I’m not afraid of the “s” word

s word

In today’s culture, the church is so often engulfed in worldly standards that scriptural teachings are at times compromised or ignored to avoid conflict. The feministic struggle for the liberation of women has become a worldwide phenomenon that brings tension to the Biblical roles of a woman.

“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.” Ephesians 5:22-24 (NIV)

Given the passage above, we all know the “s” word I am referring to in the title of this post. SUBMIT. The offensive word that no one wants to talk about.

Let me give some personal background. I am a leader by nature. I love to be in charge, I’m not shy, and I don’t mind speaking in front of people. I would much rather lead than follow. I used to cringe every time I read the passage above. I just couldn’t see myself ever being able to properly submit to a man in a biblical marriage relationship. The world had taught me that the word “submit” translated to “less than,” “below,” and “not capable.” Before I met my wonderful now-husband, I was in a few dating relationships where I was the leader. I made the calls. I wasn’t bossy (I don’t think?), but according to the biblical definition, I took on the role of the man.

Since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, the battle of the sexes has always been an issue of social justice. There is a constant tension between a woman’s liberation and a man’s chauvinism. Women have a sinful inclination to override a man’s authority, and men have a sinful inclination to place women below them in social standing.

The Bible is clear that God does not devalue women or our abilities. Instead, He has given us ROLES for a very specific reason.

“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.” Ephesians 5:22-24 (NIV)

It is important to first note that this text is addressed to “WIVES”. It is speaking to ALL Christian wives; no wife is exempt from this passage no matter the circumstances.

God uses the word “submit” NOT “obey.” Submission is a VOLUNTARY act. God does not command us to OBEY our husbands, as a slave would his master or a child would their parent. While there is a sense in which obedience is present in Biblical submission, it is not in the same way that you would force a child to obey their parents. The word “submission” speaks not only to the action of letting your husband lead (obeying), but also to attitude (willingly doing so).

18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Colossians 3:18-22 (NIV)

The Bible only ever indicates that both men and women are EQUAL with DIFFERENT (not less important) roles to fulfill. The husband has authority over his wife, that is, he has the responsibility to protect, to provide and to lead.

I am happy to let my husband have the responsibility of provision and protection – two things I no longer have to worry about on a daily basis. I have enough to worry about as it is, those issues are off my shoulders; the responsibilities in a marriage are SHARED among the two equals.

I often compare marriage to a sports team. Coach, team captain and the players. In the case of a marriage, God is the coach, the husband is the team captain and the wife is a player.

As with the coach of a team, God has ultimate authority- it’s His team. We are to OBEY God, both the husband and the wife (team captain and player) – this is non-negotiable.

The team captain (husband) does have some authority over the rest of the team. He protects the team; he LEADS the team. When a person joins a team they are committing to follow the leadership of the coach and captain. The player (wife) does not grudgingly obey the team captain – she follows his lead voluntarily, obeying his leadership and instruction as she has willingly placed herself under his authority. The team captain must inspire respect. His love for the team makes them want to follow him and trust that his calls will be the best for the team as a whole. In some circumstances, the team captain COULD BE a bad team captain, but he’s still the team captain nonetheless, and must be treated as such.

The team captain can’t win games by himself though – he must have the team on his side. The player and the captain are ONE TEAM, not separate. They are striving towards the same goal. God’s the coach, the husband is the team captain and the wife is the player.

“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.” Ephesians 5:22-24 (NIV)

God also calls wives to submit, “as you do to the Lord.” The attitude we should have about submitting to our husbands is the same attitude we have about how we submit to the Lord. We submit to our husbands to give honor and glory to God – this is what He has called us to do. A wife who does not submit to her husband also does not submit to the Lord.

Keep in mind that the submission process is not always easy. Many husbands do not inspire respect – this makes submitting to a non-respectable man very difficult. Sometimes men can be inconsiderate, abusive*, addicts, ungrateful and forgetful. But the spirit-filled believer submits anyway – because God said so.

“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.” Ephesians 5:22-24 (NIV)

Our motive behind submitting to our husbands should be because God made him the head of the family, just as Christ is head of the church. As with a human body, the head gives direction and the body responds. A wife that does not respond to her husband’s direction brings spiritual dysfunction to a marriage, but a wife that respects her husband lovingly brings honor to the Lord. Ultimately, we submit, even when it’s hard, because God said so.

“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.” Ephesians 5:22-24 (NIV)

It is important to remember that even JESUS submits to God. We all know that Jesus is not less than God, yet Christ in His role submits to the Father. The same is true for us in a marriage. We are not less, just different. The supreme and ultimate model of submission is Jesus himself, who gave His own life to save the sinful world. Christ submits to the Father and leads the church, and husbands submit to Christ and lead their families.

When I met my now-husband, we had many conversations about what it means to be submissive. His explanation was different than what the world taught me. “You mean it isn’t a bad thing? You mean it isn’t putting girls down? You mean it’s supposed to be a good thing?”

Day by day, I’m learning that the submissive role the Lord has placed on us ladies is actually…for the best! I can still be a leader among the community, among women, in my career, for my future children. I don’t have to abandon my nature, my personality. I can still be ‘me’ but the best ‘me’ involves fulfilling my God-given role in my marriage. I can honestly say that in comparison to my past relationships, a HUGE weight has lifted off my shoulders. I can worry about MY responsibilities; I don’t have to worry about everything. I may help out financially, but I am not responsible for the finances. I may be spiritually strong and encouraging to my husband regarding spiritual matters, but I am fulfilling my spiritual role by letting him take the lead. I have a say in the large decisions that we make as a team, but ultimately, I’m not responsible for the outcome – good or bad. Instead, I get to focus on the things that God has wired me as a woman to focus on.

MartinEngagement62

After looking further into the “s” word and what it really means, it is a word that is no longer offensive to me. Instead, I embrace it because I know the Lord gave me a very specific role as a wife that I would be foolish not to fulfill. A role that is important, needed, and required in order for my marriage to be all that God has planned. The wife’s role of submission is actually, dare I say it, LIBERATING.

 

*If you are in a physically abusive situation with your spouse, I encourage you to seek out help from your Pastor, a mentor, a counselor or someone you trust and respect. In most cases, I believe the law should get involved as well. I take this situation very seriously.

Some of the ideas from this post are from the Ephesians MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series by John MacArthur in 1986.

  • Kristen C

    Alyssa, thank you for taking the time to read, study and seek counsel on such an important issue. Submission is a really tough concept to wrap our minds around until we look at the example of Jesus’ submission to God. I know you worked hard on this post, and I am grateful for it!

    • http://alyssamartinphoto.com Alyssa Martin

      Thank you for the encouragement, Kristen. :)