Ephesians 5:21 (NKJV) Submitting to one another in the fear of God.[c]22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
It doesn’t get more controversial than this message today. In conversations about Christian marriage, (Ephesians 5:21-33) gets hauled out and used to defend all kinds of ideas about who gets to do and say what in a marriage.
Entire books have been written on the issue of submission in marriage. Scholars have debated it. Well-meaning people have argued over it. Pastors have preached on it (and suffered the IRE of the congregation).
Yet for all its controversy, submission seems to be one of those issues that couples don’t really talk about. Instead, it has become a self-selecting process: We tend to marry a person whose ideas about submission may not coincide with our own. I don’t know many couples who argue about, or come to the decision of divorce over, the topic of submission.
I do, however, know many couples who use their view on submission as an excuse to make really lousy decisions in their marriages. I know men who claim “headship” as an excuse for becoming overbearing and controlling, trampling their wives in the process. And I know women who wear their perception of submission like a veil behind which they can hide from responsibility and maturity, forcing their husbands to take on all the accountability in their marriages. Real talk today people of God!
Perhaps we have misunderstood what submission is all about. We think of it as being an issue of position, of power. But, in truth, submission is about the process.
Look at what is said – and isn’t said – about submission in these verses. (Ephesians 5:21-33) talks about mutuality and respect, about care and tenderness, about compassion, goodness and gentleness. It describes being Christlike in our marriages. This passage is about how we are to live together as husbands and wives.
When Paul wrote these words, most marriages were arranged by parents. A husband and wife many times had little contact with each other before their wedding day. So when Paul told husbands and wives to build emotional and spiritual connections with each other, he was introducing a concept that would benefit the couple from the inception of their time together; mutual submission provided a foundation for the couple’s life together. He was asking them to make their marriages reflections of the beautiful love between Christ and his church.
Point to Ponder: One’s view on submission in marriage isn’t about the outcome of a decision; it’s about how that decision is made. It isn’t about who is in charge; it’s about how we treat each other. It isn’t about hierarchy; it’s about partnership. A godly marriage is two people working together to illustrate the love of God in their lives.
Pastor James Baker, Jr.