All the Fuss about Submission…
In the many years I spent in a full-time career (human resources and corporate training), I noticed a few things. First, that the small business owner or the department head was responsible for the outcome of the activities. At the end of the day, someone had to be held accountable and be responsible for the results.
I had some great bosses, men and women alike, and some terrible ones. Maybe you can relate? The great ones all had something in common – they respected me and treated me as a valued team member, and helped me feel excited about the work we were doing. My opinions were valued, contributions praised, and my paycheck affirmed my efforts. Gobs of books have been written on how to be an awesome leader – maybe you’ve read a few the subject or been a leader yourself – you probably know what I’m referring to, regardless.
And if you’ve ever had a terrible employer, you know what it is like to dread going into work every day. Even if you enjoy the work itself, the boss can make the conditions difficult or awful, sometimes worthy of quitting. I had a boss one time who threw world-class temper tantrums, hurling objects many feet. He was an enormous man, and his whole face turned red, eyes bugging, when angered. He was fired because the entire management team walked out, telling the CEO either “he goes, or we go.”
So when thinking about “heads” of departments, families, or even the church, we understand what good leadership is. We naturally respond positively to it.
Hang with me for a moment, we’re going somewhere. And I’ll apologize now for the length of this post.
“Head” refers to accountability and responsibility.
We can spend tons of time discussing the contexts in which the books of the Bible were written, and we should. It is great to pursue deep intellectual understanding of the Word, the times in which it was written, and then consider how those truths are relevant today. I don’t disagree with the historical discussions and the concept of contextual application. It’s Biblical – God Himself tells us to love Him with all our heart and soul and MIND and strength, so absolutely, we need to wrestle through these things.
What I don’t see many people talking about, however, is the relationship with Jesus Christ, with God Himself, that is possible for us all. It grieves me to spend so much time honoring that other guy and his mini-“victories” by paying so much attention to the imperfections and even heinous crimes of those of us who claim Him as Savior. I want to see more encouraging stories of victory over these things, and how His great love heals and restores a messed up bunch of sinners (all of us who call Him Lord are still as imperfect as they come) and our churches being viewed as the hospitals for us, rather than shrines of perceived perfection. Yes, the church is messed up. It always has been. It’s full of sinners, how can it not be? Read the letters to the churches in the New Testament – the church was messed up then, too! But let’s celebrate what’s amazing that God IS doing, through His people in spite of ourselves. I’m not suggesting to turn a blind eye to hurts or hurtful people, but rather to learn to do conflict well, Matthew 18 style, as it actually works.
And no matter how logical I sound, how articulate I am, nothing I say could possibly explain the potentially ludicrous notion of having an actual relationship, a friendship, or being an adopted daughter (or son) of this One True Deity that exists. It’s not logical, but it is real. Yes, I have a real, living, vibrant relationship with the Creator of the Universe. So call the people with the white coats… (and I mean no offense here to those who have endured mental illness or have loved ones suffering – I’ve had post-partum depression four times, and I understand).
Or hear me out…
Because I know Him. And He talks to me.
And it’s my choice to do my best to submit to His authority, which, by the way, like a stellar leader, is not lorded over me or shoved down my throat, but winsomely attractive and relatively easy to follow as long as I stay in communion with Him.
For the record, I do believe in hierarchy – because it exists in the Trinity (Jesus Himself asked God to take the cup from Him the night before He was crucified, but then said, “yet not my will, but Thine be done”) and because God held Adam accountable while dishing consequences for both him and Eve in the garden. I also believe God’s truth shows up in His creation.
But that sorta matters only if you believe the Bible, even when you can’t explain all of it.
And perhaps more importantly, I believe in my relationship with someone I actually know – Jesus Christ.
And what He tells me never contradicts the Bible.
I see many people spend a ton of energy trying to make the Bible fit into what they want it to say. I see gobs of discussions online that try to present scripture and historical information in such a way that encourage wives to not submit to husbands, and instead set up thought patterns under the guise of religion that create all sorts of elements of competition with their husbands.
Their words most often fail to recognize Jesus as a real person, as the one true God, Someone who deeply loves, but also must be feared. And I’m going to humbly offer something up that is going to make a number of people angry, and I’m really sorry, so as gently and as kindly as I could ever say this, aren’t these dialogues mainly about not submitting to God?
Isn’t it in our humanly nature to not want to submit to anything? Including God?
So as a professional person (and perhaps you can relate to this ) I had trouble with the concept of submission – but not because my husband was going to be horrible to me, but rather because I was prideful and an unsubmissive person. And truth be told, I probably still am to a certain degree.
