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.
I expect that readers of this post may respond in a wide variety of ways to its title: Wives Submit to Your Husbands. Some will be curious. Some will be hopeful. Others might be upset or worried or, well, you name it. Few verses in Scripture elicit such powerful and diverse responses as Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.”
My main purpose in the daily postings is to help you encounter God through Scripture, so that’s where I’ll focus, even as I offer a few insights into this passage.
One of the surprising things about Ephesians 5:22 when you read it in Greek is that it doesn’t have a verb. It borrows the verb from verse 21: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, wives, to your own husbands ….” The grammar makes it crystal clear that verse 22 is an application of the general principle in verse 21. All Christians are to submit to each other. One version of mutual submission happens when Christian wives submit to husbands who are also their brothers in Christ. (This passage does not explicitly address mixed-faith marriages.)
Because the language of submission can feel strange to us and because of instances when this language has been used to defend mistreatment of wives by husbands, people can feel squeamish about it. Ephesians doesn’t get into tricky cases, such as when a husband wants his wife to do something contrary to biblical teaching or when he assumes the authority to abuse his wife. Ephesians 5:22 articulates a general principal without dealing with specific instances, which can feel frustrating to us.
But, if we follow the paraphrase I have suggested for “submit,” namely, “follow the leadership of,” this verse seems less troubling. Surely it would be good for wives to follow the leadership of their husbands when their leadership exemplifies the Christ-like love to which husbands will be called in a few verses. Moreover, if submission is more than just “yielding in love,” if it also involves imitating the humble servanthood of Christ, then wives are being given a high calling indeed. They are to serve their husbands in the way Christ has served them.
If this teaching for wives seems unbalanced, it’s because we haven’t come to the instructions for husbands yet. That will happen soon. For now, I’d recommend that all of us consider whether we’re living out the call to submit to one another in our relationships by reflecting on the following questions.
(Mark D. Roberts)
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION:If you’re a wife, do you follow the leadership of your husband? If not, why not? If so, what helps you to do this? Moreover, if you’re a wife, do you seek to imitate Christ’s servanthood in the way you treat your husband? What might this mean for how you treat him today? If you’re a husband, are you leading your wife in the ways of the Lord? And no matter your gender or marital status, do you submit to your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you seek to serve them following the model of Christ?
Gracious God, you call us to a way of relating to each other that can feel strange, even risky. Submitting to others may be natural to some of us. But others of us push back against this idea, fearing that we might lose ourselves in the process. Yet your call to submit to one another is clear.
Help us, Lord, to live out this call in tangible ways in our day-to-day relationships. In particular, we ask today that wives may be empowered by your grace to understand you better through their relationship with their husbands. Moreover, may they seek to serve their husbands, even as you have served us. For husbands, we pray that they might be worthy of being followed as they live for your purposes and honor.
Grant us all the grace, Lord, to be each day the people you have called us to be. In the name of Yahushua, Amen.