Ephesians 5:22-28: Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
It’s a beautiful family where the wife submits herself to her husband and the husband loves his wife. There are many explanations about how the wife should submit herself to her husband, but not many interpretations of how the husband loves his wife. The two parts are equally important.
Christian Times, a Shanghai-based Chinese Christian newspaper, interviewed a pastor who has a strong testimony of loving his wife to share his ideas.
Christian Times: As a normal husband, how do you think one should love his wife?
Rev. Sun: For me, being together is important. After work, we often go for walks. During our walks, we listen to each other, especially I would like to know what stress she is facing and anything that is troubling her. While listening, I agree with her and show empathy. If a wife works while also taking care of her family, that requires much energy. She needs time to release the stress.
There are many ways for someone to help someone reduce stress in their life. My way is to keep her company, listen more and recognize what she is going through. There are two things to keep in mind when being together—you need to take enough time and work at having effective communication.
The key to effective communication lies in recognizing what someone needs and showing empathy. Even though there are some areas where the wife thinks she doesn’t do well or she is not confident, the husband should constantly affirm her. Then he needs to show empathy and demonstrate that he feels the same way. The husband can tell her, “I know what you are feeling. I agree with that.” Let her know that she is understood and accepted. Bi-weekly communication will help feel relieved.
The husband also needs to know what his partner cares about, for instance, my wife values being understood. The husband has to know what she likes—my wife loves flowers or beautiful pictures. So I try to create opportunities for her to enjoy these things.
Three important issues in marriage are housework, finance, and relations with parents. If the husband handles them well, his wife will feel comfortable and receive strength. I run few errands, but I cook with her. During cooking, our relationship develops through communication. The husband needs to share the burden of house chores with his wife as housework is an exhausting job for just one person.
When either of us fails to celebrate what the other does, that makes the other disappointed and tired. So I ofter praise her, “You did a good job cleaning. The house looks really comfortable.” Simple praise matters.
In finances, we let each other know what we should buy, give money to our parents or how much money we can lend to other people. By sharing about finances, I demonstrate respect for her.
The husband needs to maintain the couple’s relationships with their parents. I often share my wife’s photos in her larger family’s WeChat group. In the phone calls with her parents, I often compliment their daughter—this makes her feel proud and content.
Christian Times: How can a pastor love his wife better while caring for his congregation? What is the difference between the two kinds of love?
Rev. Sun: The love toward my congregation is vertical: preaching God's word and living out a life of tolerance and forgiveness. The love for my wife is a matter of the heart and one’s life and sharing her burdens.
I spend thirty per cent of my time with my wife and family. My wife is my right hand who offers me much help.
One characteristic of Chinese people is a conservative expression of emotions where gratitude is not necessarily spoken out. After we got married, I gradually learned that women’s emotions are sensitive and rich. So the husband needs to show his emotions through actions and verbal expression. Of course, we have our own shortcomings, but God created a man and a woman to be united and complement each other.
Christian Times: When a pastor faces pressure, for example, with finances in his ministry, how can he best resolve these pressures?
Rev. Sun: My experience during the past decade is that the pressure is always there.
Our first solution is prayer. Then we talk with each other when we go walking and find release. The financial difficulty never disappears, but I thank God that with the encouragement of my wife, I feel that life is easier.
We cook meals at home but dine out once or twice a month. In restaurants, we order food she likes and share our grace and thoughts with each other.
Christian Times: Although a pastor is the servant of God, he is also an ordinary man. There are many reports of domestic abuse, what do you think of this issue as a pastor and a husband?
Rev. Sun: We’re all sinners, so the important thing is to know that my partner is the best gift God could give me.
Why is there rage and why are people controlled by it? Because hearts are scorched, lacking grace and truth. Maybe those pastors don’t come near to God or don’t spend time with God’s word, then their emotions control them. I would rather believe that family abuse is the work of Satan and comes from his will.
Pastors face many battles, so they need to be more diligent in seeking God than the laity, so that they can fight and not be controlled by negative emotions. Pastors need to have high-quality personal devotions. Apart form work, they should live like normal people, not thinking that they are holy saints. Sometimes they are more likely to be tempted by pride and vanity because in their positions they attract attention.
Christian Times: What is the important thing for a good family?
Rev. Sun: It is compromise. I’m aggressive but my wife is very gentle. In the first three years of our marriage, I was very self-centered, expecting her to do exactly what I wanted. Later I realized that brought harm to her. Since then, God changed me and led me to repent.
The key to a harmonious family is to respect your partner’s ideas and suggestions. Don’t be self-centered but compromise with each other. The foundation is mutual respect and fear, otherwise, compromises can be fake.
- Translated by Karen Luo