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What is the role of the husband in marriage? Many ideas abound from extremely passive to absolute dictator. With humanistic attacks on marriage and the family, the role of the husband has been clouded and confused. If you add to this common misunderstandings of Scriptural authority and Biblical principles, it is amazing the amount of pressure that is placed on men.
If marriages and families are going to be healthy we must understand and apply God's requirements for all family members. So what are God's requirements for husbands? [Note: there are many "roles" of a man, but this article focuses on the role of a man as husband.]
God has designed the world around a system of authority. Everyone is
under someone's authority. Ultimately, all authority is delegated
authority under God. The person who exercises authority [or refuses to
do so] is responsible to God. Misuse of authority in any sphere -
government, family, church, etc - leads to the judgment of God for
misrepresenting the character of God.
The authority structure, as it relates to the family, places the husband and wife as a team much like the President and the Vice President. They should work together to build a life and the Kingdom of God by solving problems in a Biblical way. However, in cases where agreement cannot be reached, someone must have the authority to make the final decision. God has placed that authority in the husband.
"For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body." Eph. 5:23
Many times we sinfully stop at the first phrase. We stress that the husband is the head of the wife while ignoring the rest of the sentence. The husband is to be the head of the wife in the same way that Christ is the head of the Church and is its Saviour.
How is Christ the head of the Church? He is the Leader of the Church, but all His decisions are made for the benefit of the Church. He makes NO decisions from selfish motives. Sometimes He makes hard decisions, but always for the ultimate benefit of the Church. In fact, His love for the Church went so far as the giving up of His body to torture and death for her.
In the same way, the husband may need to make tough decisions, but they are to always be for the benefit of his wife and children. He is to always place their needs and desires above his own. As a human being, the husband deals with his own sinful nature and needs the counsel of his wife on reaching the best decisions. God placed them together as a team. However, when the time for a decision comes, he is the one who stands responsible before God for making it... and for its consequences. It is a heavy responsibility, not a power trip.
The husband cannot be the saviour of his wife in the same way that Christ is the Saviour of the church. Only Christ's Blood can bring forgiveness of sin. He is; nevertheless, to lead his wife in the ways of God. He is to study and know the Word of God and develop his own relationship with God so he can lead in Godly ways. And just as Christ gave His life for the Church, the husband must be willing to sacrifice his physical life if necessary to save the life of his wife. Part of this also includes, as we have written elsewhere, making sure his wife is properly cared for should he die before she does. It should be obvious from the above that the husband is not an independent authority. He only has legitimate authority as he is submitted to the authority of Christ. He does not make decisions or take actions based on his own feelings, desires, or wisdom. He must study and know the Word of God, be submitted to it, and apply it in love.
So, husbands, you are the managers under God of your home. You are responsible before God for everything that goes on in it. If there isn't enough love [or anything else] in the home, don't complain, don't blame your wife. It's your fault...and your responsibility to take charge and fix it with Godly solutions. [This is a blunt statement meant to remove excuses and blame shifting. I know where there are problems usually both parties bear some blame and must work together to find solutions. I also know that in some cases a wife has been so hurt by her husband or by incident[s] in her past or simply the desire to engage our sinful nature that nothing the husband does will restore the relationship. A husband is to do his best with the love of Christ to minister to his wife, but he does not walk in guilt and condemnation. So while I place strong responsibility on the husband, in cases like those mentioned above, it may not be his fault. There may be nothing he can do to fix it.]
Husbands, you cannot do this on your own. It will break you. You need the power of the Holy Spirit...and you need an assistant. God, in His wisdom, provided you with a lovely and competent assistant.
"And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." Gen. 2:21-23
This is one reason why the husband/wife relationship is the most important human relationship. It is more important than the parent/child relationship. It is more important than the husband's or wife's relationship with their own parents. Certainly, it is vastly more important that relationships with friends outside the home. The husband/wife relationship is the priority relationship. Only our relationship with God is more important.
"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." Gen. 2:24
The husband is to take time to understand and minister to his wife. This is especially important in the first year of marriage when so much change and adjustment is taking place [Deut. 24:5, Col. 3:19]. Take time out from the business of life to enjoy your wife. Dating does not stop when you get married! Continue to have fun together [Ecc. 9:9].
