A good marriage is mutually submissive.
These next two sections on submission will probably be the hardest pill to swallow, simply because it is controversial in all groups, Christian and non-Christian alike. I am taking this topic in two sections, because submission is divided into two parts in Scripture: the women’s responsibility and the men’s responsibility. As I stated in the beginning, expert opinions differ on this matter, but I choose to look into the Bible to see what God says, and (via Paul’s letter to the Ephesians) He says this:
“And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of His body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5: 21-24, NLT)
Just four little verses…and they are fighting words to a lot of women. Why is that? Simply put, thanks to the so-called sexual revolution of the sixties, the “women’s lib” movement has brainwashed our society into equating submission with weakness or fear. They preach that submissive thinking is archaic and irrelevant to our times. Sadly, many Christian women have bought into this well-veiled lie and choose to completely ignore or bash the sections in Scripture stating God’s point of view on the subject. I’ve heard women praise God for giving us His Word, inerrant and relevant to all aspects of life. I’ve heard these same women scoff at the passages that tell them to submit to their husbands in everything, simply because they refuse to understand submission better.
So what exactly is submission? The New Living Translation Study Bible defines “submit” in its dictionary as “to yield to authority or be accountable to another—God, society or fellow believers.” Nowhere in this definition does it mention a doormat. Yes, it does speak of authority and being held accountable, neither of which are very positive notions in our culture today. However, having a husband that will hold you accountable for your actions is invaluable. When someone truly loves you, they will hold you to a high standard. That’s not saying it won’t be painful at times, but spiritual growth often is. Just because something hurts does not mean it isn’t good for you.
Many women will stop reading this now, because the thought of submission turns them off. Truthfully, these are probably also the women who run their household without any regards to their husband, other than having to wait for his paycheck to pay the mortgage (and sometimes not even that). If any of those women are still reading this, let me as you a couple questions: Does your husband love you like Christ loved the church? If not, does that make it okay in God’s eyes to not respect him?
Let me tell you a little story. You may have heard this one before, so bear with me.
One day, in the Garden of Eden, Eve was taking a walk. A snake came up to her and started talking to her. He convinced her that it was okay to do the one thing God had commanded her and her husband not to do. She did it, and then convinced her husband to join her. When God asked her about what had happened, she blamed it on the snake.
In hearing the story of the first sin, many “church ladies” will ask, “But where was Adam in this? If men are supposed to be leaders in the home, why didn’t he step in and tell the snake to go away?” That thought is totally logical. It seems that, if Adam followed God’s blueprint for marriage, then he would have said something and not let his wife to fall into temptation. But let me ask you something: if Eve had spoken with her husband about it in the first place, would he have said something then?
I believe that many husbands are not the leaders in their homes because their wives have made it clear that they do not need help running things. Women can work full-time, run a soccer practice carpool, cook, clean, take care of the kids, mend clothing and booboos, do the laundry, help with homework, and supervise bath night…and then get up the next day and do it all again. However, at the end of that long day, week, month and year, something has got to suffer. Mothers will never allow their relationship with their children stale amidst all the busyness, so guess who gets the short end of the stick? That’s right... the guy who just provides the funding. And we wonder why they won’t communicate with us.
Let’s break down this passage in Ephesians to fully understand the verses and their meaning. Verse twenty-one starts out the passage by stating that marriage should be mutually submissive. It states that this mutual submission is “out of reverence for Christ.” Similarly, verses twenty-two and twenty-three state that a wife should submit to her husband “as to the Lord,” because “a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church.” This does not mean that Christian women need to bow at their husbands’ feet, or to pray to them. It simply means that respecting your husband is part of your submission to the Lord. If you are not submitting to your husband, then you are not submitting to God.
So what happens to those women who are married to a non-believer who refuses to lead his household in the way of Christ? What if your husband is not worthy of your submission? Check out 1 Peter 3:1, which states, “In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.” (NLT) God speaks to those women who believe that their husbands have not earned their respect. I have news for you: no man will ever be worthy of a woman’s submission, but according to the Bible, that doesn’t justify the lack of it. Simply put, respect is not earned; it is given.
Finally, verse twenty-four charges wives to “submit to your husbands in everything.” So now you may be thinking, “Most things, okay. I can do that.”
Um…no. Everything. This means all the immense and obscure things, from finances, to where your children go to school, to the color on your living room walls. Now many are thinking, “Okay, but…?”
NO! Anytime the word “but” is used in the middle of a sentence, it completely negates what was said in the first part. (Think along the lines of, “I’m sorry, but…,” or “I agree, but…,” or “I understand, but…”.)
Now, this does not mean that you must follow your husband blindly down a path of destruction. If he is telling you to do things that are abhorrent in the eyes of the Lord, you have God to obey first and foremost. Talk openly with your husband about it, pray, seek biblical counseling at your church, and seek God above all else. However, short of that, God makes no exceptions for a woman’s selfishness and desire for control.
Submission is difficult to maintain, but it is necessary to have the kind of marriage God intends for you. If you truly love the Lord and want His will in your life, you will desire to do what He commands, no matter how difficult it may be. Our God is a God of order, and not of chaos that is born from power struggles. Keeping holy order in your marriage will lead to the kind of freedom that our Heavenly Father intended for us from the beginning of time. Do not let your obstinacy stand in the way of God’s will for your marriage and your life.