In Ephesians 5:21, the Apostle Paul gives a principle for how all Christians should relate to one another: submission to one another out of reverence for Christ. If we were to understand submission in the right light, it would literally alter every relationship we have.
To make this tangible, think of what Paul is saying in terms of one simple but transforming question:
What can I do to serve you?
It’s simple—almost trite—but what if this was on your mind and on your lips in all of your relationships? Literally, what if you asked this question to people on a daily basis? Husbands, what if you took this attitude with your wife? Wives, what if you took this attitude with your husband? What if you asked this question to your parents, your children, your roommate, your boss?
Here’s what would happen: for many of you, everything would change. The gospel would begin to saturate your marriage, your home, your workplace. And when the gospel saturates an area, it makes things new. It regenerates and recreates what was broken and dying.
If this is so simple, why don’t we do it? What keeps us from asking, “What can I do to serve you?” The answer is almost as simple as the question—fear. We fear what the other person might actually say. Maybe they will ask too much. Maybe they will take advantage of us. And maybe by asking how we can serve others, our needs will never be met. For many of us, the possibility of what might follow this transforming question is more frightening than it is invigorating.
So are you afraid to obey? Well, to a certain extent, that’s just par for the course in being a follower of Jesus. Faith always involves a little bit of fear. But let me give you a little consolation from my experience: most of the things you fear will never happen. Are you afraid that treating people like this will enable them and prevent them from changing? More often than not, the opposite is the case. Paying people back and making them feel the pain for how they’ve wronged us—that doesn’t change people. Giving people their just desserts only intensifies a vicious cycle.
The gospel secret is that grace is the most powerful change agent on the planet. That is how God changed me—not through threats of the law, but by graciously taking my sin. That is how my wife and closest friends have changed me—not by paying me back, but by extending forgiveness when I didn’t deserve it.
Are you afraid that living like this will keep you from being happy? That’s not necessarily the case either. The most joyful person ever to live was Jesus, and he spent his life washing feet and dying for sinners. There is a joy in being like Jesus that you will never experience when you are the defender of your tiny, dark, self-centered kingdom.
The big question, though, is: where do we get the power to do this? It’s a great idea to serve one another, but no one has that power in themselves. The power to submit your life to others is a supernatural power that the Spirit of God has to give you, and he does it through the gospel. Paul says that we submit to one another “out of reverence for Christ.” In serving one another, we are really responding to Jesus’ grace to us. Our spouse, parent, roommate, or employee may not be worthy of it. But Jesus is.
For more on this, be sure to listen to this sermon.
 Presenting Ephesians 5:21 through the lens of one overarching question is an idea I first heard from Andy Stanley.