“As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything”
The Bible’s command for wives to submit to their husbands is not a suppressive, archaic curse on women. It’s a gift. And no, I’m not going to tell you “It’s a gift to be able to serve your husband”. While yes, that’s true, I also feel that it can be a cop-out answe. I’m going to take another angle here.
There is so much angst in the liberal/progressive/modernist/millennial female Christian community: You are telling me to do WHAT. Submit to a man? No way! I am a smart, intelligent, fully equal and capable women and there is no way I’m letting my very helpful opinion and well-thought out decision-making get squashed by a man who is no better, if not worse than I am at thinking things through!
Am I right or am I right? If you’re a woman, you’ve probably felt this way when being told the Biblical standard for marriage.
While reading through Ephesians 5:21-33 once again, I didn’t get that feeling of friction or angst. I actually felt myself overcome with an enormous sense of relief: that sounds so nice!
Why did it suddenly sound so nice? Why my change of heart?
“As the church submits to Christ…” (Eph 5:24)
I don’t know about you, but I am so, so glad that I am not in charge of my life. When I feel like I need to figure everything out and make sure I do everything right, I get overwhelmed, confused, lost and scared. When I remember that God’s will for my life is perfect and beautiful and I must only walk with Him to hear His direction for my life – that is peace.
If I pour my energy and soul into knowing God and talking with Him, everything else in my life will be guided by His words. Even better, this process will feed life and energy back into me.
It won’t always be easy to do this, of course, but it is easy to know what our job actually is. This is our direction and our course and we don’t ever need to feel lost.
Halleluiah our burdens are lifted.
“…so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.” (Eph 5:24)
The comparison of Christ’s relationship to the church is a crucial piece in this chapter. The command for women to submit to their husbands is in light of God’s command for the church to submit to Christ.
Ultimately, we are all called to submit to Christ (we are all his church, man and woman). So when we submit to our husbands, we are submitting to a man who should also be submitting to God. Indirectly, we are reaching the same end, full submission to the will of God.
So just as I feel that incredible sense of peace in knowing that God has a perfect will for my life, I have peace knowing that my husband is seeking this will and helping to guide his family in God’s way.
I am a strong, independent woman. I can do this. I can walk through life, depending only on God and my ability to enact God’s will. I can make things work. And in our single lives, this is what we are doing. We’re fully responsible for all the decisions we make.
When we enter into marriage, we surely can still make decisions on our own, but we don’t have to any more. God has given us the chance to relinquish some of this responsibility so that we can take up other work.
“It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him… This one is bone from my bone, and flesh form my flesh... and the two are united as one” (Genesis 2:18)
Man and woman are complimentary. We are meant to be different and in our differences, we complete each other. So we are assigned different tasks. Just as a wife has her tasks, the husband’s task is to be the final decision maker.
In marriage, husband and wife have become one. The varying roles that each take on are meant to facilitate this intimate partnership, not bring division. It’s not a form of the male suppressing the female because she is lesser. It’s an understanding between two people with an intimate knowledge of each other, where the wife trusts her husband to make a decision that is right and the husband loves his wife so deeply that he pursues the right decision with all his heart.
“In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies” (Eph. 5:28)
I am tasked with submission. I am commanded by God to trust my husband and allow him to make final decisions.
A husband is tasked with caring for his wife in such a way that anything he does is in her best interest. He must love her as he loves himself.
So the husband isn’t just given license to do whatever he wants and, sucks, the wife has to deal with it. The husband is given the responsibility to seek Christ so avidly, so purely and so whole-heartedly that he is able to make the absolute best decisions for his family.
“And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21)
Here’s the kicker. We are submitting to one another. The women’s form of submission is to respect her husband’s decisions. The man’s form of submission is to put aside his selfish desires and love his wife beyond anything else.
So when I re-read this chapter once again, I was struck with how nice it all sounds.
I only recently began to feel the true burden of what a middle class adult life requires of an individual. I felt such relief knowing that my future husband is meant to cover me in a shroud of protection and love and care and make these decisions with me.
I won’t be shirking my responsibilities and dumping our problems onto him. But I will be walking alongside him and ultimately, I will trust that I have done all I can (I’ve used my organized, resourceful, thought-through, intelligent women’s insight thoroughly ;)) and my husband is meant to consider my thoughts with as much care as he’d consider his own (“…husbands are meant to love their wives as they love their own bodies” Eph. 5:28), seek God’s wisdom and ultimately enact God’s will through the final decision.
The man is not meant to control the lives of his family. He is meant to ultimately take the burden of intensely dedicated prayer and supplication and to act in wisdom and God-fearing trust on his family’s behalf.
As a future wife, I’m suddenly so appreciative that I don’t need to feel the burden of decision-making on my own. I will be his helpmate and he will be mine.
All that I need to be concerned about now is marrying a man who I trust to make those decisions on my behalf. If I have a husband who is in love with the Lord, putting Him first, seeking Him and growing in wisdom and strength, I will be happy to give him deference.
So men, be this for your future wives – in love with the Lord. Don’t give them reason to doubt your decisions.
And women, see this interaction between husband and wife as a gift and as all the more reason to walk with God yourself so that you can help your husband make the best decision for your family.