What exactly are we talking about when we talk about submission in marriage? Should the issue of submission be wrestled about? Do men have to out-rightly demand this submission? In what sense should women submit to their husbands? If you are an ardent reader of George’s Diary, you will have seen various teachings we had done as regards to women and we keep updating them every day to ensure accuracy. If women were asked to submit to their husbands, does it mean they are not equal with their husbands? Does it suggest they are to live by their husband’s rule without question? I will answer a few of these questions by actually telling us what submission isn’t or what God never defined as submission in marriage.
Marriage is like a plane where there are two pilots. Both contribute to a successful flight! For order, there is usually a captain and then the co-pilot. Sometimes the captain will need a rest and the senior officer (co-pilot) plays the role of the captain. In a family of two siblings, one would have come first and he is branded the “senior” but it doesn’t suggest he is superior or even more important. Being the senior is in age and ranking but in the real sense of it, they are equal as children, sons or daughters and they both have equal access to their parents and the resources made available to them as members of the family. However, certain tasks and responsibilities will be given to them with respect to their strength. Sometimes, the junior may even be stronger than the senior and it doesn’t make anyone more important or superior to one and another.
A captain and a co-pilot require the same skill and qualifications. There are no flight tasks exempted from the co-pilot as he or she needs an equal qualification to play the commanding role when the captain takes a break. In some cases too, the co-pilot plays a complementary role in difficult tasks where his or her own contributions and intelligence is also valued! It doesn’t rob the captain of his leadership position.
I believe that married couples are one and each contributes to raising a healthy family according to their areas of strength. Being a wife doesn’t make her inferior neither does being a husband makes him superior to the wife. In a simple line, to live in submission as a wife simply means responding to God’s call into the office of a helpmeet, recognizing and honouring the husband’s God-given position as the leader of the family with whom you stir the affairs of the family. It is in the identification of his role as the leader that you are even able to offer him necessary help and to also stand in his capacity when he is weak. In response to the issue of submission, husbands are also called to “highly respect” and hold their wives in high esteem! (1 Peter 3:7) To highly respect means to have a great sense and feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
So, a husband, in turn, should be in awe of the amazing qualities his wife possess in solving problems! Leadership is meant to bring out the great potentials of others and this is what a husband should do, he gives room for the “helping” potentials of his wife to manifest! You don’t get that by imposing authority, you get that by allowing them to manifest freely and it is in their willingness to manifest their gifts as a wife freely that they also submit. The logic is, submission becomes very easy when you love and greatly respect your wife and the “answers” they carry. Another way men express leadership in marriage is by loving their wives the same way Christ loves the Church and gave Himself for the Church (Ephesians 5:25). This is a sacrifice, a man must sacrifice everything including his ego as an expression of leadership in the home!
Now, let’s look at certain things we must never define as submission.
1. SUBMISSION IS NOT UNCONDITIONAL AGREEMENT
We often hear people say things like “you have to agree with him without question because he is your husband. You can only suggest but he decides.” Oh well, that sounds so cool but that is a whole bunch of lies. In 1 Peter 3, if there were wives whose husbands were not Christians; in this sense, they heavily disagree, then it is possible to disagree with things that aren’t healthy to your purpose, your convictions in life and your ultimate loyalty to Christ. If the husband decides to have a threesome sexual experience, you wouldn’t suggest “no” to him, you would scream “no!” and in the same way, you can be bold with your convictions. After all, we have established the fact that leadership in marriage means giving room for the good opinions of another. There are places in a marriage where a woman is left with no option than to disagree respectfully and there is also no room for a man to impose his opinion disrespectfully.
2. SUBMISSION IS NOT “WITHOUT YOUR MIND”
Marriage doesn’t make a woman a robot, it doesn’t even make a woman a sex machine in the sense that she can’t say “please can we do this later, I really overworked myself today.” Submission doesn’t mean that the woman’s opinion is inferior and it doesn’t mean the mind of the woman has been sold out to the man. A good leader in marriage will always want to know and respect the opinions and strength of the other person. Many people would misinterpret 1 Corinthians 7:4 by suggesting a wife will always be available for sex but the same chapter clearly says the body of the husband also belongs to the wife and in the next verse it talks about mutual consent. A respectful husband serving as a leader should always be able to respect the body of his wife and understand when she is weak. On the other hand, being a submissive wife doesn’t mean putting your mind away and accepting things that are anti-Christ and destructive to you. You can speak your mind in the marriage too, don’t let anyone deceive you into thinking that God wants you to say “oh! yes” to everything. Remember your ultimate submission is to God and your submission to your husband should be guided by your submission to God.
