Colossians 3:18-19 tells us: Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.
Although much more is taught elsewhere in the Scriptures regarding the roles of the husband and wife, when addressing the Colossians Paul is concise and to the point. I won’t expound on these biblical roles here, but want to address the ramifications of one or the other member of this holy union not doing his or her part. (If you’re looking for more of my thoughts, my sermon on the topic can be found here: Righteous Relationships, Part 1: Husband and Wife.)
All 3 commands (1 to the wife and 2 to the husband) must be obeyed regardless of the obedience (or even the spiritual state) of the spouse as this is ultimately for the Lord’s glory. While evangelism is not primarily for the salvation of the lost but the obedience to and glory of Christ, the unbeliever receives enormous benefit (even if he doesn’t repent). In like manner, the obedience of the husband and wife is first for the Lord and only secondarily for the spouse.
Either way, like the gears of a clock, every gear can only run smoothly and effectively if all the other gears are doing their part. So, while the submission of the wife is necessary regardless of the husband’s response, her obedience is made much easier if the husband is doing his part and vice versa. The end result is a happy and godly marriage.
What happens if one or the other in the relationship is not doing their part? One of many devastating results.
1. Sin. Disobedience is sin, and sin is sin. It matters not if your spouse doesn’t care that you are not obeying because God cares. You need to look past your spouse and to the Lord. Remember, you are first and foremost a child of God and your role as a husband or wife is secondary.
2. Rob God. As with all sin, you rob God of the glory He deserves when you are not living in obedience with the right heart attitude. As a married couple, you have the amazing privilege of serving as an earthly picture of Christ’s love for the Church and the Church’s submission to Him. This is not a burden but a joy, and if you see it any other way you need to seriously evaluate your relationship with Christ.
3. Fear. When a marriage is not lived in accordance with Scripture, arguments, bouts of the silent treatment, eruptions of rage, etc. are all inevitable results and, incidentally, all have absolutely no place in a Christian marriage. And in case you think I’m encouraging you to bottle it all in, I’m not. That’s just as bad, if not worse, than coming to blows (yes, it’s that bad). When these sinful responses to your spouse occur, you create a home where you force your spouse into walking on eggshells, and a snowball effect begins. You are so desperate to avoid arguments that you create a wordly status quo and learn what to say and what not to say simply to keep the peace. In so doing, you create an even greater problem by shutting out biblical communication and love which demand honesty and the confrontation of sin. This is why you can meet a Christian who quickly confronts people at church and easily shows people’s errors during small group but never says a word of correction to their spouse. They’re afraid. Maybe not afraid of the spouse per se but afraid of rocking the boat.
4. Settling. Have you ever met a couple that’s been married a few years and wonder how such godly individuals can live together yet there is such constant sin in their lives? Whether it’s a gossiping wife or a rude husband the couple has settled. They’re in cruise control. They have found a happy medium that involves getting used to their spouse’s sins (which they erroneously label “personality”) to the degree that they don’t even notice. Yes, marriage is about give and take and meeting halfway, but that’s in reference to things like closet space, how many kids you want, and where to poop when the other is brushing his teeth. It is not meeting someone halfway by tolerating sin! Your spouse is your spouse but also a brother or sister in Christ. When you are more concerned about pleasing him or her or about keeping your marriage safe than you are about their walk with God then you have missed the whole point of marriage. Again, it’s about God, not you!
5. Rob Yourself. When you don’t live according to Scripture in your marriage you rob yourself of blessing. Submitting to your husband or loving your wife will not result in a miraculous shower of gold nuggets but, as with all obedience, there is blessing when things are done right. Stop taking cues from society and look to the Word. God instituted marriage and when it’s done His way then you will have a happy marriage, a godly home, and a stronger church. Yes, your obedience in marriage affects the church and, as the building blocks of society, as the family goes so goes our entire culture. Ironically, we look to Hollywood more than we do to God to try to create a happy marriage and although that feeds our addiction to false notions of romance and our pathetic need for drama, we rob ourselves of blessing from the Giver of all good things.
There are many other negative consequences of marriage-specific disobedience, but those are a few to get your mind thinking. Hope that helps.