Like Christ and the Church

A couple of Sundays ago one of my links to blog posts that stood out to me was to Brad’s Journey to the Space In-Between at One Flesh Marriage. I was deeply impressed that Brad was unwilling to silence the Holy Spirit’s voice so that he could do what he wanted or what felt safe and easy. I also identify with the “Space In-Between” that he mentioned – that place between the “rule your wife” and the “mutually submitted” camps on the issue of Eph 5: 21-33. I’m going to do my best to upset both camps below (it’s a gift I tell you, it is) but let me start with my conclusion before I lose everyone:

A husband is better when he does more sacrificing than “leading”.

First to my friends in the mutual submission camp (and I have more friends in that camp than the other):

  • My bride and I have done a massive amount of study on this (she even more than I), and I can discuss the meaning of the Greek words Hupotasso and Kephale till your eyes glaze over (and I can point you to a PDF in which Wayne Grudem refutes the claim by some authors that he thinks Kephale should be understood as meaning “source), but I want to avoid the depths of Greek.
  • On the surface “mutual submission” is an oxymoron, and that alone should make us think twice. Two people cannot be submitted to each other, it’s just not possible. A group of people can submit all around, and that is what Paul suggests. Paul never tells husbands and wives to submit to each other.
  • I have a friend who argues that there is no example of Jesus submitting to God, but that in all things they agreed. I would argue this with what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane – Jesus clearly did NOT want to go to the cross. He said He did not want to go, and He asked that He be spared, but He also said “not my will, but Your will be done”. To me there is no question here – God was “In charge” and Christ submitted to God.

On the other side, the “head of the home side”:

  • I can’t find what many men do in the name of “being the head” in the Bible, and especially not in how Christ acts towards the church.
  • Jesus was/is a servant-leader, not a leader. There is a HUGE difference between the two.
  • Jesus does not demand or ordered, He asks.
  • Jesus does not lay down the law and keep that law with fear; He loves and shows by example.
  • Jesus does not do the fancy, fun and important stuff and leave the church to clean up after Him; Jesus promotes the church and helps it to do what it was created to do.
  • Jesus sacrifices for the church – even to the ultimate sacrifice on the cross.
  • Submission is called for, but it’s a choice the church makes – to submit or to not submit (this is painfully obvious from the lack of obedience in the Church today).

In my estimation, the “egalitarian” marriage movement is an understandable but wrong reaction to those who misused the Bible to be king over their wife. I also understand why any man would rather the egalitarian model – it is far less work and sacrifice for the man than doing what the Bible really calls a husband to do and be.

So, should your bride “submit” to you? Yes, the Bible says she should – but that probably does not look like what either of you thinks it looks like. What’s more, it’s not your job to tell her to submit or to talk her into it. Neither are you called to judge how well she submits. Your actions may lead her to follow, but regardless of how she receives your actions, the Lord will judge you on what you do, not what she does. Giving, protecting, loving, promoting, and sacrificing: this is the example that our Lord set for us. Put her ahead of yourself, and her needs ahead of yours: this is what it means to be a servant-leader. Do what neither of you wants to do, and do what’s needed when both of you are exhausted: these are what you are called to do.

Bottom line: Being “the head”, as that phrase has come to be understood, is a cushy job, and being “egalitarian” is safe; but neither is what Paul commanded or Jesus showed by His example.

Links to blog posts that stood out to me this last week:


Marriage and Porn: What Women Think: I have not linked to the rest of this porn series (in which I was mentioned) due to a slightly different world view. HOWEVER, this post is important for men as it gives voice to a few of the thing a woman thinks when her guy views porn.

Better Husbands and Fathers

5 Ways to be a Better Husband: #4 – Surprises!: Eric may be onto a new love language here …

Black and Married with Kids

Can You Keep Your Spouse’s Secrets?: Can she tell you anything and know you won’t share it?
The “Thought” Doesn’t Count if You Give Thoughtless Gifts: True, this.
Avoiding a Mid-Marriage Crisis: In this MUST READ POST, Edward Lee says “A large number of the conversations revealed the resolve of women, that through forced smiles, admitted to giving up on ever finding happiness in their marriage. They had essentially been numbed into submission of feeling for or even desiring their husband..” This is a HUGE problem in the church. Are you giving your bride anything of value, or are you more trouble than you are worth?

Gina Parris’ Blog

How to Set & Achieve Your Goals: Forget the Past: Gina said “Your future is NOT dependent on your past .” The future of your marriage is the same, not dependent on your past UNLESS you let it be.

Happily Married After

2011 – The Year of ‘HER’: I double dog dare you!

Intimacy in Marriage

Friends With Benefits: Sexual Intimacy in Your Marriage: Not what I expected from the title, but a great post!
5 Ways to Find More Time for Sex: Here is one you wish your bride would find on her own …

Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage Get help while it’s a small thing!

Marriage Gems

Detecting a Virus in Your Marriage: Nice!

The Marry Blogger

The Top 10 Marriage Blogs of 2010: Stu announces the winner – got check it out and find another great blog or three to follow. Congratulations all the winners.

Simple Marriage

Men and Women and a string of Christmas Lights: Interesting thought here. I think it is usually true, but I don’t think it should be.
5 Surprising Ways to Improve Your Marriage in 2011: Some great ideas here.

