“You made some comment that sounded like you might adopt the politically correct line these days,” writes a subscriber. “Have you forsaken the biblical truth that women should submit to their husbands?”
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If I was ever politically correct, I assure you it was an accident. As Christians, we “march to a different drummer,” and it is not the beat of the latest worldly fad. As for whether wives ought to be submissive, why should they be exempt from what is clearly a general Christian command for every believer — regardless of gender, age or station in the world? The word to us all is clear: “Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Eph 5:21). In the following verses, Paul shows us what such a spirit of submissiveness looks like in daily life, as he speaks to Christian wives (5:22-24), husbands (5:25-33; saying three times as much to husbands as to wives), children (6:1-3), fathers (6:4), slaves (6:5-8) and masters (6:9).
These were the people in a first-century household in the Roman Empire, which consisted of master and slaves, with the master also being husband (of a wife) and father (of any children). It was common in Paul’s day for traveling philosophers and teachers (such as the Stoics, whose writings remain) to set out the implications of their philosophy by stating rules for their hearers in terms of their respective position in the household. Paul’s teaching differs from the Stoics’ teaching in two important respects. First, every believer — regardless of worldly prestige or position — is to relate to others in a spirit of submission, just as Jesus Christ himself did (Phil. 2:5-12). Second, each person’s own conduct is governed by that individual’s personal relationship to Jesus Christ.
This is exceedingly liberating, for it frees us to love and serve others, putting them ahead of ourselves, regardless of whether they deserve it or not, and without regard for the response they make to what we say and do. We serve the Lord Christ, not human beings. If we do what is right simply because it is right, we will always have our reward in that fact, even on earth. And we may know, as we follow in His steps, that the One who took a towel and washed his disciples’ feet, will see and remember every act of service done in his name and for his sake. Believers “submit” to Christ voluntarily — and to each other in the spirit of Christ.