Scripture Reading: Ephesians 5:21-33
One of the hardest things to do in life is what Paul asked the Ephesians to do in Ephesians chapter 5. Paul wrote:
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
It may not sound that hard. In fact, it probably sounds quite reasonable. It’s like listening to Jesus, and nodding in agreement, when He says, “Love one another” (John 13:34). Of course we should love one another. That’s the most reasonable thing in the world to do. But it took on a whole new meaning when Jesus defined what it meant to “love one another.” Jesus said:
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
When your life is at stake, it’s no longer quite as simple or convenient to “love one another.” It’s especially hard when the other person you’re supposed to be loving just happens to be a jerk. But Jesus went beyond just loving his friends. The Bible says that Jesus laid down His life even for those who were sinning against Him. Paul wrote:
“Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:7-8, NLT).
It’s the same thing with submission. It might sound easy enough to “submit to one another.” But the truth is, none of us want to submit to anyone! It goes against human nature. It goes against “free will.” It goes against the “rugged individualism” that many people think made our country so great.
But by submitting to one another, by surrendering your will to someone else’s, you’re demonstrating your love to them in one of the greatest ways possible. While it may be one of the most difficult things to do in life, it’s also one of the most gracious. And it can turn your relationships around in a heartbeat.
I got a call one night from a couple who was having a knockdown, drag-out fight. I had only recently met them, and the wife said she was trying to decide if she should call me or call the police. When I got to their door and heard them fighting inside, I was wondering myself if she should have called the police instead!
But when we all sat down to talk, it turned out that the husband truly loved his wife, and the wife truly loved her husband. But their lives were so busy that when the husband wanted to spend more time with his wife, he expressed it in anger and frustration at their schedule, and she gave it right back to him with frustrations of her own. It quickly became a battle of the wills, and the fighting escalated from there.
I asked the wife if she believed her husband truly loved her, and if she could see that his anger grew out of an honest desire to spend more time with her, and she said, “Yes.” I asked the husband if his wife were in danger, would he willingly give up his life for her, and he said, “Yes.”
Then I shared with them the next words that Paul wrote to the Ephesians:
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord….Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” (Ephesians 5:22, 25).
That truth helped them through another night. I’m thankful to say it’s now been over fifteen years since that night, and they’re still together and serving the Lord. It’s hard work to submitting to one another, surrendering your will to someone else’s. But the benefits to you, to others, and to the Lord far outweigh the work involved.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Lay down your life for those you love―and even for those who are sinning against you. As you do, I pray that God’s love and grace will flow from you to them―just as it flowed from Christ to you.
Prayer: Father, thank You for challenging me to submit to one another out of reverence for Your Son. Lord, even though I know it’s hard, I pray that You would give me Your Spirit to help me to do it, for I want to be as gracious and loving as I can be, and I want to honor You in all I do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.