There is one word that we must not utter. This word will bring a man to his knees, or more accurately, make him stand tall, chest puffed, chin out determined not to "give." It's a word that brings to mind horrible thoughts of giving in, giving up, and weakness. The very thought of this word causes "real" men to pull up their pants, tighten there boots and stand firmly in opposition! What is this ever so foul four letter word I speak of? It's: submit!
For far too long guys have held firmly to the idea that a wife should submit to their husbands, never once even offering to lift a finger to serve their spouse. Let me first clarify this point. While the bible does direct wives to submit to their husbands, submission does NOT mean subservience. Ephesians 5:22 tells women to submit to their husbands as they do to the Lord, but does not tell them they are slaves to their husbands. (Just as a point of interest, EVERYONE that follows Christ is a slave to Christ - I'll explain in a second - and Ephesians 5:21 - just one verse prior - says to submit to one another, blatantly telling HUSBANDS to submit to their wives!)
Here's the difference between submission and subservience: one is voluntary. Dictionary.com defines each as:
To submit is - to give over or yield to the power or authority of another (voluntary)
To be subservient is - slavish: abjectly (with great shame, desperately) submissive; characteristic of a slave or servant (not voluntary)
I think where we begin to associate submission with weakness is in our view of slavery. Obviously slavery in and of itself is wrong. But the way that we've come to understand slavery is fully based on the abduction and bringing over of Africans to America and forcing them into horrible conditions. This understanding is far different than that of the Hebrew culture's understanding of slavery. Pastor Matt Chandler (Lead Pastor of The Village Church in Dallas, TX) did a sermon in Aug 2010 on this subject. He does a far better job breaking this down (you can listen HERE), but I'll summarize as best I can.
Our understanding of slavery is this dark, vile forced way of life that involved forced labor, abuse, beating, rape and murder, in which one race forcefully subjects another to their will, desires and needs. However, the Hebrew culture slaves were often times Hebrews who voluntarily sold themselves, often times because of a debt they owed, into slavery as a means to receive a better life & to become educated. Many times this would result in there being no noticeable distinction between slaves and freemen of wealth. (There is far more to this than what I've written, so it would be beneficial to research yourself or listen to the sermon above.) The more important part to understand about Hebrew slaves is the Year of Jubilee. The Year of Jubilee was the freeing of the slaves. During that time, slaves were allowed to go free and owners were required to provide them with material goods to ensure they left slavery equipped to live. At that time a slave could choose to voluntarily stay within that household as a slave. In doing that, they were acknowledging that remaining in their master's house was far better, far safer and preferable to anything else in the world.
We have that same choice today. Before Christ we are bound by sin. We are slaves to the world and can do nothing else but live controlled by our sinful nature. But, in Christ we are freed from that. But here's the rub...Romans 6:22 says, "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." So we trade being a slave to sin for being a slave to Christ? Yes. It has to do with choice. God does not force Himself on anyone, but when we CHOOSE Christ we are acknowledging that remaining in His house is far better, far safer and far more preferable to anything the world has to offer. Ok, so practical submission...what does it look like?
The first act of submission must be to God. I re-posted a blog by Pastor Jeff Maness (Lead Pastor of Element Church in Cheyenne, WY) about reverence for God, to which I added some comments about submission to God (you can read it HERE). So what does submission to God look like?
The bible says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God.” James 4:7 This is the surrendering of your control of your life to the control of God in your life. For some that means letting God remove stuff from it, for others that means letting God add stuff to it. Submission to God should cause an inward change that reveals outward fruit. In other words, what God changes and does in your heart should be visible to those around you.
I also think that acts of physical submission to God are important to remaining submitted to Him. Things like kneeling during prayer, dedicated devotional and prayer time and other spiritual disciplines are all ways of submitting to and holding God in reverence.
We are also called to submit to others (in this instance I'm going to primarily address husbands to wives, but we're also called to submit to those in authority over us). Ephesians 5:21-33 spells out the responsibilities of husbands and wives as they relate to each other. And let me start by pointing out that v. 21 says, "And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Then it goes on to spell out what that means for both wives and husbands individually. But here is what I would contend...there are more scriptures talking to the husband about his responsibility than there are to the wife. Realistically how can you ever expect your wife to submit to you if you refuse to serve her. Ultimately, as a man, submission is YOUR responsibility. The first step in submitting to your wife is to stop worrying about others and worry about what God expects of YOU.
For wives submitting to a husband does NOT mean serving them. That is an aspect of that submission, but it goes both ways. Submission is allowing him to lead your family and sometimes that means he'll fail. When that happens, all he wants from you is to know that you still support him and will still follow him. He needs someone that will stand by him regardless of his successes or failures. Not a slave, but a willing partner that will yield to his leadership.
Submission doesn't mean that you are weak. It takes great courage and strength to admit that you can't do everything on your own, then voluntarily yield to the authority and power of Jesus Christ. You cannot lead your home and expect your wife to submit to you until you first submit to Jesus, then submit to her (and serve her). Then and only then can you claim manhood and take your rightful place as the head of your home.
Submitting to Him (and soon her),
P.S. Girlfriends are NOT required to submit to you. Submission comes with commitment. Just "dating" a girl with no real commitment to pursue anything further does not afford you the right or privilege of her submission. Being that I am engaged (and will soon be married) there are areas that I have started submitting to and serving my future wife in, but full submission comes after we're married.