9 Comments on “Like Christ and the Church

  1. I did a very in-depth study on submission and taught it in my church for 10 months. It is literally change the character of our church and even marriages. The problem is we don’t understand submission. Submission is willful on the past of the person submitting, anything else including being forced into “submission” in any manner is not submission, it is obedience and there is a huge difference. To sum up the 10 months into one sentence, it would be “Rebellion is a result of the lack of submission, the lack of submission is the result of the lack of honor and respect, and the lack of honor and respect is the result of the lack of love.”
    A man can only lead to the degree that he sacrifices and serves whether it is in his house or in any other leadership position.
    As while God asks us to submit to Him directly and indirectly, God also submits to us. He respects our wills and never forces us to do anything we don’t want to do. Therefore, if men are going to love their wives the way Christ loved the church, then we must treat our wives the same way that Christ treats us when we act to Him the same way our wives act towards us. If we would learn that principal of loving our wives, our wives would have much less difficulty submitting to us.
    There is so much more to say about this subject but we don’t have 10 months. I challenge every man, to study and to ask God to show him what real submission is.

    • John,
      you make an excellent point! I just wanted to let you know that I also added your comment to the onefleshmarriage page that Paul referenced above! I wanted our readers to benefit from your research as well! Thanks

    • @John Delcamp – Thanks so much for this!

      I agree that submission can’t be forced, and when one tries to force submission they make true submission virtually impossible.

  2. Paul,
    I appreciate your post from this morning very much! I know I am a woman, but I read your posts everyday, just like I read your wife’s! You both have amazing insights and are Christ centered! These series of post were very important to Brad and I, as we wanted to share what God has placed on our hearts and where he has moved in our marriage! Some were very upset with us for NOT addressing mutual submission from the very beginning of our posting on Ephesians 5:22-33. We did that for a very specific reason! I did address it in my last post of the series, but I agree with you completely that the mutual submission Paul is speaking of is not directed to husbands and wives. So many marriages (including ours for a time) get hung up on the mutual submission and skip over the rest. Paul speeks directly to husbands and wives here, with God’s instructions! I have found these verses to be the most freeing verses where marriage is concerned, where before I would had found it very binding and suffocating! Through study of God’s word, prayer and submitting to God, He has shown us what a “one flesh” marriage is. Brad has always said to me, when he reads these verses in Ephesians, he feels like the husbands have the amazing but huge command to follow, “loving their wives, like Christ loves the church.” To me submission to my husband is all about following God’s word of loving him, respecting him, serving him and unlifting him as the head of our family! I do this out of reverance for Christ! I do this because I love Brad and God has shown me this is His design for marriage. I wish people could come and look in on our marriage, they would see that it looks nothing like what the word “submission”conjures up! It is freeing, loving, respecting and amazing! Anyway, I just wanted to share that with your readers! Hope you all don’t mind a wife chimming in!?!
    Thanks you for sharing your heart on this topic! Brad and I very much appreciate you and your wife’s ministry! In ways we could not express in words!

    • @Kate Aldrich – Glad to have women adding their voice – helps us all learn more about the more mysterious sex!

      As to” mutual submission”, it is a basic rule for understanding the Bible (or anything for that matter) that the general never modifies the specific, while the specific always modifies the general.

      IOW, a command to a subset of people “over rules” any command to people in general, while commands to people in general never modify commands to a subset. This means things said about husbands and wives can not be weakened or ignored by citing things said about all people.

  3. Paul, While I was writing “Journey to the Space In-Between” I really felt like a man living in no-man’s-land. I clearly don’t fit in the “under thumb” camp, but I also knew that God was challenging my understanding beyond simple mutual submission. It is very nice to know that I am not alone in finding this middle ground! I love what David said about being forced into submission is not submission! I agree! I almost want to tell husbands to skip over this verse and focus only on the instructions to “love as Christ loved” since these are clearly the more important instructions and in my opinion much more difficult!

    Thank you so much for your kind words! I pray this may be just the start of a new movement of men leading out of love!
    God Bless,

    • @Brad – I would bet there are more “In-Between” people than we know. In part it’s the pendulum thing, with the swing over the last half century being very strongly from “Iron fist” to “Egalitarian”. With those two camps fighting it out, who hears from those not in either camp?

  4. Great post! I am a new reader of this blog and I am happy to say that I think your words in this post are dead-on!

    I have recently “decided” to step into my role of being the Priest of my home and the head of my household and generally having 100% of my life being submitted to God for His use. As such, I have been filling myself with as much Word as I can get my hands and ears on. I’ve been listening to a LOT of Keith Moore. Recently (and relevant to this post) I completed a series entitled “Submission to God” (I’ll link it at the bottom of my comment). In this series Keith (eventually) discussed the obvious “wives be submitted to your husbands” and “husbands love your wives”. He said (as you stated above) that submission is never forced. As a husband I am NEVER to say, “Wife! You are supposed to submit to me!”. If we are saying those kinds of things then we are being a judge instead of a doer. It’s our job to love our wives as Christ loves the church and gave himself for it (us). When we are judging whether or not she’s doing her job submitting then we are NOT, by biblical definition (James 4:11…judges aren’t doers), doing our part of loving her as we have been commanded.

    On the flip side, it’s not the wife’s job to tell the husband that he’s not loving her like he should…that’s also judging. It’s her job to submit to her husband.

    In my view and experience, we, as husbands, must go first! When we are submitted to God and allowing Jesus to be our head (and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us) and putting our wives first in our lives (Jesus came to serve, not be served) in every way we can then God can and will work on them (assuming there is a problem) to submit.

    When we are submitted we gain all the benefits of that submission (in general and specifically for wives). When we are not submitting then we are, by definition, being rebellious. Rebellion can be defined as a form of pride, and God resists the proud! That resistance is an active resistance…that doesn’t just mean he will refuse to help…He will actively work against you! Once I realized that I set in my mind to make sure I’m always submitted where I need to be.

    I don’t want to get off-topic here so I’ll stop here but as we, as husbands, focus wholly on loving our wives as Christ loves the church then God will work FOR US so that the rest of our existence falls into place according to his plans. Faith and patience play a major role depending on your current situation…but hang in there fellas! God is good! :)

    Series link I mentioned:

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