“Submission does not mean your husband has the final say” was the very statement that provoked the mind of a friend recently and generated a lengthy debate on the submission in marriage theme. Of course I added my voice to the heated discussion which was very revealing as I saw, appreciated and struggled to come to terms with some of the entrenched positions or perceptions held by some on the subject. On the one hand, I felt a little sad for women when I observed some of the “biblical” interpretations and stances of fellow men on the forum. And judging from the contributions of some of the females on the forum, I realized their struggle to come to terms with some of the male contributions. On the other hand, it was not surprising that a single Christian virtue submission and scriptural verses on the theme could merit very varied interpretations, viewpoints and beliefs. Yes I was not surprised because I had for a long time researched and found many different interpretations being accorded scripture.
It is a well known fact that the issue of submission is one of the sources of conflict in many marriages and must be given importance. I’m not a feminist, but I’m afraid many men are abusing the meaning and purpose of submission in marriage. My viewpoint may be wrong and I’m ready to admit that, but that’s just how I presently feel. On the other hand too, I do not entirely blame the men but will admonish all women to as much as is necessary get to know a man’s stance on submission in marriage before finally agreeing to settle down with him. This is because as it stands, submission is very important to men, however, their interpretation of it and demand in marriage thereof may surprisingly be totally different from a woman’s.
Somebody will say, there must be a single common definition or understanding of submission that all Christian homes must work with? Well, many things including scriptural verses mean differently to different Christians, isn’t it?
Ok, before anything else, I think it will be appropriate to share the few thoughts I put forward on that forum on whether or not submission means a man must have the final say that I have put together:
“First of all, I do not subscribe to allowing a man to have final say as the definition or demonstration of submission in marriage. The Bible never mentioned anything like final say…neither can that be ascribed to the Bible. To me, many men who have ego, insecurity and low self esteem problems will forever have problems with subscribing to a woman having final word in a decision making no matter how brilliant and helpful her ideas are. And I can imagine how many women feel belittled in these male-dominance mentality marriages.
To what end is this age-old perception that makes men feel superhuman over their wives?? Isn’t what my Bible preaches is that men and women are equal in a marriage partnership but each playing different roles for the success of the home??
There are moments when even the man would have to submit to the wife and vice versa. And if that’s scriptural, then where is the place for who actually has final say or trying to equate or otherwise limit submission in marriage to having of final say? I was asked during pre-marriage counselling what I understand submission to mean to me and I said one word: RESPECT!
You see, I have come to learn something: submission to me is simply a character trait and a MAN/WOMAN who has not learnt it can never give it!
And mind you, submission will always mean differently to different people.
Women are to submit…men are to love…what’s all that hiding behind words?? So submitting isn’t loving? And loving is not submitting?
Saying things like “it’s a command for the woman to submit”, “the woman is made for the man”, ”the man is the head and will be responsible or accountable before God for the woman”, etc is not good enough reason for men to boss over their women to no matter what submit to them. Come to think of it, is the submission “command” to only women? Who says a woman who has final say or in other words if a man does not have final say then his AUTHORITY or HEADSHIP is not being recognized or he is not being submitted to?
The Bible has and can say a whole lot but how even you the man applies it is what will determine the outcome you get and I put it to every man that we will achieve very little wiring our minds to commanding our wives to submit at all cost because it is whatever “command” from God. Take it from me again, it’s a character thing! If it’s not in your woman it’s just not in her; bible command or not, u will get nothing!
Again u will find that in many cases when a submission problem arises in a marriage and both parties are questioned, you realize from the woman that she is submitting in a way the man does not see or interpret as submission. It’s just like the love language thing, it means differently to different people and BACKGROUND has a big role to play. Let me tell you, there are men who will always have the final say, their wives are as cool and quiet as anything and never arguing with them as if to question his authority BUT they will still talk of submission problem! So forgive me if I sound as if I am not a scriptural or Bible word for word person. I’m always like that. Haha!
Every woman is different and so is how submission is applied in every home. Even every scripture in the Bible is applied differently by every man based on how they understand it or the Spirit interprets it to them. The problem is not the Scripture, the problem is the application. Do we see the same marriages in our churches?
Would we agree that everybody’s marriage is different yet fashioned after God or the principles of the Bible?
