Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Submissive Wife: I have to do WHAT?

I heard a sermon Sunday morning about submissiveness.  When I discovered that was the day's topic, I felt my stomach sink a little and groaned to myself, "Oh, no..."  Would it be a "wives need to obey their husbands" sermon, our would it swing the opposite direction?  I've heard so many sermons on the subject and they never seem to agree.

So I did a little digging, a little reading on the subject and guess what...I found just as many differing ideas online as I've heard in churches!  It would be so easy to just pick a line of thinking that feels good, that doesn't challenge how I live and go with it.

But somehow I don't think God would agree to that method.

For me it is easy to latch onto the idea that submission to God absolutely means obedience, but submission to my husband....well, that's a different concept.  He's not my boss, my authority, so I don't have to OBEY him.

But I know many circles wholeheartedly believe that a husband IS his wife's authority figure, and so long as it doesn't involve abuse, she IS required to obey him.

Which one of these views on the Scripture is correct?  Or is there a happy medium?

I suppose we should start with actually reading the Scripture itself:
Ephesians 5:21-33

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
At first glance, it sure does appear that submission -- according to this passage -- involves obedience.  When we describe someone as being the "head" of someone or something else, we see that person has having authority, much like the "head" of a corporation.  However, author Gilbert Bilezikian states in his book, Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says about a Woman's Place in Church and Family that our English understanding of the word "head" couldn't be farther from the intention of the original language:
"...Paul equates Christ’s headship with his ministry as Savior, which is consistently defined in the New Testament as a suffering servant function requiring self-sacrifice for the sake of humanity... In Paul’s explanation about the meaning of headship, nothing suggests that head might imply rulership or authority. Had this been the case, Paul would have more appropriately stated, 'Christ is the head of the church. He is himself the Lord of the body' instead of 'the Savior of the body.'"

He goes on to say, "The church is submitted to Christ in reciprocation of Christ’s servanthood to it. In the same manner, wives submit to their husbands to reciprocate, in mutual submission, their husbands’ self-sacrificing love for their wives."

"Wives submit to their husbands to reciprocate...their husbands' self-sacrificing love for their wives."  She gives herself to him as he gives himself to her in a beautiful circle of unselfish love.

My husband and I had the opportunity last weekend to share with a group of married couples about what it takes to have a God-centered, over-flowing-with love kind of marriage.  We never used the word "submission," but I think we nailed the concept.  In short, we talked about casting aside the pursuit of having your own needs met in order to fully pursue meeting the needs of your spouse.  Serving each other purposefully and intentionally.

Ladies, to "submit" yourself to your husband isn't to deem him your "authority" like you would your father when you were a child or your boss at work.  To submit to your husband means to recognize that your job is to serve him as your protector, your friend, your lover and to do it willingly and unselfishly.

Husbands, submission from your wife is not something that you can demand.  It is something that you invoke by the way you love her and give yourself for her in order to take care of her.

When we recognize the beautiful order that God created for marriage, that it is a representation of the relationship He created between His Son and His Church, and we begin to live according to that order, marriage becomes a truly sacred relationship.  It takes on a depth and richness that we once could only dream of.

Biblical submission is not something we should be afraid of or dread.  It truly is part of God's design for the perfect life He so longs for His children to experience.  Let us purpose ourselves to living as we are called, "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Eph. 5:21)


  1. Thank you Angie for this clearer meaning for me.


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