The meaning of ‘mutual submission’ in Ephesian 5: 21 and the way to prevent authority abuse

The sermon in my church this morning was taken from Titus 2:1-10. Essentially, pastor was talking about relationship among people in various social institutions such as family (v. 1-8) and business (v. 9-10) . Generally, I would say that the sermon is OK in the sense there is no serious doctrinal errors and the pastor was looked well-prepared and lively.

However, There was one particular statement that disturb me. That was when he discussed about verse 3-5 related to wife’s obligation towards her husband:

Titus 2: 3-5 – Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be kind and to be subject to their husbands so that no one will malign the word of God.

Initially, the pastor mentioned correctly that it is wife’s obligation to submit to her husband. However, he later changed his message by reminding the men not to take advantage of that verse because in another verse (Ephesian 5: 21), it was said that we must ‘submit to one another out of reverence’ for Christ. He interpreted this verse as that mean husband must also submit to his wife.

Assuming he is correct, then there are several problems with such doctrine.

Firstly, can you hold the interpretation of such passage in light to other verses? How do you hold that husband is required to submit to his wife in the light of other verses such as Ephesian 5: 23-24:

Ephesian 5: 23-24: For the husband is 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.

Now, there are several questions I want to ask to those agree with the pastor interpretation of Ephesian 5: 21:

1) Does that mean in next verses ( Ephesian 5: 23), Lord Jesus is also required to sometimes subjected to his church?

2) How does the husband can be properly said as the head of the wife if he is sometimes required to submit to his wife?

Second problem is that verse (Ephesian 5: 21) does not even mention the relationship between husband and wife as the previous verses (v. 17-20) was the general lifestyle advice to the church. Furthermore, such interpretation simply does not correspond to reality. If somehow the pastor interpret ‘submit to one another’ as mutual submission in husband-wife relation, then I can also extend his premise to include parent-children, management-employees, government-citizens and even God-humans. I don’t think that even the pastor dare to say that God is sometimes required to submit to humans.

One possible interpretation of that Ephesian 5: 21, which I think correct, is that each person has his own sphere of authority in life. For example, one person could be subordinate inside the church since he is just congregation, not minister. However, the same person could hold position as business owner outside the church. If for example, I worked for a certain business owner, that means I need to submit to him. However, I could be worship leader inside the church and my boss is therefore under my authority. Therefore, this is the case of mutual submission. I need to submit to him during office hours but my boss need to submit to me inside the church.

It seems that the pastor’s concern is that many Christian husbands will abuse passages such as Ephesian 5: 23-24 to deliberately treat their wives according to whatever they pleased. However, I don’t think such absurd interpretation is necessary to encounter such things.

Probably the bigger question which can be derived from this problem is:

What should we do to eliminate authority abuse? Is it necessary to abolish authority all together just as suggested by communists and anarchists?

This is not simple question. However, I believe it is virtually impossible to eliminate all authorities. This is simply because all humans are not the same. There are basic physical differences of age, gender, race, strength, and so on. Then, there are further differences in life experience, intelligence, creativity, and so on. Obviously, many of such differences will imply one person will have more money or power over his / her fellow humans and enable him to rule over the inferiors. And furthermore, humans will be definitely in worse conditions if there are no authorities. Civilizations would not be possible.

I believe that the solution is to choose correct authority to rule over humans. And what kind of leader need to be chosen? Typically, people will say we will need someone with integrity at heart and have people’s interest as his main priority. It is correct answer. However, the problematic part is that until today, there is no reliable way to read people’s heart. Evil and greedy people typically will overflow political and economical institution because these people are attracted to money and power. They have mastered the art of lying (If that can be said as an art) so it is impossible to know their real integrity from their speech alone.

Furthermore, what kind of person will have people’s interest as his main priority? He come from certain family background, certain social class, certain culture, certain gender, certain race and so on whereas the people come from diverse social class, culture, gender and races. How could he possibly not bias towards his social class, his gender, his culture and so on? Is it the default human nature to favor the group that similar to him?

Fortunately, there is such authority. That authority will hardly ever abuse his subordinates because he perceives each of his subordinates as his own body and soul.

Is there any such authority?

Yes, there is. Your parents.

Now, I know many people will try to counter-argue my arguments by mentioning there are a lot of abusive parents out there. I admit that it is true. However, they are not acting rationally because if they are abusing their children, it is like they will witness their own little self to be suffered. What kind of people want to see the shadow of their own self to suffer? If they are such selfish people, they would not even decide to have children in the first place because caring for children will need much time, money and efforts.

Even if your parents make a lot of rules, you can be ensured that they have your well-being in long run as their consideration behind such regulations.

However, there is the problem. Each individuals come from different families. It seems that no one parent fits to rule all humans then.

Or so it seems. Until you introduce religion of the part of missing puzzle.

That benevolent ruler is God, Supreme Being, the creator of all living beings. And he also the one which created family together with its rule in Holy Scriptures. That’s also the reason which convince me to follow His commands.

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About edwin2026

I am currently Indonesian expatriate working in Singapore, graduated from Nanyang Technological University with major in Computer Science in 2009. I am also working as software engineer, developing and maintaining systems for Singapore civil service. I write this blog to share to readers about my life principle on various aspects, like religion, politics, business, relationship, and technology. I am interested in alternative worldviews because I found that many things taught to us by establishments are not true and harmful. My dream is to become self-sufficient in food and energy. Hopefully, someday I can have my own fruit garden and my own power plant and able to sell my electricity to power company. I hope readers enjoy my blog.
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2 Responses to The meaning of ‘mutual submission’ in Ephesian 5: 21 and the way to prevent authority abuse

  1. Pingback: What’s Love Got To Do With It ? The Pursuit Of Love | poems4him

  2. Pingback: What Do You Mean Submit ? What’s Love Got To Do With It ? | poems4him

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