March 8, 2012
It seems that what most people think the Bible means when it teaches that wives ought to submit to their husbands is that Christians are hard-line nutters, who subject their wives to some kind of tyrannical dictatorship in marriage.
He says cut your hair this way – so you do… the husband dictates how she should cut her hair and what she can wear, gives her spending money and sets her to the housework and child-rearing… And she must silently comply in all humility!
But that’s NOT what the Bible means by Submission.
And if we are going to apply this teaching to ourselves we do need to get a clear understanding of what the Bible actuallydoes mean by submission –
First, what it DOESN’T mean.
It does not mean: The husband is an ultimate authority – Above him is the church, the government… his authority is given to him from above.
If a husband is abusive or unkind, these higher authorities are given so that a wife can and should appeal to them.
It does not mean: The wife does not have independent thoughts – She may well be incredibly bright, she may have brilliant insights… she still thinks for herself, she has her own ideas and can make good intelligent leadership decisions… but when all the discussion is over she still respects the leadership of her husband. She lets him take responsibility.
It does not mean: The wife does not seek to influence her husband – actually, she should be the biggest influence (after God) in all the important decisions that her husband has to make. And she should influence her husband…
Genesis 2 describes the creation of the first woman Eve… God looked at Adam and said “It is not good for him to be alone (He’s not coping)… I will make him a slave…
God designed her to be a helper… women, just look, it’s plain to see…men need help!
If I decided to spend all of our money (our house and savings) on a sports car for track days in the summer, and Sarah just said, “ok dear, whatever you think is best!” she would NOT be being a help!
Sometimes to help is to getin his face and challenge (lovingly and graciously) what he is planning to do! (“Come on Andy… that’s a bad plan… we need to rethink…”)
Wives need to help their husbands. Through influence, wisdom, council and prayer. (Incidentally (wives)… Do you pray for your husband?)
It does not mean: She must obey her husband’s command to sin – In such incidents the wife must make it clear that she follows God’s authority, not his. Even if he stops following Jesus, she keeps on following Jesus.
It does not mean: She is less intelligent or competent than her husband – this is obviously not true (of that I am well aware!).
Perhaps a good way to think about this is to consider the PM and his cabinet: He gathers the most competent and intelligent advisors around him that he can, but at the end of the day the responsibility for the decision goes to him. He takes the flack when it all goes wrong.
And submission does not mean that a wife is to act out of fear (at least, not the fear of man).
The second half of v6 says, “You are her [Sarah’s] daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.” In other words, submission is free – it’s a choice, not done out of fear. A Christian woman is a free woman (the only one who owns her is God). When she submits to her husband—whether he is a believer or unbeliever—she does it in freedom, not out of fear.
What does the Bible say about submission?
Firstly, a husband and wife are equalbut with different, yet complimentary roles (we need each other).
Both are created in the image of God. So, submission has nothing to do with value, Genesis chapter 1 makes it very clear, “In the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (v27) Both men and women then are equal in value and dignity.
And if important decisions are going to be made well in a marriage then both parties need to work together towards agreement – she helping as he takes a lead.
This is clearly illustrated in the ultimate example that we have of submission in the Bible, Jesus.
Wives are to submit like Jesus did to His Father in the garden at Gethsemane.
He discusses the situation, He’s passionate, He’s vocal, and He’s emotional… he wants to explore and consider alternative solutions… but at the end of the day (though they are without doubtequally God) He submits… “Father, your will be done!”
“You make the decision and I will follow…”
Husbands then, need to ask themselves if they are worth submitting to!
No believer would have an issue with submitting to Jesus.
Paul says – “Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…”
The kind of husband who would die for his wife is the kind of husband she will find it worth submitting to.
When submission is done right, when a wife nurtures and encourages the leadership of her husband – when they behave like Christ in submissive purity and reverence – says 1 Peter 3v2 – chances are they will be noticed. And though they may suffer for pulling away both spiritually and morally from their unbelieving partner, in the long term their submission, says Peter, in all other areas of the marriage might just win over their spouse (v1).
If you live this way – even in a pagan culture – chances are that someone will ask you “to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15