Wait, Who Is Supposed to Submit to Whom?

I’m sure you’ve heard the hullabaloo about women submitting in marriage. It’s a topic that churns through conversations and the blogosphere with people taking hard-core stances on either end or at some point on the continuum between.

If you want to know where I stand, I believe in submitting to my husband. I do it often. Not simply because of Ephesians 5:22-24, which often gets quoted here. It’s just part of honoring my husband more than myself (Romans 12:10), considering his interests (Philippians 2:3-4). and having a love that is patient and not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). But my husband doesn’t push his way around me either — he is also in favor of showing honor, considering my interests, and acting in love.

Which brings me to my point today. The verse that comes right before the passage on how wives and husbands should treat each other is this one:

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21

For most marriages, both spouses would do well to take this to heart.

The word translated submit is the Greek word hupotasso — a Greek military term that meant to arrange troops under a leader’s command. But in non-military use, it connoted voluntarily giving in, cooperating, taking responsibility, or carrying a burden. If the word submit, with all its modern-day baggage, rankles your nerves, consider a synonym: concede, defer, surrender, yield.

In so many ways, we can find areas to yield to one another in marriage. Most of us marrieds have argued over stuff that just didn’t matter when we could’ve deferred to our spouse. Or we’ve treated their concerns with closed ears, instead of surrendering our time and attention to their needs and longings. We’ve held onto our own sense of being right or being mistreated, instead of conceding that our spouse has plenty of their own reasons to be upset.

Let’s take the subject I write about: sex in marriage. How are you doing submitting to one another when it come to sexual intimacy?

I’ll clue you in, based on some of what I hear. You’re not submitting to your spouse out of reverence for Christ if you are:

  • Demanding sexual acts you know are upsetting to your spouse
  • Ignoring your spouse’s need and desire for physical intimacy
  • Pursuing your own pleasure, with no regard to their pleasure
  • Fighting constantly about sex

You may well have legitimate concerns. I agree those should be addressed. But you still don’t get a blank check to ignore the scriptures about loving and submitting to one another. Remember you’re not submitting because your spouse deserves it — maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t — but “out of reverence for Christ.”

And ultimately, your submission is to the Father Himself:

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God.” James 4:6-7a.

The beauty is that when we submit our will to God and yield our selfishness to serve our spouse, we reap the benefits. Here and now, or maybe there and later. But blessings come.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9.

I believe many marriages and marriage beds would be improved by keeping the verse about submitting to one another in our minds and hearts. That’s why I’ve chosen Ephesians 5:21 as this week’s marriage memory verse.

Commit this scripture to memory and let it guide your heart as you move through marriage.

Memory Verse 1-27-16

Memory Verse Help

This is a trick someone shared with me, which I used to help my elementary age kids learn their multiplication tables. I posted sums on the windows, then stated a multiplication problem and let my kid shoot his Nerf gun dart at the right answer.

You can do the same thing for memory verses. Just print out each word on a piece of paper or write the words on post it notes and tape them to your window or a wall. Grab a Nerf gun or foam ball or even rubber bands you can shoot with your fingers.

Then shoot the words in order of the verse, again and again, saying the words aloud as you go. Making memorization into an interactive game with encourage you to practice and help you recall the verse.

Hey, my teenage boys still know their multiplication tables. It works!

Nerf Gun Memory Verse

That’s a NERF gun. I promise!

8 thoughts on “Wait, Who Is Supposed to Submit to Whom?

  1. alchemist

    Ah. That’s a great idea! I should try the shooting thing with my younger elementary Sunday school class. I use the scripture typer app. I don’t quite see myself shooting at post-its all around the apartment. But the little boys should like that a lot. Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Mychele

    In the last year, I was introduced to the idea of sociocracy. Participants ‘consent’ to decisions. That means it doesn’t have to be the decision you’d choose, but it is one in your range of tolerance. Basically, you’re saying it’s not perfect/ideal, but you can live with it.

    Some of the little things around the house that used to annoy me no longer seem to matter when I view them in this light. This results in me submitting to my husband more often, which has helped him feel more respected, and that means he acts (even) more loving toward me.

    Reply
  3. Stephen Feild

    Your emphasis on mutual submission is excellent. Men benefit greatly from reflecting deeply on their version of submission to their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Christ came to serve not to be serve, taught great leadership came through the greatness of service, and had the sole focus on earth of rescuing and caring for his bride. He did nothing of out of his selfish desires. As a man, and as a former pastor and missionary, this is what I emphasized in weddings and pre-marital counseling. For 3 decades of marriage I did OK at this, at best, but I have made great strides recently of putting my wife first in everything. I wish I had learned this sooner. We are growing in happiness, and my leadership of the home is not threatened by it.

    Reply
  4. Eliza

    Thanks so much for the memorisation tip! I didn’t expect to find homeschooling tips here, but yesterday, on our first day back for the year here in Australia, your nerf gun multiplication game was a lifesaver with my reluctant student! Thanks!

    Reply

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