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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Part 6 of “What I Believe About Marriage”


Last time I directed my comments to husbands concerning their role in what I describe as the “ordered partnership” of marriage. Today I’ll be I’ll be talking to wives about their role.

I’ll save drive-by flamers some trouble by quoting an anonymous comment left a while ago on my post “Respect, Submission and Trust.”
So, you believe in slavery of women? Giving up free will to her husband? So, freedom is only for men? How sad.

This kind of comment is typical of those who don’t bother to really read what I write or understand the heart behind it. How sad. Let me just say up front I don’t believe in any of those things.

Now, let me move on to what I do believe.

First, let me remind you that that biblical marriage is a set of truths in tension. By that I mean you can’t just look at either your husband’s or your role in isolation. A fully functioning, genuinely biblical marriage requires both of you to operate in accordance with what the Word of God says. Examining only a husband’s authority in marriage without coupling it to the fact that he is to emulate Christ in the exercise of that authority is dangerous. Considering the topic of a wife’s submission, without coupling it closely to a husband’s Christ-like love is equally dangerous. Keep the truths in tension.

Love, Honor and Submission

I believe, as I said last time, that your husband is to love, lead and serve you. With that understanding in mind, I believe your counterpart to that is to love, honor and submit to him.

I’m going to take these in reverse order, because truthfully, most people are going to skip to the s-word section anyway.

Submitting to Your Husband

I’ll start with one of several Scriptures that point to this role of a wife in a Christian marriage.
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Ephesians 5:22-24

(I’ll remind any husbands that might be lurking here that this passage is directed to your wife. Nothing about this passage implies that you are to get her to submit to you! Your only instruction is to love her!)

It's All Greek...

Pardon me while I parse some Greek here. I’ve read dozens of commentaries, blog posts and articles on this passage. Because this is such a critically important marriage passage, the words are important. What I say here is a very brief synopsis of where I come down on the meaning of these words.

Strong’s Concordance defines the Greek word often translated into “submission,” hupotasso, as “to arrange ones self under,” and “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.” I hope you sense the extent to which this is a choice made out of love, not an obligation performed out of duty.

The term translated as “head,” kephale, in the passage above, does not carry the connotation of boss (there is a different Greek word that Paul would have used if that was what he meant). In this context it means something more like “leading by being out front.” I think of something like the lead goose in a flying formation. This understanding of headship is important for understanding what is meant by submission.

Submission is not enslavement. Submission does not imply not having a voice. Submission is not being a doormat. Submission is not subservience. Submission is not even obedience.

Submission is the attitude of your heart that says, “I respect you as my husband and acknowledge the leadership that God has called you to in our marriage. I want to keep myself arranged behind that leadership, to follow your lead and to partner with you as we move along our marriage journey together.  I submit to God first, and he has asked me to submit myself to you. I do so willingly and in much the same manner I do this unto Jesus in my spiritual journey. .”

Honoring Your Husband

Your husband probably desires your respect and to be honored by you more than he wants to have sex with you. Yeah, really. That much!

Given a choice between feeling unloved or feeling disrespected, three fourths of men will choose to feel unloved, according to one survey. My own recent informal poll clearly showed respect as the number one need for the most husbands.

The truth is that your husband needs your love for him expressed as respect and admiration in the same way that you need his love expressed through emotional intimacy and feeling cared for.

Dishonoring your husband is a blow to his heart. It says to him, “I don’t love you.”

This is why the Bible says:
However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Ephesians 5:33

Strong’s defines the Greek word here for respect, phobeo, “to reverence or treat with deference.” Some dictionary definitions I include are: holding in honor or esteem, to pay proper attention, and to show consideration for.

“But you don’t know my husband!” you say. “He can be such a pig-headed idiot sometimes.”

No, I don’t know your husband or the details of his pig-headedness (or whatever you see as his weaknesses), but I still insist that he deserves and needs your respect.

Loving Your Husband

Submission (staying behind him, remaining under his protective covering and supporting him) is the action that flows from an attitude of honor and respect. This is a powerful principle. This is what it means to love your husband.

I agree with Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs, who says that just as your husband is to give you unconditional love, you are to give him unconditional respect. To him it’s the same thing.

