do wives really want to be led?


I recently had the privilege of teaching a couple’s weekend for @theWellTally in Tallahassee. BIG THANKS to Dean and the team for letting Jen and Noah and me get away for two days and hang with such an awesome representation of that happening church family. One of the topics I taught was simply this – WIVES WANT TO BE LED.

It is a touchy subject, especially in church culture when so many, in my opinion, have taught female submission like it’s a version of male dominance in the marriage. That’s not what the Scriptures teaches at all.

I am amused at the fact that the entire context of Ephesians is not taken into account when we quote the “women must submit” stuff to people. Some cultures around the world certainly still hold to this. Check out the photo to the right I took while in line in Jerusalem to see the Western Wall of the old Temple Mount. Some husbands like to play the “submit or get hit” card, as I have heard one guy joke. Maybe we should consider two things.

(1) Leading is loving.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 5 that women should submit to and respect their husbands. But this verse comes in the context of an entire letter that emphasizes unity. It also comes in the context of a verse no one seems to read when quoting the wive submit verse. That’s the verse immediately prior to the wives submit verse. Read Ephesians 5:21-25 here in the New Living Translation:

21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. 25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her…

Did you notice verse 21? Submit to one another. Makes you think back to one of Paul’s other writings:

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. [Philippians 2:3-4, NASB]

Our marriages, or any relationship for that matter, won’t work without mutual submission and striving for oneness in the relationship. If both spouses think of the other spouse before self, then the marriage works. If they don’t, the marriage falls into what Emmerson Eggerichs calls “the Crazy Cycle” and the whole thing spirals downward.

Do wives really want to be led? My wife and so many wives I have talked to say ABSOLUTELY YES, if leading includes loving. And it does.

Jesus, with complete authority above everything, did not hold tightly to that authority, but instead of disrobed and washed His followers feet (John 13). But that selfless, loving act was LEADING them. He showed them how to lead and love and have authority. Not by dominance. By serving.

I wonder sometimes if Paul wrote that verse about wives submitting as a practical tip more than some theological principle. Think about it. Everyone you talk to in leadership will tell you that two-headed monsters don’t work. Why would they work in a marriage? Someone needs to be able to make tough calls. Both husband and wife need to give energy and creativity to the direction that the family is going, but someone needs to take up the flag that declares that we are for sure going there. And Paul declared that the husband must do that, but in a loving way.

Husbands. May we lead for the sake of ONEness in our marriage, not for the sake of “I WON” (the husband always getting his way and his interests upheld).

(2) How a husband leads says more about how they themselves are a bride than they realize.

What? Husbands a bride? If you follow Jesus, you are a bride. The church is described as “the bride of Christ” in the Scriptures (the marriage metaphor for the people of God is highlighted in both Old Testament and New Testament contexts). If you follow Jesus, you are a bride. And I want to declare something to you: Husbands, you will struggle to love your bride unless you surrender to be a bride and learn what it means to be a bride.

John McArthur said:

“The Christian husband displays what he thinks of Christ by the way he treats his wife.”

Why? Because if we are to love our wives like Jesus loves His church, His bride, then we are declaring how we think Christ loves us in how we love our wives.

Wives – you chime in. Do you want to be led? How are you being led well? How do you wish you were being led? Leave any comments below. Praying this will prompt some great conversation in your marriage and in other relationships as you value growing in oneness.

Husbands – let’s process this one. May we lead and love well. This video below is of a song by Sanctus Real has been both an inspiration to me as well as a prayer of mine for my marriage and family. I hope it encourages you, too.

(you may have to watch it on YouTube, since it is an official “vevo” video. you should, though. it’s worth the watch!)

2 thoughts on “do wives really want to be led?

  1. Awesome thoughts! The whole time I was reading, I kept thinking of that Sanctus Real song…LoL. I personally crave to be led. I think (keep in mind this is MY opinion) my husband’s biggest struggle is focusing on the point you made about ONEness. It’s difficult to work together when, by nature, you want to keep saying…I’m RIGHT, you’re WRONG! I’m not claiming to be a saint when it comes to this either. I think working past that with understanding and compassion… and picking your battles (not fighting, but making a point to stress your passion without argument) will certainly make this easier for both parties.
    I think your second point was interesting as well. I think the hardest thing we have come across with this one is change. With life changing SO frequently, and us changing and growing with it, its easy to let our commitment to each other fade into everyday life. Just as we set aside time to study God’s Word and reflect on Him, we’ve learned (just recently, I might add) that we have to allow times to our marriage as well. Times that don’t include changing diapers, cleaning the house, and running to get groceries. Just constructive time that focuses on our marriage.
    I’ve rambled too much but todays blog has just got my mind racing. Hope I made some sense out of my thoughts. :-) “God Bless

    By far the best summary…
    “Our marriages, or any relationship for that matter, won’t work without mutual submission and striving for oneness in the relationship.”

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