Ah, Biblical submission. Obedience. Whatever you want to call it.
I’m no pastor, just a lighthearted theology student. But I am a new wife – and I wanted to dig deeper into what God expects of me as a wife.
I found a case of “misinterpretation” in more places than one by many spiritual leaders I grew up hearing.
What my spiritual discernment showed me is that the context of the words “obey” and “submit” as we use them today is not what God intended to wives to uphold within marriage.
Let’s look at Eph 5.
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
Colossians 3 –
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”
1 Peter 3 –
“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands ”
Ouch. Upon casual glace, it looks like the odds are against us. That might even make some of us angry. They don’t make me angry, because I am able to read them in context. I’m not angry because I am able to see that “submitting” and “obeying” are not synonymous and NONE of those commandments say to “OBEY”.
There is a mention of “obey” later in 1 Peter 3 – so let’s look at that.
“They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master”
Here’s the kicker – this part of the scripture is addressed to Christian women with unbelieving husbands. That’s not me, but I will explain deeper incase that is you.
Here, what we should be seeing is that the arguments of a Christian wife are not going to convert her husband to know God. It is her grace, faith, and gentleness that will reach him far better than any argument she presents. Women in these situations were advised to be subject to their husbands in hopes that someday they would know God. In the Old Testament, such “submission” was the mark of a Holy Woman.
This is the best part…
In Sarah’s time, it was the norm for wives to submit to their husbands in all aspects of life. Christian women were called to stand up for their religion even if they stood without their husbands – HOWEVER, in every other aspect of life, they were to be wives that “blended in”, model wives, wives that compared to the wives of that culture. That is what their husbands would command and expect – and the wives would “obey”. They would stand alone on the rock of Christ and worship him, but in all other aspects of life, would submit to their husbands as not to allow Christ to ever be blamed for the result of what came from obedience to their unbelieving husbands.
There it is.
That’s the sound of the police.
God’s like, “NOPE. Not today, Satan. Not going to be blamed for THAT one. Won’t be blamed for what someone who didn’t believe chose.”
Hehe. Just kidding. He didn’t actually say that, probably ever.
I believe it was God’s heart to avoid situations where the blame of these husbands’ choices could be placed on Christ so that someday, these men would see the grace their wives had, the mistakes they made as husbands, and messes they created when they commanded their wives do XYZ – and turn to Him for hope and salvation, finally trusting her that he is the Way. They would admit they were wrong, they would be humble (LIKE THEIR WIVES EXEMPLIFIED) and see that they too, needed Christ. Peter’s instructions here were for special cases/mixed marriages.
So what was Peter saying for my marriage? In my Christian marriage? Where we both love the Lord? It ends up being presented as a MUTUAL SUBMISSION and MUTUAL RESPECT model.
In 1 Peter 3, Peter tells us that husbands should treat their wives with respect and honor as he had exhorted wives to treat their husbands. Emphasizing they should view each other as recipients of the grace of life and the same inheritance in what is to come. By emphasizing the wives’ spiritual equality, Peter prevents husbands from using his instructions as grounds for the husbands to subordinate their wives.
What does that look like? That is going to look like me respecting Zach in moments he doesn’t respect me. It is going to look like him giving me grace when I am being a butthole. It is going to look like him reaching down to where I am to pick me up and forgive me. It is going to mean me forgiving him when he forgets how sensitive I am. (hehe) It means doing something he wants because I LOVE him. It means him doing something I ask because he looooves me.
Head of the household?
Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Marriage is a partnership. Each part is different but equal. Where would Zach be without me to pick up his dirty clothes and do his taxes? Where would I be without him to pick up spiders and answer the door? Different, but equally important!
God created us so differently – certain strengths and weaknesses. Sure, I could kill spiders and Zach could organize our home, but each of us is happier when we do the things we are good at and not necessarily the things that challenge us.
Leadership – not dominance.
Zach is the “headship” of our marriage. That does not mean he has power over me or I am to follow him around like a clueless sheep. His headship does not make him superior to me. Eph 5 tells us that,
“Husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.”
Even the Trinity, one person is head. God the Father is head over Christ – but none is greater than the other. Headship examples may vary from marriage to marriage. Zach leads us in prayer. He leads us to repentance when we have strayed. That is how he leads me right now, and I am 100% accepting of that. He listens to me, and I listen to him.
Ask him any day of the week a question about our finances, home, or plans, and he will probably say, “I don’t know, ask the boss!” I’m not really the “boss” (despite my “boss lady” coffee mug) but this is an example of differences and equality. He is so good at leading me emotionally and spiritually – and I am so good at budgeting, decorating, and dragging him around with my friends. 🙂 We both work our BUTTS off in different ways. We have mutual respect for the way each of us works so hard. We mutually submit and “choose our battles”.
PC- our wedding photographer, Lisa