December 29, 2015 by Stacy McDonald
I got your attention, didn’t I? But it’s true! Over the years, I’ve spoken and written on the topic of feminism and the ways many of its philosophies have harmed families. I’ve also taught women about all sorts of Titus 2 topics, including what the Bible says about biblical submission.
However, I think we’ve all seen these topics abused and twisted. And, since a one-sided view of Ephesians 5:22-33 can be equally damaging (and dangerous), I’d like to make certain my position is clear. Because any time there is a lack of balance, somebody’s going to hit the ground.
In fact, I have to wonder if it was this sort of imbalance that helped to cause the spread of feminism in the first place. Any time a group of people are oppressed or mistreated, there will eventually be an uprising. But that’s why we have the Gospel.
We all own our own sin, and a man who disobeys Scripture (in this case, Ephesians 5, among others) will cause just as much damage (if not more) as a woman who disobeys. Remember the Garden.
I’ve seen men who ramble on and on about biblical submission simultaneously refuse to be in submission to their own elders (if they are even members of a church at all). As if submission is a woman-only thing. Or maybe it’s just an everyone-else-but-me thing. Convenient. But I digress.
First, keep in mind, in Ephesians 5:22, Paul gives the directive directly to the wife. He does not tell the husband to “see to it” that his wife submits to him. A man who “rules his household well” does so without stomping his feet. In verse 25, Paul had a few direct words for the husband, so I think we can surmise that Paul intended for him to focus there, on his own specific duties.
And here’s a thought for you guys: Just like a wife who nags, a husband who demands submission from his wife will likely create bitterness and resistance, rather than true heart-submission. And, from a woman’s perspective, you’re not impressing anyone.
Instead, you’re going to come across as demanding, self-centered, and selfish, which will make it very difficult for your wife to view you with respect at all (even if she chooses to submit to you in obedience to God). Just sayin’.
If nothing else, I believe it would be more fruitful for balanced, biblical submission to be taught by the elders of the church, as well as by Titus 2 women to the younger women (Titus 2:5). Older women are actually commanded to teach this subject.
Trust me, a guy who says, “You need to submit to me because God says so,” won’t get the response he is hoping for. And the fact that he said it, or felt the need to say it, probably means there’s a deeper problem anyway, on one side or the other.
“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
It would be way more profitable for a husband to focus on what Paul tells him to do, in regards to his wife (which is to sacrificially love her as Christ loves the Church). Not only is this what I think Paul was getting at (everyone focus on your own business), but it also makes it a joy, and much easier, for the wife to submit.
I think too often, we do like our children do, and we focus too much on what the “other person” should be doing, rather than on what we ourselves should be doing.
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Ephesians 5:1-2
If my husband focused on using the Scriptures to make sure we all knew he was the big guy in charge, he would come across as arrogant and insecure. My husband doesn’t seek to be worshipped (and I really think some men do!); instead, his desire is for our family to function in a way that values the souls within it, communicates the Gospel, and in all ways glorifies God.
The primary reason I submit to my husband is that I’m commanded by God in His Word to do so. I trust that God has good in store for me and not evil, and that He works through His means, and not mine. But, James McDonald (in wisdom) makes it easy for me when he loves me, respects my opinions, nurtures me, listens to me, serves our family, and often puts our family’s needs and desires before his own.
In other words, my husband submits…to God. He’s amazing like that.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean that if/when James doesn’t do all these things, I don’t have to obey God. My responsibility is to obey God’s Word, regardless. But, thankfully, he usually makes it easy. Yeah, I said usually.
I have to confess, it is largely because of James that our marriage thrives. I can be a real brat, but he’s a patient and long-suffering guy. :-)
But can you imagine if I lectured my husband on how God’s Word requires him to love me and lay down his life for me on a daily basis? Awkward. It would probably backfire in my face. Most people don’t enjoy serving someone who is forcing them to serve. It’s all about the heart.
Same with submission. I guess it depends on whether a man wants a wife who eagerly loves, respects, and follows him, or if he is content with a wife he drags by the hair, kicking and screaming. Sounds like a fun guy to be married to. Not. This same guy will complain about his rebellious wife. It’s a vicious cycle. But it’s a cycle that, by God’s grace, can be stopped.
Biblical submission is not about the husband getting his way like a spoiled child. That is a complete perversion of the Truth and slanders the example God gave us in the sacrificial life of Christ. It’s the sort of thing that gives submission a bad rap.
Ephesians 5 talks about the various ways we’re to submit to one another. Whether you’re a husband, a wife, a child, a master, or a slave – you’re called to submit to someone—to put aside your right to “whatever” for the sake of the Gospel.
“Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake…” 1 Peter 2:13
The analogy of Christ to His Bride is neither a directive to worship our husbands nor an opportunity to manipulate them into serving us. Rather, it’s a sacred picture of love, sacrifice, commitment, respect, mutual service, and godly order. A properly functioning marriage is a union that happens to bring joy, and not hardship, to all sides.
My prayer for you is that your marriage would hallow the name of the Lord and, because of Him, bring overwhelming joy to you, your family, your church, and your community.
May our Christian marriages paint a beautiful and fascinating picture of Christ’s communion with His Bride.
“The nations shall know that I am the Lord…when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.” Ezekiel 36:23