Does A Christian Wife Still Have To Submit To Her Husband?
You could say being a submissive wife is Retro, but most people, most American women anyway would say it’s a throwback to the Cavemen era or at least the Mad Men era.
I mean, we’re in a new millennium, a whole new era has dawned for women.
Hillary Clinton may become the next President of the United States!!!
Everything has changed.
Or has it, have we?
Or are we as people, as men and women, as husbands and wives, just like Adam and Eve were after the Fall?
And Is it possible that submission, that old, old, OLD principle instituted by God, could still be in effect?
Hasn’t there been an update, maybe iSubmit 2.0, or a revision, or even a reversal of His original message to Eve?
I Googled it.
I looked at new translations of the Bible.
And—found nothing new from God on the subject.
So it looks like the original declaration is still in effect meaning that God intends that in marriage a husband has the role of leader & chief decider and his wife is responsible to God to cooperate with her husband’s leadership.
Oh yeah, I really don’t like that.
Part of me feels it’s insulting, stifling, and basically means I don’t get to call the shots in my own marriage and therefore my own life.
I’m a modern American woman caught in an ancient dilemma:
I have faith in God AND
I don’t like some of His rules.
Well, part of me doesn’t like some of His rules.
The flesh part, the ‘old nature’ part, the fallen part, the selfish me-centered part, really reacts badly to a few rules and “wives submit to your own husbands as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22) is right up there near the top of the list of things I totally wish weren’t in the Bible.
But, I’ve been talking to God about this because He knows what I’m thinking anyway, so I might as well ask my questions.
And, I’m in Africa teaching about Christian Marriage & Family Life, so it comes up a lot.
You want to know something amazing?
Modern American women aren’t the only ones who don’t like this plan.
Everywhere, in every tiny, remote, two hours of driving on muddy narrow almost impassable roads to get there kind of village, Christian women, believing women, faith-filled women, devout women DO NOT LIKE THIS COMMAND.
The very first question they ask, always, is some version of “Why do I have to submit to my husband?”
And it’s followed up with their own idea of why God couldn’t have really meant this if their own husband isn’t a Christian, or a good Christian, or a good provider, or kind, or if it’s a Tuesday, or if it’s the Rainy season, or . . .
Every Christian woman everywhere, at some time in her life, looks for a Loop Hole in the edict.
We’re on an epic quest to find a way to be righteous and still get our own way.
This whole thing has roots that trace all the way back to the Garden Story.
So I’ve been re-reading Genesis 3, the epicenter of a disaster of Biblical proportions.
An event that rocked a once perfect world and created the need for the first ever incidence of Crisis Intervention.
A true crisis disrupts order and threatens life and well being.
Natural disasters, wars, and epidemics are the usual culprits, but what happened in the Garden of Eden created a threat to Adam and Eve and to marriage as God had designed it.
The Fall of Man, recorded in Genesis 3, was a game changer for wives, for husbands, and for marriage.
There in the Genesis account, I see the origins of my own dilemma in what God says to Eve after she had been duped by Satan and consequently disobeyed God.
“. . .Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.”
That word desire can mean sexual desire, but somehow I don’t see a woman’s sexual desire for her husband as a big problem in many marriages!!!
Personally, I think that falls more in the category of solution than problem.
So what’s going on in Genesis 3:16b?
What is God telling Eve in this second portion of verse 16?
He’s telling her there are consequences to sin.
Little did she know it, but she’d blown up her own life and world for that forbidden fruit.
God knew what Eve didn’t: Sin always puts self in first place.
It upends our marriages, creating discord instead of harmony, making two ‘sides’ where there had been oneness, accentuating individual differences over a shared life.
When we honestly evaluate our marriage problems, sin is always found under the carnage at ground zero.
Wives and husbands both employ manipulation, negotiation, and retaliation to try and get their own way. But, the cost of getting our own way in marriage is high. It leads to anger, resentment, frustration, bitterness, physical and emotional distance, constant criticism, and a complete breakdown of the oneness God intended for our happiness and joy.
God knew all of this, He knew all about us as sinners when He gave His remedy for the crisis unleashed in Eden.
Adam and Eve had only known good before their rebellion, but from that moment forward they KNEW EVIL, they found it within themselves.
They’d live lives of constant struggle against the evil of selfishness, or they’d suffer the unhappiness that giving in to it would cause.
Could it be that God acted in characteristic kindness, love, and wisdom when He dealt with the man and his wife?
On a good day I embrace that idea, but when I spiral into selfishness and self-centeredness, when I become the sun in my own solar system, I try to find a way around God’s plan for marriage.
I try to find a way to get my way.
As a wife, submission is more about faith than about marriage.
It’s more about my relationship with God than my relationship with my husband!
It’s about believing God knows what He’s up to in our lives.
God is never random or haphazard in how He directs us.
There’s a divine purpose behind His decision and His commands.
Sin brought chaos and God re-established order.
A chain-of-command that would designate the one responsible to make the final decision.
But with that responsibility comes accountability.
Not to us as wives, but to God as the one who bestowed it on the husband.
Again—I don’t like that. I have Eve’s disease!!! I want what God has put out of my rightful reach.
But when I read the New Testament I see the rest of the story.
I see there what God has envisioned for marriage.
A stunning revelation of marital possibility.
Marriage can be an earthly vision of a divine union, the union between Christ and His Church.
I’m humbled by that thought, I’m moved to faith by that lofty ideal, that profound truth.
Could it be that husbands and wives can live in love and peace?
Without striving for dominance and prominence?
Can we, in faith, model the relationship between Christ and those who love Him?
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Knowing this is God’s intention, His pattern and design for marriage changes how I think about submissiveness.
It transforms my image of what God said to Eve. It changes my response, my emotional response to the command. It subdues my desire to make a power grab. It quells my impule to rule over my husband.
And, thank God, it makes me want to do God’s will above my own.
Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
In submitting to my husband I am submitting to God and that always brings blessings.
***This post focused only on the command to Eve, and every wife since Eve.
If you read Genesis you’ll see God had plenty to say to Adam and to the Serpent dealing with their actions and the consequences.
Also note that in the passage from Ephesians 5 there are 62 words directed to wives and 153 directed to husbands.
Now it’s your turn to speak your mind!!!
I’d like to hear from you, even if you don’t agree with my thoughts or conclusions, even if you think this is crazy talk. Are you on board with the idea of submission, or do you think it’s outdated?