You know the word I’m talking about.
Well, perhaps that’s what a lot of the women are thinking. And perhaps most of the men are like, “Heeeeck, yeah, submission is awesome!!!” At least in the biblical sense.
In Ephesians 5:21-33, Paul gives some marital advice to the church of Ephesus. He writes, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord,” and “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” There’s a lot more. You should read it.
So what is the beef with this dirty S word anyways? Why do women hate it so much?
Well, I think it comes down to a few reasons.
1.It denotes inequality and almost a difference in inherent value between a man and a woman, in that the man is given the role of headship. It also seems to counteract the freedoms that women’s rights advocates have worked so hard to achieve. This perspective can be quite demeaning to a woman.
2. When you think of submission, you think of weakness. You think of not having thoughts of your own, or having low self-respect so as to NEED a man to make decisions for you.
3. It is a biblical guideline that has been abused to serve the agendas of many men.
These are good reasons to hate the word, and to even throw out this passage of Scripture…except that we have completely misinterpreted and misused this passage, and for far too long.
When people first meet RJ and I, they probably notice a loud, really fiery, super opinionated, “go-getter” Asian chick with a quiet, mellow, “just-sits-back-and-observes-and-speaks-only-when-necessary” half-white half-whatever (What is he, Ethiopian? Mexican?? Lebanese????) guy. Upon first glance, it would be easy to conclude that I am the pants-wearer in the family, and that RJ is passive. In fact, for our staff entrance interview, the homework we were given was to read a book called Wild Women, Passive Men. You can kind of tell what they thought of us.
Friends, let me assure you once for all that RJ is the head of our family, and I joyfully submit myself (most of the time, hahaha) under his headship.
I used to hate the thought of submission myself. But that was before I fully understood what it really meant.
First of all, let’s just be clear. God created man and woman of equal worth and equal value (Genesis 1:27). We are both made in the image of God, and that is quite a high honor. However, for the sake of order, God has called men to take on the headship role for a family and for a woman to submit to her husband (Ephesians 5:21-33). It would be chaotic with two people in charge, have you ever seen that? These roles do not equate to one person having lesser or more value. And this does not counteract the personal freedoms women have worked so hard to achieve. But I will get to this last point later.
Second, submission is not weakness. On the contrary, submission requires greater control and greater strength than one could ever imagine. In Philippians 2, Paul describes this sort of submission and restraint of power in Jesus, who was fully God and yet submitted himself to a fate as humiliating as death on a cross. Jesus wasn’t weak. He wasn’t a pushover or a pansy. He didn’t just let Himself be crucified. Jesus was controlled, determined, knew his mission, and carried it through to the bitter end. Submission is not weakness. It is a conscious decision to yield your power for the sake of something greater.
Thirdly, it’s true. Men have been abusing this passage of Scripture to serve their own agendas for centuries. And because of that, submission has become the dirty S word, a word that women have come to hate. It seems to me that women are more likely to be reminded to submit because “God said you’re supposed to submit to your husband” than men are reminded to love their wives. Or perhaps it is easier to say, “Yeah, I do love my wife. I have fond and fuzzy feelings towards her. I love her so much.”
But what if men actually lived out the command to love their wives as Christ loved the church in the way that Ephesians 5:21-33 really lays out? What if a man not only had fond fuzzy feelings towards his wife, but considered her needs before his own, cared for her as if she were his own body, heck, would be willing to DIE to what he wanted for her good?
In the words of Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty, “Now we’re cooking with peanut oil!”
You see, the only way this passage can work is if both sides are doing what they are supposed to be doing. Even though I am an obnoxious, VERY opinionated (and expressive, haha), strong, independent woman, I KNOW that in every decision we make as a family,
1. RJ is actively seeking God,
2. He is always open to hearing my (MANY) opinions,
and 3. He makes the final decision for the best interest of our family, even if it means dying to himself and his desires.
And you see, this is how biblical submission does not undo the personal freedoms women have gained in expression. Up until the final say so, I am very much an equal participant in the discussion, whose (MANY…notice a theme?) opinions have equal value and weight, and an active collaborator in the decision making process. And I know that he really listens to and weighs what I have to say about the matter. I am not at the mercy of a selfish man.
And because of these reasons, I can joyfully submit to his headship. RJ really makes it quite easy to do so. And he’s fun too. And handsome.
If you are married, your spouse is part of God’s plan for you. We are called as wives to submit to our husbands and as husbands to love your wives sacrificially. It is not “I will only submit if he loves me sacrificially.” There’s no conditional statement in the passage. You are just supposed to do it, unless it presents a danger to yourself or any others. Then you need to GTFO for the time being and seek some professional help.
But if you are single, dating, or even engaged, one of the things that I cannot stress enough with the young women I meet with is the power of discernment and the power of choice that you have right now. You don’t HAVE to submit to your boyfriend yet, but if you can’t see yourself doing so now (either because you don’t trust that he listens to and obeys God or because you don’t sense that he is looking to the ways to best serve you or the relationship, even if it means sacrificing what he wants), you probably won’t be able to when you are married. Just being honest.
And for you unmarried young men, we are always called to die to ourselves for the sake of another. That is a given, in marriage and out of marriage. And yet while loving sacrificially, if you get the sense that your girlfriend doesn’t really respect you or your leadership in the dating relationship, she probably won’t respect your headship in marriage either. Just saying.
And I’m not saying to you unmarried men and women that your sig o’s need to have this submission and sacrificial love thing all down while you are dating. But the following are just some weeding out questions I would ask before you consider marriage: “Does my sig o listen to God and try to obey Him?” “Do I see in my sig o the potential for growth in _____ (submitting to me or loving me sacrificially)?” and for you unmarried ladies out there, “Do I trust that my sig o walks with God and could I place myself under his headship as he walks with God and obeys Him?”
These are tough questions to ask, but I guarantee you, you would rather be single than wish you were. Waiting for God’s best is truly worth it.
So let’s change the reputation of submission, shall we??