God teaches us in the Bible that the relationship between a husband and a wife involves two complementary roles. The husband is to lead his wife by daily laying down his life in service to his wife and his wife is to submit to the leadership of her husband.
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:22-25)
Does this imply superiority or inferiority of the marriage partners, though? Does a wife become inferior to her husband because she submits to his leadership? We see ordered relationships in our society all the time, and yet hold the equality of all Australians very seriously. We have ordered relationships in parliament (Prime Minister, Cabinet, back-benchers). We have ordered relationships in hospitals (Doctors, nurses, orderly staff). We even have ordered relationships in schools (Principal, teachers, students). Yet even within those ordered relationships we consider everyone equal.
A classic case in point was the imprisonment of Supreme Court Justice Marcus Einfeld, who was convicted of perjury over a $77 speeding fine and jailed for 3 years. Even though he was a supreme court judge, before the law he was treated exactly the same as the cabby who takes us to the airport, even though their status in society is a million miles apart. Equal, but different.
We see the same idea when we get to the airport. The captain and co-pilot who sit in the front of our airliners are equal but different. They are both equally pilots. They are both well trained. But one is the captain and is responsible for the safety of everyone on board the aircraft. The captain has complete authority on board the aircraft and the co-pilot cooperates with the captain in everything. The co-pilot is no less a pilot than the captain (you’ll be happy to know if the captain has a heart attack), but submits to the captain’s leadership. Equal but different.
We see it all the time around us, and have no problem with it. Likewise in marriage God has given us a pattern for husbands and wives to relate, where both spouses are equal in the marriage, but their roles are different.