Last time, I introduced the idea that your marriage is a classroom of faith lessons for your children.  Your children are growing up in the daily classroom of your home.  And by virtue of the fact that you and your husband are the adults in the classroom, you have their attention!  Your actions and your words will help them learn skills to deal with the circumstances they will face in their lives and will help them learn valuable lessons in faith.

So, today we will tackle what they learn from the mutual respect and submission that you practice at home.

Whenever there are two people in a room, there will likely be two opinions and sometimes those are strong opinions.  Ever run into that with your spouse?  Likewise, whenever there are two sinful people in a room, there can be conflict.  I’m sure you have experienced that as well! 

Within a healthy marriage, there is a principal at work that is probably unlike any other relationship we experience, and it is the principle of willful submission. Paul deals with this beautifully in Ephesians chapter 5.  But before we dig much deeper, I have to deal with the fact that you just bristled at the word submission.  We don’t like to submit.  That goes all the way back to the fall of mankind.  At issue was the fact that Adam and Eve desired to make the rules for themselves.  They were unwilling to submit to the God who had created them.  So, this bristle effect when we hear the word submit is engrained in our sinful nature.  Let’s approach Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 5 with the help of the Holy Spirit instead of our misguided thinking from our culture and our sinful nature.  I would encourage you to pick up your Bible now and read all of Ephesians 5, the context of this passage will be important. 

What does the Bible REALLY say about Submission?

Ephesians 5:1 starts off by charging us, as believers, to be imitators of God. This harkens back to Genesis 1 where we learned we were created in God’s image.  We are charged by Paul to walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.  Stop and think about that for a moment.  In life, we are to imitate the ways of God and to walk in love, not sentimental love, but sacrificial love.  Let’s just admit that this is very hard to do!  Now, with that first verse in Ephesians as context, we move on to some additional background in verses 15-21.  Here, Paul tells us:

  • Be careful how you walk
  • Make the most of your time
  • Be filled with the Spirit of God
  • Speak to one another with joy and lightheartedness
  • Be thankful for all things we have
  • Give preference to others

Again, easy to say, harder to put into practice.  Basically, Paul is telling us how to live as believers.  Then he moves on to talk about marriage.  Here, Paul’s primary point is using marriage as an illustration of the relationship between Christ and the Church.  This is a very interesting correlation.  Paul is assuming here that Christian marriages can actually be an illustration of that relationship between Christ and the Church.  Wow!  What pressure!  To a watching world and to our watching children.  It’s probably more frightening to think of our marriages being a model to our kids because they see our marriages up close and daily!

So, the important point with respect to submission is that we are to live out our relationships with all people (and especially in our marriages) with an attitude of willful submission, an attitude of giving preference to others.

How does this work itself out in marriage and why does that matter to our children?

Submission is a Choice

When we practice mutual submission in our marriages, subjecting ourselves to one another, we are choosing to put the interests of our spouse above our own interests.  Typically, when we think of submission, we get the picture of the domineering husband lording over his wife, demanding she submits to his every whim and demeaning her in the process.  He becomes the overlord and she becomes the doormat.  This is certainly how our culture views submission.  But submission as Paul is teaching in Ephesians 5 looks very different.  Here the husband is called to protect, care for and provide for his wife and his family, all at the expense of his own preferences and desires.  He is to treat his wife as he would himself.  He is to lead his family with the heart of Christ, which is the servant’s heart, not the tyrant heart.  Each time he chooses to lead with a servant’s heart, each time puts the needs of his wife above his own needs, he is choosing to love.

Mutual Submission Teaches Servant Leadership

What does mutual submission in our marriage teach our children?  In addition to teaching them the healthy dynamics of Christian marriage, it gives them a model for true servant leadership, which is the type of leadership we are called to practice in life. 

Matthew 20:25-28 says it this way,

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles domineer over them, and those in high position exercise authority over them.  It is not this way among you, but whoever wants to become prominent among you shall be your servant, and whoever desires to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

You don’t know where God will take your children in life, but I know you want them to learn to lead well and with the attitude of a servant.  Husbands can really knock this lesson out of the park when they are able to demonstrate at home a servant’s heart.  And this means leading the home from the perspective of the needs of the others in his family.   As Paul tells us in Ephesians 5, this is equivalent to treating his wife as he would his own body.  Most of us know how to take care of ourselves without even thinking.  When we can transfer this type of care to others and specifically when husbands care for their wives this way, they are modeling servant leadership.

Jesus Practiced Submission

And the lesson is even broader.  The Bible is filled with examples of how Jesus interacted with others with a servant’s heart (think of how he stopped to minister to the woman with the issue of blood, or how he noticed the sinful woman at the well, or how he paused to speak to the children).   And one of the most vivid descriptions of his servant’s heart is found in Philippians 2:3-8, where we see that Jesus emptied himself by taking the form of a bondservant and humbling himself by becoming obedient to death on a cross.  Here at the very heart of the gospel is the example of Christ willfully submitting to God’s plan of redemption in order to save and protect a people for himself. 

Maybe it’s time to think about how your marriage has been modeling the principle of servant leadership to your little ones.  Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your example.  It’s certainly never too late to learn more about servant leadership and how to practice this in your home.  Your children are watching, what better motivation to make a lasting change? 

If you’re looking for a way to jump-start a discussion about the topic of submission in your home, please consider the Prepare and Enrich assessment as an investment in your marriage.