The Bible view on authority should not be likened to that of the world, loyalty and submission in the family isn’t like what we see in political parties where people agree to ideologies they aren’t convinced about just because they are members of that party. You can disagree with your husband when he wants to overspend, it is both of you that pilots the ship and your own opinion also matter. In leadership, we must admit a better opinion when we see it. A good leader in marriage should be able to accept a better view and leave his own views aside. Leadership is all about doing something together and not about rolling out a personal plan.
You don’t say “we must do this!”, sometimes you say it this way “should we do this? Is it a good idea?” This is what husbands should do as they stand in the place of captains.
3. SUBMISSION IS NOT BEING LESS IMPACTFUL
Never ever be discouraged by trying to also have a great impact or strong influence over your husband’s decisions and character. Many people think that you must allow him to live the way he wants but that is not true. You were called to help him as a wife and therefore you should be the biggest influence in his life. It is not a lack of submission when you want your husband to act in certain ways. My mother got my father born again, my mother influenced him into quitting alcohol and smoking! She also had a superior influence on us and ensured we didn’t follow that path. Does that make her less submissive? No, because she was submitted not just to the man but to the purpose of the marriage and the office she occupies as a helpmeet and a mother. Today, we don’t even remember we had a Dad who would smoke and drink alcohol.
4. SUBMISSION IS NOT DOING THE WORK ALONE
People also usually think that submission in marriage means doing all the domestic chores, doing the dishes, taking care of the Children and the laundry while still keeping up with your daily job in the office. This is very wrong! You can have a submissive wife without having her enter the kitchen once! Trying to take up all the work doesn’t make you a submissive wife anyway. It is not even wrong to suggest to your husband that he should take up some domestic responsibilities and as a husband you are not being a coward by not trying to blackmail your wife into making her feel she isn’t a good woman if she isn’t able to do all the work. There should be a division of labour in the home especially when she isn’t a housewife and no man is supposed to force a woman to sit in the house all day. In our family, Dad can’t cook and therefore he doesn’t enter the kitchen for anything. The first times he tried, it was an eye sour! Mum does the cooking when we are not available to cook! On the other hand, Dad loves to do the laundry for himself and mum while we wash ours ourselves. When we are not available to clean the house and fill the water cans, Dad would do them himself. Now you see that? They both respect their places of strength without imposing extra duties on the other person.
5. SUBMISSION IS NOT “HUSBAND” ABOVE EVERYTHING
A wife has a life to live, she is a staff, a student, a member of an organization, a leader in the social world, a doctor, a mother, a friend and so on! Therefore she should balance her life to meet up with all the demands. Submission doesn’t mean going to see your husband when it is time to be at work, it is not going out with your husband when you need to stay with the kids, it doesn’t mean staying with your husband when you have an emergency in the hospital as a medical doctor. Husbands should understand this! Above all, our ultimate submission is to Christ and therefore when it comes to choosing between the husband and Jesus, it is Jesus without negotiation but with deep respect from both sides. While we love and respect our spouse, our ultimate reverence is to God.
The list would go on but now we can understand that our definition of submission should not be defined with the idea of cult-like followership, a hopeless dependence and careless disregard of our own personal convictions, goals and God’s calling in an attempt to stick to order. Both submission and leadership in marriage can only be best understood in the light of the scriptures. In other words, submission truly doesn’t mean living for the man and in his own terms, it means living for God and shaping your marriage to truly reflect God’s will and purpose for that marriage. In turn, the man expresses true leadership by identifying the duty of the woman and allowing her to carry it out effectively.
To be submissive in marriage is to be loyal to the purpose of that marriage and to affirm the role of the man as a leader making the woman also understand her own role as a helpmeet. You can’t help solve an issue you haven’t identified with.
God bless you.
~ George O.N
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