Out of Context: Though I am not married, if there is one verse that gets me fired up and defensive about, it’s Ephesians 5:22. Perhaps it's because I've seen too many people use and abuse this verse for improper means or simply because I'm a female. Still, this Scripture needs to be adequately defined, especially regarding the concept of submission.
"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22)
As I prepare for pre-engagement, engagement, and marriage, my boyfriend and I have made it a point to discuss the implications of obedience and what I call "give and take" in marriage. While I do not claim to be an expert, I believe that the number of men who use this verse to get women and wives to do whatever they want when they please is humiliating and abhorring.
In Context: According to Scripture, Ephesians 5 was written by the Apostle Paul during the same time frame as Philippians. Calling us to walk in love, Paul explains how to love ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ and then extends this love to husbands and wives. Calling us to be careful how we walk, I find it highly ironic that so many men tell their wives "you have to do X" because Scripture says, "wives submit to their husbands." Sadly, this X is often filled with forced sexual pleasures, household duties, or whatever they see fit at the time.
While Scripture does make it clear that a husband and wife hand over their conjugal rights to one another once they are united as one, it is said that they do so out of love. It is not suitable for a husband to pressure or even force his wife to have sex with him, for is that love as Christ would love the Church? Absolutely not.
In the same manner, is it righteous for spouses to withhold sex from each other out of anger or disdain? Highly unlikely. Instead, both parties must work together to express their concerns and find a happy medium where they submit to one another mutually; that's the love that Christ calls men and women to obey.
Application: The Christian marriage and commitment given to men and women through mutual submission are spiritual. The Christian marriage and responsibility given to men and women through force, coercion, and unequal submission are secular and deathly.
This idea of humility and meekness has nothing to do with a one sex reigning precedent over another, but two parties working together to represent Christ to the world. They work together as a robust military force would.
A loving wife or woman should be willing to show love to her husband, but a loving husband must treat her with the honor, respect, and love that Christ would give her. Our God is love, and love is not forced, coerced, or placed as a weight over someone's head to get them to do what you want. We express mutual submission in love not because we have to, but because the Lord commands it, and we fear Him above all else. The motive for proper and Godly submission is not the Law but demonstrating a relationship with Christ to the world because we respect what His Law says.
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