A few weeks ago I asked for suggestions on Facebook for some favorite books about marriage. I received a whole slew of comments– most of them I had heard of before, but one in particular piqued my interest with its title.

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Just How Married Do You Want to Be?: Practicing Oneness in Marriage is a book written by Jim and Sarah Sumner (IVP) who I find to be a fairly unlikely couple (PhD theology student meets former stripper turned Christian- you guess who is who!). The authors’ goal of this book is to encourage and inspire Christian couples to live a biblical marriage (p.14). While I typically halt at anything labeled “biblical” (I’ve come to recognize that word as being one that people sometimes use to “show God to be on their side”), I decided to proceed with caution because this book was recommended by a friend I trust, and because it was published by IVP. 🙂

I ended up liking parts of it, being totally intrigued by others, and downright not liking some sections. So, all in all, I’d say that’s a fun read!

The most interesting thing to me was their theological framework for understanding marriage, especially as it relates to Ephesians 5:21-33.

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

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 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.

Instead of coming at it from a complementarian perspective and translating “head” as “leader”, or an egalitarian perspective and translating “head” as “source”, they come at it from head meaning a physical head (which is what kephale means). So, the man is the head of the wife and the wife is the body of the man. Just as Christ is the head of the church and the church the body of Christ.

I think this passage in Ephesians gets interesting when you realize what words Paul DIDN’T use when saying the husband is the head of the household. He didn’t use oikodespotes, which means master of the house. Paul didn’t use archon, which meals ruler.

This illustration in Ephesians seems to be saying more about the relational connectedness between a husband and wife and Christ and the Church then it does about who holds the power of the home.

The implications of this are interesting:

1. Our lives would ideally communicate our oneness. Both with our spouse and with Christ. Do people view my relationship with my husband as characterized by “oneness” or are we seen as two individuals who are very much doing our own things and constantly trying to figure out how to get our own way (or is one person getting their way while the other spouse just does whatever the other one wants)? Do people view the church’s relationship with Christ by “oneness” or a bunch of people figuring out how to live the life they want while also ending up in heaven at the end?

2. This interpretation would give us another dimension of our relationship with Christ to explore. Christ is our Savior (He saved us from our sin). Christ is our Lord (He leads us and we submit to Him). Christ is our Head (He is an intimate part of who we are- our identity).

All this and much more is found in Sarah and Jim’s book- I’m not 100% convinced that this is a good interpretation, but I’m thinking through it, praying through it. and keeping my mind open to it! Any thoughts?

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