The Fit

“Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Colossians 3:18 This unusually uncomfortable, and usually misunderstood admonition follows closely on the heels of “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” It suggests that the climate of prayer is the context in which this action is cultivated and maintained. Homes in which a husband and a wife never pray together are rarely the arena in which this kind of behavior is inspired or experienced.

On a broader scale, the preparation for life within a marriage relationship is marked by the discipline of “mutual submission.” The local church is the place where people are expected to express this kind of appreciation for one another.

To be clear, one of the fundamental signs of those who are filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) is their capacity to…“Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” Ephesians 5:21

This mutual submission is not an assignment made solely to female converts. It is a sign of all true believers, men and women, boys and girls. It is not a temporary life-style, but a way of life. The Lone Ranger Christian is an anomaly, not the new normal. Those who always expect to get their own way are lonely indeed, and single for a reason. Get over yourself.

Dana and I served in The Ministry to Single Adults at Houston’s FBC in the early 1980’s. Houston was on fire with the latest oil boom, “Luv Ya Blue” fever, and it was the fastest growing city in America. There were over a million single adults that had found their way from small towns all over Texas, and they were looking for love in all the wrong places. After finding out that “Gilley’s” was a false hope, three thousand of them found their way to First Baptist Church. The church was conducting close to 400 weddings a year.  It was a crazy time of our lives, and exhilarating and exhausting, all at the same time.  After three years, and 21 ulcers, I named the next chapter of my autobiography, “Who’s Through with Singles Ministry?”

Within that context, I was always running into Single Adult zealots who were filled with more testosterone than the New Testament. These male messiahs were convinced that women were supposed to be submissive to men.  I usually handed them over to Dana for reality therapy. My wife just looks little. They never had a chance.

Note to self: You never outgrow your need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. The practice arena for this kind of behavior is the local church. As a husband, the greatest expression of it is in your own home. Don’t be outplayed on your home court. Treat your wife with the respect she deserves. You will be a happier man.

I remember the day I read the findings of W.O. Carver in his commentary on Ephesians. This great Southern Baptist professor had discovered the great truth about mutual submission.  Any kind of submission within the body of Christ, at church or at home, is always inspired by mutual respect. It cannot be commanded or demanded. It can only be freely given. When two people are looking out for one another’s rights, they are not focused on demanding their own rights.

When Dr. Carver broke open this parallel passage.  “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:22 He dealt with the issue of a marriage relationship, and pointed out the close proximity of its context to fullness of the Spirit. The Spirit establishes the trust between people that can generate mutual submission in a church and in a marriage relationship. Without His fullness people are full of themselves.

Mutual submission can be defined this way. When a husband is looking out for his wife’s rights, and a wife is looking out for her husband’s rights, everyone’s rights are protected. The first sign of a lack of trust reveals the breakdown of mutual submission. When a husband starts demanding his own rights, he will never inspire his wife to yield her own, or protect his.

In the church or in the home, when lines are drawn, and positions are hardened, it is usually a result of the breakdown of the lines of communication with God, and the hardened hearts of two people. When two people are at odds with one another, the goal is not to get even, but to get right. The leader will always yield, and ask, “Who’s going to pray first? You or me?” The wisest response to an irritation is a swift response to prayer in the face of it.

Praying together can restore mutual submission, and it is the key to restoring and maintaining healthy churches and healthy marriages. There is a great difference between a bit and a fit. The bit pulls. The Fit comforts. Prayer removes the bone in the throat, the rock in the shoe, or the burr in the saddle that often comes between two people or parties. It keeps the lines open with God, and hearts softened to one another. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!