Ephesians 5:22-23 (NKJV) 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
Yesterday we started looking at Ephesians 5 and what the New Testament says about marriage. These verses are not all the New Testament has to say on the subject but they contain some of the clearest instructions on marriage in the bible. Yesterday we focused on verse 33. I believe this verse sums up how we can have a successful marriage. Let me quote it again.
Ephesians 5:33 (NKJV) 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
I pointed out yesterday that if we can follow this simple statement it will go a long way towards making our marriages better. Men need respect. Women need love. That is not to say that men do not need love and women do not need respect. I believe everyone needs both but there is something about the makeup of each gender that causes the degree of need for each of these things to be different.
I have pastored for over 35 years. I have ministered to many marriages. It is always amazing when a woman who is being physically abused stays in the relationship. Of course, sometimes there is no choice but other times we hear this from the woman. “I know he is wrong but he really does love me.” We understand that any man who would do such a thing does not love his wife but if he somehow convinces her that he does, she will stay with him. Women need love above all else.
On the other hand, the last thing you want to do is convey disrespect to a man. You might beat him in a game or even get the job he wanted. If you show respect in victory, usually everything will be fine. If you show disrespect, there will often be a problem. Men cannot live without respect.
Every man and every woman is different. The degree of need for love or respect can vary. Some women may not really need love as much as others, some men are never respected, and it does not seem to bother them. However, the great majority will follow this pattern.
When a woman knows that her husband loves her she can put up with many things. There may not be enough money. The house may not be all she would like it to be. Her husband may have to work more hours than she would want him to or he may not have a good job. She will support him and pull together with him as long as she knows he loves her and no one else can take her place.
A man can put up with a less than clean house. He can accept a working wife. He can even work through sexual difficulties if he knows his wife respects him. There are many people in my world that do respect me, but there are some who do not. There is one thing of which I can always be sure. When I come through the door of my house, my wife loves honors and respects me. That makes the rest bearable.
I want to reiterate that I believe respect for a woman is very important. I respect my wife. She is an incredible person not just an incredible woman. Men need to know that they are loved. I am absolutely certain my wife loves me. However, I want love but I need respect. Respect is one of the ways that I know I am loved. She wants respect but needs love. Demonstrating my love for my wife is one of the ways that I show her I respect her.
In today’s verses, Paul starts by giving instructions as to how this works in practical application. He begins by telling wives that they must submit to their own husbands in the Lord. He does not say women should submit to men. He does not say wives should obey their husbands. He says that wives should submit to their own husbands “in the Lord.”
Many in today’ society consider this a very old fashioned and slightly dangerous point of view. I pointed out yesterday that this is not a statement of value. In any human relationship someone must lead. It is simply a matter of order. God says the husband is the leader in the home. We may not like that idea but it is what God says. As I shared yesterday, God is smarter than we are. If you believe in him and in his Word, you cannot argue with that.
What does this mean in practical application? To understand we must understand the nature of submission. Submission is a heart attitude. It is not unconditional obedience. There is only one person who warrants that and it is God himself. Submission says, “I desire to follow. I desire to obey when it is appropriate.” Submission does not require obedience that goes against the Word of God and does not require obedience that goes deeply against our own conscience. A submitted person is one who respects the person they are submitted to and willingly follows their lead. It is not one who never questions.
A submitted wife is one who respects her husband as the God appointed leader of the home. She is willing to follow him. She is neither willing to go against the Word of God nor against her own conscience. She does not manipulate to get her own way. She will talk to her husband, ask questions, and give her point of view. Once she does those things, submission requires that she follow his final decision.
I know that I may have lost some of you with that last sentence, but I cannot take it back. It is what the bible means when it tells wives to submit to their own husbands in the Lord. However, let me clarify that by telling you how this works in our marriage. I know I have the final say before God. My wife accepts that as well. We have been married over 41 years. In all that time, I have never used my final say. You might ask, “Why not?” My answer is, “I am not stupid.”
I know my decisions affect my whole family and beyond. Why would I make any decision without knowing how my wife feels about things? Why would I decide anything without the advantage of her wisdom? Why would I want to carry that burden alone? If it came to a point where we had no choice, we would go with my decision. It has never come to that.
One reason it as not is that I know she is truly submitted in her heart. I know she will follow me. She is not trying to push me to do what she wants. She does not have to because she knows I am sensitive to what she wants and I will do all I can to make sure I give her what she wants and what she needs. Therefore, we talk and we pray until we come into agreement.
Honestly, I do not buy a pair of pants without my wife’s agreement. I certainly would not show up with a car and say, “Look what I bought, Honey!” I would never make a decision of any importance without coming into agreement with my wife. Submission is a heart attitude. Subservience is being under another without a choice. Wives are to submit to their own husbands in the Lord not be subservient to them.
The last phrase of that statement speaks volumes. They are to submit to their own husbands in the Lord. Many teachings about this section of scripture focus on the woman’s responsibility. However, if I read this correctly the husband is tasked with being the leader. I believe that leadership carries the greater responsibility. If my wife is going to submit to me, I must be “in the Lord.” If I am not functioning in the Lord, my wife is not required to submit to me. Therefore, it must be more important for me to know how to be “in the Lord” than for her to know how to submit. Men, come back tomorrow if you dare!