Many a marriage has fizzled because both husband and wife latch onto the nation of submission, and both are destroyed by it. The husband may like the feeling of dominance, but he discovers too late he no longer has any emotional tie with his wife. Sometimes, tragically, the husband’s sense of dominance becomes perverted and hurtful. Sometimes a wife submits as a survival strategy, fails to grow as a person, loses her love for the man, questions her value as a believer, and settles into a half-life of emotional and spiritual solitude. But submission is meant to help a marriage, not hurt it. So how does it work?

First, the question is meaningless without the context. In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul explains the wife’s submission and the husband’s love. In comparing a husband’s relationship to his wife with Christ’s relationship to the church, what might appear to be a position of power actually turns out to be a position of service and love. Christ never fails to love. In marriage, that requires an immense amount of listening, feeling, empathy, and giving-not always a man’s strongest traits.

A wife’s submission is framed in an atmosphere of general submission, each to the LORD and to the other. Never is Christian marriage designed to give the first and last word to a husband and no word to a wife. But in the final accounting of the marriage, the husband has to answer: Was your union a faithful expression of love? Did it produce service to the church, raising of children, mission and calling that reflect the heart of God? No way will the husband be able to respond, “Ask her about it!”

Likewise, the wife is accountable. She won’t be able to shunt responsibility for failure under the guise of submission by claiming, “Just doing what he demanded!”

As personalities differ, each couple will decide who keeps the checkbook, who decides the menu, who washes the dirty clothes. Christian marriage is not concerned with which spouse does it, but with how it’s done: not by duty alone, certainly not in fear, never with abuse, but always in love, the kind Christ had for the church.

EPHESIANS 5:22 – Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the LORD.

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