As you might have guessed, I applied the same concept for handling differences between Michelle and I in the first few years of my marriage. Much to my chagrin then, I failed miserably. Then I turned to the Father’s word for help.
One of the most applicable biblical instructions I found for handling conflict and promoting reconciliation is in Ephesians 5:22-33. The NIV bible titled this section as “Instructions for Christian households.” The verses that caught my eyes were, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord” and “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the … to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word … “
For many years after, I mistakenly believed that it is Michelle’s duty to submit to me first and then mine to love her. Often times when we quarreled, I would preach Paul’s “emphasis” on this sequence. I was rather eloquent at preaching this, just like the Pharisee of old. As you would have expected, that did not work and many times we ended up as a husband without a wife’s submission and a wife without her husband’s love. How silly we were then!
Submission is one of the most difficult things for any human being. Many believe that submission strips a person of his dignity and forces one to give up his rights. This is especially difficult for a man who has been told that he is the head of the family. Submission to his wife can hit hard into the epicenter of his ego. But thanks be to God, I finally learnt that mutual submission is a fundamental requirement for a meaningful relationship between two persons.
Let’s revisit Paul’s instructions for Christian households in Ephesians 5:22-33 NIV. This time, I would like us to read one verse before that:-
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
With this overarching instruction, “Wives, submit to your own husbands…” (Eph 5:22 NIV) becomes, “Husbands, submit to your own wives as well…”
Michelle and I understand submission as accepting each other’s weaknesses, differences and even idiosyncrasies. It is about esteeming higher and giving loving consideration to the other person, in true love, so as to build a strong relationship.
Submission is about giving up my rights to Michelle so that both of us can live in harmony. It is the same for her. That is why Paul exhorts mutual submission. You may say, “How can I submit to my husband/wife when he/she does not deserve it?” Or, “I cannot keep submitting, he/she will exploit my kindness and treat it as my weakness.”
My answer is simply this; Jesus faced the same situation. On the cross, He hung in total submission to God and seemingly to those who caused His crucification. Voluntarily, He gave up His rights. We are redeemed by what our Great Lover had done. That is why Paul exhorts us to submit to one another out of reverence for Him.
After being married for 30 years, Michelle and I still have our differences. What has changed, however, is in the way that we handle our differences in comparison to our earlier years. We have not given up all our idiosyncrasies yet. There are things that we still do not agree with one another. But we don’t quarrel anymore when these shortcomings act up on us.
By God’s grace, Michelle and I have deliberately decided to mutually submit to each other out of our reverence for Christ. This is the fuel for our harmonious relationship, which also creates the platform for unity in our family. Our relationship has never been better and we know that it will be still better tomorrow.
Mutually submitting to one another works very well for us. Try it for yourself.
Great lovers give up their rights for the love of their lover!
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