21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do 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. (Ephesians 5:21-23, NIV)
Entering A Touchy Subject
- Submission. Did you cringe as you read the word? Did you shudder as you thought of it? The topic of submission can be a touchy one, but I have never been one to shy away from hard topics. As I meet with women, as a life coach and as a speaker, I see more and more our need to understand what submission means. I am tired of not understanding, of having others twist Scripture to meet their own agenda. Aren’t you? I long to understand because I love my Father. This is a lesson He has been teaching me, and one I will continue to share.
I remember a moment as a single adult, standing in a church. A male friend of mine approached me, and in the course of our discussion he said, “Submit. You are a woman, you must submit to me.” To this day, I am unsure if he was teasing or not. I explained to him he was not my husband, pastor, or employer, so he was in fact wrong. No, I did not have to submit to him. I vaguely recall a look of shock washing over his face. He may have walked away. Honestly, it was twenty years ago, and the conversation left more of an impression than his reaction afterwards. That comment, and so many like it, are why we react so strongly when submission is mentioned. We barely understand it, men do not understand it, and some of those who teach this concept do not understand it. No wonder our thoughts are so negative.
All too often, we hear the verse stating wives are to submit to their husbands. This is where the conversation begins and ends. First, in the beginning of this portion of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he says we are to be submit to one another. This is to be mutual and based on our reverence for God. We each have gifts, strengths, and responsibilities, and using them brings unity among one another. Secondly, Paul says wives are to submit to their husbands as to the Lord. My act of submission brings honor to Christ. In following my husband’s lead, I am walking out my trust in the Lord. I am trusting the Lord to lead my husband, who in turn leads our family.
Finally, verses 25-30 of Ephesians 5 cannot be overlooked:
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. (emphasis added)
Husbands are to love their wives as Christ has loved the church. Do you see that? Christ died for the church. So then, the husband should be willing to sacrifice everything, even his very life, for his wife. Wow. Now that is beautiful.
I recently heard it explained like this: the husband rules for the benefit of those he is ruling, not for his own gain. Imagine with me if you will, a husband who makes decisions based on what is of the most benefit to his family, and a wife who trust her husband’s judgement and decisions. I am smiling thinking of that scenario. That will be a household filled with joy, faithfully following the Father, and loving well.
We have barely dipped our toes into this powerful dynamic. What I do know is that the saying should not be, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Instead, I believe it should be, “If Dad isn’t leading, the family isn’t functioning.” As a husband leads, as God leads him, and the woman trusts her husband’s leading, we are able to function in the roles we have been given. We will be released from pressure and positions that are not meant for us. I am not meant to fulfill my husband’s role in the home. He has to do that. When I begin believing I can lead better, that I know more, I am stepping out of my God given covering. That is the place the enemy attacks. That is when I struggle, and am overwhelmed. But, when I submit to my husband? Oh friend, I am free to run after the calling God has on my life. I am safe, protected, and provided for.
Let’s stop running from the topic of submission. Instead, let’s lean in, together, to learn what it truly means. There is beauty there for us, I promise.