“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. … the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:22, 33)

The command for wives to submit to their husbands (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1-2) has often been misconstrued, by Christians and non-Christians alike. The wife is not a slave or a servant (the word translated “helper” in Genesis 2:20 is more like a partner than an assistant), nor is she in any way inferior to the husband, but his equal (Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor. 7:3-5). The context for Ephesians 5:22 is Ephesians 5:21, where Paul writes,

and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

All Christians, including those who are married to each other, are called to mutual submission. We are all commanded to

regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul highlights the wife’s duty to her husband in this area; just as he highlights the husband’s duty to love his wife. He in no way means that the wife does not need to love her husband, nor that the husband does not need to submit to and respect his wife. The Christian life, including marriage, is characterized by mutual submission and love. Headship is not dictatorship. The wife’s submission and respect cannot be separate from the husband’s love.

Pray, therefore, that marriages in our church would be characterized by mutual love and respect. Pray that as men take up their God-given role as spiritual leaders in the home, that their wives would be suitable partners for them, supporting and respecting that leadership. Pray that marriage would be held in honor among all and that the marriage bed would be undefiled (Heb. 13:4).