Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21 NIV

My husband and I had a beautiful wedding ceremony in which we promised almost 34 years ago to honor God in our marriage relationship. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church, he writes of the mystery and beauty of Christian marriage. The section of Paul’s letter addressing marriage is found in a larger section that describes various relationships and practical ways we can live the Christian life when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. In fact, Ephesians 5:18 is a command, “be filled with the Spirit”; then Paul gives us ways to demonstrate that filling,

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:19-21 NIV

We can only submit to one another – yield our own rights to another – if we believe in Christ and are filled with his Holy Spirit. Mutual submission – putting another person’s needs, wants and desires before our own — does not come natural to us as humans. But as we learn to submit ourselves to Christ, we can learn to submit to others as well.

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,… Ephesians 5:22-25 NIV

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body. Ephesians 5:28-30 NIV

In a Christian marriage, wives are to submit to their husbands – to choose to yield their rights to their husbands as they would yield to Christ. Submission is not the same as blind obedience. In Christian marriage, husbands are to love their wives as he loves his own body and as Christ loved the church. Jesus gave up His rights as deity to come to earth as a baby, to live on earth as a human, and then to die a horrific, painful death of a criminal. Jesus did this because of His great love for us, His church. Husbands are asked to sacrifice in love for their wives in the same way Christ did for us. So, the devotion husbands are asked to display in a marriage relationship is a “higher calling” than even a wife’s call to submit.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross! Philippians 2:1-8 NIV

The mystery of Christian marriage is that it is both a picture of how much Christ loves the church as well as describing the union of a man and a woman as a new family. Paul writes similar instructions in his letter to the Colossians. Read Colossians 3:1-4:6 and notice the similarities to Ephesians 5:18-6:4. Pray and ask God to show you what you need to know and understand about putting another person’s needs before your own desires.