My husband and I got married just over two years ago, on what was one of the best days of my life. It was the day we were finally united in holy matrimony, in the sight of God, our church community, family, and friends.
In his exhortation, our church elder reminded my husband to love me sacrificially, and for me to love him submissively. “I’ll leave it to you to think about which is harder,” he said cryptically, to bursts of laughter from our guests.
Of course, as a new wife I thought I had the harder job of submitting to my husband. What if I had to submit to him when he was wrong—which he would inevitably be, since he’s only human? Did submission mean I was somehow inferior to him, and had to be passive and silent? Did it entail surrendering to whatever he thought was best, even when I thought differently?
The Greek word for “submission” in this context involves recognising and yielding to God’s divine order within the Godhead (with the Father the head of Christ)—and His order for creation (with man created before woman). Likewise, God’s order for marriage reflects this differentiation of roles: the husband is the “head of the wife” (v. 23), just as Christ is the head over the church, and the Father the head of the Trinity (1 Corinthians 11:3).
This means that the biblical principle of submission to authority applies to all of us as spirit-filled believers—whether man or woman, single or married, husband or wife. All of us ultimately submit to and are united to Christ, in God’s divine ordering of our lives (v. 21).
In marriage, being the “head” is not licence for the husband to behave selfishly or lord it over his wife. Rather, it is a God-appointed responsibility entrusted to husbands to love their wives, “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v. 25). Through this sacrificial and tender love, he will be able to present her, at the end of their marriage, as someone holy, blameless, and reconciled to God (vv. 26–27). A godly husband thus expresses his submission to Christ by using his headship and authority to love, serve, and care for his wife. That’s a tall order, isn’t it?
My husband can attest to this, especially when my stubbornness, unkindness, and temper make me difficult to love! Yet, by God’s grace, he often lays aside his pride, bruises, and exasperation, to continue showing love to me by being patient, kind, and gentle.
As the husband submits to Christ by loving his wife, the wife, in turn, yields to Christ’s lordship over her life by submitting to her husband. This doesn’t make her inferior to her husband, but in accepting and supporting her husband’s leadership, through prayer for and with him, words of encouragement, gentle confrontation where needed, and offering practical help and support, the wife plays a unique role in enabling her husband to live and lead like Christ.
Of course, my husband is not perfect, and neither am I. Only Christ is. Which is why it’s all the more important for us to keep fixing our eyes on Christ and His love for His bride—us.
Today, I can answer my elder with certainty: it’s definitely harder to love sacrificially. But when my husband’s love isn’t predicated on how I respond to him, but on the outpouring of Christ’s incomparable love for him, his humble and gentle leadership compels me to submit to him in return. And when I take up my role to love him submissively, we’re reflecting what God’s love really looks like to the world around us, “to the praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:6).
—Wendy Wong, Singapore
Questions for reflection
Father, thank you for reminding me that because I am in Your care, I can freely submit to You and whomever You have placed over me. Help me see that Your ultimate command is for us to follow Jesus and love one another as servant-leaders. May I embrace the roles You have given me with humility and joy.
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