Aaahhh, submission. The go-to concept when talking to and about women. It seems that it doesn’t matter what the discussion is about, in regards to women, the topic of submission comes up. The church has put submission on top of the list of godly character qualities for women, along with not gossiping and embracing modesty. But just how important is submission?
Is submission biblical? Yes! We have all been called to mutual submission (Ephesians 5:22-24), but is this really the number one goal for women, as it is taught in the church?
Ephesians 5:22-24, 1 Peter 3:1-2. And Colossians 3:18 all speak about submission. That’s right, 3 out of the 31,102 verses in the Bible talk about submission. Now, when you take a look at the numbers, all this talk about submission seems a little bit off balance here, doesn’t it? You can definitely pick any topic that’s covered in the Bible and take it out of context and balance. (In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s how cults are started.) You can also take the verses out of context, highlighting only the “rules” for women, disregarding all surrounding words.
If you take a look at these verses on submission, there’s always a corresponding command for husbands, and the husband is actually held to a higher standard! Submission was never meant to be one sided! One of these verses is a call to submission to be used as a “witnessing tool” to win over her husband to Christ! These verses were written to cultures that were female dominated! These passages on wifely submission are also intertwined with verses that people have previously used to justify slavery! At least in America, we now see the error in justifying slavery with those verses, but the church is quick to mandate the ones for women, saying that the slavery verses were cultural, and the verses that talk about women were for all women, for all time!
Another common misconception about submission, is that submission means a complete denial of self. It means a woman no longer has thoughts or ideas or sometimes even personality. This is simply not true! God created you to be you! Of course there’s always room for self-improvement, but if you are completely squelching all that you are, that’s the opposite of self-improvement.
Of course, this is not an in depth analysis of each of these verses. (I do plan to do that later though.) My point to this is to say that the submission of a wife to her husband is NOT the number one character quality of a godly women, as stated in many circles. Most of the women who have amazingly powerful stories in the Bible would be considered “Jezebels” in most churches today. They do not appear submissive, in the least. Yet, they submitted themselves to Christ, and the rest is history. (If you don’t believe me, check out the stories of Abigail, Jocabed, Hannah, Deborah, Esther, Mary, ect.) I think we have turned the concept of submission into an unbalanced idol.
I think this concept has been distorted. I mean, if I go out with my friend, and we are deciding on where to go, and she has a real desire to do a certain thing, or if she is an expert in a certain area, and wants to make a recommendation on what to do, I listen to her. I’m not submitting to her. I just love her, and if she has passion about something, I don’t crucify myself and make it known that I’m submitting! I just care about her and the things that are important to her. How often this very scenario is used when talking about a husband and wife relationship.
I was thinking about this in my own marriage. I honestly can’t remember the last time I “submitted” to my husband. Even recently, we have had some pretty major life decision to make. We are definitely on opposite sides of a few of them. He laid out his case, and I laid out mine. In the end, we ended up going with that he had wanted. Most would call this submission, but it doesn’t feel like the submission the church has prescribed. I made the decision to do something that he wanted to do because I love him! It doesn’t feel like, and is not, anything other than that. I love him and want the best for him. If this decision is going to benefit him, I want to make that happen for him. So, no, I don’t submit to my husband, I just love him.
One last note on submission. As I was thinking about this, 1 Corinthians 13 came up. The greatest of these is love. I believe that LOVE is the perfect; LOVE is the goal, the ideal. Just like divorce is allowable because of the hardening of hearts, I believe that submission is the 2nd best to God’s perfect will which is just plain love. If we are truly love: we are filled with Love, embody love, and are being perfected in love, all else will pass away. No longer will we need to make a conscious effort to submit, but we will just love.