Look at Jesus, Paul, Peter and others in the New Testament. Not once did these men force anyone to submit to anything. They gave guidelines for holy living. They spelled out principles and lived by them. They preached and taught freedom—freedom from traditions, freedom from sin and freedom to live a godly life. They did not seek to control behaviors or thoughts. Submission is a choice people make to follow the Lord as their leaders follow the Lord.
One of my regrets in this area of submission is how I acted toward my wife during the first two years of our married life. I was not sensitive to her at all. I was determined that I was going to be the leader and that she must obey everything. When something went wrong, she was the one to ask for forgiveness. I didn’t ask for forgiveness, of course, because I was the husband. That is what I saw when I was growing up, and that is how I thought things should be.
Things went on like this for a couple of years. Then God heard Gisela’s prayers and opened my eyes, causing me to realize that she was not my slave. From then on, things changed. I began to think about my wife as a human being, considering her needs, emotions and feelings. I learned practical things, like how to change diapers, cook, wash clothes and clean house. These were not part of my household when I grew up. They were things I had never done before. But God was teaching me that being in authority is about being a servant. I became quick to repent and ask forgiveness when I was wrong. I realized I must care for Gisela and love her, like Christ loved the Church and cared for her. I must not misuse her. I must not take advantage of her. I must not order her around and control her, but love her. Love does not force people to do things a particular way.
In any movement, any group, in each home—everywhere—God places leaders. But please understand: Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:43–45, NIV). Jesus led by example. We also must lead others through love, patience and example. We lead others through bearing with them in their suffering, not through beating them into obedience.