“Even worse. Women have to submit.” Wow, what a statement.
I heard this in a conversation of mixed company recently. We were talking about how the Bible never expressly commands wives to love their husbands. Although this fact drew a few arguments, a man in the group affirmed that it was true and joked, “they don’t have to love. Even worse. Women have to submit.”
I was not shocked at the concept of women submitting to their husbands. I’ve heard plenty about that. It is in the Bible after all. I was shocked, however, to finally hear a man say what I know most men and women think: that submission is a less-than option. That submission is, in fact, worse than the alternative.
I don’t blame anyone for thinking that way. I personally don’t like the thought of submission in general, to anyone or anything. I never have. Human nature is pretty maverick and rebellious as is, and I was born with a double helping of independence, stubbornness and leadership. My flesh hates the thought of submission, and I’m going to guess that most other people in their flesh do as well.
As if rebellious human nature didn’t do enough to make me despise the word, some men I have encountered have just made it worse. I do not think that every man out there is a chauvinist pig. In fact, most of the men I know are not. I have, however, encountered too many men who twist Biblical teachings in order to abuse women. Men who say, “Submit, woman!” as a joke, then chuckle and elbow each other, and who see Ephesians 5 as more of an ego boost than a call to be a godly husband. I do call those men chauvinist and I think they are equally offensive to women, to godly men, and to God Himself (who, by the way, created both genders).
Hear me out, I am not trying to make women the victims here, we’ve got our problems, too. I am saying that it’s no wonder we (men and women) have a hard time with the thought of submission. Everywhere we look, it has a pretty negative connotation.
Yet, as my husband and I chose our wedding vows, I purposefully chose vows that included the word “submit.” To submit to my husband as the church does to Christ. Was it difficult to vow this? You bet. A vow is usually not easy to make, if it’s easy, you usually don’t need a vow for it. People don’t vow to do selfish things or things that come naturally or things they’ll never possibly back out on. Submission is never going to just happen; it’s a choice you have to make.
So, why would a strong-willed, girl-powery, independent woman like myself choose to submit to anyone? It wasn’t easy, but my anger toward the word died. My anger toward men who make jokes at my expense died. My anger toward God for giving me a strong personality and then asking me to surrender it to Him died.
I looked at the fact that God made the world, and at the way He made the world work. I figured if He created the world, the best way to live in it is the way He designed me to live in it. So I trust that life will work better when I am submitted — not just to my husband, but also to my church leaders, to the government, to other believers, and ultimately to Him. When I truly live this way, I find that my life is a whole lot smoother.
When my husband and I are loving, respecting, submitting, cherishing, and honoring like God has called us to, I find our marriage is better, and we are more at peace. We get in an awesome cycle of wanting to outdo each other in showing honor (Romans 12:10). When I join God’s plan instead of fighting it, things just work.
The best example I have ever seen of this is no doubt the life that Christ modeled for us. In becoming a human, He submitted to the simple laws of nature and life. He obeyed his parents, he submitted to the government, to the corrupt religious system of his day, and to death. Ultimately, He submitted to God and “did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage,” (Phil 2:6). Man, I love Jesus. His example alone is enough to make me rethink my attitude towards submission.
He never gave up any of His strength. He didn’t turn into a weak, unthinking, indecisive man. Instead, He turned His will, His strength, His thoughts, His every moment over to His Father, and in doing so, was able to display not only power and purpose, but humility, love, and sympathy. That is what submission means for us, too. A strength that is controlled by God, directed passion, a mind and heart that is totally available for Him to use. When I truly get this, I have a strong desire to follow His example, and as I look at His word, I see more exhortations to live like He did. I can’t help but notice that the Christian life (for anyone) is a life of submission.
All Christians are called to submit to God:
James 4:7 – Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.
Hebrews 12:9 – Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live?
To the government:
Romans 13:1 – Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God.
To our leaders:
Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
1 Peter 2:18 – Household slaves, submit with all fear to your masters, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.
Even to other Christians:
Ephesians 5:21 – … submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.
And yes, wives are called to submit to their husbands.
Ephesians 5:22 – Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord,
Submission isn’t ultimately a marriage word or a female word, it’s a Christian word – a concept for anyone who desires to be Christ-like. God is the ultimate authority, and submission to Him means a more fulfilling life. He has put leadership over every one of us: pastors, presidents, bosses, parents, husbands; and in submitting to them, we are submitting to the One who gave all for us. It’s not a life of weakness, it’s a life that God can empower, a life free of our own selfish ambitions. It’s not an “even worse, they have to” thing, it’s an “even better, we all are called to” thing. It’s living the way God made us to live, and as an added bonus … it works.