It is the wife’s duty to submit to her husband.
Say that to any modern woman and immediately watch her hackles rise. Say it to any man and he may stand a little straighter and snicker a bit, but if honest, most men will admit to not wanting a doormat for a partner.
And yet isn’t that what the Bible tells us?
Wives submit to your husbands. Wives be subordinate to your husbands. The wording varies slightly. The message does not.
What exactly does this mean, this submissiveness a wife is supposed to display? Is this in the Bible simply because the Bible was written thousands of years ago (an amazing fact we tend to forget the significance of!) or is there any chance God knew what He was talking about and that wifely submission still applies today?
I recently spoke on this topic and asked the group the following questions, which they had no problem answering and seeing the need and the logic behind.
Who is the leader of the country?
Who is leader of the Army?
Who is leader of a baseball team?
Who is the leader of the Catholic Church on Earth?
Why then did they stumble over the next question…
Who is leader of the Family?
Here, those hackles rose. Here, there were a uncomfortable squirms. Here, I saw rolled eyes, shaking heads, and mocking grins.
Surely there is no one head of the Family! Surely wives have as much say as husbands in the Family. Surely I was not suggesting that there be one leader, a man, who makes the final decision?
And yet, in every other “team,” from a child’s school project to a large corporation, from a volunteer committee to a community organization, a leader emerges.
A Good and Strong leader knows he is little without his aids, those whose opinions he or she values and takes into serious consideration before determining what is best for those depending on him, but there is generally one leading body.
Today’s families are lacking that leadership. Why? Have we “raised” the role of women to the point where there is no need of male leadership, of male role models? Do we believe that a single Mom is as capable of providing the same type of leadership for her family as a Good Husband and Father?
Has man, through the pursuit of self-pleasure and in a quest to prove himself powerful, diminished himself to the point of obscurity, to the point of being obsolete?
Is there more to this wifely submission? Do we blind ourselves to the message by getting caught up on that one phrase,
“Wives submit to your husbands,”
Is there more to the Bible’s message and is it meant only for bygone generations or does it apply today?
Reread this portion of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
Wives and Husbands. Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her, to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.
For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.
This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church. In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.
We get caught up in the phrase telling women to be subordinate and ignore the meat of the message even in the opening line and the meaning of the word subordinate as it is used here, “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence to Christ.”
It is not just wives being told to be subordinate, but all God’s people. Be subordinate. Serve Christ by serving one another. Service requires strength, humility, Grace. There is nothing weak in the subordination of servitude. In fact, weakness is only for those who serve themselves.
Look at the rest of the passage. Twice it mentions wives being subordinate. The entire rest of the passage speaks of how a husband should treat his wife. The husband is told to be the savior of the body that is the Marriage and the Family, just as Christ is the Savior of the Church, of His people.
The call to husbands gets even more challenging as we read on. The husband is told to love his wife, to “hand himself over to her.” What Strength this requires, Strength, not domination, on the part of a Man! What weak man can truly Love another? What weak man can hand himself over to a woman? Does not a weak man instead make feeble attempts to prove domination over those around him?
A husband is called to sanctify and cleanse his wife leading her to the Church through God’s Grace so that the two may present themselves to the Church, to the Lord in splendor, without wrinkle or blemish.
The husband is told to love his wife as his own flesh. Today we get caught up in easily accessible pornography and semi-porn and it is hard to know where lines should be drawn. How would the world be different if a man honored a woman’s flesh rather than looking at a woman’s flesh as a gift owed to him? Would knowing a husband valued his wife above all others make submission joyful rather than distasteful?
It is amazing how we get caught up on that one verse,
Wives be subordinate to your husbands,
But we ignore the rest of the message.
Men, read the rest of the message before asking for submission.
Men, be MEN. Be the savior of your Marriage. Be the savior of your Family. Love your wives. Hand yourself over to her. Sanctify her. Cleanse her. Love her. Nourish her. Cherish her.
Men were not given an easy job;
they were given a vital job.
How many Men will stand up for that call? How many men will rise again after falling, knowing falling but not necessarily rising, is something we all do?
How many women will help their Men succeed in their mission as leader, protector, provider?
When the message is taken in context, it may be even more important today than it was 2000 years ago. We need strong leaders in our Church, in our nations, and especially in our families. Submitting to a worthy Man is not a sign of weakness or inferiority. It is a sign of Wisdom.
Men must understand how absolutely necessary they are. When a Husband leads his Family as Christ leads the Church, he makes himself worthy of submission, and submission to a worthy Man doesn’t seem so bad after all.
Are we, Men and Women, Husbands and Wives strong enough to submit and to be worthy of submission, to leave finger pointing aside, and to follow Christ’s call?
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