I grew up in the church and by the time I was 12, if I heard a pastor say, “Next week we are going to talk about marriage,” I knew immediately what verse he was going to speak on. Ephesians 5:22-23 EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
Isn’t the same true if the pastor says, “We are going to talk about women in ministry.” Oh gosh. Where’s that verse about women being silent in church? 1 Timothy? It’s coming at me AGAIN.
I digress. Back to the famous marriage verses.
Ephesians 5:22-23 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.
It took me a long time to realize that if we start with marriage where most pastors in the 90’s led us to start, you would be getting marriage all wrong. This verse is fabulous for men because it paints a hierarchy of the household. You’ve probably seen this before:
Jesus —> Husband —> Wife
Who wouldn’t love this if you weren’t at the bottom of the list? I can’t say I’d have taught anything different if I were a man.
BUT if we really want a strong marriage, we need to back up to the verse prior. Ephesians 5:21 says, Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. You see, it was never supposed to be a hierarchy, it was supposed to be a circle. A circle of how love works. The wife willingly bows to her husband’s leadership BECAUSE she trusts him. She trusts that his motives have Jesus at the center and her heart is his main interest so he'll be gentle with her soul. The wife bows to the husband because she knows her husband is bowed to Jesus. And he bows to her because her heart is his main concern. The picture isn’t a ladder, it's a circle and Jesus must be the center if it has any chance of working.
Too many times, husbands are asking their wives to follow their lead and the wife knows good and well Jesus and her heart are not his main concerns. You cannot demand authority when you think you are the authority. When Jesus is your authority and her heart is your concern, she will gladly follow.
We got this all wrong for generations and what we ended up with were wives who went along with whatever their husband decided, women who lost their voice inside their most intimate relationship. The one relationship they should be heard and seen in. The Bible is filled with women who spoke up to their husbands (see Abigail, Bathsheba, Esther). These are godly women. Who kept their voice and used it to protect their family when things headed in the wrong direction. Two things I have learned over 20 years of marriage:
A healthy marriage is not a ladder, and should never be threatened to become a ladder. It is a circle of one bowing to the other because they trust the one they are loved by.