But what I’ve learned over the course of over two decades of marriage and raising 3 children, once again, is that God is right. There’s something amazing about the context of family that grows us deeply. Please know I mean no offense if you have not been blessed with kids – there are other ways to grow. I’m just relating it to the context I’m currently familiar with. I’d honestly love to learn from you and hear how God has grown you without children.
But we are stuck in these “camps” of opposition, debating “mutuality” and “complementarianism” – when we really should be putting our energies toward the sheer wonder of the relationship and praising Him for the last great thing He did and the next wonder about to occur. And recognizing that the Truth is often not what we think it is – black or white, right or wrong, etc.
And… what I believe is something no one talks about, no one says and it is simply this: mutual submission does not occur until both husband and wife reach a certain level of maturity and have been married long enough to figure out how to do life together as servants of Jesus Christ.
And because I’ve never heard anyone else say that, I suppose it is seriously possible, maybe even likely, that I am wrong. But the passages in Ephesians deal with how we are to live, making the most of every opportunity, understanding what His perfect will is moment to moment. And we submit to each other out of reverence for Jesus Christ. AND…wives are to submit to their husbands as to the Lord. Not worship them, but rather not be a contentious competitor to their husbands. Husband is still held accountable. But when he is a good leader, it’s easy. When he’s not, we still have our directions.
It’s what I think He’s revealed to me. And it is what I see in the successful relationships around me, where love of Christ trumps everything. Sometimes we have moments of this in our own marriage. My guess is that you do too… and like me, maybe you want it all the time? The trouble comes when either husband or wife are focused on the other’s behaviors instead of their own – regardless of how our spouse is acting, we know how we are to behave.
I believe we can get to this place where husband and wife are literally trying to out-serve each other because they are both loving God more than each other, and His Spirit rules within them.
Don’t you want a marriage like that?
We wives can make this process quicker and easier by not being competitive and forcing our opinions down our husband’s throat. Have you ever worked with that person? You know, the one who has an opinion about everything and is constantly sharing it? Do you like working with him or her? Know that we sometimes are that person with the guy we married – as he might be naturally negative with us as well, but we are equipped to do something about it, and often times, he’s just not. Here’s why. Or if he is, he won’t, because we’re in the way and he needs our help seeing past us to Who is right in front of him.
My husband and I have what we consider a Biblical marriage. I’m his equal, he is mine, and I know God well enough to know that He is going to grow both my husband and myself – if we will but follow Him. And when we don’t, He allows consequences that grow us. When we are behaving maturely, he is my brother and I am his sister – In Christ. We want what is best for “us” and the family – God’s best – instead of having our own selfish nature rule the day. That’s where mutual submission shows up – he seeks out my opinion in areas where he considers me expert, and I seek out his in the same way. That’s how the “two become one flesh.” And when we disagree, or when a decision is difficult, we pray about it and God communicates what He wants to us. And if we can’t agree, I defer to his opinion.
These things are possible. I am still in awe of what God did with this couple about pornography addiction – she confronted her husband’s sin Matthew 18 style and God freed them both. And by the way, she agrees with submitting to her husband. And now they’re trying to out-serve each other. It’s really beautiful.
And it might look a little different in your marriage. I really believe there’s a wide swath of what’s somewhat “typical” in western marriages. BUT, within that, there are individuals with individual preferences, gifts, and personalities. So what I do is supposed to be done in my marriage, but it might not work if done in yours.
Scripture is a wide swath of generalities. God tells husbands in the Bible to love (and respect their wives) and wives to respect (and to love their husbands) – and yes, I do feel these are all still relevant – but it doesn’t say specifically, “Bring your wife flowers on Thursdays,” or “Thank him for going to work,” but rather speaks in generalities.
And I believe that’s how it is supposed to work.
To tell a wife that she does not have to submit to her husband (notice I am not saying that she cannot utilize Matthew 18 and confront his sin, those are two completely different ideas) (and, yes, I know, some in the church have suggested that it is “unsubmissive” to confront – that’s just hogwash and a lie) anyway, to tell her that is suggesting that she be free to run with the average woman’s tendency to control, and sets the marriage up for difficulties because of how He created us (check the info on brain research). Would we be as comfortable telling a husband not to provide for his family? Where are the people taking issue with this Biblical concept? I find it interesting that men aren’t clamoring for being off the hook here – but I do deal with a ton of wives who are scared, frustrated, and distraught because they have to work to make ends meet, or because they have to work because their husband’s out of a job.
Or at least that’s some of what He’s revealed to me. Perhaps He’s revealed something different to you, but I do wonder, how do you confirm what you think God is telling you without believing the Word?
