Oh that “S-word” that simultaneously bristles the backs of feminists, apostates, and some Christian women.
Submission. There. I said it.
Submission was initially revealed through unity in the garden. From the first words in Genesis of the Hebrew Torah and Christian Bible, submissive unity is unveiled in the Godhead and in His blessing and commission to mankind.
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."(Genesis 1:26-28)
In unity, the very Spirit of God and the not-yet-revealed Son of God were present, submitting to the direction of God the Father to make mankind in their image and allow that image-bearer to rule over the habitat the Godhead created. God blessed what He created in His image, both male and female, and allowed the earth and every living thing to submit to their rule.
We witness an order in all of the universe, yet some question that God would have created an order in human relationships. The Gospel of John explicitly records a submissive relationship between Jesus, the Son of God, to God the Father as Jesus makes known he came down from heaven, not to do his own will, but the will of his Father who sent him.
The gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record Jesus praying to the Father, “not my will but yours be done.” Jesus, the Son of God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, submitted out of reverence, respect, and a desire to serve and please his Father. Just as when handing over the earth to mankind created in His image, Jesus could look beyond his human desire and foresee a greater and unquestionably more beneficial plan.
Don’t miss this: God responded by raising Jesus from the dead,
...seating him at His right hand in the heavenly realm, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is named not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God put everything under his feet and made him head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:20-23).
Jesus, present and equal with God from the beginning, submitted to God and His plan for the eternal outcome that affects the Church (his body) now and forever. Please understand the implication of submission. God hasn’t changed. His Word stands firm and Jesus is His expressed will on earth. Through obedient submission to the plan of God, Jesus is the Head of the Church, his bride and body.
Considered one of modern day’s most controversial scriptures on married life, Ephesians 5:22-24 addresses God’s idea of submission in marriage:
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything.
Like nails on a chalkboard, at first glance, this passage seems to say that as women, wives have less inherent value, sense, or abilities than their husbands. However, reading the beginning of the chapter, all Christ-followers are instructed to imitate God in everything we do, because, like Jesus, we are His dear children. We, husbands and wives included, are instructed to live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ who loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. There is unity in a marriage relationship that includes submission to one another but also, specifically, when a wife submits to her husband.
The Greek word for submit is a military term meaning to subordinate; reflexively, to obey. It could be compared to a commanding officer giving orders to the enlisted troops who obey or submit because of rank, trust in the commanding officer, or in the General who is in ultimate command. At risk of too much detail, I like the HELPS Word Study definition: hypotássō – properly, "under God's arrangement," i.e. submitting to the Lord (His plan).
Submission, serving, and respecting is not easy when a wife lives day-to-day with her husband and is intimately acquainted with his shortcomings and he, with hers. Yet, it is the order that God prescribed in His infinite knowledge of His own creation. It actually creates unity in a marriage when a husband’s heart can safely trust in his wife to do what is best for him.
In no way does this intend to say that a woman submits to every man. The Word is clear that she is accountable to God and her own husband. And if there is abuse or law-breaking in a marriage, it should be reported to local authorities and stopped. That is made clear in the same chapter of Ephesians that tells a husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church, giving up his life for her. If a husband is not abusive but being unreasonable and domineering, godly outside counsel can and should be consulted.
As strong, independent, and intelligent women who have accepted the Gospel message of salvation and surrendered to Jesus as leader of our lives, the Word instructs us to continue in him. We follow Jesus by obeying what he says. We are instructed to submit, respect, and honor our husbands. For many of us, that will take a change of heart and attitude toward the man we’re joined to. No matter how long we’ve been married, we no longer want to
...continue to be conformed to the image of this world; but transformed by the renewing of our mind, that we may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2).
If this change or a refreshing is needed in the way you respond to and treat your husband, as a 41-year marriage veteran and Biblical Studies graduate, I humbly offer the following tips and resources to begin the journey. Not everything will improve overnight, but you can begin to change your heart, attitude, responses, and marriage relationship to line up with God’s design right now:
- Pray for the insight and desire toward your husband that God would want you to have (Philippians 4:6).
- Submit to God. He is your primary provider. Submission and trust in your relationship with God correspond to the ability to joyfully and willingly submit to your spouse (James 4:7, Proverbs 3:6).
- Discuss your concerns with the Lord, then pray for your husband according to the way God views him (Hebrews 11:1).
- Forgive him for not being the perfect man. Pray for the will to forgive. Forgive yourself for not noticing or heeding issues before you married him (Colossians 3:13).
- Don’t allow an offense to fester and create bitterness. Talk about it if necessary. Forgive and make a deliberate decision to let it go and not dwell on it (Proverbs 19:11).
- Practice gratitude. It’s difficult to practice both resentment and gratitude for your husband at the same time. Let gratitude for him and his strengths, gifts, and attributes take a prominent place in your mind (Philippians 4:8).
- Drop the sarcasm and brutal honesty and speak to him with kindness. The way you want your future daughter-in-law to speak to your son (Psalm 19:14).
- Stop practicing resentment. Stop rehearsing in your mind, or to your friends and family, all that he does wrong (2 Corinthians 10:5).
- Stop sulking and trying to make him pay for things you don’t like (1 Corinthians 13:5).
- Get the log out of your own eye. Instead of laying all the blame on him, take responsibility for your own contribution to conflicts. Receive and offer mercy to repair any harm you may have caused (Proverbs 28:13).
- Find a way to serve others together. As a wise leader in our ministry shared, “My wife and I decided we wouldn’t get married unless we could serve God together better than we could separately.” (Galatians 5:13).
- Do what you say you will do to build his confidence in you so that his heart safely trusts in you (Proverbs 31:11).
- Stop expecting him to perform for you. Don’t push him to speak up, do everything you ask, or be your caretaker (Mark 9:35).
- Submission doesn’t mean you can’t divide chores, be competent with finances, work outside of the home, or know how to mow the lawn. Where does your husband need you to serve? What can you do to sustain unity in to your home (Proverbs 31)?
- Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might (Ephesians 6:10-12). Fight for your marriage!
- Finally, look to Jesus as your example. Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).
It takes the decision to be a doer of the Word of God and trust that He designed what is best for our lives and relationships. There are so many additional positive and even creative ways to submit to, respect, and honor your husband. We’d love to have you share ideas that have worked for you or your favorite resources in the chat.
Cindi Killen loves being part of the Spiritual Development team at Christian Care Ministry/Medi-Share. She and her husband, Bob, have been married for 40 years and are transitioning with the last of their 7 children going off to college this year. They enjoy days off, entertaining in their home, and exploring small towns and out of the way places.