In line with this, the husband is to be an encourager. It is so tempting to criticize, complain, and make hurting comments. That is not how Christ treats His Church. He treasures it. A husband should treasure his wife. He should take every opportunity to build her up and encourage her. He should be her biggest promoter and should take Godly pride when she is successful in any area of life.
"Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her." Pr. 31:28
Another role of the husband is to be his wife's lover. A husband should met his wife's sexual needs. Sex is to be an act of giving, it is being more concerned about fulfilling the needs of the wife than receiving fulfillment. The husband must understand that his wife views sex differently and different things minister to her needs. He must be gentle and kind. He must not be too proud to ask his wife what meets her desires. Researching with Christian, tasteful but detailed books [like Act of Marriage or Intended for Pleasure] is recommended. Note: Trying to use X-rated movies or other pornographic material to improve the sexual relationship is sinful and extremely harmful to the relationship.
"And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed." Gen. 2:25
"The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife." 1 Cor. 7:4
This report is not intended to bring condemnation, but to challenge us. If our relationship is less than it should be, we need to take responsibility, find the Biblical solutions, and then apply them. We may need to humbly seek the forgiveness of our wife for having failed her. Real leaders are humble people. Then we prove the sincerity of our repentance by changing to become Godly husbands. May God help us for with Him all things are possible, but without Him failure is inevitable.
What if a man's wife does not follow his leadership? Should he try to force her to submit? How does Christ deal with His Church when it doesn't submit to Him? Jesus continues to lead. He does not compromise Godly principles to gain cooperation. He continues to love and provide for His Church. His love is shown in His faithfulness and care even when His Church does not deserve it. He does not use violence or manipulation to attempt to force or trick His Church into obedience. Certainly it is a difficult position to be in, but study the actions of Christ with His Church for the principles of how to operate.
Most wives will not have a problem with submission if they know their husbands are genuinely following God and doing their best for their wives and families. Only if the wife is committing a Biblical divorce offense does that become an option. No husband is required to remain married to a woman who deliberately pursues a sinful life-style.
Finally, is the role of the husband different for Christians and non-Christians? No, God's standards in every area of life are the same for His entire human creation. As sinful creatures we will always fall below the perfect standard set by Christ; however, empowered by the Holy Spirit, it should be our goal. We should never be satisfied with less than the best. It is a shame of Christian men that many non-Christians show more love for their wives than they do.
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Please note: We no longer have the commenting feature [maybe again in the future]. Joshua Institute students who have questions or comments on their courses can use the contact button and mention the course name and lesson number in the email. Thank you. Glenn
Ok Glenn, here it is:
I'm studying the meaning of Eph. 5:22-23, and similar passages. In commentaries I read, naturally they say that this would obviously not apply, if the husband is leading you in to sin. Or would only apply "insofar as the husband is following God", and does not mean in any way "blind obedience", etc..... I can understand all these commentaries, because, naturally ....... otherwise, what would happen if I told my wife "Let's invest in this Nigerian money scheme that I received in the mail, so we can get rich!" doh!
So I simply know there has to be some limitation on what Paul is saying. Because after all, let's face it: a man is certainly fallible, and a wife is certainly under no obligation to allow for potential financial ruin, un-safe decisions, risky social blunders, poor career moves, etc.... right?
This only causes me confusion though: because any wife, if she doesn't want to submit to a decision or leadership she disagrees with, merely has to say "the passage doesn't apply in this case, because in this case, you're making a wrong decision". Or "this no longer applies to you, because I can point to poor decisions you made in the past, therefore I don't trust this current decision" etc....
For example: my pastor tells the story of how, after 2 yrs. of pro's and con's discussion, he and he wife couldn't agree on whether their child (who was fast approaching 1st grade age) to go to public, verses private school. They each had many reasons why each choice was obviously the best choice. Ie.: "our zip code has the best public schools in the county" vs "but christian schools have smaller class sizes and better ciriculum", etc.... But the day came, at the end of 2 yrs, when still at an impasse, where they simply had to make a choice. So my pastor tells me: "I took a leadership role, and made the decision: We sent our son to public school".
But what if his wife had objected and said "but you don't have concern for our son's safety?" or "this isn't what the Bible says is best for our child, thus you are acting un-biblically and I am under no obligation to allow this" or "you are merely twisting the Bible to be a tryant" etc.....? Naturally the husband could try to answer each of those objections, I suppose. But if, in each case, she is un-satisfied with his answers (afterall, presumably they've already covered all these pros and cons in their 2 yrs. of discussion), then what happens? Is he an un-loving husband now?
