|Photo Credit: Branden Harvey|
We don’t hear too much about submission anymore. And if we do, it’s usually a command to the wife, to submit to her husband. Still, this is considered a bit archaic in today’s modern culture.
Submit to one another.
But what does the Bible say? Before the section on marriage in Ephesians 5, we read in verse 21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
So should a husband submit to his wife? Yes. He submits to his wife’s need to feel loved. I take this position by combining God’s command in Ephesians 5:21 to mutually submit, with God’s command in Ephesians 5:25-31 to a husband to love his wife.
Juxtaposition, a wife submits to her husband's need to feel respected. I take this position by combining God's command in Ephesians 5:22-24 to a wife submitting to her husband, with God's command in Ephesians 5:33 to a wife to respect her husband.
Submit during conflict…really?!
Research reveals that during marital conflict a husband most often reacts when feeling disrespected and a wife reacts when feeling unloved.
We asked 7,000 people this question: When you are in a conflict with your spouse or significant other, do you feel unloved or disrespected? 83% of the men said "disrespected." 72% of the women said "unloved."
Though we all need love and respect equally, the felt need differs during conflict.
What might happen if we submitted to one another’s “felt need” during a heated argument? What would that even look like?
I think we know what it wouldn’t look like.
It wouldn’t look like name-calling or yelling derogatory insults. It wouldn’t look like letting our anger get out of control at the expense of our spouse. And it wouldn’t look like “winning at all cost”!
Keeping in mind our survey, if 83% of the men are feeling disrespected during conflict with their wives, then a wife submitting to his felt need during conflict would mean getting her point across respectfully, rather than with contempt and insults.
And if 72% of the wives are feeling unloved during conflict with their husbands, then a husband submitting to his wife’s need to feel loved during the conflict would mean communicating his points lovingly, not with harshness and anger.
Don’t submit when…
But let me also be clear about when not to submit. The Bible never instructs us to submit to sin. When there is sin and disobedience, a spouse must respectfully and lovingly confront the sin. To look the other way or to ignore the sin in the name of “submission” is wrong, and actually condones and enables the sin to continue. Ephesians5:11 says we are to have nothing to do with deeds of darkness, but must expose them.
The key is to confront lovingly and respectfully rather than with anger and contempt.
Does God really call a husband to submit to his wife?
Yes. Peter says in 3:1, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive." Then, and this is the clincher, he writes in 3:7, “You husbands in the same way.”
To what does he refer when writing “you husbands in the same way?” In the same way that wives submit, you husbands submit. Specifically, in this text a husband submits to his wife’s need to be understood and honored.
It gets even better. When a husband submits this way, God answers the man’s prayers (3:7). Talk about favor!
Husbands, he favors you when you submit to your wife’s need for love, understanding, and honor. Don’t let this frighten you. Instead, try this and watch God show up. You do not lose power but experience power!
You will not lose power.
In the same way, wives will not lose power when they submit to their husband’s need for respect. In fact, unconditional respect is a wife’s secret to power and influence in her marriage.
Thus, submission is defined as respect from the wife to the husband (especially when she's feeling unloved) and love from the husband to the wife (especially when he is feeling disrespected). We submit to God and to our spouse in a way that is contrary to our nature but which empowers us with benevolent influence.
Husband and wife, will you submit to one another out of reverence for Christ?
The marriage that is based on mutual submission will experience God’s power!