Practice Mutual Submission: Eph. 5:21-33

We are in Week 36 of our examination of Benedict Nursia’s rules for Christian formation. This week we are examining Rule 4.61: Practice Mutual Submission.  The word “submission” is not a very popular word in our society.  Unfortunately, many equate the word submission with abuse, and abusers have used this very passage of Scripture to justify their behavior.  However, the fact that some have perverted this Scripture to suit their own purposes neither invalidates the truth communicated in this passage nor negates the power of this Scripture to positively transform lives.  At its heart, the message of this passage is that the key to healthy, God-honoring relationships of all kinds is to move from rights-driven relationships to grace-driven relationships.

Rights-driven relationships began in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve first succumbed to the temptation of Satan.  If you look back to Gen. 3, Satan’s whole plan of attack was to convince Adam and Eve that God was withholding something from them to which they were entitled. God was infringing on their rights.  He was offending their autonomy to choose what was best for them. How dare God try to deny them their right to be like him and gain the knowledge of good and evil!  Once this rights-driven approach fractured the relationship between God and man, it quickly worked to destroy the relationship between Adam and Eve.  Upon being confronted with their sin, they turned upon each other, trying to protect their individual rights at the expense of the other.  And that is the problem with the rights-driven approach to relationships: it is “me” centered.  It is chiefly concerned with making sure that I get everything to which I think I’m entitled.  If God or the other person is meeting that parameter, then the relationship is good.  But the minute God or the other person fails to meet that expectation, then the relationship is fractured.  Rights-driven relationships are inherently prideful and selfish, and they bring nothing but discord and strife.


Grace-driven relationships are everything rights-driven relationships are not.  Grace-driven relationships seek to restore what was lost in the Garden.  They are primarily concerned with the good of the other.  Grace-driven relationships don’t deny our rights; they are just not primarily concerned with them.  Grace-driven relationships are rooted in the attitude of Christ as described in Phil. 2:1-11.  In that passage we find that Jesus, though he was a co-equal member of the Trinity with the Father and the Spirit, willing laid aside his rights as the God and Creator of the universe to take on flesh and die for our sins.  Jesus had far more rights than us, his creations, yet he willingly laid those rights aside to redeem us and restore us into a right relationship with God.  More than that, we also read that if we have surrendered our lives to Christ, we have been gifted with the ability to live in that same frame of mind.  That is grace.  And it is this grace of Jesus Christ that allows us to once again live in grace-driven relationships with God and others as God intended.


Thus, the submission we are called to in Eph. 5:21-33 is not so much about what we are giving up; it is more about what we are gaining.  We gave up perfect relationships with God and man to pursue the “rights” Satan promised us.  As history has shown, those “rights” were lies that have brought us nothing but heartache and brokenness.  The call of Christ is to lay aside those “rights” to find peace, restoration, and wholeness.  In grace-driven relationships guided by mutual submission, we find the truth of Christ’s admonition that it is in laying down our lives that we find them.



  1. When you think of submission, what kind of images come to mind?  How has the concept of submission been abused in our society?
  2. In America, individual rights are the cornerstone of our republic.  While we are thankful for those political rights, how might that attitude have negatively impacted the church?
  3. Think through the difference between rights-driven relationships and grace-driven relationships.  Which type of relationship is more prevalent in your life?  Have you experienced the negative consequences of rights-driven relationships?  How can you take practical steps to move towards grace-driven relationships?