The word of the day is “submit.” In today’s reading of Ephesians 5:20-26, St. Paul begins to outline the duties of family members in the “Household Codes.” The Apostle writes, “… giving thanks always to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in fear of Christ”  (vs. 20 NAS). We should note that this verse is the transition to the “Table of Household Duties” section of Paul’s letter that follows. But it is more than that. It is the heading of the Code. If so, then, whatever their separate duties may be, St. Paul teaches that all household members should serve one another “out of reverence for Christ” (NIV).
The Exaltation of Christ: All Things Under Christ’s Feet
The word for “submit” in Greek has the sense of to “put under,” or “to put in subjection.” Thus, the Apostle wrote that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, “seated Him at His right hand” above every principality…, and “put all things under His feet (Eph. 1:22). Thus, all the powers of heaven are subject to Christ as He reigns with the Father in heaven.
The Apostle writes that the faithful should “subject themselves” or “put themselves under” one another. In humility, each one should give way to and serve the other in love. They should do so in reverence to Christ who humbled Himself, and, being human, submitted himself to the obedience of suffering and death for our sakes (Philippians 2:8).
The Humility of Christ: Washing the Disciples Feet
Indeed, Christ Himself commanded His disciples to “put themselves under” one another. The Son of God, under whose feet God has every authority and power, put Himself under the feet of His disciples. At the Last Supper, he got up, took off his outer garments, and wrapped a towel around his waist. He then filled a washbasin with water and stooped down to wash each of His disciples’ feet. Thus, He set the example of our mutual subjection to one another in obedience to His command that his s followers also should “wash one another’s feet” (John 13:3-15).
Submission Is to Be Mutual
The image of the Lord is an unforgettable lesson in lowliness. Those who would follow Christ must serve one another. It is the clear command of Christ. They should put themselves under each other out of reverence to the “Suffering Servant.” They should emulate the Master who cared for humankind in meekness even to the extent of death on the cross.
St. John Chrysostom says that we should follow the Lord’s example of mutual subjection for three reasons: “… in order that we may subdue the passions, be servants of God, and preserve the love owe one another” (Chrysostom NPFP1 13:142). If we put ourselves under one another, he says that God will deem us worthy to receive His far more abundant kindness.