What's So Scary About Submission?

Six secrets about what the Bible really teaches

One summer Saturday, hot and sweaty, I finished mowing the lawn and realized, This is the perfect time to spray Weed & Feed on the grass. I didn't have any Weed & Feed, though, so I walked into the kitchen and told my wife, Karen, "I'm going to the store."

She said, "But the kids and I are waiting for you to go to the pool with us."

"That can wait," I said flatly.

"Honey," she said with emphasis, "we promised the kids we'd all go."

The next thing I knew, we were arguing.

Some time later I thought, She wanted you to go to the nice, cold pool, and you argued for the right to stay and work in the heat? You are terminally dumb. But this argument wasn't about logic. It was about what I wanted, and what she wanted could wait.

Almost every day in marriage, you and I find ourselves in a struggle. Our spouse makes us mad. We can't get what we want. What makes these situations especially difficult is that usually, underneath whatever the argument seems to be about—such as getting Weed & Feed—it's really about power.

The Bible offers tremendous wisdom on what to do in these situations. From its pages we can learn how to move beyond many of the power struggles in marriage.

The disliked word

In Ephesians 5, the apostle Paul explains to Christians how to live the Christian life: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (verse 21).

The word submit is surely one of the most difficult, disliked, and divisive words in the Bible. But Paul says to these Christians, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Whatever the word submit means, it's something Paul thinks every Christian can and should do. He then illustrates how to submit by giving three examples from relationships in his day—wives and husbands, children and fathers, and slaves and masters. In each example, one person has more power, and one person has far less power.

Take, for example, wives and husbands. In Paul's day, a wife had no legal rights. Her husband could do whatever he wanted in legal affairs without her consent. But a wife had to get her husband's permission before she could buy or sell property or even make a will. Husbands also had the financial advantages and virtually all the education. They had the support of pagan philosophy, which taught that women are damaged, inferior forms of males.

Whenever there's this kind of imbalance of power, what's the person holding greater power or authority likely to do? Lord it over the other person, control her, use her to make his life easier.

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September 30, 2015
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