Submission And Death: A Reflection On Ephesians 5:21-33

Last week I spoke about planning for a wedding, but not a marriage. This week, I wanted to look at what is, in my opinion, one of the best parts of scripture to guide people in their marriage. I have been fortunate to see marriages fifty years strong, alas I have also seen marriages doomed to fail since the last ‘I do’ was said. I will be the first to point out that I am not the best to guide you through the intricacies of marriage. I can’t help you with the ins-and-outs of being married, and each marriage is unique unto itself so, what works for one may not work for the other. What I can do is point you to the bible and try to give you insight that will hopefully help you in the future, whether you struggle with your own marriage, or you prepare to enter one.

submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
For the husband is the head of the wife even
as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.
Now as the church submits to Christ,
so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church
and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her,
having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
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.
In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.

He who loves his wife loves himself.
For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it,
just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother
and hold fast to his wife, the two shall become one flesh.”
This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
However, let each one of you love his wife as himself,
and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Ephesians 5:21-33 ESV

I’ve spoke before about my opinion of whether or not wives should submit to their husbands, so I won’t go into that again today. For this post, I want to focus on the way a husband and wife should be approaching their positions in a marriage. Ladies first.

To start, our scripture today tells wives to submit to their husbands as they do the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife. The same way the church submits to Christ is the way wives should submit to their husbands.

I would first point out that “submission” is not a bad word. We all do it everyday. As a Christian, every moment of your life is spent in submission to the word. Many people on the progressive side of things try to conflate “submission” with “bondage.” We are not slaves to God. Christ leads, we follow. We are citizens of the kingdom because we willingly submit ourselves to the King. In the same way, this is how wives should submit to their husbands.

When things don’t go the way you want the to, do you stomp your feet and criticize Jesus? Do you hurl profanities at Him, and tell Him how inept He is? Do you talk to God and tell Him that you don’t care what He wants, because you’re going to do things your own way?

Or, do you approach God with humility, acknowledging that on your own, you are inadequate? Can you set aside your pridefulness and admit that there are things you can’t do on your own? Have you learned to humbly talk to God to better develop your relationship with Him? Do you love God unwaveringly with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, even when you don’t get your way?

Continuing on with our passage, now we address husbands. As hard as I know it is for some women to be submissive, I would argue for the men, your part is even harder; you have to die.

Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Do you know with what depth Christ loves His church? Think about the people of the world today. We live in a depraved generation. We’re corrupt and hate-filled. We lie and steal. Alcoholism and drug abuse are a running joke. Lust is thrown in our faces every time we turn on a TV or look at our phones. Selling pornography is now a socially acceptable way to make a living. There are a host of “dating” apps that make finding a new sex partner as easy as shopping on amazon. Young boys are allowed to dress up as women and put on burlesque shows while grown men throw money at them in a season fittingly known as ‘pride.’ Abortions are celebrated on social media and in the streets. Our nations grows more distant from God with each passing day, and we do nothing but make excuses for it.

Even through all of that, God still loves us all. No matter how disobedient we are His desire for us to grow closer to Him never waivers. You can go to church and rest assured that Christ died for you. But, somewhere tonight, there is a teenage prostitute addicted to drugs walking the parking lot of a truck stop. Christ died for her too. He loves both of you equally.

The question I would pose is; How much do you love your wife? Christ died so that all of our sins could be washed away and we could be presented to Him without blemish. What sacrifices do make for your wife? What if someone broke into your house and pointed a gun at your wife? If your first instinct isn’t to step between them, you aren’t living up to the standard Jesus set. He died for your wife, you should be prepared to do the same. What if Jesus stood before you right now, held out His hand, showed you the mark where the nail had been, and said “This is what I did for her. What have you done?”

What would you be able to say in return. Do you provide for your wife, even at the cost of yourself? Do you hunger so that she can eat? Do you work so that she can rest? Do you bare the weight of her struggles on your shoulders so that she can walk unhindered? Do you love her even when she rebels against you? Do you work to draw her closer to you when it feels like she is distant? Do you know her value and cherish every moment with her? Do you nourish her so she can grow? Do you love her, as Christ does?

Nearing the end of these verses, we arrive at the mystery of a husband holding fast to his wife and the two becoming one flesh. A physical act, with spiritual implications. Glorious is the woman who has an unending devotion to her husband, as is the man who rules not over his wife as a monarch, but lowers himself as a servant. For two people to unite and live in harmony, as the church does with Christ, is truly a beautiful thing to behold. I pray that is something the world will see more of in the days to come.

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