Many Christian men, unfortunately, have a very poor understanding of submission in marriage.
First, God didn’t command women to SUBMIT in marriage as an exclusive right of the man. It’s not in the Bible! Submission in marriage is not a coercion.
Submission IS NOT a man’s EXCLUSIVE right.
Unfortunately, very wrong teachings on submission have been preached for so many years that today, the truth sounds like a lie while the lie sounds like the truth.
Paul asked women to submit to their husbands but he NEVER said it was exclusively the right of the man. He was addressing a common problem of those days where women were becoming very aggressive and insulting towards their husbands especially when the woman believed in Jesus before the man.
However, when we read in context, we’ll see that Paul wasn’t expounding a rule, he was addressing a problem. When he asked Fathers not to offend their Children, it didn’t mean children can offend their fathers. Now let’s read in context…
Before Paul asked wives to submit to their husbands, he, first of all, brought a balance to his teaching in the opening sentence of his address to families. Most Bible translations began it with a subheading that reads: “Instructions for Household” or “Instructions for Husbands and Wives”
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” – Ephesians 5:21 NIV
Submission is first of all mutual! The man submits to his wife and the wife submits to her husband. Paul understands that he will be taken out of context which was why he started that way.
In the proceeding verses, he then began to add more details about what is expected of couples.
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands 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.” – Ephesians 5:22-24 NIV
He explains the position of the man as the leader of the home; the woman is to acknowledge her husband’s position as the leader of the home and work with him in every way possible. It doesn’t mean the woman is inferior, it doesn’t mean the man should Lord himself over to his wife. This position is not what the man fights for; a true leader serves his way into leadership and does not fight his way into it.
Paul further brings another balance to the man’s leadership by asking the man to love his wife as Christ loves the Church. We know that Jesus came to serve rather than be served. The relationship between the man and his wife is not a boss-servant relationship but that of co-heirs. Paul wrote
“Husbands, love your wives, 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.” – Ephesians 5:25-27 NIV
Paul didn’t stop there. He went further to explain that the man and his wife are one! None is inferior and none is superior, the man ought to treat his wife with the same respect he has for himself, he ought to see his wife just as he sees himself.
“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 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.” – Ephesians 5:28-33 NIV
Jesus sees as one with himself and in the same way, husbands must see their wives as one with themselves. Even Peter, in his letter asked men to honour their wives. Let’s read
“In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.” – 1 Peter 3:7 NLT
Honouring your wife as a Christian is not a suggestion, it’s a command! You must treat her with understanding. Peter didn’t just say that they must be honoured, he said that they must be honoured as an EQUAL partner in God’s gift of new life. While some women may be biologically weaker in muscles, they are not inferior.
Paul likens the relationship between Christ and the Church to the relationship between a man and his wife. We must note, that the aspect of this relationship that Paul talked about is with respect to our ONENESS with Christ.
So, God didn’t command the woman to submit to the man as an exclusive right of the man. Submission in a Christian home ought to be mutual. When couples submit to themselves, the question of love, care, and understanding has been handled.
Submission here doesn’t mean to allow yourself to be subjugated, it doesn’t mean to allow oneself to be forced into slavery, it doesn’t mean depriving one of all his or her basic human rights and dignity. It means to be accountable.
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