The idea of submission is often misunderstood. Some Christians fear it means “doormat.” Others lord it over family. But what does the Bible say? Did Jesus submit to his Father?
SUBMISSION? When women use this S word among girlfriends, toes curl.
Many people misunderstand what the Bible means when it says that wives are to “be submissive” to their husbands. This includes many married women I’ve counseled.
Forever I’ll remember the panicked call from a friend whose former college roommate fled her West Coast home, very pregnant and with two little ones in tow. The former roommate and I soon talked by phone. Through sobs the story came out:
Her Christian husband demanded that she “obey” his every word and threated her with physical harm.
Fearing for her children’s safety and her own sanity, she packed bags and drove east toward her childhood home.
Do you have a handle on the real meaning of submisison? Has someone use care about used this word against you in order to manipulate you or shame you?
For this article, I turned to Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by John Piper and Wayne Grudem for answers and discovered 7 lies about submision I share with you. Read 1 Peter 3:1-7 here and the 7 below. My prayer is for you to understand God’s plan for marriage and to learn common abuses over submission, like the one my pregnant counselee had encountered.
Lie 1: Put Your Husband in the Place of Christ
Christ is always first. 1 Peter 2:21 says,
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men (1 Peter 2:13).
Rather, look to Christ and follow him.
Lie 2: Never Try to Influence Your Husband
You should influence your husband, wisely and winsomely. For instance, a wife whose husband is an unbeliever ought to win him over (to Christian faith) “without words by their behavior”–pure and reverent.
Lie 3: Stop Thinking for Yourself
Peter speaks directly to wives in 1 Peter 3:1-6, not to the husbands. He wants them to think about God’s Word and apply it to their lives. My former counselee who had put a safe distance between her and her husband reported that he told her what she should think. She wasn’t allowed to think for herself. Have you received a similar edict from your husband?
Lie 4: Give in to Your Husband’s Demands
When a husband demands that a wife sin, she must say “no” to her husband. Her refusal to sin lines up with Peter’s command to have proper conduct among unbelievers:
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Lie 5: You Are Less Competent Than Your Husband
This is another lie. In fact, some wives have far greater spiritual insight than husbands. This is certainly true when a Christian wife is married to an unbelieving spouse. She has the Holy Spirit dwelling within her. He does not.
Lie 6: Submission Means Wives Should Fear
On the contrary, Peter says wives should not “give way to fear” (verse 6). The instruction for husbands to respect their wives as “the weaker partner” has nothing to do with a woman’s lack of courage when endangered.
Lie 7: Submission Means Wives Are ‘Less Than’
Jesus submitted to God the Father, and he has dignitity and honor. A wife’s submission to her husband is similiar to Christ’s submission to the Father; they have equal importance.
What Submission Means
“Be submissive to your husbands” (verse 1) basically means that a wife willingly affirms the leadership of the husband. It doesn’t mean she’s a doormat or has no say or lacks value. Rather,
In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives, as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:28)
Both the husband and wife are called to self-sacrifice. Look at the word the apostle Paul selected for love. It is agape in the Greek. This self-sacrificing kind of love isn’t about sex or affection or brotherly kindness. It is the kind that lays down one’s life for the other.
As a Bible study author astutely pointed out, an argument in a home where a husband loves his wife and she submits to his leadership might sound like,
“I insist that you have your way.”
“No, no, really, I insist you have your way.”
Just imagine that was the tone of your arguments, with the husband trying to out-sacrifice his wife and the wife trying to out-submit her husband. Just imagine the number of marriages that would thrive. The kids too.
I encourage you to read Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood for yourself. It sheds light on many Scripture passages that have confused men and women, leading to clarity in the roles of husband and wife in the home, church, and personal life.
Let us live in harmony with one another, as God intends.