Ephesians 5:22-30 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.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.
What is Godly submission? Oh man, what a can of worms THIS one is. No idea why in the world I want to tackle this one tonight but here goes. How about some bullet points? (No pun intended, haha!)
1. Submission in marriage is NOT a parent-child relationship. I’ve seen men in the church who have interpreted this scripture as permission to treat their wives as children, demanding that they obey them in all things. Barf! This is so not right! It says we are to submit to the Lord first and then to our husbands. Our husbands are to model Christ in the picture of Christ and the church. And I don’t know about you but the Jesus I know doesn’t order me around and tell me I have no free will. That’s the LAST thing he does. He honors our free will at all cost- and that cost being the cross.
2. Submission scriptures always come wrapped with more instruction to the husband than the wife. And what is this instruction? It’s instruction to love their wife as Christ loves the church- He was willing to die for the church while the church was in the midst of being bad, bad, bad. So tell me, how hard is it to submit to THAT kind of love? It isn’t difficult to submit to someone who puts you first, who considers your well-being more than they consider their own. Our husbands are to love us as they love their own bodies. When and if they take action or make decisions that harm us, they are not acting in a godly manner.
3. Submission is the easier call! For those of us women with strong wills (umm, present company NOT excluded), we have to realize that we are in the much better seat in this scenario! Our husbands are to listen to our thoughts, our opinions, value what we think and say, do for us before they do for themselves, AND they have to take responsibility before the Lord for the decisions that are made. In other words, if you, as a couple, make a bad decision, a wrong decision, the man, having the authority, also has the responsibility! Yup. I’m blessed to be a woman!
4. Submission looks like this: the man takes responsibility for the decision, before the Lord. He listens to his wife, knowing and believing that God gave her to him, in part because of the insight BOTH of you can give each other. The wise man listens to what his wife had to say and the wise woman, having been heard, trusts her husband’s decision, even if it doesn’t agree with hers. The obedience that happens when staying within God’s design brings forth blessing, in the long run, if not the short run. And here’s how it looks. Husband and wife sit down and discuss whatever the decision is that must be made. He listens well to her, with an open mind, she listens well to him with an open mind. They chew on it together. If they don’t agree, then they pray- together or apart- or both. They wait on God to make His will known. God always agrees with Himself so most of the time, both the husband and the wife are brought to the same decision. On those rare occasions that this is not the case, then the wife submits to the husband’s final decision and trusts God. And it’s not hard to trust your husband, even if you disagree with the decision, if you know that he truly has you as his primary motivation for making the decision. And women, we are not to beat him over the head with any decision that may have not been the wisest one! Please remember this! Sometimes God allows our husbands to take a stand in an area where the decision wasn’t the best in order to teach a lesson that would cost much more if it had to be learned somewhere down the road. And He’s probably teaching you a lesson as well! Both husband and wife must walk in forgiveness toward each other, at all times, and love your spouse even more when they are down. Don’t kick them! Love them. Do unto others! Nobody likes having things rubbed in their noses.
5. Submission to evil and sin is never something God calls us to. No woman is called to submit to a husband that is abusing her. Abuse is sin and submitting to sin is not what God requires. If you take a look at the scripture, it’s clear that a woman is FIRST to submit to Christ. You can’t submit to Christ and submit to evil at the same time. If there is abuse going on, get help! If your spouse is abusing you, he/she is the one breaking the covenant made in their vows before God. Be clear on what abuse is and what it’s not. Don’t call your husband deciding the family has to move to another state abuse. Don’t “abuse” the term for the sake of convenience. If you are being shamed, demeaned, if there is foul language and name calling going on, if there is physical abuse- if your spouse is doing anything ungodly toward you, seek God’s face and godly, trustworthy counsel as to what action to take. If your spouse is physically abusing you, that is NOT God. We are not called to have compassion for sin or for the work of the enemy. Remember, God also requires us to value ourselves.
6. Submission almost never has to be mentioned if the marriage is functioning well. It’s not even an issue. If there’s a time that a husband has to say, “You are supposed to be in submission to me!”, then there are probably things out of line in God’s design already. Marriages that are in line with God’s design VERY rarely have to discuss this scripture. If a husband is loving his wife, if she is respecting him, if they are listening to each other, if they are both laboring to pray and seek God’s face, there is no need for him to demand submission.
7. Submission to a spouse who is not mature in their faith is hard (be careful who you marry!). BUT if your spouse is not abusing you, then you cannot use this as an excuse to not be obedient. You chose your spouse! Have you ever injured your foot or ankle or leg? You know what happens when you have to compensate for that pain? You walk on the side of your foot or you limp or whatever. You tend to get something else out of whack when you compensate for something that’s not working right. It’s better to keep everything else in normal order as much as possible so as to not cause problems in other areas. It’s the same way spiritually. Wives, if your husband isn’t making what you think are the best decisions and he’s not seeking God, still submit. If you compensate for his error by getting out of obedience, you will cause more problems in the long run. Get the point? We are to stay in line with God’s will even if our spouse isn’t where we want them to be. (Even in this there is arrogance, note.) Why? Because we are being obedient to God! We are doing it for God, not our spouse. God called women to submit. Our husband’s didn’t design the plan. So unless God lets you off the hook, you are on the hook. If you stay in right relationship with God, then God can deal with your husband. Maybe you have to go through the pain of his mistakes, along with him, in order for him to learn his need of God in such things. Surely He’s teaching you obedience and reliance on His thoughts and not your own. Just be obedient and then you will receive blessing. Look for it. I’t may not be obvious. It may be in some totally different area but it will be there. And husbands, if you have a wife who is strong willed and unwilling to submit to your decisions, pray for her, love her, choose your battles, let her learn from her mistakes and don’t rub it in her face either. This will cause you to know God more and perhaps that is the very reason for her in your life. God uses all things for good!
Side note- I want to say thank you to my own husband for being a man to whom it is easy to submit. He is wise, thoughtful and always takes my thoughts into consideration before making any decisions. I am so blessed.
Takeaway: Submission is a beautiful model that sets women free and gives men what they need to fulfill God’s role for them. Any time we are in God’s design, our lives will run better. It’s like keeping radiator where it’s supposed to be in your car and the battery where it’s supposed to be. The closer the car is organized to the manual, the better it runs. It doesn’t mean that the radiator is more valuable than the battery. It means there are different roles. Same with us. We must be in the place God called us. And submission doesn’t mean a parent- child relationship. It means an adult-adult relationship that resembles Christ and the church.
Prayer: Father, I pray for humility. Please humble me to live in the role to which You have called me. Help me to exercise that role within your design and trust you when it feels impossible to do so. I thank you that you made me who I am and I thank you that You provide grace, through my humility, to live according to your plan. Teach me, Lord.