I told you – stream of words all the time in my brain. The following is a combination of a book I read, thoughts I’ve been thinking, a Bible Study I did a while back and two different sermons. I would quote and footnote it, but 1)that would get messy cause it’s all intertwined in my brain, 2)this is not a research paper and 3)I’m lazy…
Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”
So the Bible Study pointed out 4 things Biblical submission is NOT:
1. It doesn’t mean women are under the authority of men in general
2. It does not mean inequality
3. It does not mean wives are to treat their husbands like God
4. It does not mean slavery (Paul uses a different word for slaves and masters in Ephesians 6 than for wives and husbands)
It DOES mean to “place in order under.” Paul didn’t dislike women, he liked ORDER! He advocated order in the church, order in government, order in business, and, yes, order in the home. Galations 3:28 (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”) and Ephesians 5:22 could spill from the same man’s pen because Paul regarded husbands and wives as spiritual equals but with functional differences.
We must never forget: God is good and loving. He would never give approval to meanness or abuse. Any misuse of submission by either the husband or wife is sin.
Think of marriage as a 3-legged stool. The legs are a submissive wife, a loving husband, and Christ. All three legs must be in place for marriage to work as God intended. A wife submistting to an unloving husband is as lopsided as a loving husband sacrificing for a domineering wife. When Christ is not the head fo the marriage relationship, the stool falls indeed. Paul pictures for us God’s ideal marriage relationship. Sadly, many Christian women are trying to keep their stools balanced with only one leg in place – their submission.
I think that’s where boundaries come in. Biblical insubordination happens when Higher Authority calls you to not submit because it would be a sin to submit. This is really hard for us humans to do with pure motives.
But because of this book I read, and one of the sermons I heard, I still can’t let go of the idea that God delights in training His children on the path of submission to imperfect authority. Romans 13 can be from Paul, too, because he knows that submitting to the proper (imperfect) authorities puts you in the center of God’s will. Sometimes God can’t bless us simply because we’re rogue! He’s too good of a Parent to do that.
Ephesians 6:5-8: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Chirst. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.”
When I read this, it’s tough as a Western Believer. What about the slaves’ rights?! Paul isn’t giving approval or disapproval to slavery. He was saying as slaves, serve like your Master is Christ.
Now I’m not a slave. Except to Christ. (Whose yoke is easy and burden is light.) But as a follower of Jesus, I’m a slave to none and yet servant to all. I think the bottom line on this kind of submission is trust. Not in the person you’re submitting to. In Yahweh – and the fact that the One whose eyes search to and fro about the earth sees how you’re being treated. And He is our Judge and Advocate! (Lam 3:58-59)
In Ephesians, the order Paul writes is first to those who are to submit, and then to those in authority. It takes an intentional decision to submit our mind and will in order to learn from others, especially when we clearly see how they’re not perfect authorities. But, frankly, submitting is only submitting when you want to do your own thing! And proper authority is never going to be perfect authority. Besides, in the Word we’re never called to sacrifice something just for the sake of sacrificing (Matt 13:44-46). We do it to gain all the more of Him! And He is a very worth-it Reward (Gen 15:1).
Our pastor Terry talked about a military chaplain who is also a colonel. Terry was talking to this guy about his high-up position and this colonel goes, “I don’t think about how I’m elevated to some high position. I just think about how God’s given me a bigger towel to wash more people’s feet.”
Now. If every authority treated people like that, submission would be easy! But we know that’s not how it goes with greedy, sinful people who often use position to define themselves and fill up empty places in their hearts.
I don’t know. I’m inclined to believe that El Roi (Genesis 16) sees all and He’s got our backs if our hearts are sincere in our faithfulness to Him. And from that perspective of the Most High, it’s not hard to see how God’s power travels through the channel of obeying imperfect authority (without enabling abuse) – cause our aim is to serve The One Perfect Authority.
Galations 2:20 (Message): “My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me!”