As our church has made its way through Ephesians, this week’s passage (Ephesians 5:21-6:9) has been the one I’m dreading the most because it is the most misunderstood, the most abused, and the most manipulated.
Submission is a hot topic these days among Christian circles. What does it mean to submit to one another and for a wife to submit to her husband? Here is, in the simplest form, how we should understand ‘submission’: appointed care and concern leading to action for the sake of others.
That’s it; that’s biblical submission. Looking towards the interest of others instead of yourself.
Relax women, it doesn’t mean you have to do whatever your husband tells you to do. If he’s being a bonehead, jerk, or loathsome beast, please tell him so.
Men, it doesn’t give you authority to abuse, manipulate, or degrade your wife.
Because to me, the key idea in the whole passage isn’t the idea of submission. It’s the idea that we are to lead and live like Jesus. If a husband (or any man) makes a decision that encourages, entices, or could lead to someone sinning, it is the responsibility of the women around him to make him stop. That’s submission (appointed care and concern leading to action for the sake of others). If someone you know is sinning or leading others to do so, biblical submission mandates that you intervene and call them to Jesus-like faithfulness and living.
What we see, or should see, operating in the church is the belief that all people are important, valued, and treasured members of the community.
Paul points out several ways this is true: husbands/wives, parents/children, masters/slaves. In a culture like Paul’s, where everyone outside of white free males was considered expendable and tradable property, Paul calls the church to something different. Women are not degraded pieces of property to be used only as sexual toys, but as intelligent and beautiful God-bearers that help bring shalom and display God’s justice. Children are not valued based on their gender or ability to produce, but on their status as blessed creations made in the image of God that bring joy and love to those around them. In a culture where children could be discarded if they came out the wrong gender, Christians would adopt and bless them, bestowing upon them true value and worth.
It’s clear to anyone that has ever spent anytime in public that women and men are different. People (especially some well known pastors) that degrade someone based on perceived weakness or differences, are out of place and doing a great disservice to the witness of Christ in the world.
Submission is not about hierarchy, position, authority, or status. Instead, as we see modeled in Christ, it is about appointed care and concern leading to action for the sake of others. It is about service. It is about humility. It is about practicing, living in, and calling others to become a part of God’s restoration movement that heals and restores all people.
Here’s a helpful video explaining the differences between men and women: