Mutual Submission

I was disturbed when reading the legends of King Arthur when I read of a quest which Arthur had to seek what women desire the most.  Arthur guesses jewels and love, but finally finds that the real thing a woman desires is to rule over a man.  Many marriages flounder over issues of control.  Sometimes language like “you haven’t heard me’ masks the truth of “you haven’t obeyed me”.  Husbands who sit on the couch and demand their meals and hog the remote control often lack the compassion and care that are needed to cultivate a deeper relationship.

The counselors I work with at my job say that many issues in marriage revolve around who gets the say over finances, raising the children, or who does the housework.  A difficult spouse is not then a challenge to love unconditionally in Christ, but becomes a object of frustration to be opposed.

One reason that people do not submit to each other in marriage is fear.  The anxiety about what will happen if biblical submission is followed is debilitating.  However, the truth is that in many cases, not all, following God’s directive of mutual submission by leading the way leads to a more receptive and compassionate spouse.  Remember, most anxieties are not based in the reality of what is, they are based in the unreality of what might be.  We do not live in the future, we live in the present.  Rather than submitting for ever in every circumstance, could you ask yourself, “In the power of God, could I submit to my spouse right now?”  It would be good to write that question and put it somehwre where you will see it regularly.

Ephesians 5:21-33

21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 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. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.


  1. What is the role of each member of the household?
  2. How can there be mutual submission in an Ephesian household, given the god-like role of the father in the ancient world?
  3. How does a body represent a family?
  4. What is your spouse’s role?  Do they fulfil their role?  Could you give that over to God?
  5. What is your role?  Could you remind yourself of your role without regard or fear of your spouse’s actions?  How could God transform your household, starting with you?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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