I’ll give you the same two cautions I gave husbands in their article on headship. When it comes to Paul’s instructions on marriage in Ephesians 5:
1. You should only read the instructions that pertain to your role.
2. The only valid model for interpreting these instructions is Christ, our Bridegroom, and the church, His bride.
Most of you have probably at least heard that there is something about wives and submission in the Bible. Some of you may even know the verses by heart.
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:22-24 NIV
Some may choose to ignore these verses or pass them off as out of date for our modern world. But my belief is that if it’s in the Bible, especially if it’s in the New Testament, it’s probably something God cares about and something we should try to understand and apply.
Most of those who have a problem with biblical submission have wrong ideas of what it actually is. What is needed is a clear understanding of the Bible’s perspective. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of explanation in the scriptures about submission, so people seek out understanding from a lot of different sources. For example:
Feminism – says women don’t need men in the first place and calling a wife to submission is like calling her to a life of slavery.
The culture at large – says 50/50 is the best way to run a marriage. Equality is the goal. Submission is unfair.
Wrong paradigms – use models like captain/first mate, pilot/co-pilot, CEO/VP, etc.
None of these perspectives provide useful insight into God’s design for marriage.
What we should focus on instead is the only clear model of marriage found in the Bible: Christ and the church. Specifically, submission is best understood through the lens of your relationship to Jesus. No, I’m absolutely not saying that husbands are gods or equal to Christ. I’m simply saying that the Bible clearly intends that you should glean lessons for your marriage from the way in which you submit to Christ.
Many mistakenly think that, as a wife, you cannot be both strong and submissive. But submission and strength are both essential to your role as a wife; they are not mutually exclusive.
Here is how I frame it up:
The upper right quadrant, the one labeled “Bride-like,” is what I think the Bible calls you to as a wife: to be both strong and submissive.
Forget the notion that submission means you are to be a slave or a doormat or a so-called “Stepford wife.” No, the bride-like imperative means you are to be empowered by your husband, secure and confident in his love, with a sure sense of God-given identity and purpose. This is how we relate to Jesus. This is how you should relate to your husband.
Don’t confuse submission with silence. You are to have a voice, a strong, clear voice in your marriage. But your strength does not conflict at all with the call for you to honor your husband with your respect, to follow and support him in humility, or to be selfless in giving your husband your love and devotion.
The fact is that true biblical submission requires real strength.
It requires you to have the mental strength to do battle with the lies you hear all around you about worldly marriage paradigms that say you must to look out for yourself and stand up for your rights. It can be a real challenge to keep your mind in agreement with the way God wants you to live your marriage.
It requires the emotional strength to face your doubts and fears and to trust in your husband’s love. It requires that you work on your self and on becoming the wife God wants you to be rather than trying to change your husband.
And it requires the strength of will to let go of your need to control, to follow God’s design for your marriage and to follow your husband’s lead, to partner with him and to lovingly support him, even when he missteps.
Yes, you can and should be both strong and submissive in your marriage. Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise. Your submission actually makes you powerful. True submission is a gift you give to your husband. The choice is wholly yours, because submission that is demanded or coerced isn’t biblical submission at all.
In your marriage, do you struggle with submission or with being strong? Share your story, leave a comment.
Follow Up Articles:
What Submission in Not by Scott Means
The Problem with Roles in Marriage by Scott Means
What Submissive Wives are Not by Nina Roesner of The Respect Dare
The Submission Series – a thoughtful and thorough ten part series from Lori at The Generous Wife.
As a champion for great marriages, Scott Means has been writing and teaching about the passion and intimacy that is found in God’s design for marriage for more than ten years.
His goal is to challenge, provoke, inform and, most of all, equip and motivate you to attain the depth of intimacy, passion, and love you’ve always dreamed of in your marriage.
couple © Wayhome Studio / Adobe Stock
chart courtesy of © Scott Means / Heaven Made Marriage
book images courtesy of © Amazon.com