Much has been made of these verses. Over the years, people have pulled out verse 22 and tried to have it stand on its own. But as with any Bible verse, it’s important to look at the context. In this case, what’s the verse right before the infamous “wives submit?” It’s the all-inclusive “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” So, it’s not just the wife submitting to her husband, but we’re called to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Then look at the verse to follow “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.” Christ led by love. He washed his disciples filthy — and, yes, stinky — feet. He fed them. He prayed for them. He spent time with them. And he died on the cross for them. If a husband is truly loving his wife as the church, that servant leadership is the picture of Christ’s love for the church. And when a husband is loving his wife as Christ — the one who loves unconditionally — then submitting is not a burden, because as Phil 2 says, each one is looking out for the other.
At the center of this is mutual trust, love, respect, encouragement, appreciation and understanding that each one of us was handcrafted by God for a good purpose. That Christ-like love desires to see the other person live out God’s good purpose in the other’s life. There’s an appreciation for the other person’s giftings and a desire to see the spouse live out God’s call in his/her life — not control it.
Sometimes the call for wifely submission is incorrectly seen as the husband’s permission to control her. That is not the intent here. The purpose is to use marriage as an illustration of the church’s relationship to a loving Christ. Christ is not demanding, narcissistic or controlling. He invites us into a relationship with Him. He encourages us to use our gifts to enhance His kingdom. He desires to spend time with us. He brings peace and joy into our lives.
Lord, as Philippians 2:3-5 says, help me to not do anything as selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above myself, not looking to my own interests but to the interests of the others. In my relationships with one another, help me have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.
By Cyndie de Neve
Senior Creative Director
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