“Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.”  – Colossians 3:18-19

Paul really gets it wrong sometimes. And this is one of those times. Wives, be subject to your husbands, he writes. And husbands, be nice to your wives. The idea of being kind to one another isn’t the problem. But it’s the gendered and hierarchical nature of Paul’s ideal marriage that’s the trouble.

This passage, for obvious reasons, doesn’t work for my marriage to my wife. But even if we were not a same-sex couple, it’s still problematic. The idea that our gender, however we define it, somehow grants us authority in our marriage or commands our submission is fundamentally flawed. It is a relic of a different time, captured in a letter sent by a man of his time.

But there’s one part of Paul’s marital advice that does make sense to me: being subject to one another. I’m a strongly independent person, which is why the most sobering realization when I got married was that my choices would now affect my wife. Things I hadn’t given a second thought to in the past now required conversations. Assumptions I made now had to be checked.

The same, of course, was true for my wife. And that’s the challenge, and the promise, of marriage. While the two people involved do not stop being individuals, they do become mutually subject, or responsible, to one another.

There was a time in my life when that loss of freedom terrified me. Now that I am married I see it differently. I find tremendous freedom in the love of someone who wants to walk through this world together. The challenge of marriage is learning how to walk together in such a way where neither person feels like they are being dragged. Sometimes it’s a lot tougher than going it alone, but in the end I’ve never known greater joy.


God, help me to value my connections with others more than I value my own way. Amen. 

dd-emilyheath.jpgAbout the Author
Emily C. Heath is the Senior Pastor of the Congregational Church in Exeter, New Hampshire, and the author of the forthcoming Glorify: Reclaiming the Heart of Progressive Christianity.