So I'm really confused about this. I don't want to be a tryant, but on the other hand, I don't know when it's EVER right to apply (or try to apply) Paul's passage. I can't understand how, in the example of our pastor & wife's impasse, he could simply "announce" his "decision". Perhaps not in this case (assuming you prefer public over private schools like he did), but you can easily "fill in the blank" with a myriad of decisions that come up in daily life, where it all boils down to caution factor, goals, etc.... ie.: chocolate vs vanilla, where there are very real pro's and con's which can seemingly give merit to either view. And assuming you take the stance that ..... even after all this, that a man still has scriptural authority to lead like this, what do you do if a wife, on the other hand, will say that the passage is conditional on the rightness of a decision, or how "secure" it makes her feel, or his past track record of prior decisions (based on her opinion of them, of course), etc...?
The easier answer would seem to be "The couple is supposed to talk it out, and come to a compromise. Or one of them convinces the other of the better merits of a particular decision choice, etc....". But as can be seen, there can be instances where ........ even after years, persons can still have different, (yet each reasonable), ideas.
thanx for your input on this question.
You have raised some valid questions. I will try to present you with what I believe the Scriptural position is. Your illustration is difficult for me - and probably for that reason a very good one - so I will comment on it at the end.
You are right in that it becomes impossible to apply this passage if we allow that any time there is a disagreement the wife can simply say she doesn't feel it is right.
As in the commentaries you have read, our relationship with Jesus is the priority relationship. No one has the right to force us to enter into sin or violate our conscience before God. Anyone who tries to do so must be respectfully disobeyed.
Ideally, the husband and wife should do their best to understand each other and work out a solution. Done properly this is a time when they can grow in their understanding and appreciation of each other. However, as in your illustration, there may come a time when a decision must be made and there is no agreement. Assuming that it does not involve sin, the wife must submit to her husband's decision.
Having said that let me add, that only God has ultimate authority. Never does He invest complete authority in a single human being or institution [since we are all fallible as you correctly pointed out]. If the issue of disagreement is of a serious nature then the wife should have the option of appeal. They could select a few committed Christians who are: 1. knowledgeable in the Word of God, 2. mature, 3. not bias to either of them, and 4. in whom they both have confidence. They should then each present their case and should both be willing to submit to their decision. Again, this is for serious life issues not a disagreement over what colour to paint the kitchen.
This may sound harsh for the wife, especially if she married a fool. Certainly it can be which is one reason why a woman should be very careful about the man she marries. Does he really have her best interests at heart? Can he provide for her [the Bible required a man to prove his financial stability before marriage]? Will he listen to her? Etc. She should seek the advice of Godly men about her proposed husband as to his character. Marriage is certainly not to be entered into lightly. The modern idea that people should get married because they make a "cute couple" is tragically ridiculous.
Does this make the husband a tyrant? No, not if he has followed Biblical procedure. He would have made every effort to reach an mutually agreeable decision - including praying together about it. If at all possible, he would have preferred his wife's solution above his own. After all, it should be his sincere desire to please his wife and do his best for her. However, the final decision is his and - as I pointed out in the article - God will hold him responsible for it. If his wife still feels strongly that it is the wrong decision then she should pray for him knowing that he will one day answer to God for it and for the consequences it will bring. She should then trust herself [and family] to God knowing He can work all things out - including molding the hearts of kings.
Now on to your illustration... The reason that I find this difficult is that I believe the public school vs. private school issue is a foundational Biblical issue [see What The Bible Teaches About Christian Education]. Public schools - no matter how good - are built on fundamentally anti-Biblical principles. [I would be very interested to know what Biblical reasons your pastor has for sending this precious gift from God to be educated in an anti-God system.] It doesn't matter how good - or even Godly - the individual teachers may be, the entire system is wrong. This does not mean the private schools are automatically Christian. Even many schools with the name of Christian are still built on anti-Biblical principles. If his wife was objecting on Biblical principle, not just preference, then she has legitimate cause for concern. I believe a respectful appeal could be in order. On the bottom line; however, she must submit to her husband's decision and pray for God to work His will out.
thanks for the reply! I am trying to digest it.
...I see your stance that a conservative interpretation of Eph. 5: 22-23 is in order. I also see that you are careful to give a myriad of exceptions. As I said in my original question, I have no doubt, that there simply MUST be some limitations on it (lest they have no boundaries for doing stupid stuff).
