I recently had this conversation online. Some minor wording has been changed to make it relevant to anyone.
Q:What are Biblical marriage roles?
A: The biblical answer is mutual submission. Different but one is not the natural lord over the other. Both made in the image of God. Both valuable. If you can teach people how to love and be selfless it falls naturally into place. There are really good marriages around you that have figured it out. Watch how they interact with each other. The world perverts it in every way, but the best answer is to stay away from pendulum swings.
Q: “What does mutual submission look like? Does it look like the description in the Ephesians 5:22-33, or are those verses cancelled out by 20-21?”
A: No verses are cancelled out ever. That’s the problem with this subject. There is general understanding throughout the Bible about the value of women. Then we take two or three passages by Paul and use those to trump everything else swinging way past God given roles and into something justifying the paterfamilias. Ephesians 5:21 says, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” and then it shows what that looks like. He addresses both parties. Here is how you submit to each other. It is not a simple concept. I expect to learn more experientially about it for decades to come. I also have more Bible study I’d like to do.
For instance what does it mean to be the head as Christ is the head? It can’t possibly be a role in which someone is obeyed and worshipped without question right? It can’t mean I save her from Hell. There have to be limits to the analogy. Christ is the head of the church. I am the head of the wife. To what extent? I am not her Lord, but there is a vast set of scenarios where I am clearly the leader. For instance, I walk first into more dangerous areas. She trusts me to protect her, to pay attention to our surroundings and would follow me out of a room immediately if I said, “we need to go right now.” I am the head of our house spiritually. When we are faced with demonic attacks usually I am the one that has the authority to end it. Sometimes however this is not the case. We look to God for the right answer here. Now, I also submit to Beth. She is not my Lord, but there are things in our life where I ask her what she thinks, and we do that without question. We are both homeschooling our daughters, but Beth has the authority to direct it. Why? Because she is more fit for the task. She has put the work into it. She has done more research. She is a better teacher than me. I could write a book on the different things on which we submit to each other. A lot of these things fall into the obvious masculine vs. feminine giftings. I’m much stronger and not afraid of black bears, so I take the trash out after dark. She doesn’t get offended by me taking this role. I would like to paint every room in the house blue or black. Beth knows better how to make a house hospitable and beautiful, so I don’t even argue. I’m not offended or emasculated in any way.
The bottom line is you’ve got to consider every bible passage within the greatest context which is the Bible in its entirety. God created them in His image, male and female. Both are His image. They are very different, but they are most assuredly equal. The man leaves his family and clings to his wife. They become one (echad). God told us to love. Love is a decision of our will. The will is always involved with marriage. Consent is key in every sphere of relationships. It is what defines stealing vs borrowing and so much more. It’s inseparable from marriage relationships too. Submission to each other happens by knowing who God has made each of us to be and then agreeing and consenting to yield to the other person. It does not mean I use a trump card every time we get into an argument. If a husband has to say, “No! I am the man. I am the leader!” to get his way in a decision there is something wrong with his character, just as wrong as if he never made a single decision or if he lived in constant fear of his wife. A marriage of two Christians is very beautiful and needs very little rules. Love self governs and flows smoothly. Selfishness forces and causes tension.
Anyway. That’s some of an answer. There’s a lot more to be said.