Saturday, November 20, 2004

Love and Submission

Wives, submit to our own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it. (Ephesians 5:22-25)
Here are a few observations about this passage on the relationship between husband and wife. First, notice that this is given in the context of mutual submission, as we see in verse 21: “Submitting to one another in the fear of God.”

Second, this is about the relationship between husbands and wives, not between men and women in general.

Third, notice that, in the context of mutual submission, no special burden is placed on the wives. Although there is added explanation about the significance of the husband/wife relationship, the command in general (“submit to one another”) is simply reiterated in particular (“wives, submit to your husbands”).

Finally, the command to husbands is to love their wives. Paul does not say, “Husbands, make your wives submit.” Nor does he say, “Husbands, be the boss of your wives,” or “Husbands, lord it over your wives.” No, there is nothing of the kind. The obligation of husbands is to love their wives — pure and simple. The example for husbands is the Lord Jesus Christ, who loved the church and gave Himself for it.

Husbands are to love their wives. Wives are to also love their husbands, since the Second Great Commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. The wife loves her husband and submits to him. The husband loves his wife, and in the command to “submit to one another,” he submits to her as well. That is paradoxical, and may seem hard to understand, but only outside the bounds of love.

When love is in view, submission is not a problem, not for husband to wife, not for wife to husband. It is the very nature of love to give and serve. So even if a wife is not submitting to her husband, the response of the husband is to love her and give himself for her. (A study of 1 Corinthians 13, the “Love Chapter” is more than appropriate here)

Is that not the way of God, who is love (1 John 4:8)? And will not love win the day?