This is where I'm still confused. On the one hand, you take the conservative approach to this. On the other hand, you rightfully say things like, the wife can not be forced to " ..... enter into sin or violate our conscience before God." While that is also true, it seems that decisions will/can boil down to a debate on what "violates our conscience". For example, anytime you (as a husband) go to take a leadership role, your wife could theoretically say "this violates my conscience before God, so I am under no obligation to go along with this decision ...."
Same with this statement: "Ideally, the husband and wife should do their best to understand each other and work out a solution." While that sounds reasonable, that's an easy one too: The wife needs merely to say: "Since you don't agree with me, you have not done your best to understand me, or work out a solution. Therefore I'm under no obligation to agree or do this either"
And to seek out counselors who: "1. knowledgeable in the Word of God, 2. mature, 3. not bias to either o them, and 4. in whom they both have confidence. They should then each present their case and should both be willing to submit to their decision. " This would seem to be at the whims of whomever you/they/she/he finds to "give the counsel you want". Ie.: if a counselor disagrees with my viewpoint, well then obviously they are not "knowledgeable in the word of God", "lack maturity", "are biased", and now I "no longer have confidence in them". Again, a myriad of loopholes to avoid doing whatever it is, that is at the center of an impasse, and reduce the decision again, to a debate of merits (ie.; the pro's and con's of the particular situation, where never can anyone ever be a tie-breaker)
Going on, "Does he really have her best interests at heart? and "Will he listen to her?" Again, if she doesn't like his decision, she can merely say (as these statements implies): "you don't have my best interests at heart, and you don't listen to me, therefore I am under no obligation to follow you" Notice that in each case, the reasons for her statements of this characterization, can merely be, because she is not getting her way. Ie.: "obviously, if someone listens/understands me, they WILL do/believe/act as I say"
I understand, that even through all these "outs", you still take the conservative interpretation. I'm just trying to be the "devil's advocate", because I find myself in these very situations, where ....... I can never actually apply this (except when my decisions are deemed right by her to be logical, pass muster, etc....). I could go in to the actual specifics, but then it would boil it down to the very "debate of merits" that this question, itself, wonders if there is ever "and end to".
I suppose if I said "I want to invest in a Nigerian oil well scam certain to make us a millionaire", then of course, we could throw Paul's verses out the window, eh? But if I said "I attempted to witness to a searching/seeking person, and my wife told me to stop it, lest I offend people", then you might say "the great commission greatly outweighs someone else telling you to hush up". So rather than getting in to the actual decision, I am, for right now, seeking to understand when/if it is ever right to apply Paul's passage, and what to do if an end-run around it isn't quickly and easily made to simply void it :(
thanx, Tom, USA
You are right in that I hold a conservative position. Although there are things on my site that many modern conservatives would disagree with, as far as I know everything is within the bounds of Scripture and the teaching of Godly people throughout history.
I don't think I have left as many loopholes as you may suspect.
First, "violates her conscience" should be something that is provable from Scripture or something that God has spoken to her personally. Now I know that "opens the door" again, but let me illustrate. Suppose a wife has a problem with watching too many soap operas [stereo type, I know]. The Lord impresses on her heart to give them up altogether. It would be wrong for her husband to require her to watch them [don't ask me why any husband would!]. I will deal with possible loopholes below
Second, while her husband should do his best to understand her point-of-view and feelings on a material, his failure to understand or agree with it does not do away with the requirement of submission. Submission is not conditional on understanding or even on her husband being a Christian.
Third, in relation to the counselors, they would be agreed to by both parties beforehand. And both would agree to be willing to be obedient to their decision. This means there is no argument about the decision once it is reached by either party. Obviously one party is going to be disappointed.
Fourth, the questions like "does he have her best interest at heart" are for the woman to consider before she gets married. Once married she is committed. She has entered a type of blood covenant, part of which is the promise to obey.
So for the woman who wants to follow Christ there are really very few exceptions - all of which center around Scripture and personal conscience. Any woman who does not want to be submissive is going to make excuses to have her own way for which she will one day answer to God.
