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As human beings, we all must deal with relationships. Whether we are married, divorced, separated or never married, relationships are the key to everything God has established for us. They affect every area of our lives.

Whenever something starts to go wrong, it is because of the breakdown in relationships; there is no other realm through which torments can come. But God has given us certain principles for dealing with our relationships. Those truths apply to husband and wife relationships, parent and child relationships, and relationships between a pastor and his congregation.

I had been in prayer concerning a relationship in my church when the Lord spoke this to my heart: "Being a Christian does not demand abnormal behavior."

Some people think the first thing they have to do when they get saved is get flaky or do something strange. But God told me, "Being a Christian does not demand abnormal behavior. Being a Christian simply means acting normal in abnormal situations."

"Wait a minute!" you might say. "Jesus did abnormal things."

No, He didn't.

"But He walked on water, didn't He?"

Yes, He did. But Jesus' circumstances were abnormal, not what He did. Jesus did a very normal thing—He walked.

You might think that the very idea of prayer is abnormal. But prayer is just talking. It becomes a supernatural act because God in heaven hears us; we just talk.

In our relationships, being a Christian does not demand abnormal behavior. When we encounter difficult situations, when we face confrontation, when the pressure is on, God expects us to act normal.

The Word of God provides us with certain guidelines for developing proper relationships: principles for normal behavior in abnormal situations.

Our Role Assignments
Ephesians 5 addresses the roles—the assignments, the "job descriptions"—that God has given those in His church. There is the role of the head. We see headship demonstrated by Jesus Christ, the Head of His church. The church has the role of the submitted one. Submission is the church's assignment.

We see the same relationship in the local body. God has given headship to the pastor. It's an assignment. I'm a pastor. I don't deserve that role any more than the husband deserves to be head of his house, but God has assigned that role to me. For the church to remain healthy, I must accept that assignment and stand in that place. The local congregation, both male and female, has the submitted role.

But in the marriage relationship, roles have been given according to gender. They aren't an evaluation of the value of males and females, but are an assignment from God. The headship role has been assigned to the husband. The wife has been given the submitted role. It's an assignment.

God didn't look down at females and say, "You're a woman. You don't deserve any better than to be a submitted one, a servant." God could have just as well decided that men be the submitted ones and women be the heads.

In fact, many women are heads. God isn't opposed to that at all. Who preached the first resurrection sermon, anyway? Mary was at the tomb, angels visited her and she declared to the apostles, "He is risen!" If God were against such assignments, that certainly wouldn't have been so.

In the marriage relationship God has assigned headship to the husband and submission to the wife, and we must stand in those roles.

It's The Office That Matters
I am pastor of my church whether I'm a good pastor, a bad pastor, or an indifferent one. It doesn't matter how I do—I am still pastor. Husbands, you are the head of your home whether you do a good job, a bad job, or don't do anything at all. You are the head even if you don't want the position. You are the head even if no one in your family calls you "head."

God has called you to be the head.

Wives, God created you for the role of the submitted one—the helper to the head. Adam was created, then Eve. That's a Bible fact, and the women's movement doesn't go back far enough to change it. But when God created Adam, He said that man was not complete in himself. He said that he must have an able helper, so He created woman.

Headship and submission are relationship values that also apply outside of the marriage. A single or divorced person deals with these roles as well. In a job situation, the employer has the headship role. The submitted one is the employee.

These relationships should be fulfilled according to our example: Christ and His church. If you are the boss, take a look at the Bible's example of how you should be treating your employees. As the head, you shouldn't fear that your workers would take your job, treating them harshly. Servants are to be obedient, and masters are to submit to Jesus.

"In the Fear of God"
In verse 21, we are commanded to submit one to another "in the fear of God." Wives are commanded to submit to their husbands "as unto the Lord." God must be involved in submission. Without God, submission becomes destructive.

There's a lot of rebellion in the church today because we don't want to be submitted to one another. We don't want to obey the Scriptures because there's no fear of God in our relationships; instead of fearing God, we fear being taken advantage of.

Submission works only when the fear of God is present, when our utmost desire is to be pleasing to Him. There should be no other fear involved in our relationships.

"Even as Christ"
When you read Ephesians 5, you'll notice verses 23 and 25 say "even as." Wives are to submit to their husbands even as the church submits to Christ. Husbands are to love their wives, even as Christ loves His church.

We are not given a human standard of behavior to follow; our example is "even as Christ." We shouldn't point to any other human being and say, "Oh, I've got to be just like that."

Oftentimes, because of a lack of teaching, understanding, or spiritual development, human examples fall far short of the standard that God has given us. The example—the standard—for our relationships is "even as" Christ and His church.

