What more could a man dream of in his marriage than a submissive wife? Someone to fulfill his every need and agree with everything he says. A wife who would never question his decisions or challenge his actions. Ahhh, the indescribable bliss of the perfectly submissive wife. Why else would Paul write in Ephesians 5:22 – “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands…” (NIV) – if it wasn’t of the utmost importance?
Hopefully you know me well enough to read in to the sarcasm even though you can’t hear the tone of my keystrokes. Sadly, there seem to be some Christian men that take this one verse and use it to lord anything over their wives, or to view themselves as somehow superior. In order to understand submission in this context we must first ask, “What does submission to God look like?”
Paul starts this whole conversation in verses 1 and 2 with, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Transform and renew your definition of submission around these verses. Jesus was God incarnate and He submitted to His Father’s will to sacrifice Himself on the cross, and that sacrifice was a wonderfully aromatic sacrifice to the Father. Submission starts with a sacrificial heart. Remember that Jesus prayed fervently in the Garden of Gethsemane for the Father to find a way around his crucifixion. But ultimately He submitted to God’s plan.
Paul continues the lesson in verse 21, “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” When you truly love Jesus and want to follow His commands then you will want to have a sacrificial heart toward your spouse. I’m so glad Paul doesn’t stop here even though he could have. He wants to dive deeper in to our hearts and paint a picture for men on how to accomplish this.
Ephesians 5:25-33 “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.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.” 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.” (NIV)
How beautiful the crucifixion becomes when you see it through the eyes of Jesus. He is joyfully cleansing us so He can present us to God in perfect beauty. Men, we are to have this same attitude toward our wives. We have to go first. We have to step up and have a sacrificial heart toward our wives first, just as Jesus went first for us. When I get to this point I feel a fire start to rage inside my belly because I can feel the attitude of some of you. I know the attitude because I’ve had it myself. The times when I’ve just wanted the other person to be sacrificial first or apologize first or whatever it is, FIRST. WHY DO I HAVE TO BE THE ONE TO GO FIRST!?
Phew, okay, calm down and take a deep breath. Men, we have to go first. We have to sacrificially love our wives first. This doesn’t mean you have to constantly fall on your sword and give her whatever she wants. But where is your heart when you are interacting with your wife and where is your heart in your relationship with God? If you can answer those questions positively, then you won’t have any trouble “making” your wife submit to you. Making is in quotes, because hopefully you can see that if you are doing what Paul describes you won’t be making your wife submit. She will willingly and joyfully submit through a sacrificial heart toward you, and her respect for you will be boundless. It doesn’t matter if it’s fair or not, it’s the right way to act so suck it up and get started.
Please, I urge you men to pursue this with ferocity. I also urge you to share it with someone you know needs it. Let’s help each other be Misfit Men together.