I realize that scripture says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself up for her (Eph. 5:25),” but that does not mean that wives are not called to do the same. Likewise, I realize scripture says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22),” but that does not mean that husbands are not called to mutually submit to their wives.
Married or not, all Christians are called to love and submit to one another, as Christ did when He walked on earth.
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples (John 13:34-35).”
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21).”
“Submit to one another” in Ephesians 5:21 is addressing the marriage unit. We know this because verse 22 does not have the word “submit” in our earliest manuscripts (written in ancient Greek). Therefore, verse 21 supplies the verb for verse 22. The verses must go together. Regardless, it is evident throughout the New Testament that all believers are called to submit to one another (to give in to one another’s wills).
Life in Jesus is all about loving and sacrificing for others, as Jesus Christ did for us.
It is incorrect to teach that wives are not called to love their husbands as Christ loved the Church, as all believers are called to this sort of love. A Christian marriage is meant to be a shining example of mutual love and mutual submission. This is why “gender roles” are not a biblical concept. As a Christian, I am called to love and submit to others, no matter my gender and no matter my marital status.
It is imperative to recognize the culture in which the Bible was written to understand why Paul encouraged wives to submit to their husbands several times in the New Testament. The setting was extremely patriarchal, and the new sect of Christianity majorly challenged the norm of “men ruling over women.” It was Paul who wrote,
“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal.3:28).”
Further, Jesus said,
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10).”
Men do not have authority over women and husbands do not have authority over wives in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Apostle Paul writes,
“Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13:13).”
As Christians, we bring heaven to earth when we choose to love one another. It is not love for wives to focus on a role of submission, but avoid sacrificial love. Likewise, it is not love for husbands to focus on a role of sacrificial love, but avoid submission.
As believers we are all called to yield to one another’s wills. Scripture does not give man or woman the final say or the status of “leader.” Christ alone is the leader when we bring Heaven to earth, and He alone has the final say.
The truth is that human beings crave power and authority over others, but we must resist this temptation, because this is not love. When we read the Bible in a way that gives power to one person over another person, we have allowed our sinful natures to interpret God’s Written Word.
But doesn’t Scripture say that the husband is the head, as Christ is the head of the Church?
Yes, it does; but, there is almost no linguistic or contextual evidence that “head” means “chief” or “authority over.” It is more likely that the word “head” in this passage means a literal head. In other words, Paul is giving the church of Ephesus a metaphor in hopes of encouraging husbands and wives to be unified. In the metaphor, husbands are told to love their wives as they would love their own bodies.
A head and body must submit to one another to function properly.
Remember, husbands and wives are supposed to be one flesh:
“But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together (Mark 10:6-9).”
But why does the husband get to be the head in the metaphor? Why is the husband compared to Christ and the wife compared to the Church?
Well, because husbands had all the power, authority, and control in New Testament culture. Paul is not commanding husbands to be the leader of their homes; they were already the leaders of their homes.
Ephesians 5 is about using power privilege to lift up those who have no power privilege.
Today, in 2016, wives have gained more equality, as the universe moves towards redemption. We still have a ways to go and husbands must still use their power privilege to exalt their wives as fully equal in both worth and authority, but wives are most certainly called to love their husbands as Christ loved the Church. In fact, all believers are called to love one another as Christ loved the Church.
Just as a marriage unit should be unified, the women and men that make up the Church should be unified. This sort of unification happens only when we each have a “you first” attitude.
Any theology that gives authority to men over women is not only unbiblical and wrong; it is a recipe for disunity, dysfunction, and destruction. Why? Because it’s not just, and human beings were made in the image of a just God.
Our beings cry out for justice. This is why we are all called to use whatever power privilege we have to lift up others with less power. This is Christian love and it is only by Christian love that marriages and the Body of Christ can function peacefully and properly. May we each learn to love as Christ loved His bride (Christian men and women), so we can glorify our God and be a shining example to the world watching us.
See my master’s thesis for more biblical & historical evidence:
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