Beliefs thus theologies have consequences. To believe the Bible teaches wives are in subjection to their husbands in a way husbands aren’t to their wives can foster dependency and lead to more abuse than already present. Interpretations are fallible. If we are not positive the Bible teaches one-sided submission, we must error on the side less prone to abuse. Mutual submission is impossible for men to twist to justify their subtle or blatant mistreatment of women. Husband and wives submitting to one another is the environment less conducive for domestic abuse and the other atrocities women face at the hands of men in our society.
Ephesians 5:22 is the main biblical passage used to suggest wives are to submit to their husbands in a way husbands are not to reciprocate: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Keep in mind God doesn’t even force belief. Coerced obedience is an oxymoron. If wives are subject to their husbands and not husbands to their wives, this command is written to women. The Bible does not every say husbands are to make their wives subject to themselves.
- Ephesians 5 is Paul’s ongoing discourse how Christ followers are to live out their faith. Paul says: “Follow God’s example, therefore as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (vs. 1-2). Mutual submission is a way of life for all followers to imitate Jesus: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). In verse 22 in the original manuscripts, Paul literally says: “wives to your husbands as to the Lord.” The verb missing is supplied from verse 21 so the TNIV translates verse 22 “wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” If we defend wives are subordinate or under the leadership of their husbands, then we must also say church members are in subordination or under the leadership of one another (v. 21).
- Wives may have been using their new freedom, implicit in their new Christian faith, to boss and perhaps their husbands did not love their wives in return. Paul specifies submission more explicitly for the wives (v.22) but love is more specified for husbands (v.25). Wives should not interpret this to mean they are not to love their husbands. Husband should not interpret this passage to mean they should not submit to their wives. Furthermore, submission in verse 22 is defined in terms of respect (verse 33), not obedience. A Christian wife has exactly the same authority rights over her husband as a husband has over his wife (Cor. 7:4). Submission and love are responsibilities of husbands and wives.
- Also, the translation of the word “head” (kephale) in verse 23 to mean source than leader better fits the context. Kephale never meant leader or authority over in New Testament times. Paul frequently used the head-body metaphor to emphasize that all parts of the body relate to one another, not to emphasize the authority of the head over other parts of the body. Head is a source for the whole body as eyes alert to danger and the mouth provides nourishment.
- Many men assume an impasse in a marriage cannot be solved through normal conflict resolutions means, especially when they think they are to provide leadership through decision-making just because they are male. One may argue that relationships must have a final decision maker. A President of a country has to govern through laws and make decisions such as whether to go to war against other countries. There are more checks and balances when under authority of one’s government or church leadership. Christians, men and women, are ultimately under the authority of Jesus the Christ and not their government or church. There are many creative alternatives in marriage such as the partner who has the most expertise with the matter at hand making the final decision. Personally, in thirty-one years of marriage all decision have been solvable without insisting one be the final decision-maker. Women do not need male leadership in marriage; women need unselfish men who have the heart of a servant (Eph. 5:28-29).