Far from it that I’m preaching a different doctrine or allowing modernity to corrupt my thinking. Of course not! Though we cannot pretend that we are living in different times from the ‘Bible days”, the Bible has not lost its relevance. I believe prescribing that we run marriages today exactly as in Bible days is totally out of place. Ok, maybe we can try living like Bible day husbands and wives and I bet what a party that will be!
If you ask me, I think it all comes down pretty much to knowing your woman/man very well and early too. Learn very well what submission means to each other, and then dwell with each other with understanding. Not just your own understanding as the Boss man of the house, but her understanding as well”.
Right, so those were my thoughts on the forum and I still stand by them…at least for now because I believe Christian marriages are built on principles of equal partnership and not extreme male-dominance concepts.
Now some may wonder how possible that I would say submission means respect to me. But here’s the clue: check the synonyms of respect and you will find obedience and check the meanings/synonyms of obedience and you are sure to find submission. They are very connected.
And I must say that I appreciated the essence of our Counsellor posing that interesting question of what submission means to me as a man and what submission means to my wife as a woman after going through scriptural verses on the subject. I believe he realized that our biological difference as men and women as God created us, as well as our different family backgrounds, come to bear on even our understanding of simple things and it is important that both partners are either on the same wavelength regarding certain things or at least know the mind of the other regarding it and make room for what to expect. And it is important that things as simple yet complex like submission come to the fore early enough for partners to evaluate before going into the marriage. Imagine one partner doesn’t see him or her ever coming to terms with the other’s position and demand on submission and yet doesn’t know until marriage. A marriage time bomb?
Let’s get it right; a woman deciding to submit wholly to her husband is not to give the husband the authority to rule over her like how a slave is ruled and controlled. The Faithlife Study Bible expounds on Colossians 3:18 that “a wife should not respond to her husband’s leadership with mindless obedience but her submission should be voluntary and conscious. Submission is not demeaning; it is informed by God’s relationship to the Church”.
Now let’s ask ourselves, God requires submission of us but does He deal with it the way many men are dealing with the subject with regards to their wives?
If men continue to limit their understanding of the word submission to only the superficial meaning that connotes being Bosses over their wives and relate with their wives as such, they will always have problems in this area of their marriage and their wives I bet will continue to have as many reasons as there are to feel resentment towards them. In many cases such resentments are harboured within and not communicated. And that’s like your marriage sitting on a time bomb. Get it right dear man, wifely submission is based on freedom and will, not authority, coercion or command like the military kind.
The problem I sometimes find with some men who base their demand for total submission from their wives on scriptures such as Ephesians 5:22–23 which purports to make them the only authority in the house and the only ones that need being submitted to is that they often forget that even before that counsel (I do not see it as a command as some do) was “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (vs 21). The writer in his divine wisdom first said submission is a two-way affair, before concentrating on the woman.
The Faithlife Study Bible on verse 22 says “a wife voluntarily following the leadership of a Godly husband exemplifies the submission Paul was suggesting” and not some “command” that must be obeyed at all times. Or does following a man’s leadership mean never questioning or raising different opinions? If so, where is the partnership then? And can we please stop making everything in the Bible a command or law cos many are not? Many (and to a large extent marital submission) are just counsels and principles that if you apply works for you and if you don’t then you don’t see any result. Even so the results will differ based on the application.
Sometimes too I wonder why some men often fume about this issue of their wives submitting at all cost because it is a “command” to when they (men) even have a bigger task so to say “to love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church (Eph 5:25-29)”. Even the Bible in the verses 31 of same scripture says the above is the sole reason why you married your wife anyways. So let men focus well on doing that and doing it well and they will be surprised how the submission will just flow without coercion. Like TD Jakes puts it “no woman wants to be in submission to a man who isn’t in submission to God”.
Far too many men are commanding submission when they are not even being men…as in being real men. Real men do not waste their time commanding submission cos the women just see it and let it flow without he even asking. How pathetic that many Christian men want their wives to feel they married a MASTER instead of an EQUAL PARTNER. Jody Collins said maybe the word that best describes submission is not ‘under’ but ‘with’. Some men often forget that in headship we submit. Yes in headship is submission because just like submission, headship is a servant role as well. At least that’s how God designed it and that’s how I see it so let’s not misrepresent it to only imply we are the Boss.
Every man’s duty in marriage is to love his wife unconditionally with no control over her submission to him!