So rather than focus on the details of the contexts and whether or not submission is a relevant notion today, perhaps we could be encouraging others to know, deeply know God, being careful we’re not encouraging others to question the relevancy or Truth of the Bible. There’s much that’s a mystery. That’s why it’s called, “faith.”
And we must be careful, because those of us that are in positions of leadership and influence are walking on sacred ground:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly. For we all stumble in many ways. If someone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect individual, able to control the entire body as well.(3:1-2 NET).
So once again, a nice reminder that I’m not perfect, and that verse makes me super-nervous about getting this wrong. But that’s what He’s revealing to me. What do you think? Is the Bible a living document to you or a good historical read? What are your struggles with submission? Let me know what you think, or if you need references for anything I’ve suggested above.
Glad to be on the journey with you,
Love to you,
The Bible lives. It is the living word of God. I have never opened it and failed to hear God’s voice.
We practice and live mutual submission and the sort of partnership that you learn by farming and working livestock together. Let me explain. When you farm or ranch you learn that your life can (and often does) depend upon how well you work together and communicate and also submit to one another. There is no safe way to work with heavy equipment, crops or livestock without 100% trust, good communication and submission.
Like a marriage you don’t get there overnight, sometimes not even in years, but you soon learn you can do so much more together than you can apart or working solo. Working alone is not as safe as working with someone you trust and is skilled in the work you need to do. You have to be willing to submit to someone’s expertise as they are to you. There isn’t a lot of room for ‘being the boss’ and I can tell you cows, horses, combines and crops are no respecters of what we think are important!
I find mutual submission and team work in the Bible often – and it is a model find most powerful at the cross. Jesus was doing something for us that God needed done. It could not be done entirely alone and yet it was not an equal team effort either. There was a mutual submission and there was an ultimate submission. Some things we can only do, in part, on our own. Other things can be done, in part, as a team in life, in marriage and work.
Two people can’t run the same tractor at the same time. One opens gates (me) and one runs the equipment (he). Two people can’t do the exact same job working cows or horses. But we each know our place, our strengths and gifts. When I say, “Be here, dear” with the animals he submits because it is my area. If he sees danger or a need for change I listen and we work together on a solution.
Sometimes there isn’t time for that though. If he says MOVE! I do. Sometimes we need to talk about things, others we just know after years together what the other needs, even before they actually do. This doesn’t always happen without some friction or conflict. We are humans, and different in many ways, and yet when we are BOTH submitting to God, and to each other, we find ourselves in an amazing place.
The thing about submission is this: you cannot force it from the other person. Or coerce it. Just like you cannot out push or pull a 1200 lb horse or a 600 hp tractor, you have to work with what you have. With animals it is understanding behaviour and having respect. With a tractor it is understanding the mechanics of making it move. Behaviour and mechanics – hmmmm food for thought not?
I apologize in advance for the length of this commen, but I am including Scripture:
Laying a Foundation for Submission
One of the most misunderstood concepts I have encountered is submission. The idea of submission as presented by the Lord is one of mutual support, service, and protection. The world has changed it into lording it over other people, and demanding compliance.
If we look at our example—God with skin on—Jesus the Messiah—we see a totally different picture.
One portion of Scripture that speaks clearly of Jesus’ attitude is Philippians 2:5-8(NLT).
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
6 Though he was God,
He did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, He gave up His divine privileges;
He took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When He appeared in human form,
8 He humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross
We are called to have Jesus’ attitude and CHOOSE to serve other people. Even in leadership we are to be servant leaders not seeking privilege and prestige but to serve with integrity, putting the interests of others ahead of our own.
On the night before He died as Jesus prepared to share the Passover meal with His disciples:
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
From a position of power Jesus washed the disciples feet. One pair of feet Jesus washed was the feet of the man who was already in the process of betraying Him. Washing the feet of guests and family members was a task for the one of the household servants of lowest rank. Jesus told them that He was doing it as an example of how we are to treat others.
John 13: 12-17
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Jesus wasn’t speaking just of washing each other’s feet but of a life of service to each other. We are told in Romans 12 how to walk this out in our lives. Read this chapter and note the specific instructions there. http://biblehub.com/nlt/romans/12.htm
Return also to Philippians 2 to see Paul’s specific instructions in that chapter:
• make my joy complete by
o being like-minded,
o having the same love,
o being one in spirit and of one mind. (v. 2)
• Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
• Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, (v. 3)
• not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.(v. 4)
• Do everything without grumbling or arguing, (v. 14)
Our obedience to others in authority is actually obedience to God.
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.
Insofar as governing authorities do not violate God’s commands, we are to obey them. We are also to pray for them. 2 Timothy 2:2:
Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.
