Marriage done God’s way is a beautiful thing. Ephesians 5:21-33 tells us that God designed marriage to be a direct reflection of the union between Jesus and the church. As man and wife, we have God-given gender roles that are to be honored in marriage.
Now before you tell me that gender-roles are outdated or over-rated, I need to make one thing very clear. Gender roles may differ, but no one role is more significant than the other. We each have responsibilities when it comes to nurturing one another and taking care of our families. And while specifics may differ from family to family, the point is that we are each doing our part to contribute.
Interestingly enough, both sides are called to submission…
Man’s Call to Submit
But there is one thing I want you to know: The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. – 1 Corinthians 11:3
The scripture above does convey a hierarchy of leadership. I do want to note, however, the word “head” that is used to describe the type of authority one has over the other. The same word is used throughout the New Testament (kephalē) to describe Jesus as the “head” of the body of Christ (the church). Now imagine if you will the relationship between the head and the body. The body definitely submits to the head, but the head most certainly needs the body in order to function. They work together as one and rely on each other. You cannot separate one from the other without dire consequences.
- Myth: The Bible says that man is the “head” of his marriage and that he can exercise his authority however he sees fit.
- Truth: Man is called to lead, but he leads by serving her, honoring her, and submitting to Christ. He is never called to lord over his wife.
Men and women are equal in the eyes of God, but they do have different roles to play. If you believe that the Bible is saying that women are somehow inferior to men, consider the following passage:
But among the Lord’s people, women are not independent of men, and men are not independent of women. For although the first woman came from man, every other man was born from a woman, and everything comes from God. – 1 Corinthians 11:11-12 (NLT)
Serving to Provide and Protect
In order for a man to lead His home the way God intended, He must first submit to Christ. Jesus is the example that men are called to follow when learning how to lead in their homes. He is our protector, our provider, and He gave His life up for us.
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. – Ephesians 5:25-27 (NLT)
The Bible tells us that Christ came to serve, not to be served. Just as a good king leads his people by serving them and making them his main priority, a good husband serves his family. A noble ruler forgets the crown and the power that comes along with it. He instead focuses on his people and what he can do to protect, serve, and honor them.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. – Mark 10:45 (NLT)
Honoring to His Wife
Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” – Proverbs 31:28-29 (NLT)
A godly husband respects his wife, and he speaks well of her. Just as Christ presents the church as holy and blameless, a husband is to honor his wife in the same way.
Woman’s Call to Submit
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” – Genesis 2:18 (NLT)
- Myth: In God’s eyes, the term “helper” implies that women are inferior to men.
- Truth: Jesus Himself was referred to as a “helper,” and the term in no way implies inferiority. (Hebrews 13:6)
Worker in the Home
These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God. – Titus 2:4-5 (NLT)
The Bible does call women to take care of their homes. This does not mean that women should not work outside of the home. In Proverbs 31, we find that the virtuous woman does indeed earn an income (Proverbs 31:16, 24). The Bible does make it clear, however, that a wife’s first priority is her home as well as taking care of her family. She may have other responsibilities outside of the home, but her home is where her focus lies.
Submissive to Her Husband
For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. – Ephesians 5:22 (NLT)
- Myth: God’s Word commands women to be “subject” to their husbands.
- Truth: Submission and obedience are not always synonymous. Submitting to your husband is simply allowing him to take the lead. If a husband is truly obedient to God, then his wife is being obedient to God as well by submitting to her husband. If the husband is not submitting to Christ, then there may be circumstances where a wife must choose between obedience to God and obedience to her husband. Obedience to God will always come first.
There is indeed a lot of controversy surrounding the gender roles presented in the Bible. Many believe that the Bible teaches that women are inferior to men. As a woman, I can understand how that can be frustrating. Our culture has taught us that submitting means to take a backseat to the needs and desires of whomever we are submitting to. After a careful examination of scripture, however, it is clear that both men and women are called to submit. We are all created equally and are under the authority of Christ (Galatians 3:28).
Men and women do have different roles to play. Our culture tells us to defy these gender roles, and I don’t believe that there is anything wrong with that to an extent. Men can be nurturing, and women can be providers. In a marriage relationship, however, I do believe that God meant for us to be a team. He gave us each characteristics to bring to the relationship so that everyone’s needs are met.
When one person isn’t doing their part, however, things can turn sour rather quickly. It’s impossible for a man to properly lead without Christ leading him, and it is equally as difficult for a woman to submit to her husband when he is lording over her as a master instead of leading her with a servant’s heart.
Many feel that gender roles are outdated, but I personally don’t believe this to be true. The Bible never says that women can’t work, that men have the right to control their wives, or that wives are somehow inferior to their husbands. It simply outlines the need for each spouse to do their part. When a husband is doing his part to submit to Christ and a wife is doing her part to submit to her husband, marriage can indeed be wonderful. God can bless that marriage and turn it into a beautiful depiction of His love for us.