Ephesians chapter five contains a tough command, more than a little counter-cultural in our time: “Wives, submit to your husbands.”
A couple of points are worth considering.
First, all of Ephesians is counter-cultural. In fact, all of Christianity is counter-cultural. If you expect to fit in with worldly friends and embrace the liberality of the world – Christianity won’t be your cup of tea.
Second, in Ephesians chapter, Paul begins the practical side of the book in which he requires his readers to “live worthy of their calling (4:1), become “imitators of God,” and live like the “children of light” they have become (5:8). Drunkenness is not an acceptable part of the Christian’s life. Rather than engage in the bawdy songs of the tavern, the Christian should sing spiritual songs – to one another and to the Lord.
And that brings us to our text, which is not just about wives submitting to husbands. While it includes that, it’s also about how Christians regard one another. The text begins with this often overlooked line: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The chapter returns to this mutual submission at the end when Paul specifically says: “I am talking about Christ and the Church.” Respect and submission begins at home, with family members looking out for one another and paying deference to one another, putting one another’s interests above the interests of self. But this respect extends to the Church.
There is no way around this really. Husbands must love their wives as Christ loved the Church, giving themselves for their wives. Wives must submit to their husbands. Children must submit to their parents, and parents cannot treat children as they please, but must bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. There is no room in the Kingdom of God for anyone who seeks to “go” or “have” his or her own way. Submissiveness to authority and place is a defining characteristic of Christians.