To this day, Roman Catholic teaching and practice at least implies that those who are called to the spiritual vocations—priests, monks, and nuns—have a calling that is higher than those who serve in other vocations. Protestantism has rejected this idea, affirming the priesthood of all believers, which means that true and honorable spiritual service can be rendered to God regardless of whether one is called to full-time ordained ministry. Pastors, elders, and deacons do not have a higher calling; they simply have a different calling in the kingdom of God. Our Creator places a high value on all work done by His servants whether they work in ordained ministry or a more secular vocation; thus, it is possible to glorify God no matter the vocation that one holds.
One nonordained vocation to which men may be called is that of husband. Marriage, as we see in Genesis 1:26–28 and 2:18–25, was established by God in creation “for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind with legitimate issue, and of the church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness” (WCF 24.2). To be called to marriage is to be called to a vocation of incredible value, and husbands and wives are to fulfill certain roles within the marriage relationship. Husbands, we read in today’s passage, are to love their wives “as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25).
Interestingly, Paul does not exhort husbands to rule and reign over their wives even though He calls wives to submit to their husbands (vv. 22–24). This does not mean that husbands are not to exercise leadership in the home, but it does give us an important insight into what the husband’s leadership is to look like. Husbands are not to lead in a domineering way or to live like masters while their wives live like slaves or servants. Instead, the headship of a husband is to be exercised out of deep love for his wife.
Husbands, in fact, are to love their wives just as Christ loved the church. Practically speaking, this means that husbands are to put the needs of their wives before their own needs. After all, Christ’s love is seen in that He did not consider His equality with God as something to be exploited for His own sake; rather, the Son of God took on the form of a servant, putting the needs of His people first and not considering it unworthy to take on human flesh and walk among us (Phil. 2:5–11). Moreover, just as Christ loves us even when we do not submit to Him, husbands are to love their wives at all times.