These verses apply Scripture to serving and submitting to governing authorities. Bottom line—service and submission is to God and not to man. There is never a right to do wrong so we are not commanded to submit to ungodly commands by anyone in authority over us. We hold ourselves accountable to God for appropriate response to those in authority over us and for those we have authority over.
Jesus sets the example of deferring to others, from his earthly parents, to those in authority over Him as he moved from childhood to maturity. In the culture of Jesus’ day, women were second class citizens. This was not true of the way Jesus interacted with women. Jesus dealt with gentility and consideration with the people He met— women, children, lepers, the lame, the blind, the least, the lost. He challenged religious authorities where they fell short in their dedication to God and Truth, but He comfortably mingled with known sinners.
On the night before He died we see Jesus washing the feet of His disciples, including the one He knew was betraying Him. Even as Jesus washed their feet, the disciples did not comprehend what He had done.
Then they (the disciples) began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them.
Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.
To recap—God put on skin and came to earth to serve and save. If Jesus was willing to serve, how can we insist on imagined rights? How can we refuse to serve others?
Ephesians 5—Relationships in God’s Plan
Ephesians 5 gives specific instructions about how we are to live especially in our relationships. Let’s let the Bible speak for itself (Ephesians 5, NLT):
• Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.(v. 1)
• Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. (v. 2)
• Let there be no
o sexual immorality,
o or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. (v. 3)
• Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you.
• Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. (v. 4)
• You can be sure that no
o or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. (v. 5)
• Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. (v. 6)
• Don’t participate in the things these people do. (v. 7)
• For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. (vv . 8-9)
• Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. (v. 10)
• Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. (v. 11)
• It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret (v 12).
• But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. (v v. 13-14)
• So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. (v. 15)
• Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. (v. 16)
• Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. (v. 17)
• Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (v v.18-20)
• And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (v. 21)
The opening verses of Ephesians 5 have given us specific instruction for how to live a life that honors God. Beginning with verse 21 we are directed to submit to one another. Why? Out of reverence for Christ. So the instructions in the following verses are also done out of reverence for Christ—who lived and died for us. The first relationship is the marriage relationship where, while the wife is to imitate Christ’s example of submission to honor Christ. The husband is to imitate Christ in loving in a sacrificial way even to the point of death. I believe the husband has the greater challenge. There is no lording it over either husband or wife in this type of relationship, but a relationship of mutual love, respect, support, and protection.
• For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 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. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. (v. 22)
Apart from Jesus’ becoming humble and submissive to the point of death, we might have a reason to be resistant to these attitudes but if God can live humbly and be submissive, then why shouldn’t we respond positively to His way of life.
• For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 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. 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. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. (vv. 23-29)
• And we are members of his body. (v. 30)
• As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.
• So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband
The call upon your life to respond in these ways is voluntary. A wife cannot make her husband love her or a husband is not to force his wife to submit to him. God’s plan is ultimately functional—it works. The way we treat our spouse is a response to God—either honoring or dishonoring His standard.
The Lord treats His creation with respect. Consider all He has done for us in love. Treat others with the grace, love, and respect the Lord has demonstrated toward you—especially the person you are married to.
Again, I apologize for the length but believe that Scripture clearly speaks for itself.
Thanks so much for laying it all out here! 🙂
Love to you,
Nina: “I see gobs of discussions online that try to present scripture and historical information in such a way that encourage wives to not submit to husbands, and instead set up thought patterns under the guise of religion that create all sorts of elements of competition with their husbands.”
Could you provide some examples of these theological discussions (i.e. web site addresses for groups and/or blog posts) that use scripture to encourage wives to not submit and set up patterns that create competition?
Also, I’m confused. I understand you to be saying healthy (mature) marriages are characterized by mutual submission but also that “biblical marriages” are characterized by unilateral submission by the wife. Marriages characterized by mutual submission as opposed to unilateral female submission are also Christ-honoring marriages. If I am not reading you correctly, my apologizes.
Glad you are here! Thanks for helping me articulate this right – we are not in disagreement. What you said in your last paragraph is accurate. Both are Christ honoring. Rachel Held Evans has a ton of comments from other bloggers this week discussing submission. If you peruse the comment section, you’ll run across many bloggers addressing this. If we do a google search on “mutuality” or “mutual submission” and “head” we’ll run into a number of blogs and articles that leave out the use of the word, “head” in the OT as the leader of a tribe – it’s in there a lot. One of the myths propagated by those who don’t like the husband being held accountable for the family is that “head” only means source – I thought this for a while myself, but was wrong after doing more research. Hierarchy exists in the Trinity, Christ Himself, the night before He died, submitted to God’s will and not His. Anyway, I’ll have more on this tomorrow. I thought about adding the specific blogs, but I think open disagreement and posting other people’s writings without talking to them isn’t right. And my goal isn’t to go out and argue with those who disagree, but rather deal with the wide swath of misinformation, if that makes sense.
