From one woman’s heart to another, let’s dig into this sensitive subject together—submission. This word drudges up all kinds of feelings in us women, usually negative. Maybe we picture a Tarzan-like figure beating or threatening a woman into becoming a doormat for him, commanding her to cater to him silently as if her opinions are worthless and she is nothing more than a slave to him. What an awful image! This image is on one end of the spectrum, while on the other end, we have women dismissing the command to submit, saying it’s outdated in the light of the progress in women’s rights movements.
If the concept of submission was ever painted in a negative light, it was painted wrong. My hope is to shed a positive light on that “S” word and ignite in you a new desire to carry out this idea into your marriage. I want to help you appreciate it as the high calling that it is.
Scripture is clear about the roles of husbands and wives, stating multiple times for wives to submit to their husbands (Colossians 3:18, Titus 2:5, 1 Peter 3:5, Ephesians 5:22). It seems to me God means business in this department. Why would this be important to God?
Imagine two referees, both completely capable of calling shots but seeing plays from different angles. Picture what would happen if they were both calling the shots over the same plays. It wouldn’t work. Chaos would ensue. As we know God is the God of peace. Therefore, within the family unit, God set up an order for peace to rule to obtain some sense of unity. If ever a decision were called into question, God clears up the confusion by having a system of order in place. Submission was never meant to cause any of us suffering. Its purpose is peace and unity.
One way to destroy a unit, whether it’s a military unit or a family unit, is to create division among the ranks. Satan used this strategy in the Garden of Eden when he went to Eve first and convinced her to question Adam’s leadership. He is still using this tactic today to convince women their happiness is found in usurping her husband’s authority. Friends, by disrespecting our husbands, we are being played for a fool!
Though women have faced subjugation by men through the ages, women’s rights are at an all-time high here in the United States, and for that I am grateful! Women are equal in value and deserve equal rights in society. However, in a marriage, God grants us different roles for the sake of unity. Unfortunately, many Christians are confusing women’s rights in society, which is a good thing, with equal roles within a marriage. Although God created us equal in worth, we were created with different bodies, different qualities, varying abilities, and different roles. The husband and wife have qualities that vary but complement one another fantastically.
Before we dive in to discuss exactly what submission is—the meaning and application of it—let’s discuss what submission is not.
Submission is not derogatory. God isn’t asking us wives to do anything Jesus himself wasn’t willing to do. Jesus submitted himself to the Father’s will for the purpose of conquering evil. Husbands and wives were created as a reflection of the relationship between the Father and Son—equal in value and significance, but each having different roles—for the purpose of conquering evil (Genesis 1:26-27).
The Bible also compares marriage to the relationship between Christ and the Church. Christ never submits to the Church. Although he considers her needs and even sacrificed himself for her, Christ takes the leading role, and the Church follows suit.
The husband is granted a type of authority within a marriage, but he’s not off the hook to lead however he feels. Authority granted by God is never for the purpose of building up the one in authority but to protect and bless those under the authority. In fact, those in authority have great responsibility and will be judged by God based on how they used their authority. Scripture certainly doesn’t make it easy for him as he’s given some heavy instructions on how to lead. Every time the Bible encourages wives to submit to their husbands, it is followed up with further instruction for the husband to not abuse his authority but to use it to lead with love (Colossians 3:18-19, Titus 2:5-8, 1 Peter 3:5-7, Ephesians 5:22-30). The husband is commanded to love his wife, to not be harsh with her, and to serve her. He is to love her as he loves himself (which may be a pretty big deal!), be understanding with her, care for her, show her honor, and give himself up for her. He is to lead her without self-seeking motives. Both the husband and the wife were given responsibility to one another, and neither command is easy. Servanthood and sacrifice remain mutual while still preserving the leadership role to the husband.
If your husband is a power-hungry alpha male type and not concerned about your well-being, guard yourself. If he is harming you, you obey a greater command and do what you need to do to protect your mind, body, and spirit. If you are in this situation, please seek safety and counseling. This article is written to address situations in which the safety of those involved is not endangered.
Another thing submission is not: it is not meant for the wife to simply do everything her husband tells her without question, without discussion. Remember, there are two capable refs out on the field who need to confer what they’re seeing on the field with one another. One may see a play at an angle the other didn’t see or bring wisdom from past experience, which reveals further insight to the current situation. Relationships are built on honesty and, along with that, comes honesty with feelings as well. If a wife feels her husband is making a choice that will have negative consequences, she should speak up. Her feelings are valid and withholding them from him only creates distance in the relationship.