All I have said above really applies to the woman, not the husband As husbands, we cannot force our wife to do something against her will. The husband must lead but he cannot force his wife to follow. Submission is something the wife must voluntarily choose because of her love for Christ first [and hopefully for her husband second]. No man can force his wife to submit nor should he try. That is not his job. His job is to follow Christ to the best of his ability. If his wife refuses to submit to his authority, then he must commit her to God in prayer while continuing to show unselfish love to her [the Fireproof movie is excellent].
This again is a warning for men to examine very carefully the character of a potential wife before getting married. Once married he may have the difficult job of leading where his wife will not follow. It can be a lonely and tear-stained path. Better to make a wise choice at the beginning.
To summarize: Paul's passage applies in every decision where sin is not involved [which includes a genuine violation of conscience] and a mutual decision cannot be reached. However, it is not the husband's job to try to force submission. His job is to love his wife unconditionally - whether she submits or not - as Christ loves the church and gave Himself for it. If his wife is not submissive he must follow Christ and lead as best he can while praying for his wife knowing she will answer to God one day.
Hope this helps.
Yes, it helps very much. I can see that you have thought through the potential loopholes, on each side of the equation.
Ok then, assuming there are impasses, and assuming the wife has no room for submission, you correctly say that "forced submission" is obviously not possible (ie.: slavery was outlawed after the civil war). So you say that a man must do the best he can, pray for her, etc...
This brings up my own specifics, which I didn't spell out up to now, so as not to have it enter into a debate of merits over a particular situation. But now that you have exhausted the topic, it is appropriate to describe, because it now falls under the latter category of what-to-do when there is lack of submission:
I am the liason, for our church, in a ministry that houses about 20 to 25 homeless guys, 1 or 2x per month, in our multi-purpose room. They are screened, showered, sober, etc... We feed them dinner, mingle with them as we all eat, and then they have their bedrolls and stay the night on the floor. I have done this for about 10 yrs. now. Over the course of time, a few of the men approached me (as the rep. in that particular ministry) to ask about attending Sunday services, sobriety meetings we hold, etc.... Naturally, those are sweet words that a believer wants to hear, so I made personally sure that anyone who wants to dig deeper into such things, has the way-to-do it. Ie.: offer to pick them up personally in my own truck to take them to church, offer to personally go to bat for them on other counseling matters (need clothes, need a ride to the doctor, referalls to jobs I might hear of, write a letter to their parole agent/judge telling them of involvement in church programs, etc....). This all sounds reasonable, I suppose. Afterall, to merely serve the spaghetti across a table, while ...... distancing myself from anything but this sanitized contact, would seem to reek of a violation of James 2:15-16. I mean, it seems fitting for a believer to say "sure! Praise God! Of course you can attend our church next Sunday!" eh?
But herein lies the problem: my wife is a very cautious person. She is understandably concerned for her, and my, safety. Because let's face it: Homeless persons can have, uh ... "issues". My wife is concerned about things like "what if they ask for money?" or "what if they become a drain on you, expecting you to come to their aid all the time?" (admittedly, some know how to "milk" the generosity of believers). Or what if some have psychological issues, that I am not educated enough to know the proper counsel/words, etc...? And what if they find out where we live, and start showing up on our own doorstep? Afterall, some of them have past prison records, and you know the old saying: "they don't call them con's for nothing".
I can understand all these caution level objections. She has no objection to a more sanitized approach, but if anything more personal in contact come up, beyond platitudes, she is fearful of potential baggage and problems that could develop. I, on the other hand, gleefully look at any opportunity to do more than the simple serving across the table of food. Therefore, I have passed out my business card, and say "give me a call sometime". As a result, several do/did come to our church, and a few have made decisions to follow Christ, be plugged in, etc...
While my wife has no problem of homeless persons (people with issues, etc...) coming to our church, she would probably say "they can take the bus, if you give them a bus fare", or other such "it's someone else's job" type of solutions. She would say that we/I am not educated enough, and could subject me/us to danger, risk, etc... I, on the other hand (being the typical male with a low risk-assessment factor) tend to think "I'm ok", and "afterall, whoever said the Christian life would be easy? Whoever said our own safety and convenience was of primary concern?", etc....
After debates, she finally relented to at least let me give rides to the men to church (I go earlier than my wife, in my own truck, because I have different duties there on Sunday AM that start earlier than hers). But it wasn't easy. She was very leery that anyone was in my truck (ie.: "what if something happens and you get sued?", etc.....). It got to the point where I just ministered behind her back, hiding it, lest I get the 3rd degree. I felt like I was being forced to 1) choose between obedience to man ("don't witness") and 2) obedience to God (the great commission, James 2:15-16), and of course, 3) the mandate to be a kind loving husband who listens to his wife's concerns. It is tearing me apart, that, in her eyes, I need to get her OK to respond to any of these needs I perceive, and only proceed, if it meets her approval (safety and caution factor, etc....).
