Relationships in Christ: What Does Submission Mean

On Wednesday, March 22nd, join me at 6:30 p.m. at Ebenezer for a time of prayer and praise as we observe Ash Wednesday.  I won’t be passing out ashes, but we will be looking into the observance of Lent as we lead up to Easter.

We had a wonderful time on Sunday at the baby shower for Erin (McCorkill) and Michael Harvey, preparing for their soon-to-arrive son.  These are the celebrations that make a congregation—celebrating together the monuments in life, the milestones—good and bad—with the larger family of God.

Glory-Filled Relationships  (Ephesians 5:2-33)

Speaking of family, many women (including me) dislike reading today’s passage from Ephesians.  No wonder!  For centuries groups have used this passage to dominate and subjugate the woman not only in the church, but also in the home.  Many will quote verse 22-24, but fail to read verses 21 and 25-33.  Paul’s simple primer on the marriage relationship in this passage does more than just tell women to “submit and shut up.”  It provides a beautiful picture of what I call “revolving love,” a relationship that gives and receives.   The author of Ephesians gives us a simple statement that, if used alone, presents the entire teaching on living together in Christ in a nutshell:  “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (v. 21).

We are not to submit to one another because of fear of pain, or job loss, or other negative thing.  This submission to one another isn’t gender based, but Spirit based.  As we are filled with God’s Spirit, we are enabled to “bear with one another with love,” “making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit” (4:2,3).   Do we become automatons?  By no means!  Submission in love is related to whom we serve—Jesus Christ.  The submission Paul speaks of is related to communal life in the body of Christ.  The submission spoken of in the following verses, though significant, is defined through this initial verse.

As we move to verses 22-24, women often cringe?  As I said earlier, for centuries societies have used these verses to subjugate women to behaviors that are neither godly nor loving.  Each of the instructions in this passage relate back to submitting to one another in reverence for Christ.    The central point in all of this is “Christ.”

I have personally known men in the church who believed their wives were to submit to authoritarian discipline, literally physical abuse, because of verses 22-24, especially, “submit to their husbands in everything.”  If you are a woman in an abusive marriage, listen closely.  Your submission to your husband is to be as you do to the Lord.  God does not abuse you.  God does not ask you to do anything that would break the law.  God does not ask you to submit yourself to the deprivation of your own personality.  You are called to submit to your husband AS the Church submits to the Lord, but it does not say that the husband IS the Lord.  The next verses reveal that truth, but unfortunately I will have to continue that section next time.


That being said, and speaking as a woman who is at times very independent, we are called to submit to our husbands as leaders in our home as an example of how the Church should function in submission to God and to God’s Word.  We are called to submit as we do to the Lord willingly and in response to perfect Love.

Choosing to submit is scary, even submission to God.  I am afraid of what God will ask me to do if I submit my life’s plans to Him.  However, willing submission is easier when we recognize that the one to whom we submit will never do anything that is harmful or destructive for us and loves us unconditionally and completely.   As one writer has said, “subordination is to selfless love—expressed through the husband’s headship—and not to the whims of the husband.”

Even so, it is important, my sisters, that we not refuse to submit to our husbands because they are imperfect or have not reached the pinnacle of Christian discipleship.  As stated in 1 Peter 3, our submissive and loving spirit may just be the thing that helps bring that man closer to his relationship with Christ, as we love him as Christ loves him, completely.  More next week!


Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor

PS:  Go to the Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, Greenfield, page on Facebook for resources to help yourself or others cope with domestic or relationship violence or call Dade County Social Services (417) 637-5326, or National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233).


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