Ep.323: Submit.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.

In Ephesians 5 Paul says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as the church submits to Christ” (Eph 5:22-24). To husbands he says, “Love your wives as Christ loves the church” (Eph 5:25). 

I read this passage at the wedding of a theologically liberal friend. On a lovely sunny summer day, in a yard that backed onto a golf course, I read  to a modern crowd “Wives, submit to your husbands”. I was shocked at how out of place it sounded in that context. 

The preacher who followed me said, “Of course in our culture we don’t model marriages the way Paul describes.” 

Recently, when my wife and I encountered this passage, she said, “We haven’t done very well following that model.” 

So what to do with Paul’s statement about wives submitting? 

In his book On Marriage, Tim Keller, with his unusual skill for taking the sting out of a difficult word like “submit”, presents a conservative position that makes Paul sound almost reasonable. 

He points out that American independence was not just a tea party to throw off the yoke of British taxes and move into a space of unrestricted freedom. Rather, it was an agreement to submit to a new constitution and a new array of laws. And Americans are still arguing about what that constitution means, and how to submit to it. 

Marriage is similar. Entering into a common law or legal marriage means surrendering some personal freedoms to make way for shared concerns. It just might matter to your partner if you are out all night without explanation, or if you skip the birthday planned they planned for you. 

And like the American lawyers who argue about the constitution, Christians who subscribe to the “submit” model argue over its meaning and application. Should a partner submit to abuse, alcoholism, or adultery? Or just to reasonable requests? And who defines reasonable

Once when I told a friend about a difficult situation in my marriage, he asked why I didn’t just point my wife to the submit verse. I replied, “Because she would point me to the verse that says I’m supposed to love her as Christ loves the church. I don’t think I’d survive long in that comparison.” 

Let’s pray. 

Our father, Bob Dylan said, “You gotta serve somebody.” But we want to think about freedom, not service and submission.

Teach us to give up our self-serving ways. Help our marriages to be companionable and friendly. Help us lead ordered lives, in service to each other and the church. 


I’m Daniel, on the channel “Pray with Me”.  

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