Kathy Keller: Submission Doesn't Mean You Do Everything the Husband Says

Tim and Kathy Keller wrapped up their three-part series on marriage this week by talking about one of the most debated, and oftentimes hated, topics when it comes to tying the knot: submission.

Speaking on the Focus on the Family radio program, the couple who helped start Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, explained biblical submission of wives to husbands within a marriage.

It's not some man saying you must submit and do everything I say, Kathy Keller said. She explained that being submissive actually entails "a woman bringing her strength to the table, and not being mealy mouthed. The wife brings her strengths to the marriage."

She explained that it is also the husband's duty to facilitate submission and fulfill the role of the authority figure in the marriage. Jesus redefined what authority meant, and offered himself as a sacrifice, so if a man is imitating that role in the marriage then the woman's gift to the man is her submission.

But she warned that a husband who is just trying to exercise his authority through control isn't imitating the biblical role of a husband.

The Kellers also made it clear that being submissive does not mean the wife can't push back or confront her spouse.

Kathy Keller used an example from her own life when she went to extremes to get her husband's attention. She said they moved to New York to start Redeemer, where Tim is lead pastor, and in the first four years he was working all the time.

Kathy Keller feared that he was neglecting his duties as a father and a husband, and was not freeing up any time for other pursuits. So she said she had a "godly tantrum."

"I took the china, and took them out to our balcony and when he came in I was smashing them with the hammer. I had to do some dramatic thing to get his attention to show he was breaking things," she said.

And it definitely got Tim Keller's attention. They both learned through the incident that sometimes spouses have to go to the extreme to get the other person to see a truth they aren't willing to see.

They said that this can work in marriages where spouses are having trouble communicating, or if they don't have the same view of submission. But both Kellers agreed that even if the other person ultimately refuses to change, you can always change yourself.

If the husband is being selfish, the Redeemer pastor noted, the wife can respond in one of two ways: she can match that selfishness or she can say "I'm going to be the wife I'm supposed to be." He said the same would go for a husband whose wife was being selfish as well.

Wednesday's broadcast elaborated on gender roles in marriage. In writing their new book, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God, Kathy Keller said that both the husband and the wife are to take on the role of Jesus in the marriage – with the husband dying to himself to sanctify his wife, and the wife taking on the role of Jesus as a servant.

The ultimate goal of a marriage, Tim Keller stressed, is to have a mission to help God "do the work in the other person because [the goal is] to walk together to the throne."


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