And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21, NLT).
Paul describes four relationships: believer to believer, husband to wife, child to parent, and slave to master. He offers a guiding principle for all four: submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (v.21). One dictionary defines submit as “to stop trying to fight or resist something.”1 Christ gave up his life out of love for my fellow believers, my spouse, my children, my parents, and my superiors at work (v.25). By not fighting or resisting them, Christ is honored.
With the exception of the “masters” (v.5-8), the described relationships are among believers. Paul advises slaves to obtain their freedom if possible (1 Corinthians 7:21). If freedom cannot be obtained, slaves can regard themselves as “slaves of Christ” who do the will of God (v.6-7).
Yet among believers how does submission work? Because Christ died for and loves each believer, arguments have no place. Each interaction is an opportunity to serve Christ. Yet do I have to go along with every believer’s idea? Two principles guide me: I must be aware of my own great value to Christ, and I must remain in a loving relationship with other believers.
Because Christ alone is important, I can submit to another’s idea. The other believer is loved, and Christ is honored. Yet if submitting drives a wedge between us, I can “speak the truth in love” (v.4:15). This is different from insisting on my way. It means gently explaining how the other’s request is difficult for me. In this way, both believers honor each other as members of Christ body. Together we can find a way to work for and honor Christ who died for both of us.
Father, grant me the grace to submit to other believers, so Christ who died for all is honored. Forgive my selfish need to insist that others submit to me. Give me a discerning heart. Show me my need to submit as well as my need to speak the truth in love. May your Son be revered in my relationships with others. In His name, Amen.
1“submit.” Merriam-Webster.com. 2011. http://www.merriam-webster.com (1 March 2015).