New Breed Husband (Submission)
I want to take a moment to address submission in the Bible. Many people hear the word submission and they immediately think of wives submitting to their husbands. While it is true that this is a command that is written in the bible and it is part of God’s plan, that is only a small part of the verse and it is usually taken out of context.
Roles of submission in the marriage
Eph 5: 21-33 addresses the roles of a husband and a wife. The passage starts with “Submit to each other out of reverence to Christ.”
We tend to get stuck on vs. 22-24, however. Many are so blinded by this verse that they miss everything else that the passage says. “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husband as you do to the Lord. 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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
Many women get angry because they see this as a men trying to impose his authority over women. Unfortunately, this has been exactly how men have used this passage. Historically, men have left out the rest of the passage because it is inconvenient to them. I challenge you men to leave these verses to the women for now. It was not a command that was written to you. It was a command written to the wives. Instead focus on the rest of the passage which was written to you.
Submit to your wife
Vs. 21 says that we are to submit to each other out of reverence to Christ. What does that mean? To submit means to place or rank the other over yourself. Husbands, this does mean that your wife does have some authority over you just as you have some authority over her. If you have been married for more than five minutes, you will realize this is true. You are to place yourself under your wife’s authority because she has responsibilities in the marriage. You need to allow her the authority to meet her responsibilities by submitting to her authority. The roll she plays and what authority she has is a topic to be discussed with you and your wife. But Paul was very clear, we are to submit to one another.
So how do you submit to your wife? You present yourself to her. You allow her to speak into your life. You allow her to counsel you. Don’t just hear what she has to say, but listen to her. You also need to recognize that she is better and more knowledgeable than you are at some things. You need to respect the authority God has given her, just as you desire her to respect the authority that God has given you. You are partners. You are a team.
The husband is the head
The Husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. Again, this verse has been taken out of context in the past to assure the husband’s ultimate authority over his wife. But break this down for a moment and look at what Paul was trying to say.
The head ultimately sets the direction for the body. If you set your thoughts to taking care of your body, you will care for it. You will eat well, exercise, get plenty of sleep, cleanse it, and care for any wounds. If you care for your body, your body will be healthy. However, if you neglect your body you will see a very different result. Eat garbage, live sedentary, stay up all night, forget to bathe and ignore your wounds, your body will react in a negatively.
As the head, you set the direction for your family. You create the environment in which your family will grow. This is not a command for husbands to impart their authority over their wives. It is a responsibility that must be taken seriously. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church. How did Jesus treat the church? How did he respond to the woman at the well? The woman caught in adultery, Mary and Martha, and his mother? He was not harsh, but loving. How did he treat Peter after his betrayal? With forgiveness. Jesus looked out for the church and cared for her. This is how the head cares for the body.
Protect your wife. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. You think of how your words can lift her up or pull her down. Prove to her with your actions that you can be trusted. Pray for her. Work hard at being a good steward with your money, knowing what is needed vs. what is wanted. Honor God and set an example for her and your family. God has made you the head. The body will follow.
“Husbands Love Your Wives just as Christ loved the Church…
… just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
There is a lot of meat in this passage and none of it points to an authoritarian relationship. Jesus came to serve the church. He came to sacrifice himself in order to be with those he loved. Please understand that Jesus was under no requirement to sacrifice himself in the way he did. He was in a loving relationship as part of the Trinity. He had perfection already and there was no need for him to leave this relationship in order to prove himself. So why did he leave perfection to live among a people who had turned their backs on him? Why walk among those who would not provide the love that he was already experiencing? Because he loved them.
Jesus had ultimate authority over the people of the church. He could force his will upon them at any moment and force them to do exactly what he wanted. But this is not how he came to them. His goal was always in lifting up those he loved. He came to us weak and vulnerable. He lived among us. He allowed us to see who he was. He allowed us to question him. He allowed us the choice to follow him or to keep our distance. He sought to protect us. He was transparent.
Men, you must have the same attitude with your wife and your family. You are here to serve them. You are here to love them and to teach them to love others. Jesus did not spend his time trying to show people his authority. He led and they followed. Why? The people who followed knew that he loved and cared for them. He acted on his love. So men must act on their love for their family.
… and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word …
Put your wife’s needs above your own. Her needs are different than yours. It is your role to provide for her needs (or allow God to provide them through your). Provide your wife with kind, loving, accepting, and gratifying words. Your wife needs to know that you love her. She needs to know that she is important to you. She needs to know that she is precious. Speak love to your wife.
This is not always easy. There are times that your wife does not act lovingly to you. There are times where you are upset by her actions. There are times where you will want to hold back your love because of her lack of respect, or because she has done something to wrong you. Jesus gave himself up for us, not because we did anything to deserve it. On the contrary, we regularly show him how undeserving we are of his love. Yet he cleanses us with his word. He gave himself up for us despite how we treated him. This is our task as husbands. Love your wife. Cleanse her. Forgive her. Look out for her. It is not something that we will do perfectly. In fact it is not something that we can do on our own. We need Christ to love our wives through us. Only he can lead you to do this. It is a sacrifice. This is why love is an action, not a feeling.
… and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
How do you see your wife? Do you see her faults? Do you see her as a constant drip? Are you focused on the areas that you feel need to be improved? Jesus died for your wife. If she has accepted him as her Lord and Savior, then she is forgiven and he sees her without blemish and without stain. Forgive your wife. Whatever it is, forgive her. If you cannot see her as Christ sees her then you need to forgive her. You may need to ask God’s help for this. In fact, you cannot do this without God’s help. Forgive your wife whatever your are holding against her. Ask him to help you to see her as he sees her. Present your wife to yourself as radiant, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish. Release any debt you feel she may owe you. This is how God calls you to see your wife.
After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church- for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery- but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.