21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
(Ephesians 5:21-33 NIV)
Yesterday we heard Paul’s admonishment to be very careful on how we live out our lives, how we walk through our days. Today, Paul turns the spotlight on our family relations, specifically, how we are to live as husbands and wives.
While it is very tempting to jump in and dissect Paul’s instructions for husbands and wives, there has already been a ton of material written about that by folks far more qualified than myself. So instead of taking the micro view, I will take a step back and look at this passage from a macro view.
In the macro view, the key to this passage is verse 21. Before Paul even mentions roles and responsibilities and relationships between husbands and wives, he puts everything in context as being under Christ.
In verse 21, the word “submit” is a military term, meaning “to rank under”. So who do we rank under? Christ. He is the Commander In Chief, and we are all enlisted troops under His command.
So who does Paul say we are to submit to? One another. Christ is the Commander In Chief, and we are under Him, and under each other. So what does that imply? That we are to have each others’ backs, to look out for one another, just like the “buddy system” in the military.
This is not a power struggle – in fact quite the opposite. This is a fight together for protection from the outside forces that would seek to divide and conquer Christ’s troops (husbands and wives that follow Him).
Paul is essentially saying, “ladies and gentlemen, for those of you who are married, God has paired you up on the buddy system. And your buddy is your spouse. You picked your buddy – now stick with them and watch each other’s backs. And remember, we all are under the authority of our Commander In Chief, Jesus. Watch out for one another and protect one another out of reverence and respect for Him. Our Commander In Chief wants to see you report back alive and victorious. Yes, you may get wounded by the enemy in the process, and that is why you have the buddy system – to look out for one another and bring each other back at the end of your mission.”
Paul then goes on to tell wives (vv. 21-24) and husbands (vv. 25-31) how best to watch out for each other, to protect one another, to fight for one another, not with one another.
Notice in Paul’s instructions to wives and husbands that this is not a gender war or a power struggle, where wives have responsibilities to all men, and husbands have responsibilities to all women. Paul is very careful to limit the context of responsibilities to each other – the wife to the husband, and the husband to the wife – the buddy system.
If you are married, may you look for and see the Lord in your spouse, the good part that reflects God’s image, and may they look for and see the Lord in You, as you reflect Christ’s image. Focus on one another’s strengths, not their weaknesses. Celebrate one another, accept one another, and believe in one another and what one another can become in Christ. Be each other’s greatest cheerleaders and fans, not their biggest and loudest critics.