Does that make anything clear as mud? I will try to go back and rephrase that paragraph so it is more clear. I think we’ve been taught it’s an “either – or” situation with “mutuality – hierarchy” and “egalitarian – complementarian” views on submission, but I am seeing that it is an AND situation, somewhat mysteriously, instead of being abundantly clear.
Love to you,
Wow, that was quick, and my apologies for the typo in the last sentence of my previous comment.
I am following RHE’s series. I think that’s where I came across your post yesterday but am just getting a chance to read and interact with it today. I am just curious about the claim that there are those who use scripture to say a wife doesn’t have to submit and use scripture to foster competition in marriage. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist. All I have read and observed from Christians that deny hierarchy or traditionalism (patriarchy/complementarianism) as essential to a Christ-honoring (i.e. “biblical”) marriage is a high regard for mutual submission, mutual deference, shared responsibility and accountability, mutual respect, mutual love, and mutual use of gifts and strengths to serve the needs of their spouse, so I’m just surprised. This would characterize my own marriage as opposed to hierarchy or unilateral male authority/unilateral female submission.
I’m not sure what the connection is your making with the Hebrew word in the OT you say is translated “head” and means “leader of a tribe.” Could you explain and give examples?
I don’t think whether “head” is interpreted to mean “source” or not (though I think in some texts that makes more sense i.e. Corinthians) matters. I just do not read the epistles as establishing new Torah.
Also, there is debate within complementarianism/patriarchy about whether or not there is a hierarchy in the Trinity and about whether the mysterious Trinity and its unique dynamics can be used as a model for marriage. Here is a link to a recent article by Dr. Fred Sanders, a complementarian scholar, who rejects the use of the Trinity as a model for marriage. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/august-web-only/why-trinity-cant-tell-us-about-gender.html He has written other material and participated in public discussions (YouTube) which are searchable.
Finally, I am trying to understand you regarding “both-and.” How are you defining “complementarian?”
Thank you for your gracious response and for interacting with my comment. I look forward to your upcoming post and hope to get the time to poke around your blog some more.
Thanks heaps for the exchange. I’m going to disappoint you, I think – I’m dealing with a sinus infection, and my feeble brain is feeling the effects. So I want apologize in advance for my lame response here. It just isn’t going to be as intelligent as I hoped.
In terms of “complementarian,” I don’t disagree with Mary Kassain and John Piper’s Counsel’s definition.
Where I differ is that there even should be camps. 🙂 I think the whole Bible is true and applicable. And it sounds like you are blessed with a marriage where both individuals are mature in their faith, work out things to win/win, and avoid destructive conflicts. I believe this is the brother/sister relationship believers can have with one another, but based on the Genesis account and the use of “head” in the NT and the similarly translated words in Hebrew in the OT, “head” implies “responsible party” or “leader.”
So in a case where a marriage is not one where the man is mature in his walk, or even a believer (1 Peter 3:1-6 style), the woman is to submit to avoid causing defensiveness. This crazy notion actually works in not just marriage relationships, but business and negotiation situations.
So what I am saying is that the Bible is true. 🙂 That we may have to do both, or we may be blessed enough to have so much love and respect on both sides that it is mutual. There’s no conflict between, but rather a situation where both verses are true – maybe not simultaneously, however, but at different stages.
Where we run into trouble is when we are dealing with these men who are still finding their way and do not understand servant leadership as Marysheartisathome commented just recently. But to effectively deal with that, wives can take God’s advice and submit (which I believe really means to communicate a lack of threat or opposition, a position of agreement and “I’m for you,” or “We’re together here”) to effectively calm down her husband.
Perhaps you don’t live with an angry man, but many of the women we minister to do. For whatever reason, the “lording over” of their size, breadwinning, whatever, is how these men interact with their wives.
It’s not what God intended, not what Christ modeled when He washed the disciples’ feet, and it’s not honoring to God or their wives. Hence they end up even further from God, as He doesn’t even listen to their prayers (1 Peter 3:7).
We spend much of our energies equipping women with Biblical communication tools that help them model Christ in their marriages. I love the larger debates on the nuances of theology, and wish I had more time to simply engage in them. 🙂 Over here, we focus on the practical application of Scripture, and how it impacts us and our relationships with the people around us.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, But for many women who are struggling in their marriages (and given that 2 of 3 divorces are filed by women, it’s more the women that are having issues and taking this action) we try to provide options that encourage them in doing what they feel led by God to do. In many cases, this is to love a difficult man or an unbeliever, or to communicate bold truth gently and engage in conflict Matthew 18 style as led by God.
