“Wives submit to your own husbands as unto the Lord”
This is perhaps one of the most controversial verses in our society, as well as misused or misapplied. In a broad sense some like to used this verse and the others like it to teach that a woman must submit to any man that tells her to do something. But a woman does not have to submit to any man except her husband according to this verse. Husbands like this verse because it seems to give them the place of leadership – or kingship of the family structure, and requires that all their subjects bow to their will. Women, on the other hand, do not like this verse because it requires them to be submissive to their husband even when their husband is acting like a fool.
So, why designate such a controversial verse as a crossroads? Because whether he likes it or not, every man is the head of his household, and will answer for his congregation (family). Realistically, every man desires to be respected and admired by his wife and kids… That they would follow him, seek his counsel, and look to him to lead the way. Yet, we often forget to step back and truly consider where we are leading or if we are single, where we are preparing to lead. Think back to previous days – you will lead based on the foundation you have established. And you will only be respected and followed if your walking on the path that matches that foundation. Otherwise, you will be viewed by your spouse, children, and those around you as a hypocrite.
Remember: Love is given, respect is earned. Think about it: Jesus models the definition of love for us, which is expounded upon in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” This verse is most often quoted in weddings, as the husband and wife-to-be look star-gazed into each others eyes. Yet in Ephesians 5:25, 33, husbands are told to love their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”, and wives are told to “respect their husbands.”
As men, we go to work and try to earn the respect of our coworkers, boss, and customers, not their love. We find fulfillment in this ‘give and take’ process in which we can gain substantial respect and honor from those around us.
When we finish the day at the office and step into our houses, we fail to continue in the process by strive to earn the respect of our wives. We can become self-centered and selfish, expecting our wife to wait on us, make dinner, keep the house clean, and raise the children… All while maintaining a submissiveness that can only be found in the old black and white sitcoms. She may do her best at fulfilling all these roles, out of love for her family, because love comes easier to her to express and respect is easier for the man to express. So instead of following the instructions of Ephesians 5, we swap the attribute we should be expressing towards each other for the one what we want the other to give us.
Even as Godly men who understand these concepts, we can often confuse the differences between love and respect, thinking that if we are respecting our wives, we are expressing love. Except respect is defined as: “the deference to a right, privilege, or privileged position; the condition of being esteemed or honored.” This is much different than the definition of love in Ephesians 5.
Stop for a minute and contemplate the two definition we have studied. One is love, one is respect. Men are called to love their wives. This means men are to be patient, love, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud, not dishonoring, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeping no record of wrongs his wife does, not delighting in evil, rejoicing with the truth, always protecting, always trusting, always hoping, always persevering.
Wives are called to respect their husband’s. This means women are to defer to the right, privilege, or privileged position her husband that has been bestowed by God, the Creator of all; and esteem or honor him.
So how do we find ourselves married to the ‘submissive’ wife? It has got to begin in our own hearts, lives, and actions, being submissive and obedient to God as we are commanded. Then we must choose to fulfill the God-given roles of servant leaders, unselfishly serving our families, and loving our wives. And all this only comes from a strong foundation.
Do you demand submissiveness or respect?
Do you come home to serve, love, and earn respect or do you stop when you leave the office because respect is easier to achieve at work?
Foundation check and challenge: continue to invest in and work on your foundation in Jesus Christ. Make sure you take the time to read, study and understand scripture, and pray. Consider Jesus washing the disciples feet, Paul and all the trials he went through to share the Good News… How can you improve your self-less conveyance of love towards your wife and kids? Apply it.