“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:22
This verse…… whew! It does not have the best reputation. It has been used incorrectly by so many on both ends of the spectrum. The secular world points to this verse as “proof” that Christianity is more of a cult that oppresses and devalues women. It has also been misused in the church and in marriages to make women feel weak and voiceless.
Let me be clear. Neither of those interpretations are correct. Marriage is a gift from God. It is union of 2 people is should make them both better and stronger together. Submission was never designed to be a negative thing, and it is past time that we as Christians make that very clear. So what does it actually mean? What does a healthy marriage based on Biblical principals actually look like?
Before I got married, I thought being a submissive wife sounded like a punishment. I was completely wrong. God created my husband to be the leader and protector of me and our family, and I am honored to be submissive to a man that not only loves God first but also loves me 2nd. Submission doesn’t mean I have no voice in the relationship. It means my husband uses my input, his thoughts, and God’s guidance to make decisions for our family. Because my husband strives to be a man that I love and respect, submitting to him is easy.
God wants husbands to love their wives in a way that makes submission feel natural and safe.
Yes, submission, that awful sounding word, should actually feel natural and safe. It isn’t about dominance or power. It is about a husband using love and respect to make the best decisions for his family. This needs to actually start long before the wedding day. Submission isn’t a tool to silence or degrade. When done correctly, it is quite the opposite.
I will never forget a story I once heard before I got married about a wife who knew her husband was making a horrible decision for their family, but because she was a “good” submissive wife she never said a word. Instead she would lock herself in the bathroom at home to hide her sobbing and vomiting because she knew this decision would be detrimental to her and her children. This story was used to try to teach young women the pain and importance of marital submission. This is not the way God designed our marriages. SUBMISSION SHOULD NOT EQUAL MISERY. Read that last sentence again. If you read on, Ephesians 5 goes on to say some beautiful and sweet words.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Reading through that, you see words like love, nourish, and cherish. That definitely does not sound miserable to me! If my husband is loving me the way Christ loves the church, then he is valuing me as his chosen person. He is thinking of me ahead of himself, and even though he is making the decisions for me and our family, I can trust that he is taking my thoughts and desires into account.
On the flip side, wives, we need to respect our husbands as the head of our families. We should never publicly humiliate or degrade them. We should have calm conversations where we talk about our lives, our dreams, and our goals as individuals and as a family so that when big decisions do arise, our husbands know our feelings. We should also be a safe and calming presence in our homes so that our husbands know that they can come to us and not be degraded, constantly nagged, ignored, or made to feel inadequate. If every conversation and interaction with us leads to frustration and chaos, this most likely leads to disaster in our relationships.
Verse 32 says the mystery is profound, but our roles with the husband as the head of the family and the wife as loving and submissive will come naturally the way God intended if we are intentional in our relationship. It is not always easy, and there will be bumps along the way, but when both members of a marriage are striving to follow these verses with showing love and respect to each other, things will fall into place, and that makes submission a beautiful thing.