I’m glad you are here. Wish we could chat over cappuccino, as text is difficult and leaves much room for misunderstanding. You are a delight to converse with, though, and I appreciate the gentle nature of your words.
I’ll be checking out your link hopefull over the weekend while I’m trying to recover from this stupid sinus thing. 🙂 Thank you!
Love to you,
No disappointment. I understand all too well the affliction of sinus trouble. I hope you are better.
The trouble with Kassian and Piper’s definition of Complementarianism is Kassian does not subscribe to the same use of the word they both claim to have invented. Kassian actually denies complementarianism is hierarchical with actual patriarchal authority while Piper (and others) claim a functional hierarchy is fundamental to having a “biblical” marriage. So, that doesn’t really help me understand how you are using complementarian. Based on your post, it reads to me as if you are claiming a marriage can be functionally hierarchical and functionally non-hierarchical (egalitarian). How you and Kassian present complementaranism is not how the most prominent voices within the movement present the teaching. For example, from what I have read and heard, prominent hierarchical comps do not teach a wife is “to submit to avoid causing defensiveness” but teach the essential nature of a woman as a derived creation from Adam (Ware, Grudem, et al) is a call to perpetual functional subordination; therefore, she is to arrange herself under the authority of her husband i.e. a subordinate in a hierarchy. As I referenced in my last comment, recent theological development within the comp movement has sought out an ancient teaching rejected by church Fathers to support their claims of functional subordination. Ironically, RHE’s series takes up this issue today.
This is a far, far cry from the Genesis account where both male and female are created as co-vice regents commissioned together to steward creation.
I do not see a problem with a husband and wife agreeing to a hierarchy paradigm for their relationship. (In many parts of the world, it is not a choice but an assumption very similar to the sociological and historical context of the bible.) However, I deny adopting a hierarchy is more “biblical,” as in more godly. I think it can be a dangerous teaching for many relationships and think teaching and equipping couples towards emotional, spiritual maturity that promotes oneness is the best way our marriages can reflect Christ to our culture.
Thank you for being a hospitable host and for engaging my comments. May you not grow weary in doing well.
Angie – Nina’s is just trying to help us wives get a long better with our husbands. To stop trying to compete with them and love them the way they need to be loved. Some of us have husbands who have the perspective of “I am his Rib”. It’s not my responsibility to change his view on that – and I would die (literally) trying. Thank you, Nina for teaching me how to be a more loving wife.
And, I might add, to respond to God’s leading, presenting possibilities of what that might look like, in different situations, including ones that might need confrontation or separation. 🙂
And, if I might add, to encourage women to be deeply connected to God, for some of these situations require confrontation, and His Word is clear to us about how to do that. 🙂
Thanks Amy, but it’s Him whose teaching, I’m just trying to not screw it up, and provide practical options of what some of these things might look like in the many many various situations out there. 🙂
Love to you,
🙂 Okay, so here’s a confession that might be a little annoying… and might remove some of the admittedly limited credibility I have…
I don’t do gobs of research on what the intellectuals are debating about. I have done enough reading to have thought I subscribed to one camp, but what God’s revealed to me of late is that “camps” and “labels” are man-made, and what I’m suggesting is something no one else has spoken about yet.
Here’s what I really believe… and God help me if I’m leading anyone astray in any way, shape or form, please search the Scriptures and listen to Him over any thought I would ever dare to share here…
… it doesn’t matter… “hierarchy,” “patriarchy,” “egalitarianism,” “complementarianism,” … none of those words make a difference…
And here’s why: God’s Word is true.
One of the biggest arguments non-Christians have with us is that our guidebook, the Bible, “contradicts itself.”
It really doesn’t, but rather speaks different advice to different people at different times. And I’m not talking about the historical discussions about households, practices at the time things were written, or any of that. What I mean is if I read, “Over look an insult” and sense His leading (because I know Him enough to do at least that) that I should overlook something with a certain person that day, then it is obedience for me to do that. Perhaps a few weeks, months or never later, I’m reading Matthew 18, and God leads me to confront the sin of this individual at that time…
So for me, it is possible to have a co-existence of “submit to one-another” and “wives submit” because my Father leads me in the minutia of the moments of the day. There are times when I know it’s not God’s idea for me to gently suggest an alternative (otherwise known as “wisely disagreeing”) to my husband, but to just go along with his plan. There are other times when God leads me to voice concerns in a way my husband (and anyone else, for that matter) could hear them.
