Submission: From the Vantage Point of the Cross
Every Easter I find myself pondering deep questions. I ponder Judas and his role in the betrayal of Christ. Could he have resisted, and what would have happened if he had? I ponder the two thieves who hung on either side of Jesus at Calvary. Why did the one accept Christ and the other not? I ponder the man who provided a tomb in which the disciples could bury Jesus. What have I have freely given up for Christ? I also ponder Peter’s three denials of Christ. Will I keep my promise to never remain quiet and instead stand up whenever Christians are attacked?
This year, what I find myself pondering most often is Jesus’s example of submission. How did He do it? How did He, in an earthly body, submit to His Father’s will and die for you, and me and for countless other unworthy sinners?
I am sure submission is my question because I am consumed with the topic of marriage – Gospel marriage to be exact. Jody’s and my desire is to equip the saints to pursue a Godly marriage and reap its benefits. We lead marriage groups in our home and in our church community. We lead marriage retreats. We both read everything we can find on God’s plans for marriage. And, I write this blog. But despite all this focus and energy spent promoting Godly marriages, submission remains one of my biggest stumbling blocks.
Over the last few days as I spent time re-reading the Gospels, the story of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane captured my attention in a new way. Jesus’ words stirred my heart! Jesus, equal to God and part of the trinity, yielded to the Father’s will. He asked for the “cup to pass,” but vowed to be obedient to God to the point of death. “Not my will, but yours be done.” Staggering huh?
As I’ve pondered and read and prayed about this topic, this post came pouring out. This was not a planned post, but rather a post I feel compelled to write. I have a feeling God wants to use this post for my own sanctification. But maybe, He wants to use it for you too! 😊 Please keep reading.
Submission, the yielding to the power or authority of another, is something I have wrestled with in my own marriage, and honestly, in my life. I know that I am a little strong-willed … to put it politely. I can also be correctly described as, “hard to put a saddle on.” Don’t laugh, many of you reading this post today are as well. I know. I’ve met you. We are all human and have the same struggle with dying-to-self. I am much more comfortable leading than following. And surely, all of that leadership and passion God placed inside of me wasn’t a mistake. So, Jody and I both puzzle that I wrestle with pride and ego and resist submission to him. Jody has loved me well for three and a half decades, so why do I resist? Let’s explore Paul’s letter to the Ephesians to find answers.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians sometime around 60 A.D. Quite probably, Paul had never visited Ephesus. He wrote that that he had “heard” about their faith (Ephesians 1:15). A main theme of Paul’s letter is making the concept of grace well understood (Ephesians 1:7; 2:4-5; 2:8; 3:7; and 4:7). Paul also gives practical advice about how to grow in unity (Ephesians 4:3-6), and in faith (Ephesians 4:15) and how to prepare ourselves to resist the devil (Ephesians 6: 10-17). Here is also where Paul puts instructions about how to live in a Gospel-centered marriage – a marriage that reflects the relationship between Christ and His church. Paul ends his letter with a discussion about how to raise children, and a discussion about the armor of God. I have always found this order peculiar: I needed the armor BEFORE I raised my children 😊! But I digress. Ephesians is a book rich in practical instruction about how to live as a Christian saved by grace. It is profound, and is worth studying again and again. For today’s post, let us focus on seven little but life-changing verses.
Ephesian 5: 21-27:
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
I am always floored by these instructions. I realize that within these words are found the hardest, and the richest, parts of marriage. The mystery. I stand in awe of God’s wisdom as he penned through Paul these amazing instructions about how to live out a Gospel marriage intent on sanctification. I love verse 21: “Submit to one another.” This puts ALL of God’s children on equal footing. Jesus was the great liberator! He saw all people, male and female, as children of God. Prior to Jesus’s ministry, women were treated like possessions … similar to cattle … I’ve often heard. Moo! NO! Perhaps because of this history, we women find ourselves resisting submission. But this year as I re-read verse 21, I clung to the Biblical truth of equality. But before I allow myself to go all “NORMA RAE,” I am immediately reminded and humbled by the last part of 21: “Out of reverence for Christ.” Reverence means to respect, fear and have a sense of awe about Christ, His sacrifice and death on the cross and His willingness to submit to His Fathers plans. So once again, God, as the perfect parent, first gives us an instruction, and then points to an example as if to say, “Do it like this.” Be like Jesus, my sisters.
And how did Jesus submit? Luke 22:41-43 gives the answer I’ve been searching for. These verses tell us that Jesus withdrew for a period to pray. He laid out the situation before God, expressed his opinion, but then said, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” Then an angel ministered to Jesus and prepared Him for His next steps. This is our example, sweet reader. When we are at an impasse with our spouse over an important issue, we should set aside time to PRAY, state our calm and clear position and then turn the issue over to our spouse and God. God will supernaturally sustain us with the precious Holy Spirit. Not easy, but a cake-walk compared to our example at Calvary, right?
Now I could just end this post right here and praise God for His words of truth, but I feel the need to march down this passage a little further. Verse 25 is where God instructs husbands to, “Love their wives like Christ loved the church.” This is powerful stuff, my brothers. What God is saying to you is that He is holding you to “the” standard – the WWJD (what would Jesus do) standard. This should challenge you to examine your life from the vantage point of the cross. Your motives, plans and actions must line up with Christ and embrace His direction to you – to make your wife “Holy, cleansing her through the word.” Wow! Imagine what it would be like if this was the lens that you use to make tough decisions in your marriage. Your marriage, and your home, would be transformed!
To live out a Gospel-centered marriage requires an understanding of God’s plan for marriage. It also requires a dependence on the Spirit to enable both the husband and wife to submit to one another in obedience. The key is to look at submission through the lens of awe and respect for Christ. Then, submission and a Christ-like love will flow naturally! A Gospel-centered marriage requires a daily washing in the Word of God; not just a splash or a dip of the toe. We should strive for daily immersion. If we are faithful brothers and sisters, our marriages will become a beacon of God’s light in a sin-stained world.
I pray that you are enjoying the blessings of salvation and grace given to all believers because Jesus rose again on the 3rd day! Such good news and hope! He Is Risen! We are redeemed! Happy Easter!
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.