Submit. Speaking this word can unleash deep-seated animosity in even the most docile of women. Independence burns inside and rebellion to the mere thought of being “less than” a man sparks a desire to prove one’s own self-worth. Why would our loving Father in Heaven give women such instructions? I would contend that because He loves us, we have been given clear insight into how to have the type of marriage that He intended.
In our society, women are not only encouraged to be strong and independent from a man, they are shamed into it. There is a perception that weakness is associated with having respect for our husbands. After all, they are only good for reaching the top shelves of cabinets, killing bugs and opening jars. Past that, they are mere drones that sit on the couch and yell at other drones playing with various sized balls in a field. In contrast, women have perception, can multi-task better than a computer processor, and maintain overall empathy for the plight of other women globally. With all of these stereotypes in mind, it is not surprising that the vast majority of our society rejects the concept of submission with marriage … including those within the church.
“For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.” – Ephesians 5:22-24
Let’s suspend our per-conceived notions about marriage, and explore why we were given the instruction to submit. Most Christians would agree that all of the lessons within scripture are for our benefit. That holds true with the plan for a Holy marriage. “…as to the Lord” is not haphazardly attached to the command of submission; it is the key to understanding it. As we seek God’s perfect will in our life, and begin the transformation into the person He created us to be. If this is what we believe, why is it so difficult to reflect the same principle within our marriage?
Human nature is to expect another person to earn our love and respect. When a husband has not met the expectations, the result is typically to withhold both. Unconditional love is replaced by punishing, which results in the wife placing herself in the position of God as a self-appointed judge. The ripple effect caused by both the husband and wife has far reaching consequences … adversely impacting children, other family members, friends, and ultimately the body of Christ.
So what does submitting look like? A common misconception is that our brain is somehow checked at the door and we relinquish our thoughts about everything. That idea couldn’t be more wrong. God doesn’t take away our free will to follow Him. He doesn’t remove our thoughts, our personalities … our uniqueness. If God doesn’t remove our”selves” when we become Christians, why would he have us do that for another who is born into the same sin that we were? The definition of submit is “to yield to governance or authority”. In other words, we are to acknowledge that our husbands have authority that is ordained by God. This doesn’t mean that our husband has reached perfection in his thoughts and actions, it means we are to love and respect them regardless of their imperfections recognizing that we have the same flaws.
When we marry, we are joined in a covenant; a solemn vow taken before and bound by God; not a contract; a legally binding agreement between two parties that can be broken. Just as the church; “the bride”; is the body of Christ; “the bridegroom”; we too are one in body with our husband when we enter into the marriage covenant. Instead of placing expectations on our husbands, we are called to submit to the authority of God; who in wisdom that far exceeds our own, has placed the man as the “head of his wife”.
A submissive wife recognizes that in the covenant of marriage, her role is to support her husband and seek his input on decisions. As situations arise that expose weakness in her husband, she will choose the path of prayer and support instead of condemnation and judgement. When faced with the choice of benefiting her own interests above that of her husband, she will choose what will benefit her husband. None of this reflects weakness as our society believes. Instead, it reflects a strength that comes from God, and principles that we are to live out in our lives within our marriage, and in the world.
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