I think it is ALL true. There are women who need the comfort of hierarchy in marriage at times in their lives – but the problem with that is then we would assign “complementarian” as the right answer… And yet we’ve seen marriages that we could probably define as “egalitarian,” but that then infers that the term is the only answer.
What is crazy and wonderful to me, is that on any given day, if I look at the interactions between my husband and me, there’s both. But I like to think it is because of God’s intervention.
So maybe I need to coin my own phrase. 🙂 Because I don’t subscribe to only one and not the other.
I also fully agree with you that there are things that have damaged marriages and His people over the years based on the various teachings of the time. Men have been encouraged to be everything from heavy handed, to loving servants to avoidant to the only initiator, and women have been encouraged to be everything from dominant, to doormats, to responders, to initiators and not.
The Truth is, there’s evidence of it all in creation. From the alpha wolf leader of the pack being both male and female and the many other animals who naturally determine leadership as male only, to emperor penguins, who share sitting on the egg and sea horses whose male is the one who gets pregnant and delivers the babies…
There are “generalities” and sometimes, what looks like patriarchy, upon closer inspection can also be equal consideration. Abigail and John Adams come to mind in that example.
I don’t think hierarchy’s are adopted on purpose, though – I think they either exist or they don’t, depending on the position of the husband or the wife involved. And there are dangerous outcomes of having a husband who is so immature that he shoves his “responsibility” down his wife’s throat in abusive and damaging ways. The discussion of what is in the Bible can’t avoid talking about it, however, and I think perhaps we haven’t as yet come up with a way to discuss it that doesn’t draw deeper lines in the sand. It really makes no sense, using words like “head” to ascribe responsibility and accountability along with leadership. That last one word is one we have added – not God. I don’t deny that God holds man accountable for his family, and the only word I can find that explains that is “hierarchy,” which frankly, is still not adequate.
I love the way you worded this: ” teaching and equipping couples towards emotional, spiritual maturity that promotes oneness is the best way our marriages can reflect Christ to our culture.”
It’s my goal to do that well, recognizing that the Bible is a living document, with a God of grace that is to be followed and obeyed, while recognizing He is our Lord, our Savior, our Father, and our King.
It is a deep mystery.
And I’m thankful for you, Angie. I see Him in you in the way you talk about these difficult things with me – and I look forward to further discussions as we both find our way in this day and age within our specific marriages. 🙂
Love to you,
Nina – I appreciate what you are saying about mutual submission. However, not all husbands view us wives as “their equal”. Personally, I have never felt “equal” to my husband. He refers to me as his “Rib”, his helpmate, a bit “below”, which is why my marriage has been no hard – as you’ve described in previous posts. In order for me to endure this “hard” marriage, I’ve learned to step back, relinquish control (which is VERY hard for me), and accept that he is in charge. I am learning (through LOTS of tears) what it means TO HIM, what respect looks like – and I’ve learned ITS NOT THE SAME for every man. I’ve learned, after reading your thoughts and blogs, what’s most important is this: what does respect look like to the man I said “Yes” to 28 years ago? Some men are very “Type A”, very complicated, a bit controlling and very emotional themselves. As I draw closer to the Lord, and love my husband the way he needs me to love him, I am gaining more peace in my life. Thank you for being my friend!
Tough stuff, yes.
And no, it’s not easy when he doesn’t view you the way he should.
Having said that, how you feel, whether equally precious to God or subclass, is entirely up to you. I’ve heard stories from women dealing with these things that have had to learn gentleness, self control, all those fruits of the Spirit, and still have a man who does not respond. That’s okay, because this life isn’t about marital happiness, it is about knowing Christ – and sharing Him with others.
So wildly pursue the One who knows you and loves you best – and He will tell you when and what to do. Often times, we are to turn the other cheek and stay out of God’s way. Most of these alpha men are only able to learn from other men – not by what we ask for from them, no matter how respectfully. So encourage him to spend time with other guys, maybe ask to help the men’s ministry team put on events at your church by bringing in a speaker for men, etc., but know your God first and foremost daily and He’ll show you the way.
You are not alone.
Love that you are here…
That’s right Nina – keeps it all in perspective. My life consists of more than just being a wife. I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend…trying to take care of my self well – work on my inner beauty and inner strength – God is Good. 🙂
And most importantly, in relationship with the King. His daughter, His friend, His princess… 🙂 So good indeed. 🙂
Amy, I couldn’t have said it better myself. you could have said this for me. Thanks for sharing our experience.
