After a long time away, we return to our marriage series and perhaps one of the greatest misused verses in the Bible when it comes to marriage. I am going to cut to the chase up front and you guessed it–there will be some disagreement in the room! No worries though, I am confident in what I am about to say.
In the context of Ephesians, submission is about respect. Period.
Have you ever heard that saying, women want love, men want respect? That is almost a true story. Both Men and Women want love and respect. The fact that women may express their emotions more frequently or may feel more openly vulnerable does not mean men do not feel the same way.
Every person wants love and respect! Every person wants a long lasting hug or a session of active listening. Every person wants to be vulnerable with the people they love and trust. That vulnerability is going to look different for everyone. People are growing and changing all the time. People are battling with their own vices and past hurts. Some people are expressive and some people are not. As spouses, we are called to be loving and respectful even when we flat out just don’t feel like it.
Ephesians 5:22-33 NIV
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. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] 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. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[b] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Many times people read verse 22-24 and stop there but the instructions continued. The following verses also talk about the husbands loving their wives. Ultimately, the obligation in marriage is to respect and love one another.
Wives, no matter how crazy your husband drives you–you gotta admit, the guy can really do some stuff. Whether it’s helping with chores, fixing the car, working hard or hanging a picture frame just right–he can do some stuff. That deserves respect. It is not “just their job”. That man doesn’t have to do anything, he chooses too even if it is not according to your timing or specifications. Think I am giving them a huge break huh? Nope. You Ladies, do a lot of good stuff too whether that’s cooking, cleaning, changing diapers- maybe you even fix the car or hang that picture just right–you don’t have to do it either. You choose to do it. You also deserve respect. Do for one another! Show gratitude for one another’s actions and respect the fact that the person is a good enough person to do for you, even when they maybe didn’t feel like it.
Now, I want to add something here-I am not in a “traditional” marriage in the eyes of some people. I am in a marriage with a man who believes in supporting me as much as I support him. This is in all areas of our marriage. My husband goes to work, helps with chores, pays bills, schedules appointments, takes care of cars and kids and everything else under the sun. The man does it all and believe me he has expectations of me and our children as well. So guess what, I do it all too. Just a few weeks ago, he had me under the car changing oil with him. I will not lie, I appreciated the experience-who doesn’t love getting their hands dirty with the handsome guy right by their side? Does this mean I can do it all as quickly or well as he does, maybe, maybe not? Does he do it all just as well and quickly as I do? Maybe, maybe not. We both have expectations. The expectation is we BOTH pour into our marriage and household the best we know how. To add to that, if we don’t know how –the expectation is we figure it out together.
So why? Why would he do this? Why would there be an expectation that I can do a lot of what he can do?
It’s easy. One day I may not have my husband, he may not have me. People pass away and their spouse is often left to “take care of it all”. In marriage, we are each other’s helper. Remember tw individual people come together to make a strong couple.
Returning to our verse and the word submit. Personally, I believe-and it works for our home. Submission is simply the willingness to respect that we are different. In those differences we can step back and try to make the best decision possible based on who has the most experience or best idea. We also do not believe in cursing at one another or being condescending or rude if mistakes are made. We learn, we grow and we try our best to move forward.
As far as leading a household, my husband is good at it but he is also good at equipping the rest of his household to do it in his absence. So, does my husband lead? Yes. Do I “submit” (respectfully yield) to his leadership? Yes. Does it look like he is bossing me around? No. Does it look like disrespect? No. Remember that other verse about husbands loving their wife? That’s what it looks like, my husband loves me enough to lead me by helping me grow and being willing to allow me to help him grow.
Marriage….two individuals, one strong couple.