When the pastor reads Ephesians 5 about how women should be submissive, women roll their eyes and the men shout “Amen!” But men shouldn’t rejoice too quickly because they too are called to be submitted.
Yes, in Ephesians 5.22, Paul asks the wives to submit to their husband. However, this shouldn’t be seen as degrading. What the Apostle is saying is that the women have the choice, to choose by her own free will. She still has her own opinions, she is smart and strong, but for harmony, for the peace of the couple, it would be better for her to leave the final word to her husband for important decisions. The submission referred to in Ephesians 5:22 is not a form of slavery for women and dominance for the man. It does not diminish the woman. In the contrary, you need to be quite strong to show that much humility, to be able to give the last word to someone else.
In fact, it is not only women that are called to be humble. Every child of God is called to do so. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word used for “submission” is “anav”. It’s hard to find an English word that translates well into Hebrew, but the King James Version uses “meekness”. In the Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon defines this word as “pious, modest, prefers to bear injuries rather than return them.” What a powerful definition!
This word is also used to describe the character of Moses in Numbers 12.3 (KJV): “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” Here the word “anav” is translated by “meek”. If we use the definition of the Lexicon, we gain a better understanding of Moses’ character. He had a humble attitude, he was not trying to defend himself, he would let God justify him.
Jesus had the same character, as described in Matthew 11:29 (KJV): “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Here, the Greek word translated as “ and lowly” is “proas”, which is comparable to “anav” in Hebrew. And indeed, Jesus chose to take injuries rather than return them! This humility, this way of being, is a fruit of the Spirit. It is often translated as “gentleness” like in Galatians 5.22-23 (NIV). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
You have to be strong to be able to turn the other cheek. This is not about having a low self-esteem. The Thayer’s Bible dictionary gives a sublime definition: “the meek are those wholly relying on God rather than their own strength to defend against injustice. Thus, meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is using them to purify His elect, and that He will deliver His elect in His time (Isa 41:17, Luk 18:1-8). Gentleness or meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trusting in God’s goodness and control over the situation. The gentle person is not occupied with self at all. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of human will (Gal 5:23).”
The benefits of being meek? In the Psalms 37.11 and in Matthew 5.5, it is written that those who are meek will inherit the Earth. In Isaiah 29:19, they will have joy; in Matthew 11:29, they will be at peace. These are some of the advantages of meekness. What God wants is that all children have enough confidence in Him to stop always trying to win. If both partners have the desire to not want to win at all costs, but to do everything for God. And for God to be the winner in their situation, there will be no loser. We are all called to be meek, to be submitted to God.