put the welfare of others before our own (Matthew 7:12; Philippians 2:1-4; Romans 15:1,2). This is rooted in the example of Christ Himself, who came to pay the price for our sins (Philippians 2:5-11; Romans 15:3; Ephesians 5:1,2). But this is not the world’s approach.
Our culture has the ideal that we should assert ourselves, stand up for ourselves, be our own person, look out for number one, be willing to step on a few heads on the way up to top. Now there was a time in our culture, when we were in transition from the Biblical view to the modern view, where it was considered acceptable for men to embrace the modern view but women were still supposed to be kind and self-sacrificing and concerned for the welfare of others. This played itself out in the sexual area, where a man who seduced many women was considered a great lover, but a woman who was sexually involved outside of marriage was considered a fallen woman. This was vilified as a double standard. It was. But there are two ways to correct a double standard. Rather than allowing women to be just as debauched as men, we should have recalled men to responsibility and putting others first. But our culture took a different turn. And it is here that Christians must part with our culture.
The Biblical ideal for the relationship of husbands and wives is based on this idea of mutual self-sacrifice (Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18,19; 1 Peter 3:1-7). The picture here is the relationship of Christ and the church. The husband is commanded to take the sacrificial role of being willing to give himself for his wife like Christ gave Himself for the church. This is in accordance with the fundamental Christian principle that leadership is service (Matthew 20:25-28; Luke 22:24-27; 14:7-11). Now there are cases where one partner or the other is not living up to what is required of them and the other must do what they can to obey under those circumstances. But be that as it may, it is important to realize, going in, that the ideal is consideration for others rather than self-assertion. For we serve a God who was willing to put aside His dignity and step down from His throne and endure the suffering of the cross to save us from sin (John 1:1-18; Romans 5:6-8; Hebrews 2:9-18). We need to be willing to follow that example in marriage and in every other aspect of life.