She is not along for any of this involvement. No one comes to our house. No one gets in her car, and this is just my own thing, with my own time and effort (to respond to these glaring opportunities that have arisen out of this ministry).
So at some point, there came a time, where I thought "Wait a minute. Am I not allowed to say "gee honey, I can understand your saying "don't do it", but I've decided that I'm going to, as leader, I will be deciding this". But then it devolves into a debate on whether I have the authority to simply "announce" something like that, or not. And then comes all the "outs" as we have discussed, that ......... of course .... you can not be a leader if your decision is deemed to wrong, by your spouse.
No one wants to say "leave your spouse, for the furtherance of what you see as God's leading in ministry". I understand that. But is there EVER a time when a spouse can truly be leading a husband to dis-obey a command to the great commission? Or is he subject to her caution-level, even if it seems to be to the point of "don't do anything, someone else will do it, it's not your job, you're not qualified" etc....
thanx, Tom, USA
I will try to give you a few ideas/suggestions but, of course, you must decide for yourself if they are valid or not in your situation.
You mention that you have been involved in this ministry for about 10 years but did not mention how long you had been married. I say this simply because a newly married wife may react differently from a lady who has been married for a long time...and the way you approach the situation may be different.
Certainly your wife has valid concerns for safety. You seem to have taken reasonable precautions. With your wife feeling as she does, you must make sure her safety is never in question. [i.e. you need to go out of your way to be sure the people you work with never learn your home address, although it appears you are already doing this.] Although money can never replace the loss of a loved husband, you also need to make sure you have a good life insurance policy so that financial stress would not be an added sorrow. Of course, this advice holds true even if you are not involved in ministry. Your wife needs financial protection in case [God forbid] you are in fatal car accident coming home from work. If being sued is a real possibility, the house and some other assets could be put in your wife's name so they could not be touched if you personally were sued [you would need to consult a lawyer].
Naturally your wife is concerned about your safety. She doesn't want to be a widow...very understandable. You should be careful not to take unnecessary risks; however, what you need to understand is that fear is the opposite of faith. The fear your wife feels is because she has not yet learned to trust God in this area. I do not say this as a criticism because we all have areas of fear where we have not yet learned to trust God fully. The Christian life is a journey and we are all in a process. This may be a weakness in her life [and we all have weakness and strengths] and part of marriage, as well as general Christian relationships, is to help each other in our weaknesses. So you need to consider how you can strengthen your wife in this area. Do you pray together? Study the Bible together? Are there Christian ladies in your church who have faced and overcome their own fears? Are they willing to share and encourage? Would your wife be willing to meet with them even informally for coffee?
Feeling fear in certain situations is normal, but being driven by it, is unhealthy. You may also want to consider if there are issues beneath the surface which are motivating this particular fear. Past experiences? Insecurity? Etc.
Is it likely that you would lose your life for the gospel? No. Is it possible. Yes. All around the world today the blood of martyrs is being spilt. "Voice of the Martyrs" has some interviews with widows whose pastor/husbands were simply taken out and shot and/or tortured to death for their faith. In North America, the government is not usually violent to Christians [yet], but others can be - as you and your wife realize. I just heard Matt Barnett speak; he works with gang members, harlots, drug addicts, ex-cons, etc. in his Dream Center in downtown LA. It is not a "safe" life. On the other hand, there is no place safer than being in the center of God's will.
I am not sure from your last paragraph if your wife is taking this to the divorce level. In any case, since it is a serous matter of disagreement in your home, you must decide if you are sure you are called of God to this ministry [as opposed to it being just something you like doing or feel fulfilled in doing] and if this is the correct timing for you in this ministry. It may be that you need to continue on over your wife's objections in obedience to Christ or, it may be that you need to take a break for a season to strengthen your wife's faith before continuing on also in obedience to Christ. I cannot tell you which path is the correct one in your specific case. I am only trying to point out various items you should consider. Only you can decide. I see your church has a counseling ministry. See what they and/or your pastor advises.
I hope I haven't clouded the issue for you.