Ephesians 5:21 teaches mutual submission, yet the verses following teach that a wife is to submit to her husband. How can both be obeyed?
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I love to drive down roads I’ve never been on before. Often if we are not pressed for time, I will turn down a road that takes me in the direction I want to go, even though I have no idea where it goes.
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Often my wife is with me and if I ask her if she thinks it’s a good idea, she will say that she would have stayed on the main road. Even though she would prefer the main road, she calmly accepts my decision, understanding that I will take total responsibility if we get lost.
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My little driving excursions provide an illustration for a healthy marriage relationship. Ephesians 5 gives instruction to both husbands and wives. Wives are told that they are to submit to their husbands, and husbands are told that they are to love their wives. Some have balked at that teaching, claiming that it is overtly sexist.
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Though the teaching does deal with issues along gender lines, we should not think of it as oppressive. Within a husband and wife relationship decisions must be made. Since there are two people in the marriage the vote will either be 100% or split 50/50. This could present a huge problem, but in our marriage, I get the tie breaking vote because Ephesians 5:22 gives me that right.
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Now this is great for me, because I get to drive down any road I want to even if I don’t know where I’m going. For my wife, its really not that big of deal what road we go down unless she needs to get home quickly for something special she has planned.
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So what if I always exercised my right to cast the tie breaking vote, but never consulted my wife first? For example my wife may want to get home quickly because she is not feeling well. If I did not even allow her input before casting the tie breaking vote, I would not be aware of that. So what should I do with my tie breaking vote once I have that information? Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” As a loving husband, if I am to obey Ephesians 5:25, I must cast my tie breaking vote in her favor instead of mine in such a situation.
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In order for this to work, I also have to trust that my wife is telling the truth and not just lying about how she feels in order to get her way. You see, love and submission are not the only important elements in a relationship, there must also be trust and communication.
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Whenever an issue comes up where I must cast the tie breaking vote, we first communicate so that I have all the information that she has so that I can make a loving decision as I cast that vote. Then, my wife has the understanding that all the consequences of that decision will fall on my shoulders. That takes a lot of pressure off of her as she submits to the decision and it allows me to make the decision with love. My love does not mean that I always let her have her way nor does her submission mean I always decide to do what I want to do. In this way we are truly submitting one to another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:21).
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“Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33)