In chapter four, Piper stressed the need for mates to forgive and endure the “sinful traits or annoying idiosyncrasies” of each other. In this chapter, Piper is saying the grace of God should so change us “so that less forgiving and forbearing is needed.” Each mate should focus on letting the grace of God change him or her rather than focusing on changing his or her mate.
Marriage has to be more than just endurance. Each mate should be conforming and changing more and more into the image of Jesus Christ. Yes, endurance is better than divorce. But marriage must not be static with no change.
All of this is based on the model of Christ and the church. In Ephesians 5:25-27, Christ loved the church and died for the church in order to see her change and become spotless one day at His coming:
Husbands Changing Wives
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also love the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
Of course this truth could be abused by pathological husbands who want to control their wives verses husbands to desires to see change in needed spiritual or moral areas. Piper mentions an example of a small, narrow, sick minded husband who demanded his wife ask his permission to go the bathroom. This abuse is not what Ephesians 5 is discussing.
Piper gives three observations that will help guide a relationship through these just mentioned minefields.
1. The Husband Is Not Christ
“We husbands dare not assume we are infallible. We sometimes err in what we would like to see change in our wives.”
2. Conformity to Christ, Not to the Husband
“Our desires for our wives are measured by God’s standard of holiness, not our standard of personal preferences.”
3. Dying for the Wife
“If a husband is loving and wise like Christ in all these ways, his desire for his wife’s change will feel, to a humble wife, like she is being served, not humiliated.”
Wives Changing Husbands
Because the husband is not Christ, as previously stated, “he is flawed. Therefore, the wife may and should seek the transformation of her husband, even while respecting him as her head—her leader, protector, and provider.” Because husbands are not perfect and Christian wives are also sisters in Christ, wives may have to practice Galatians 6:1 when husbands have sinned: “If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”
Peter issues a warning, however, to Christian wives in 1 Peter 3:1: “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.” In other words, “Don’t nag.” Rather win him by your “respectful and pure conduct” (1 Peter 3:2).
Piper concludes his chapter: “Life is not all forgiveness and forbearance. Real change can happen. Real change ought to happen. Christ died to make it happen. And he calls us, husbands and wives, to love like that.”