We All Submit To Jesus
As members of the church, whether male or female, we are to submit to Jesus as Lord and Master. Does that mean He doesn't allow us to express what we think or how we feel? Does that mean that we can't make requests of Him? Does our submission to Him require us to "shut up and do as we're told"? Does submission to Jesus mean that we, as His body, have no part to play in the relationship?

No! Jesus allows us to talk with Him, to share our thoughts with Him, to participate as His body.

With Jesus as our example, we aren't required to submit blindly to whatever the pastor says. The relationship stays healthy because the submitted ones are allowed to share their input. There are times that I, as a pastor, must submit to my congregation. When they come to me with words of wisdom, encouragement, or even rebuke, I must listen. Their input affects the way I think; it gives me new thoughts. Of course, it will confront me at times, but I can't do without it.

God's standard requires me to be submissive even though I am the head. He said "submit one to another" before headship was ever mentioned. If I can't submit to others, I have no right being the head.

Our relationship with Jesus must also be the standard for our family relationships. Wives are to submit to their husbands in the same way that the church submits to Christ. Husbands are to love their wives in the same way that Christ loves the church, and gave Himself for her.

The world has its own interpretation of relationships, and we might have some of those ideas lodged in our thinking. But God wants to "brain wash" us with the washing of the water of the Word. He wants to give us new thoughts. The world is not our standard. Jesus is.

"Whosoever Will"
In verse 21 of Ephesians 5, God commands us to submit ourselves "one to another." That destroys any idea we might have that men don't have to submit.

Men are submitted along with their wives in the local body and in the church of Jesus Christ, so whatever interpretation we give to submission in the church, we are going to have to live by it in our homes.

If submission in the home means that the wife must buckle under without questioning anything, then that same interpretation would apply to men, as well as women, in the local church. But that's not the way God runs his family. He says things like, "Whosoever will."

God has given the wives an assignment. He's given it to whomsoever will. It's not the husband's responsibility to make the wife submit. God has given husbands the assignment to love our wives. It's not the wife's duty to see that we're doing it. The assignment is given to whomsoever will.

What if the wife is not submitted, but is running off doing her own thing, creating havoc in the home? Does that ever happen in Jesus' "home"? Does the submitted one in the family of God ever run off and do his own thing? How does Jesus deal with that individual? How does He win him to Himself? He reaches out to them in love, not in judgment and condemnation.

Jesus has legal authority over us; He is our Lord. But in developing relationship with us, He fulfills verse 25: "Men, love your wives, even as Christ loves His church."

Jesus loves His church so much that He won't allow unrighteousness to stay in it—He will confront it. Remember how He cleansed the temple: a whip in love's hands, driving out the moneychangers so the true purposes of God could be fulfilled.

Jesus will confront sin in His church, but He will do it in love, not in dominance or in a struggle for power.

Just as there is no "Bless God, close your mouth and submit to me" attitude in our relationship with Jesus or in the local church, neither is it allowed in the husband and wife relationship.

Notice that verse 22 says "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord." Verse 23 says, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it."

No human interpretation is allowed. Even though we've had much opportunity, as human beings we just don't have our relationships all worked out yet. We can't look to earthly examples of headship and submission. Our role model must be Jesus and His church.

Any time you have trouble in a relationship, ask yourself "What does Jesus do with His church in this situation?" There is great liberation in that.

You can't get nervous about the way Christ loves His church. You can't get nervous about His desire to have the church submitted to Him. With Christ, there is total love and acceptance.

Whatever definitions you give the terms "headship" and "submission," consider them in the light of our example—"even as Christ."

Copyright © Word of Faith Church
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Tim Davidson
Web site: Word of Faith Church & Outreach Center
Tim Davidson is the Head Pastor of Word of Faith Church and Outreach Center in Bismarck, North Dakota. A 1977 graduate of Rhema Bible Training Center of Tulsa, Oklahoma, God has called Tim into the body of Christ as a teacher and pastor. Called to the Body of Christ as a pastor and teacher, Tim Davidson pioneered Word of Faith Church in Bismarck in 1980. He served as its Lead Pastor for 35 years and now serves as Founding Pastor. Pastor Tim has pioneered 6 churches in North Dakota and now serves as Regional Director for Rhema Ministerial Association International. Teaching believers foundational truths from God's Word is his passion. He has authored 3 yearly devotion books that are used both here and overseas to help believers become "rooted and grounded" in their faith. God is now calling Pastor Tim to share the treasury of wisdom and knowledge God has given to him with other pastors and churches.

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