For some years it has amazed me that from a section of 397 words (ASV) concerning subjection, preaching and teaching has focused on the 65 words addressed to "Wives be in subjection to your own husbands" while only cursory attention has been given to the 332 other words on submission and even less to the 220 words addressed to husbands (Eph 5:21-6:9). Notice that the Holy Spirit spoke almost 4 times as many words to the men about their duties as husbands as he did to the wives about theirs. Further, He simply states the duty of the wives but understands the necessity of enforcing by strong analogies to Christ and the church and loving oneself the husband's duties toward the wives. Comparison of the history of the amount of teaching done on the two sets of duties shows that we men missed the message.
The section opens by commanding us all to "Subject[ing] yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ." Then God specifies the subjection of wives and husbands, children and fathers, and servants and masters. Some years ago in a small group meeting from church, I compared Christianity to traffic circles—No one has the right-of-way. Unlike 4-way stops where the laws specify who has the right of way, traffic circles have yield signs at every entrance; NO ONE has the right of way. So also does this section on subjection. (SHE "borrowed" the traffic circle idea for her own devo). In every one of the six relationships listed in the section, the command is to submit, not to control.
Let us note that in the other relationships discussed, the children are to obey their parents, but that does not make the fathers the boss. Rather, fathers are to "provoke not" and "nurture" them. Slaves are to obey masters but masters are to treat slaves as they expect the Lord to treat them. So, just where did we find in the expression that the husband is the head of the wife the concept that he is boss and Lord of the house? Certainly we left the clearly written spirit of the context to discover it.
Considering the attitudes of our times, women do need the lessons on submission that the Holy Spirit teaches here. In fact, I must emphasize that God is speaking for so many accuse Paul of just being a misogynist bachelor. But, I see nothing in this text or any other that instructs men to force their wives into submission.
Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church; husbands are to give themselves up for their wives as Christ did for the church; husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies; husbands are to feed and warm their wives; husbands are to leave all others for their wives. This is the headship that God commands the husbands to exercise toward their wives. Just which of those sounds like control?
Over the next lessons, we will examine some practical ways husbands can follow Jesus' example in their relationship as head of their wives. The teachings and suggestions will not be exhaustive, but they should give the man with a willing heart enough to be able to adapt them to his wife and their situation.
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. (1Pet 2:18).
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, (1Pet 3:1).
You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. (1Pet 3:7).