In Ephesians 5:21 Paul enunciated the overall attitude for husbands and wives in marriage: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Who is designated to be in charge here? Neither. Mutual submission is the principle attitude behind a successful marriage. Husbands and wives are concerned first about the emotional health and well being of their partners—even before themselves.

Paul outlined the roles of husband and wife in Ephesians 5:22-33.

In these verses, Paul advised wives to submit to their husbands in the same way as they submit to Christ. Paul adds one more injunction for wives in verse 33: “…and the wife must respect her husband.”

Paul’s instructions are intriguing for what he didn’t say. Paul never instructed wives to love their husbands. I find this a rather glaring omission and want to know why.

In Ephesians 5:25-33 Paul instructed husbands on their roles:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body... This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself.”

The loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ in dying on the cross for His church is the model for how husbands are to love their wives. Husbands are to lay down their lives in sacrifice for their wives in the same way Jesus laid down His life in sacrifice for His church.

Could you imagine a wife submitting to a husband who always had her best interests at heart?! That might be for her a rather lovely and enjoyable thing to do!

I often think of the husband as being like the sun and the wife being like the moon. The sun gives off the light and the moon reflects it back. Whatever the husband gives to his wife she often reflects right back to him. Show me a husband who is pouring anger, resentment, disapproval, disappointment and hurt into his marriage and I will show you a wife who is soon reflecting anger, resentment, disapproval, disappointment and hurt right back to her husband.

On the other hand, show me a husband who is pouring in love, acceptance, forgiveness, approval and compassion and I will show you a wife who is soon reflecting love, acceptance, forgiveness, approval and compassion right back to her husband.

I often use these instructions when I perform wedding ceremonies. I say to the bride, “If he were to love you like Christ loved the church, if he were to lay down his life in sacrifice for you, if he were always to put you and your needs first and if he were defer his own needs in order that your needs were met at all costs, wouldn’t you find it easy to love a man like that?”

I wish you could see the sparkle in her eyes as looks over at the man of her dreams—could she love a man like that? You bet she could! Could she respect a man like that? You bet she could! Could she submit to a man like that—one who always had her best interests at heart? You bet she could!

Now I know the answer to my earlier wonderings. When husbands love as Christ loved, Paul has no need to instruct wives to love them in return—the love of the wives will come automatically.

By the way, remember how wives are to respect their husbands? Respect is a big deal for men. Unfortunately, respect does not come automatically. Respect is cultivated over time by the husband’s careful loving and caring for the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of his wife. A wife who expresses respect for her husband goes a long way toward meeting one of the deepest needs in his life.