33. Husbands and wives.
Ephesians 5:21-30, 33. “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body. … So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (NLT)
This is a very difficult passage for me to study. In spite of the context, which I think “softens” the understanding of what submission means, I still find myself somewhat uncomfortable with the restrictions I see here. I know that living in this place and time has colored my view of male-female relationships. I’ll continue to study and pray for understanding of what pleases God. My study this time through this passage in Ephesians is focusing on the biblical principles that I want to influence my beliefs.
This is what I am gleaning and applying from this passage:
1. Submitting involves us all. We are all (male and female) to submit to each other (v.21).
2. The motivation for submission is the desire to please God. Christ gave us the example of submitting Himself to His Father even when He would have liked another way, because He trusted His Father.
3. The purpose of submission is to accomplish something valuable. Christ submitted to crucifixion so that I could have my sins forgiven and become God’s adopted daughter. I submit to my husband in order to please God; the result, under God’s direction, is a marriage that works well. I decided before marriage that in his role as the head of our relationship, Allan would make the final decision in any important choice in which we disagreed. He agreed to seek and consider my input, but the responsibility of the final decision was on his shoulders. This agreement has served us well. In almost every significant decision we have come to agreement; we take time to pray together and individually and seek unity. Because he knows he has the last word, Allan doesn’t feel he has to fight to get his way in any situation. He often chooses my suggestion. He likes to say that in our 48 years of marriage he has only used the right to make the final decision six times, and 3 or 4 of those times he feels he made the wrong choice. I am comfortable in the position of advising him and having an equal voice in the discussion, but letting him have the deciding vote.
4. Submission is not an indication of ability or worth. Often it is needed for the smooth functioning of a process. For relationships, organizations, and society to function effectively, different roles are necessary.
5. We see examples of appropriate submission in many relationships. For example, at work I submit to a boss (follow her directions) for the purpose of accomplishing the goals of our department. I obey the directions of police at an accident scene for my safety and the protection of others. I accept the assignment given by a professor in order to complete the course requirements. These examples of submission are based on the individual roles needed to accomplish goals, promote safety, and enable relationships and organizations to flourish.
6. Submission is sometimes hard, such as when a boss is not fair, or a spouse disagrees with a certain course of action.
7. The spirit of submission in marriage is indicated by at least three statements in this passage.
- The scriptural instructions indicate voluntary submission. The wife is not forced, but willingly submits (and even joyfully submits especially when the husband is acting lovingly as Christ loves His church).
- A wife submitting to a husband is compared to the church submitting to Christ. This is probably the key to understanding submission. The church doesn’t grudgingly strain to follow Christ’s leading. Instead, it finds its fulfillment, joy, and satisfaction in surrendering less worthy personal goals for the privilege of experiencing God’s love and purposeful lives together.
- Paul summarizes the wife’s submission to her husband (v. 33) as respecting him. The husband has a more difficult command to love his wife the way Christ loves the church, sacrificing himself for his wife. Doesn’t this mean the husband is submitting his life to the best interests of his wife?
8. Of course it is possible that this concept of submission can be distorted and misused if not under the loving direction of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, boundaries are crucial in a marriage relationship and no abuse is ever acceptable.
9. This passage is not teaching that all women must submit to all men. It is specifically addressing husbands and wives.
10. And finally, I admit that my natural inclinations are to avoid submitting to anyone. Like everyone else, I want my own way. But I also see the ideal of a marriage relationship with the husband loving sacrificially and the wife respecting her husband in the responsibility he has taken on.
a. The church submits to Christ because it trusts Him. In my marriage relationship I choose to believe that God “has my back.” He is sovereign over all, including our marriage. I pray for more trust.
b. Submission does not mean being wimpy. This has been a struggle since the beginning of my marriage when I thought being loving was giving in and never criticizing. I now know that true love includes doing what is best for the loved one and requires truthful and sometimes difficult conversations and actions. I pray for more courage to be loving.
From the personal devotional notes of Peggy McKechnie, certified life coach and follower after God’s own heart. You are invited to contact Peggy through ChurchHealthMinistries.com.