Submission does not forcibly impose obedience. Wives are not powerless. Submission means “surrender one’s will.” Surrendering is an active role. It is something she does, not something that is taken away from her. The one who voluntarily gives up her will to maintain God’s order for peacekeeping is, in effect, in a place of power as she has the choice to give it up or not give it up. Jesus never forces our submission, but lovingly requests it.
Another thing submission is not is a command for all women to submit to all men. To add clarity to Scripture, the only references in the Bible for a woman to submit her will is within a marriage. God values women and uses them in leadership positions. In fact, many times in the Bible, God placed a woman in a position of leadership among men. God would not, could not, do something that goes against his own heart. Yet, God appointed Deborah as a judge—a position of high authority—over all of Israel (Judges 4). He chose many female prophets to speak his Word to men: Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-15), Anna (Luke 2:36) and Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:8-9). There is an argument that God chooses women to lead only when men are unavailable, but this cannot be supported by Scripture. Furthermore, we need to be careful that we are not suppressing God’s voice—putting God in a box—when God chooses a woman as his voice.
Submission is not just for women. In Christian culture, both men and women submit in many different forms to others: to be peacemakers, to forgive, to respect authority, to go the extra mile, and to give others more than is asked. Christianity is about dying to “self” to bring God to light. When we do take a stand, it is not for personal gain but only for the glory of God. So, it makes sense that wives would be encouraged to set aside their wills, at times, as this is not a foreign concept in Christianity.
We’ve thoroughly covered what submission is not. Let’s dig into what it is. Submission, for us as wives, is a call to yield to our husband’s leadership, to have regard for his decisions, and to support him in carrying them out. It means we don’t kick and scream over his calls on the plays as the head referee. God created some of us with a fiery passion and he did it for a reason. That fiery passion can be a good thing! Our fiery spirit may even be the reason our husband loves us so much. But there are times to unleash our fiery passion and times to rein it in. The time after conferring with one another, when the final call is announced, is the time to rein it in. A good leader of a husband will take his wife’s thoughts into consideration and pray before making his final decision. If his final decision doesn’t go against Scripture, she should not argue and she should even take it a mile further by offering her support in carrying out his decisions.
Submission is an act of worship just as much as any other act. Worship includes singing praises, serving others, giving sacrificially and, also, submitting our wills to the greater good. As wives, we do not submit to our husbands for our husband’s sake, but for God’s sake, as an act of obedience to our Sovereign Father. Our hope is not in our husband, it is in God. And by obeying God, we are releasing our will not for the will of our husband but for the glory of God. We keep our minds steadfast on Kingdom goals until the world’s goals are dimmed.
Generally, when someone notices a problem, they have a desire to fix it. As wives, we are in a position where we see problems most evidently. Who more deeply knows a man than his wife? As wives, we best see his flaws and, naturally, we want to fix his flaws. But we are never called to such duties. In fact, we may only be getting in God’s way when we attempt to “fix” our husbands. True submission leaves his improvement journey open for God to work. When we take control, we are telling God we don’t trust he will work it out and bring good into every situation. It’s our obedience that allows God to be God; only he can change a heart. How ironic this is: Scripture says the best way for a wife to “change” her husband is not through trying to overpower his decisions, but by praying, swerving out of the way, and watching God change him.
God’s ways are often paradoxical. They don’t always make sense to our ways. If we knew all the thoughts of God and the intricacies of him, we would have no need to seek him. But we lack something—something God has—which is why we seek him. His ways are higher than our ways. It is beneficial to us to trust the one who made us, the one who knows us, the one who designed the family unit, the one who knows best how it operates, the one who calls us wives to obedience and submission, as he himself in his bodily form was willing to do.
God rewards our acts of faith. First Peter 1:6-7 says the genuineness of our faith will be tested, and the result will be praise, glory, and honor. Submitting our wills to another is a complete act of faith, and it, too, will be rewarded.
Submission is a high calling. It is not for the faint-hearted. It takes a strong woman to set aside her desires. It’s this strength—this fiery passion under control—that brings beauty to the ruler of it. There is something alluring to the calming of the will and the peace that diffuses throughout difficult situations. Picture a woman trying to control a man versus a woman having regard for her husband’s wishes, though her desire is elsewhere. There is beauty within the “S” word. The husband sees it and God sees it. Submission is, between the husband and wife, a beautiful dance.