“The Submissive Wife” I would imagine most of the women that read that title experienced increased blood pressure, tension in their necks and the urge to scream at me face to face. But before you go all hostile, did you notice the ? mark at the end? It’s really important, not only to this post but also to the continuation of my life on this planet. There are a lot of misconceptions about Christianity and a whole lot of misconceptions about this word in particular. “Submissive” has become a four letter word on par with the “f” bomb. Who wants to submit? What self-respecting woman would “submit” to the rule of a man? Weren’t there a bunch of bra’s burned in the 70’s to stop this? Hasn’t the church began to shy away from this phrase? Isn’t this a taboo subject? Yep! And that’s why I’m writing about it. I like taboo subjects. I also like the truth. In this instance I believe the “truth will set me free” from the prison I seem to be building.
Let’s look at the verse that this whole submissive attitude comes from.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. Ephesians 5:22 (New King James Version)
There you have it, wives- do whatever your husband says. Guys, wouldn’t that be awesome? To have slaves that have to do what we tell them to do? I mean, how incredibly boring would that be? Never fight, never argue, never have a complicated discussion. Never be interrupted while the NFL is on. Never have to worry about her feelings or her opinions. Never wonder if she will make you breakfast, lunch and dinner, because, well, she has too right? It’s in the Bible.
The problem is, we seem to focus on that one little verse and forget the rest of the passage. You see, the verses before and after that one shed a little light on the situation. Let’s look at it,
21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 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. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.
25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.[a] 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body.
31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”[b] 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:21-33 (New Living Translation) Emphasis mine.
There’s a lot more in that passage than a submissive wife. First, we are told to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ. Out of a Holy respect for Jesus, we should not rule each other, no one should seek to dominate the other. We should both give ourselves to each other. Later in the passage it says the two become one, which is a great mystery. I can’t fathom the depth of this but I believe this ties in with the first verse telling us to submit to each other. We are both on equal footing with God. Neither is higher and neither is lower. Equality before God. However, equality doesn’t mean we have the same role in marriage. We both have responsibilities and they are different.
Now that we have established that neither one should dominate the other lets dissect the submissive wife part. This act of submission is voluntary. The wife does not have to submit, she can refuse. Also, submitting does not imply becoming a slave. You do not give up your rights when you submit although you do allow someone else to lead you. We do this all the time. We submit to God, we submit to bosses at work. We submit to teachers in school. We submit daily to others. But, when that person abuses that submission, we have the right to stop submitting.
I also want to look further in this passage to gain some perspective on submission, in the last verse after the last comma is a phrase that I think puts a new light on this issue, “and the wife must respect her husband.” All of this submitting stuff is done out of respect. But respect is earned. Respect is only kept when the husband is worthy of respect. Why is that so hard to understand? Men, if we earn and keep our wives respect she will not have nearly as hard a time allowing us to lead in our relationship.
Ladies, are you still having a hard time understanding this? It is not giving up your rights to allow your husband to rule over you like some kind of godlike king. It is respecting him enough to let him lead and allowing him to set the direction of your marriage.
Scenario time. You, your husband and your 9 month old child are in a gas station and a guy with a gun comes in to the store and starts making threats. He aims the gun at you and the baby. Do you a) want your husband to let you take the leadership role and take a bullet or do you b) want him to lead and protect his wife and child by throwing himself in front of the guy with the gun? I think in your heart of hearts at that moment you would want the man in your life to stand up and be a man and protect his family at any cost. And men, if you aren’t willing to do that, how can you honestly expect her to respect you and allow you to lead.
Ladies, if your man is worthy, let him lead. Don’t follow blindly, but don’t destroy him when he makes a mistake.
The Sacrificing Husband
What the Bible really tells the husband to do.
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