Last week’s video, 5 Minutes on Submission, hit a nerve! When we came up with the idea for the video, I never considered it would bring about such debate. I discovered that I responded to many comments on the blog and Facebook with the same basic themes:
- “I don’t respect my husband, so how can I submit to him?”
- “I am not a doormat. I refuse to submit so he can walk all over me.”
- “I can submit on most things, but when he and I disagree I just can’t let him win all the time.”
- “My husband isn’t a Christian. How can I submit to him when he’s not a believer?”
Today I want to try and help the discussion along for both sides because I believe society gives us a terrible example of what it means to be a husband or a wife.
The Bible is pretty clear that the man is to be the spiritual leader of the home (you can substitute “household” or “family” here in place of “home”). Want proof? Check out what God has to say about it. If you believe the Bible to be true (and I sure do), then we have to agree that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
While there are entire books on the subject of submission in marriage, let me go back to the same three scriptures I used last week. Let’s look again at Colossians 3:19, I Peter 3:7, Ephesians 5:23-24, but this time, let’s keep digging and look AROUND those verses because context is VERY important.
- Colossians 3 is a pretty good overview of how we ALL are to live and verses 18-25 outline the various roles in the household. It even mentions the role of servants. For those looking to argue against my points, bringing the idea of servants up as being outdated doesn’t negate all the other roles mentioned.
- 1 Peter 3 addresses the issue of how wives who are married to an unbeliever can help to “win him over.” I think this advice also speaks well to the wife’s role as a help mate. Ladies, if you don’t respect your husband or if you believe he is leading your family in a wrong direction – how often do you pray about it? How often do you talk with him about it? How often do you encourage him? I’m not saying it is your fault when things aren’t working, but please make sure you’re helping the situation instead of making it worse.
- Ephesians 5 is similar to Colossians 3 in that it is an overview of how Christians and Christian households should be.
Ephesians 5 is probably the best of these three to address the husband’s role when, starting in verse 25, Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” and then writes that husbands are to, “love their wives as their own bodies.”
Men, your responsibility to your family is greater than I can express in words, but here’s my attempt. As a husband, I must (at a minimum):
- Take responsibility for my family’s well-being
- Honor my wife
- Establish family discipline
- Love my wife so much I’m willing to voluntarily die for her
- Listen to my wife
- Lead (which means accountability for the outcomes – good or bad)
With all that out of the way, let’s get back to the discussion of submission and authority. What is biblical submission, rightly understood? Submission means to voluntarily take a position where you put your trust in someone else and heed their leadership. Submission is NOT slavery, coercion, manipulation, intimidation, misguidance or suppression. When a wife does this well, a husband generally recognizes the magnitude of his responsibility and “mans up” to lead his family. Sometimes it takes a while, especially if the husband doesn’t have Godly examples of what this looks like. I think that’s why there are several references to being patient with one another throughout scripture.
Then what is biblical authority, rightly understood? Authority means to voluntarily take a position of responsibility for the care of someone else and their needs and to accept the accountability associated with the outcomes of that position. Authority is not slave-driving, forceful, selfish or hurtful. If a husband displays his authority well, his wife will generally accept with joy the leadership of a Godly husband who wants to meet her needs and put her first. She will recognize that he isn’t dominating her, but instead is making sure she is cared for. She will understand that even though he isn’t perfect, since Christ is his model, he’s trying his best. Sometimes this also takes a while, because society teaches that men and women are equal in all things and to submit means to be a doormat. That’s a crock.
Let me close with a brief assessment I would encourage every husband and wife to take for themselves and then get together to discuss. Make a date night out of it and be ready to get REAL about your marriage.
Husbands: Do you love your wife as Christ loves the church? Are you willing to die for her? Do you have her best interests at heart? Do you understand it isn’t all about you? Does your wife respect you? Do you listen to your wife? Do you lead your family? When’s the last time your wife defied you and why? Was she right to defy you and why? What is the most important thing you need to do TODAY to help your family?
Wives: Do you respect your husband? Do you voluntarily submit to his leadership? Do you encourage him to lead? How do you show him you love him? Do you understand it isn’t all about you? When’s the last time you defied your husband and why? Were you right to do so and why? What is the most important thing you need to do TODAY to help your family?