Works of St. John Chrysostom: Homilies on Colossians
(Ver. 3:18) “Wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”
That is, be subject for God’s sake, because this adorneth you, he saith, not them. For I mean not that subjection which is due to a master, nor yet that alone which is of nature, but that for God’s sake.
(Ver. 3:19) “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.”
See how again he has exhorted to reciprocity. As in the other case he enjoineth fear and love, so also doth he here. For it is possible for one who loves even, to be bitter. What he saith then is this. Fight not; for nothing is more bitter than this fighting, when it takes place on the part of the husband toward the wife. For the fightings which happen between beloved persons, these are bitter; and he shows that it ariseth from great bitterness, when, saith he, any one is at variance with his own member. To love therefore is the husband’s part, to yield pertains to the other side. If then each one contributes his own part, all stands firm. From being loved, the wife too becomes loving; and from her being submissive, the husband becomes yielding. And see how in nature also it hath been so ordered, that the one should love, the other obey. For when the party governing loves the governed, then everything stands fast. Love from the governed is not so requisite, as from the governing towards the governed; for from the other obedience is due. For that the woman hath beauty, and the man desire, shows nothing else than that for the sake of love it hath been made so. Do not therefore, because thy wife is subject to thee, act the despot; nor because thy husband loveth thee, be thou puffed up. Let neither the husband’s love elate the wife, nor the wife’s subjection puff up the husband. For this cause hath He subjected her to thee, that she may be loved the more. For his cause He hath made thee to be loved, O wife, that thou mayest easily bear thy subjection. Fear not in being a subject; for subjection to one that loveth thee hath no hardship. Fear not in loving, for thou hast her yielding. In no other way then could a bond have been. Thou hast then thine authority of necessity, proceeding from nature; maintain also the bond that proceedeth from love, for this alloweth the weaker to be in an endurable position.