Spirit Filled Relationships
John Telgren

Most of us understand that we are to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). We understand that if the fruit of the Spirit is missing, we need to do some renovation of our heart in order for the Spirit to really take root and grow. Many of us also understand it is not merely a matter of trying harder, as trying harder without inner transformation leads either to delusion or despair. So, an inventory of the manifestations of the Spirit is an occasion for self-inspection. Let's look at one.

One manifestation of being filled with the Spirit is mutual submission. The grammar of Ephesians 5:21-22 in most English Bibles begin a new sentence at verse 22 to avoid a run on sentence. In Greek, we literally have this:

"…being subject to one another in the fear of Christ, the wives to their own husbands as to the Lord (Eph 5:21-22)."

Paul goes on to give several examples of mutual submission, including marriage. Paul could have used any number of different types of relationships to illustrate this principle in action, such as the relationship of one Christian brother to another. Instead, Paul chooses three common relationships where there appears to be an obvious superior and inferior.

To an ancient audience, "mutual" submission in wife/husband, children/parent, slave/master relationships might have seemed revolutionary. At the least, it went against the grain of popular culture, just as it does today. Many today stress equality, which is not the same thing as mutual submission. Equality is a 50/50 relationship. A selfish relationship is a 100/0 relationship. However, mutual submission is a 100/100 relationship.

Philippians 2:3-7 tells us that Jesus considered others before himself, humbled himself, and "poured himself out" in the form of a bond servant. In fact, Jesus clearly stated that he did not come to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45). To drive this point home, he washed his disciples feet (John 13:1ff), something that a common household slave would typically do. Jesus illustrated that there is not a "superior/inferior" dichotomy in his kingdom. Though there are different "roles" in the kingdom, all are equally important (1 Cor 12:22) and are all equal heirs according to promise (Gal 3:28-29).

In Ephesians 5:21-6:9, Paul points to Jesus's relationship with the church as the paradigm for the relationships we are to have with each other. Mutual submission is not something you demand, but something you offer. Jesus never forced anyone to submit to him. In a similar way people did not force Jesus to love them. Instead, Jesus freely chose to love them. Jesus did this to show us that we need to have the same dynamic in our relationships with each other, especially in our marriages, at home, and at work. We are to offer submission that expresses itself appropriately within the roles that we have been assigned, whether as a wife, husband, parent, child, etc. This mutual submission is integral for the body to carry out the purposes of God. It would be difficult if not impossible to carry out God's purposes if we do not have the outward focus of mutual submission in our lives.

If this manifestation of the Spirit is missing…