We don’t have to look too hard to find our culture’s view of the word “submission”. With the feminist movement, how marriage is portrayed on TV, and the general crumbling view of marriage, “submission” might as well be classified as a bad word. To a degree, the word gets its bad reputation from those who have misused it. If you’ve lived through such an experience, my heart goes out to you. I pray this won’t harm your view of our loving and perfect God, and please seek help if necessary. This word also gets its bad reputation because we wrongfully define “submission” as “less than”.
Before we get in too deep, let’s clarify what all this “submission” talk is about. In Ephesians 5:22-33, we learn of God’s wonderful and good design for marriage.
“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.”
Sisters, God’s Word is complete, authoritative, and perfect. Just because our culture misuses or doesn’t like something doesn’t give us cause to dismiss it. My heart for today is we’d lay aside cultural meanings and see the goodness of God’s Word.
First, submitting to our husbands is a command (v. 22). It doesn’t say we submit if our husband brings home ice cream, says all the right things, or reads our mind about unloading the dishwasher. It’s best, though, when we view this command in light of the rest of Scripture. Romans 8:28 tells us God works all things together for the good of those who love him. In 1 John 5:3, we’re told God’s commands aren’t burdensome. This command (and all commands) is for our good. It’s to bring God glory. It brings freedom, not oppression.
Next, “as to the Lord” are key words in this passage. We’re to submit to our husbands as to the Lord, not instead of the Lord. Christ is our ultimate authority. Therefore, we submit to our husbands in everything, unless he leads us to sin. Also, this command is to our “own husbands,” meaning we willfully submit to our husbands.
Let’s talk about what submission is NOT. It doesn’t mean husbands are more important than wives. We’re of equal value, but have different roles. I can’t stress this enough- different doesn’t mean lesser. The Trinity is a beautiful picture of this. The Father, Son, and Spirit are fully God and complete equals (and they’re One); however, they each have different roles. The Son submitted to the Father through his death on the cross. Does this make Jesus less than the Father? Definitely not! Marriage is similar. Though our roles differ, they’re equal in value and importance. Also, submission isn’t the husband being domineering over his wife in words or actions. It’s not the husband demanding his dinner be served at 5:01pm sharp when he walks through the door. It’s also not looking down on women. God loves males and females equally. He died for both and we see Jesus loving and serving both all throughout the Gospels.
So, what’s biblical submission? First, it’s an aspect of love, putting their will ahead of our own. It’s to be selfless and serve. Lest we think we’re above serving, let’s remember, “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Cooking our husband dinner, doing their laundry, cleaning the house, or anything that would put our husband’s needs above ours aren’t wrong or bad things. Truly, we must think of him more significantly than we think of ourselves (Phil. 2:3). This could mean praying for him, cooking his favorite meal (even if it’s not one of our favorites), speaking to him kindly, encouraging him, and more. Our husbands are gifts from the Lord, and really, it should be a joy to serve him! We serve our families ultimately out of love for Christ and a desire to honor him. To submit is also to forgive. As wonderful as my husband is, he’s still a sinner (as am I), so being quick to forgive and reconcile is so important. Another aspect of submission is to follow our husband’s loving leadership. Christ leads our husbands as they lead us. To say we’re unwilling to submit to our husband is to ultimately say we don’t trust the Lord to lead him. Though our husbands are the leaders, their kind leadership should bring us into decision-making and such. Personally, we’ve lived this in many ways, especially in our decision for me to stay at home and our adoption process. We both gave input, prayed together and separately, and ultimately, the Lord united us in our decisions, though Jack led the way. We haven’t had a situation yet where the Lord didn’t unite us in such big decisions, but if that were to occur, Jack lead the way with that decision making.
Indeed, God’s design for marriage is beautiful. Our husbands have a weighty job- leading our families and loving us like Christ served the church (selflessly). Our joyful submission eases their burden. It’s easy for us to read this Ephesians passage and grow critical toward our husbands. However, that’s our flesh talking. Yes, let’s pray for our husbands to be strengthened as they lovingly lead our families. Also, though, let’s lay aside our “me-first” attitudes and be sure we’re in prayer about our own hearts. Let’s ask the Lord to teach us to love and serve our husbands well, all for God’s glory. Let’s be wives who spur our husbands on to lead well. We’ll both fail along the way, but praise God, his grace covers us! As we strive to love and serve each other well in our marriages, they’ll shine a light for the Gospel!
(& p.s. of course, all of this should happen as both the husband and the wife submit to the Lordship of Christ. Truly, one blog post isn’t sufficient to fully cover this topic. Spend time in the Word and prayer for yourself and pray the Lord would help you understand rightly!)