Most times, we believe the Bible commands the man to love his wife while the woman is commanded to submit to his wife. We could be wrong if love and submission become gender roles rather than a character that should be pursued by both the man and the woman.
I wouldn’t want to write much, let me just show you some places in the Bible.
“For husbands, this means LOVE YOUR WIVES, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her” – Ephesians 5:25 NLT
“These older women must train the younger women to LOVE THEIR HUSBANDS and their children”- Titus 2:4 NLT
The first verse instructs husbands to love their wives just as Christ loved the Church. It draws its principle from what is general about Christians. Christians are to love one another just as Christ loved the Church as anything less is not true love. Jesus taught us how to love by being an example. Aside from how Christ loved the Church, there is no other way to love.
In the second verse, we see older Christian women being encouraged to teach younger women how to love their husbands. Both married and married falls in this category because the unmarried needs to understand that the man ought to be loved too. By asking older women to teach the younger women, we discover that it wasn’t new for a wife to love her husband, it has been an ingredient of every successful marriage.
When a man loves, he may express it differently and when a woman loves she may express it differently. The man may express love majoring in care, accountability and faithfulness without the exclusion of being submissive while the woman often expresses love majoring in submission and support without the exclusion of being caring, accountable and faithful.
The psychology of the man and the woman are different hence they express the same thing with higher leaning on their psychological strengths. It is this love that produces a willingness to care, to submit, to honour, to be accountable, to be responsible and be faithful. Love on its own isn’t a feeling but a deliberate decision to commit oneself to another. It isn’t decided by how we feel but by what is right.
Concerning submission, the Bible says to couples
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”- Ephesians 5:21 NIV
First, submission has to be mutual and not exclusive. The Greek word used here is “Ὑποτασσόμενοι” (hypotassomenoi) which is the same word used when asking servants to submit to kings. It means “be subject to…” Peter used the same word in 1 Peter 2:18 where servants were asked to be submissive to their masters.
This mutual submission is done out of reverence for Christ, the man is accountable to his wife and the woman is accountable to her husband. The man doesn’t lead the family in an authoritarian style but with the servant leadership-model that we see in Jesus. Hence, husbands were instructed to love their wives “as Christ loved the Church”.
Jesus established a model for Christian leadership and this applies in Christian homes too. The Christian leadership model is found in the words of Jesus. Let’s read:
“And whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”- Matthew 20:27-28 NIV
Do you see that? Jesus came to serve and not to be served but today we are serving his purpose! This is how husbands ought to love their wives as Christ loves the Church. Also, there has to be mutual submission out of reverence for Christ.
Again, the Bible says
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”- Ephesians 5:22-24 NIV
In the same manner of submission, wives are asked to submit to their husbands as they would submit to the Lord. We need to understand something here. Wives are to submit to their husbands as they would do the Lord and husbands are asked to love their wives just as the Lord loves the Church. When we understand how this applies, it becomes a practice that doesn’t appear too demanding.
Wives ought to accept the leadership of their husband because man is designed to lead the home with the help of their wives. Help here means “making it easier for a job to be done”. So, wives are to be their husbands’ burden lifter, they ought to make work easier for their husbands. They lead the family under the leadership of the man.
In summary, love is mutual and there is also a demand of same on the husbands which do not necessarily mean that the woman has an option to love or not to love. Submission is mutual and there is also a demand for submission on the wives which does not necessarily mean that the man has an option to submit or not to submit.
This submission is demanded from the woman with respect to the leadership office the man occupies, a leader needs submission to lead well. As much as both couples submit to one another as one body, the wife submits to the man as the husband (the leader of the family).
As much as both couples learn to and love themselves, the man loves the woman just as Christ loves the Church so that he can lead his family just as Christ leads the Church.