The concept of biblical submission is never a popular topic, probably because it’s one that has been so misunderstood and often abused. We live in a culture where, world-wide, there has been some form of oppression against women. This battle between male and female is not new, and it has been going on since sin entered the world.
Have you noticed that we live in a world of extremes? As humans, if something isn’t working for us, we try to counter it by going to the opposite extreme. You can see this in politics and social reform, in schools, in churches, as well as in families. Interestingly, people often blame the Bible for these divisions, unfairness, and it’s antiquated concepts. Unfortunately, the Bible has been misused to abuse others. However, it is the Bible that actually teaches us how we can live in unity and treat each other fairly.
I had mentioned that I have been struggling with my calling, because it isn’t one that is typically reserved for women. God has really been working on me to show me how He has used women in the past, and helping me undo all of the wrong thinking regarding the roles of women in the Church, and in general. One thing He has really helped me to understand is the concept of biblical submission. This concept is something that both men and women need to really “get” because taken out of context, twisted, or misconstrued, it can do, and has done, so much damage to women and to relationships between the sexes.
What submission is not:
1). Submission is not enslavement. It is not an enforcement of obedience or a means to enslave women. It does not mean that women do not have a voice, that they cannot think for themselves or make their own decisions.
2) Submission is not weakness. It does not make you less worthy or of less value than a man. It does not mean that you aren’t as intelligent or have as much to offer.
3) Submission is not optional. Whoa. I know, some of you are about to click “exit”. But in order to have balance, peace, and unity, God has commanded for women, specifically wives, to submit to their husbands.
Now before you completely disappear and write me off as some “crazy” extremist. Let’s talk about what submission is.
What submission is:
1). Submission is recognizing that God has placed the weight, the burden, of accountability on the husband. Have you heard that saying “With great power comes great responsibility”? Husbands will have to give an account for those they are leading. Knowing that burden falls on him, you work together as partners, and you make decisions together. Submitting is yielding to your husband as the final decision maker, as the one who will bear the responsibility.
2). Submission is part of a symbiotic relationship between husband and wife. Ephesians 5:21-33 discusses this relationship between husbands and wives. When simply observing these verses, you will see that wife is commanded to submit to her husband, and the husband is commanded to love his wife as his own body. The marriage relationship is a cycle of love and respect for each other. As sinful, imperfect human beings, you can see how this can go so wrong! How men can abuse the concept of submission by not acting in love, and how women would not be willing to submit under such oppressive circumstances. It’s not that the Bible is irrelevant. It’s that we aren’t following it properly.
3). Submission points to a greater picture. If you were to delve deeper into this passage in Ephesians 5, you would see that this marriage concept of submission and sacrifice is actually a picture of Christ and the Church. Jesus, out of his great love for us, took on the burden of our sin by sacrificing himself for us, and as a response we submit to him and follow his lead. It’s easy to want to follow Jesus because he has already proven his love for us. In fact, we cannot do this marriage thing without him. He not only acts as our example, but as we submit to Christ, he transforms us. Husbands are able to love more perfectly, and wives are able to allow them to lead. The relationship is three-fold.
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.
I discussed the concepts of submission and sacrifice within marriage, but the passage starts by saying, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” We are all commanded to submit, men and women. I believe that if we applied this principle to those we encounter in our families, at church, in our community, and in our world, that would be a game changer!
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40