Nina, I, always, gain a new perspective from what you write in your blog. I have been married for 27 years this Sept 9th and it is not going well. I am too seen as only a helper, not a partner. I am told that he doesn’t care what I think and he doesn’t need or want my opinion. It is that blatant and it hurts a lot. It IS tough and I am too finding my peace in looking at my part and the big picture, instead of his sin. Sure, I am choosing to confront the sin, I try to do it once,and move on. On bad days, I nag and repeat my complaints making things worse. I see the purpose in being vulnerable and open just in case he does decide to engage on the subject previously brought up by me, Usually, I bring back to the table the things that pricked and hurt my heart or stirred up a past offense and have not been resolved or cannot be overlooked. Forgiving immediately, keeping short accounts, and making amends as soon as possible are all for my benefit and are part of my healing and wholeness. It keeps me free and where I need to be when the Lord does choose to move. I have made some changes, like, putting my hope in the Lord and instead of in my expectations of my husband. Ultimately, i am submitting to the Lord through my husband. One day at a time…He is not finished with me yet. Stubborn, hard headed and foolish, but In love with my Lord.
Praying for you, Kim! I do understand. It IS hard. I fully believe God’s mercies are new every morning, and I’m excited you are in love with Him. 🙂 Keep drawing near to Him – He has a plan. It might include action from you, it might not, but He does have a plan. Hang in there, beloved, and know your tears are precious to Him, caught in a bottle, held in His hand. I’m trying to look at things right now from my husband’s perspective… what’s it like to be married to me? How do I feel when I get home? How are my needs getting met? I cling to Him, too. And sometimes, I see Glory this side of Heaven.
Love to you,
Kim, I wanted to tell you, it has been my experience that, with husbands like ours, confrontation IS NOT recommended. It has backfired on me. Nagging, complaining, finding fault, makes him defensive and angry. Putting him in a position of defense, does not draw us closer to our husbands. Instead, turn your hurt into a “cry out” to the Lord. Fill yourself up with Praise and Worship music, pray without ceasing, become a “loveable” person. Smile more, don’t put expectations on him, pray for him, overlook most offenses, find peace with yourself. Allow God to make the changes in him – we are not in control – The Lord is. When you let God be God – that’s where you’ll find the strength to go on in your “hard” marriage. I know, cause I have one. God loves you, learn to see yourself how HE sees you, you are a Daughter of the Most High!
I’m wondering if you could spend some time focusing on marriages where there is a Christ loving, submissive wife and a husband who has taken advantage of the situation for 10 or more years. This describes my marriage and after 20 years of my being submissive to my husband, he began an affair with another woman. And he eventually left me for this other woman. I now believe that my many years of submission actually enabled my husband to become more & more cruel & unfair. I didnt demand fairness or respect, and he took advantage of that. I work with women in Divorce Care now and have met many other women who have similar stories.
The part that really hurts is when people tell us (these other women & I) that our marriages failed because we were either a) too submissive or b) not submissive enough. CAN’T WIN!
Other people, including myself, have no idea how submissive you were/are, and do not have any inside information as to what you should have done. I am so so sorry that you have suffered this way, and there’s probably a myriad of reasons “why,” regardless, it’s just so painful. I’m so glad you are helping other women who are hurting. i don’t pretend to know exactly what God would have had you do, but I am wondering if you ever gently confronted him following Matthew 18? Not that I am suggesting that, because if God didn’t lead you there, it would not have been the “right” thing to do, but only the Lord knows that.
I am praying your relationship with our Father continues to deepen, and we are thankful you are here. Know you are not alone, and you are prayed for today.
Love to you,
Great post Nina. We submit to Christ as His bride, I submit to my husband as his bride. I just don’t see mutual submission as being biblical, but I can see how mature Christians trying to outserve each other could look like mutual submission. I do know that I’m happier and more peaceful than I ever was when I was trying to be in charge of everything. I’m still a bit of a control freak, but I’m growing my trust and faith muscles daily.
I agree with the “mutual submission” as being connected to the entire passages above “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord,” and it is related to interactions between believers. There is a place, however, I see, with mature believers that are married, where the husband is STILL responsible, still accountable, but values his wife such that he counts her rights above his own. It’s an active subordination of rights, which we are specifically told to do (probably because we need to be! 🙂 at least I did…) and so it is a little different than the cultural definitions, if that makes any sense. 🙂 I updated the post to try to clarify this. 🙂 I’m not in any way suggesting that the wife is held accountable or responsible for the family in the same way as the man, who has been designated as “head.” Thanks for the comment! 🙂
Tough concept to talk about, even more difficult to see lived out in our daily life. 🙂
Love to you,
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