Summary: What Mutual Submission Looks Like
Darryl and Amy, today you’ve chosen to include such words as "submission" and "leader" and "head." These are words that are often associated with authority, and superiority (and inferiority). You know, and we’ve talked about it, that this is not the case. Those words have nothing to do with authority and inferiority. They have often been taken way out of the original context and assigned a meaning that comes straight from the North American corporate world. For the next few minutes, I want to look at these words in their true context, found in Eph. 5:21.
"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."
That’s it. That’s the context to these explosive words. It’s called mutual submission, and it means that it’s something both of you practise in your relationship with each other. In fact, following this short verse, are six common relationships in which to practise it: wives, husbands, children, parents, employees and employers. Let’s look a little at what mutual submission looks like for you.
First of all, it means esteeming or cherishing or treasuring or valuing. That means that you put each others’ needs before your own. I’m not referring to the "Where do you want to go? Wherever you want to go. No, wherever you want to go. No, wherever you want to go." type of thing. When you treasure something or in this case, someone, you serve them, you think about them, you put their needs and requirements at the top of your list of what’s most important.
Now, this is easier to do when you’re head over heels in love with a person. Some might even call it obsession. But what about after a few years? Imagine a several-year-old marriage relationship where both husband and wife treasure each other in this way! Treasuring each other is not a function of romance. It’s a function of the will. It’s a decision you make, and a lifestyle you live. It requires you to actually become deliberate in your relationship with each other because, quite honestly, it’s easier and more natural to be selfish. Again, in the bright glow of a wedding, this doesn’t seem all that difficult. In the light and shadows of day to day life, this doesn’t seem all that easy. But it’s possible because of who lives within you. He, Jesus, is the one who actually changes who you are, and allows you to treasure each other after the glow has worn off.
Treasuring each other also means that you need to study each other. You know each other pretty well. But believe me when I say that people are really, really complicated. There’s far more to each of you than meets the eye. And it will take the rest of your lives and beyond to figure out. All I’m saying is this: study each other with as much intensity as you read your favourite magazine or watch your favourite TV show. Ask yourselves some questions such as: "What makes him/her really happy? What does he/she like least of all? What touches his/her heart? What is his/her deepest desire?" and so forth. I think you understand what I mean by "study each other.
The second thing that mutual submission means is this: be accountable to each other. Accountability isn’t the same as catching each other doing something wrong or poorly. It’s very easy and very natural to catch each other doing it (whatever "it" is) wrong. Anybody with a critical spirit can do that. That sort of negative stuff undermines trust and creates shame, neither of which build a marriage relationship.
Accountability means intentionally submitting certain aspects of your life (generally the weakest parts of your life), to each other. You submit these parts of your life to each other in order to be encouraged, to be strengthened and corrected, to be prayed for and about, and to make sure that you aren’t ignoring them because they’re too embarrassing to deal with. Submitting to each other through accountability is the most important part of making disciples of each other. Of course, it requires a certain amount of vulnerability and trust, but that’s why the marriage relationship is such a good place for accountability to happen.
Finally, the third thing that mutual submission means is this: respect each other. Respect in shown in many different ways. But let me just remind you about a couple of them. Taking the time to listen and say what’s on your heart is one way of showing respect. It would be really easy after a hard day at work, to limit your conversation to "What’s for supper" and "what do you want to do this evening?", or even to argue about your irritation of the moment. It’s much more difficult, but far more healthy, to ask questions, to talk about what matters, and to listen carefully to each other. Or, it would be easier to read or watch TV or be entertained, than to actually engage each in meaningful conversation. That is respect. It sends the message that you consider each other more important than entertainment, that you respect each other.