How each of the major monotheistic religions treats the subject of women’s rights is a controversial subject. Dr. Tim Witmer, author of several books on the subject, tells us that there is probably more misunderstanding about the husband wife relationship than any other in our society. Christianity is unique among the world’s monotheisms in explaining “the dignity that is afforded to the feminine gender” and the Bible gives us clear guidance on the authority within the family. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, in particular, articulately explains the roles of wives and husbands. Islam and its American version, Mormonism, misinterpret Paul’s directive to support their treatment of women as second-class citizens. Let’s take a look at what Paul said and interpret what he really means.
Ephesians 5:22-24 states that husbands are the head of their wives and wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. At first glance this seems to support how wives are treated in the Islamic culture; but, when we understand that the verse is telling us that husbands are to be the head of the family as Christ is the head of the church, and that, as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands, we see that it is Jesus Christ who actually sets the standard of the equality in how wives are to treat husbands and husbands are to treat their wives. Husbands and wives have an obligation to the Lord. Both have an obligation to submit to God’s plan for order in the family.
Dr. Witmer explains that “it is the sacrificial love of the Lord Jesus Christ” that sets the standard. Christianity fully supports the equality of women and men. Christ was considered equal to God even though he understood his role and purpose was to submit to the Father in fulfill God’s plan of salvation for his chosen people. “The submission of the wife to the husband is an expression of her submission to Christ. This does not mean ‘as part of your obligation to the Lord.'”
It should be noted that husbands have obligations too. In fact, Paul addresses 40 words to how wives are to act and 115 words on how husbands are to act. Husbands have an obligation to the Lord too. They are to provide loving leadership as they strive to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. “A husband’s primary concern should be that his wife and children are encouraged in their growth in Jesus. Only then will our children see in their parents the reality of the gospel. Only then, according to God’s intended plan, will our marriages relate the mystery of the relationship between Christ and His church.”