“ Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” — Romans 12:10 (NIV).
Submission is fundamental to Christian living and healthy relationships that honor God. Yet, the concept of submission has been misunderstood and distorted by many people, including well-meaning Christians. The Bible teaches that our relationships should be characterized by humility, love, and respect. These are the hallmarks of submission. The problem is that many believers have emphasized submission as a requirement for some, but not for others. We have made “submission” about “obedience,” rather than about sacrifice, love, and trust.
The Bible does not call wives to obey husbands or husbands to obey wives. It calls husbands and wives to trust and love one another so much that they become intertwined as one flesh. The Bible is calling for mutual submission.
What does mutual submission mean and better yet, how can I apply it in my life? In simple terms, mutual submission means “I’m going to leverage my resources, my time, my talent, etc. for your benefit.” Regardless of who we are or what role we have, this is God’s standard for relationships. Godly submission looks a lot like love. If both husbands and wives submit to one another as commanded, we enter a never-ending, life-giving circle of mutual submission and love.
Mutual submission in marriage is not blind obedience; it is loving sacrifice. It is turning the position of one’s heart towards the needs or desires of another’s heart. This is why the Bible calls husbands and wives to submit to one another: “Ephesians 5:21, says, “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Husbands and wives are meant to be a team. Teams operate best when one member does not demand authority or superiority over another member. Philippians 2:3 reminds us, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.”
When husbands and wives submit to one another, checks and balances are in place and all parties can feel safe to express their needs, desires, and callings.
Living in the way of Jesus is not about being above another or overriding the heart of the other… It’s about loving well in a marriage that seeks to reflect the person and actions of Christ.
- In marriage, what does mutual submission look like? What part do you play in that?
- What is the difference between obedience and submission?
- What can we do this week to practice mutual submission?