Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Submissive does not mean subservient

It also doesn't mean mindless, ignorant, barefoot and pregnant, uneducated or... many of the other things people think it means.

For some reason lately, wifely submission has been coming up in conversations. People really have a hard time understanding this concept. Most people who don't get it just make fun of it. Natch; that's easier than trying to understand something.

Ephesians 5:22-30 is usually cited when discussing Biblical submission:

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30because we are members of his body.

This doesn't say anything about husbands bossing their wives around. It doesn't say women shouldn't think for themselves. It doesn't say women have to run to their husbands for every little decision.* It doesn't mean women can't keep the family books, if the husband and wife agree she is the best one to do it. It doesn't mean women shouldn't read the paper and form their own opinions.

It does mean that both spouses do things in light of the love and respect they have for each other.

It does mean that when a man and woman come together, they agree that the man is the head. That means he is the one to make the final decisions. That can and should include saying to his wife, "hm, you're better at this, how about you decide?" Or, "will you please help me with this decision?"

It does mean that if there is a disagreement about a decision, the husband makes the call. To some that might sound like "he wins, she loses." But if the husband is acting Biblically, he is acting out of love for his wife and will make the best decision for her, for the whole family.

Here's an example. A husband gets a job offer in another state. He is excited. It's a great job, one he's really interested in. The wife is not so excited. She doesn't want to move. Her family is close by and she doesn't want to live in the area they'd be moving to. So, what happens?

- They fight about it incessantly, he takes the job, she refuses to move, they get divorced. Or, they stay married but she stays angry too.

- The husband refuses to take the job to avoid conflict with his wife. Wife "wins," husband is full of regrets.

- The husband and wife discuss the options together. He seeks her wise counsel. They make a list of pros and cons to the move. The wife expresses her thoughts about the move freely. They talk, they pray, and agree that they are together whatever the decision needs to be. Then the husband decides, based on his love for his wife (and by extension, their children) and his position as the head. That might mean he decides to take the job; it might mean he doesn't.

Whatever the outcome, no individual wins or loses. If the husband and wife follow Biblical principles, the whole family wins. If the decision is to move, the submissive wife will not pout because she doesn't get her way, or engage in passive-aggressive techniques to make her husband miserable. She will know that the decision was the right one even if it's not her favorite option. If the decision is to refuse the job, the good husband knows he did the right thing for his family, will not be angry and will not engage in passive-aggressive techniques to punish his wife.

Sometimes even Christian women will say, "my husband doesn't go for this submissive wife stuff. He wants me to have a mind of my own." Guess what? If she goes along with that, she is a submissive wife. Others like to sneer at the notion of the submissive wife, saying "my husband and I are partners." Well, a truly Biblical marriage looks like a partnership, with the couple working together for the good of the family. A woman who marries the right man can trust that his decisions will be for her good. She can trust that he will listen to her, not brush off her concerns. A man who bosses his wife around or treats her like a child is not a good husband to her. He is not acting Biblically.

Anyone reading this who does not care about what's in the Bible probably thinks I am nuts. But I am happy and content in my marriage because I know my responsibilities, and I know my husband's. I know that when we can't agree on something, I can trust him to decide and know it will be in my best interest. Believe it or not, it is freeing to be able to trust someone in this way, to let go of every decision and not feel like I have to have my way all the time. But I guess some people will never understand that.

* Unless she makes poor decisions and her husband has to do it all. Face it, some women (and some men) are incompetent. Probably there are men who like having incompetent wives because it does give them someone to boss around. But that is not Biblical. A good wife is competent and able to make good decisions and get things done without constantly needing her husband's help. Her husband can trust her to do this without his constant supervision.

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