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Wives that Submit

March 3, 2011

I have a friend that started a discussion about wives being or not being submissive on her facebook. My response is too long to put as a comment and I want to share with everyone, so I made it a note on facebook and now I’m sharing it on my blog since it pertains to being a wife:

I used to hate the idea that women were suppose to be submissive to their husbands. I found ways to interpret the scripture so I could leave that part out. But my viewpoint has changed throughout the years as I have heard sermons, read books (including certain scriptures), talked with different Christians, and prayed. I hope that no one feels attacked as they read this. I just want to share my viewpoints and spur on some friendly discussion. Also note that I’m not good at making things short and to the point. This will be long…

Alright, so one of the most well-known and quoted scriptures about wives submitting to their husbands is in Ephesians 5. And it starts in verse 21 with “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” God wants everyone to be submissive to someone. He puts authority in our lives so that we can learn to obey. If we can’t obey the authority that He has given us on earth, how are we going to be able to obey him and respect his authority? This part of the scripture is given to all Christians, not just wives.

The next part of the scripture says (and this is from The Message) “Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.”

First of all, because this is found in the New Testament and it was written after Christ died and rose again, I believe that it isn’t like Old Testament law that we are now free from. I also don’t believe that it is a cultural statement (like telling women to keep their hair long so they wouldn’t be confused with the prostitutes). I believe that it is still applicable to us today.

I believe that the word ‘submissive’ has a different connotation today than it used to. When most people hear it they think of being dominated and ruled over, but that isn’t what this scripture is saying. This version gives a better explanation of what submissive means. It says to “understand and support your husbands.” It also says that husbands should not be domineering but cherishing and it uses the word leadership. I don’t know of many good leaders throughout time that were successful by mistreating and not taking into consideration the needs of the ones they were trying to lead.

Alright, on to the third part of the scripture “Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.”

Wow! To me that sounds so romantic. Going all out, evoking beauty, marked by giving. So often people focus on the directives to the wife in this scripture, but you can’t leave out the directions that God gave to the husbands. I think it’s the most critical part. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church—and He died for His bride! That scripture says that the husband should bring out the best in his wife. If my husband loves me so much that he is willing to die to bring out the best in me, then why would I NOT want to submit to him? If he is willing to go to such lengths for me, then would it not be like a slap in the face to him by not doing as he asks? Just like it’s a slap in the face to Christ who died for me when I disobey his commands?

I once heard a sermon on just this part of the scripture. Like I said earlier, I used to hate hearing that I was supposed to be submissive. It seemed like a horrible concept to me and I still struggle with the thought of it sometimes. But when I remember that God told me to be submissive and told my husband to die for me, it puts things in a whole new perspective.

The next point that I want to make is that men and women are different. Uh, duh, right? Ok, so hear me out on this one. I believe that God created the sexes differently, with different needs, desires, strengths, weaknesses, gifts, talents, abilities, tendencies, etc. When Adam and Eve sinned the curse wasn’t that man would rule over the wife but that they would now fight to control the relationship. But because of God’s great love, He gave them a solution to this (just like he clothed them when they realized they were naked). He chose one of them to be the leader based on how he had designed them, and that was Adam aka the husband.

In the book For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn, over 400 men were surveyed so us women could learn about them and better meet their needs. The first thing Feldhahn learned from this survey is that while women need love, men need respect. Over and over again in scripture men are told to love while women are told to respect. Go back to Ephesians 5, the last verse sums up all the submission talk with “each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” God knows how he designed us and he knows what we need. While it’s hard for me to be submissive sometimes, I trust that God knew what He was doing when he commanded me to submit to my husband. It’s just one huge way to show Matt the respect that he needs.

So, this is what submission looks like in the Mann household (well ideally this is what it looks like). We have a big decision coming up. We pray about it, come together and discuss it, weigh the pros and cons, pray about it some more, and try to come to an agreement. If an agreement can’t be made, I humbly tell Matt that I will trust and support his decision, then pray that he sees it my way. Haha. Seriously I do that, but I also pray that God will make it clear to him what the best choice is even if it’s not the way I see it.

God teaches us so much through this. When we can’t come to an agreement together I really have to humble myself and trust not only Matt to make the right decision, but I also have to trust God to guide Matt in the right direction. This can really be hard sometimes, okay everytime. Then, once Matt makes the decision, I learn to follow and obey, again, not only Matt but also to follow and obey God.

Hopefully this is where the process would end. But I won’t lie. There have been times, not many, but times that the wrong decision was made. When this happens, every part of my flesh wants to get angry and cry out “I TOLD YOU SO!” But again God uses those moments to teach me. He teaches me humility and how to be supportive and understanding despite the fact that we made a mistake. I can’t tell you what Matt is learning during all of this, but I hope and pray that throughout this process he is feeling my love and respect in a big way and thus we are creating a stronger marriage.

The differences between man and woman, the art of submission, and all that we learn and gain through the process “is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all” (Ephesians 5:32, The MSG) but I have to trust that God knows what he is doing.

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