Ephesians 5:22-24 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Submission. I wanted to post the scripture through the 33rd verse and maybe I will tomorrow but for now, let’s just focus on this one. It might just be the most abused scripture I can think of right now.
Here’s what submission in a marital relationship isn’t: It isn’t a parent-child relationship where the husband is the parent who gets to instruct his wife as he would his child. That is not Godly submission so don’t ever think it is. Anytime a man starts with – “Do what I say! Submit to me, woman!” you know they have taken the last train to nowheresville. They missed the point. Anytime a wife says, “You’re wrong and if you think I’m going to do this your way, you’re crazy!” She missed the point. Thank God they missed the point. If that were the way my God wanted a marriage to work, I’d have a hard time with Him. But it isn’t and I love Him for that.
In the next few scriptures Paul goes on to admonish the husband to love his wife the way he loves his own body. Paul is so emphatic in his instruction of the husband that it takes the vast majority of this section of scripture to do so. Clearly, he didn’t want the whole submission thing to be misunderstood. If a man loves his wife as God instructs, he is putting her good before his own, he is taking her into more consideration than he does himself. Not hard for a woman to submit to that guy!
This is the way it works. A husband has a job offer in a distant state. The wife doesn’t think they should move because of taking the children away from school and friends. The husband believes it’s the best thing for all of them- that he can provide them with more things, etc. They have much conversation. She trusts that he is listening to everything she has to say and is taking it all into consideration. They seek God together for the correct answer. God changes the wife’s heart so they are in agreement. Or God changes the husband’s heart and he agrees to not move. God agrees with Himself on this issue and since both of them are submitted to God’s will, He makes His will clear. Problem solved.
So how’s that for utopia? Yup, it actually does work most of the time in Godly marriages. And what about the times it doesn’t work? Well, that’s more of a challenge. And I promise you, the Lord will allow such circumstances just for our own training.
The husband is to love his wife. The wife is to respect her husband. Marriage, at the very core, is designed to have both a male and a female because we are wired differently and the combination of the man’s perspective and the woman’s perspective makes one complete picture of compromise and priority. It’s a brilliant formula. It takes both. One is not less valuable than the other. Neither can be replaced.
If, after listening to his wife, after considering what is best for her and for his children (and not primarily his own personal desires), the man truly believes that one particular course of action is the best, but she still disagrees, then the wife is to submit to his decision and let go. This means she surrenders in trust to the Lord that He will honor them both. It is her job then to stand with her husband to make it work, respecting his position. THAT’S submission. Let me repeat myself. When there’s an impasse and every possible avenue has been addressed and a decision has to be made, the wife defers to the husband. And then she trusts God, regardless of whether or not she still wrestles with the decision. She trusts God to bring about His will as she surrenders to the husband’s leading- no complaining or “I told you so”s. She stands with him and does whatever she can to make his decision work.
THIS is why it is crucial to marry a spouse that hears from God, is surrendered to God, and who is obedient to God. We are both made vulnerable in a marriage. It’s hard to be vulnerable to someone you don’t respect or someone that you don’t love more than you love yourself. If God is left out of these types of circumstances, the enemy can easily find a foothold and life isn’t necessarily pretty.
Takeaway: Submission is not a parent-child relationship. It’s an adult-adult relationship where both are in line with God’s instruction. The husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church and died for us. The wife is to respect the husband and his role of leader of the family. Step one is thorough discussion and prayer- both earnestly seeking God and listening to each other. In what should be rare instances where there is a disagreement, the wife submits to the husband’s authority and does whatever she can to support his decision.
Prayer: Dear Lord, please help my spouse (or future spouse) and me to live according to Your instruction and take Your instruction very seriously. Let us keep You at the center of our decisions and cause us to submit to YOU first. Bring peace and resolve in us as we seek Your face. For the husband (or husband to be): Please cause me to love my wife and cause me to lead in the way You know is best for our family. For the wife (or wife to be): Please cause me to respect my husband, to pray for him earnestly and to submit to his leadership in accordance with Your instruction.