Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord ... This is a profound mystery - but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Eph 5:21-22,32)
In this passage of Scripture, Paul is talking about the relationship between husband and wife. It's sometimes seen as controversial because of its demand that wives submit to their husbands. The problem is that often that is where the teaching on this passage begins and ends so we miss the most important message which is about our relationship with the Lord.
Submission is not a popular concept in today's world. Talk is of rights, self-determination and liberation. Perhaps we want to say that the kind of marriage Paul describes is no longer appropriate now that women's roles in society have changed. There has been much discussion in the media this week about "homosexual marriage" as though it is possible for two people of the same gender to live in a marriage relationship. This has arisen because we have failed to see marriage as it truly is intended - an illustration of the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the church, in which we submit to His authority and He lays down His life for us in love. A relationship in which only one gender is represented cannot illustrate this relationship between the Lord and His people, therefore it cannot be marriage.
Submission is not a natural instinct and has to be worked at. If we see submission in marriage as simply one person always giving way to another then it becomes burdensome to both partners. However, if we remember that, as married people we are called to illustrate the relationship between the Lord Jesus and His Bride, submission becomes something to be striven for with joy, even if it does take a lifetime to perfect!
A Living Picture
The most important element of this teaching on marital submission is the fact that we are supposed to live lives submitted to Christ. Our daily walk should be about seeking to be obedient to Him in every detail, firstly to His written word in Scripture and then to the inner promptings of His Holy Spirit. As we seek to live a life submitted to Jesus we will hear His whisper in our spirits first convicting us of sin and then, as we mature, providing direction and guidance. Sometimes He will even ask us to do things for no other reason than He wants to teach us to recognise His voice and be obedient without question.
In my experience the voice of the Lord Jesus generally becomes quieter as we learn to walk with Him. It seems to me that He does this so that we have to become ever closer to Him to hear what He is saying to us. This requires an increasing stillness in our hearts which can only come as we take the time to be quiet in His presence.
Prayer College Assignment
Think about this. Are you living a life submitted to the Lord Jesus? Are you giving Him enough quiet space that your heart is sufficiently still throughout the day to recognise His whisper? Are you willing to be obedient in what appear to be trivial details in order to grow in your submission to Him?