Unconditional respect does not imply unconditional agreement or endorsement, but it does imply that in all things and at all times you are to maintain an atmosphere of honor in your marriage. It means not putting him down when you disagree. It means not talking badly about him to your friends or family. It means not browbeating him when asking him to do something. It means not assuming he will do the wrong thing.

But more than what you should not do, I want to encourage toward what you should do to show him love through respect and submission.
  • Tell him how proud you are of him (about something specific)
  • Tell him he is you’re hero
  • Ask him about his day, and tell him how much you appreciate how hard he works
  • Strive to support and agree with the decisions he makes
  • Flirt with him and tell him how attracted you are to him
  • Tell him how blessed you feel to have a husband like him, and tell him why

Even better, ask him specifically what you can do to show him more respect or to be more honoring toward him. Keep your eyes open for the things that matter to him, and do them.

If you want your husband to fulfill his biblical role and lead you with love, do your best to let him know you believe in him, that you respect him, and that you honor him as the loving leader God has called him to be.

Whether he is walking in the full maturity in his role right now or not, your attitude of respect and acts of submission will help to draw out of him the loving leader you want him to be – the loving leader God wants him to be.

Women who embrace the biblical notions of love, respect and submission toward their husbands are not repressed, but actually free and full of power. It’s one of the many ways in which the Kingdom of God is upside down from what the worlds says.


Please see also my Wive's Only Wednesday post "What Submission is Not."


Continue to Part 7:  Just What is a Surrendered Marriage?

17 comments:

wk said...

Another great post, Scott! However, you start the Ephesians passage one verse too late. Verse twenty-one says that we are to submit to one another. English really does not have a word equivalent to the Koine Greek "hupotasso". The best attempt I've seen is "make yourself available" in the sense of meeting the needs of the other.

Scott said...

wk - thanks for reading and for your comment.

Verse 21 is part of Paul's remarks to all believers and as a general spiritual principal it therefore applies also to husbands and wives. The verses that follow, however, only some of which I quoted above, are the most critical to my post because they detail what mutual submission in marriage looks like.

In my next post, I'll actually be addressing the topic of the mutuality of a "surrendered marriage."

btw - two other calls for wives to walk in submission to their husbands found in Col 3 and 1 Peter 3 do not begin a statement of mutuality.

Paul Byerly said...

Oh my, you used the "K" word! Sorry, way to many discussions with people who try to make kephale mean something it does not.

Seriously, a great article - thanks!

Strong Man said...

Well-put again. I appreciate your courage to simply admit and follow what the Bible actually says. You could have used a number of other passages, as well as the entire Bridal paradigm to make your point about this concept.

The caution with wk's point about "mutual submission" is that too often people use modern societal trends to jump on that idea and ignore the many other scriptures like you point out in Col 3 1 Pet 3, and others, and end up completely disregarding the true principle of order in marriage and in life.

I got a "slavery accusation" comment on one of my posts as well. Your response is the same kind of one I gave. Anyone who thinks God wants wives to be slaves has not read the Bible, or anything you or I have written about it.

Anonymous said...

Submission is slavery-I just can't see it any other way. A master-slave relationship, where one person has all the power. With all the wonderful rights and opportunities we have to be free now-why would anyone choose marriage (master-slave, dominant-submissive). No wonder people don't want to get married. Giving up all your freedom-it sounds awful

Scott said...

Anon - I like to say that a surrendered marriage is not a power sharing arrangement but a power exchange arrangement, where each gives up his or her own power and employs it for the benefit of the other and the marriage.

I repeat: "Women who embrace the biblical notions of love, respect and submission toward their husbands are not repressed, but actually free and full of power."

Anonymous said...

I guess its not as bad if you have a nice master-but it is still slavery. One person has all the power. I had to reject christianity because of those filthy verses about women. If I pay for half the house, I'm darn well going to have my say on what goes on in it.

Anonymous said...

How can submission bring freedom, the definition is "to yield to the will of another'. That right there says you have no free will of your own. Are the women in your group brainwashed. Why would you want to give up your freedom-the freedom that took so long to get. Because of our secular society, this is the first generation of women that are actually free. I know it may seem nice not to have to take any responsibility for choices, but our choices are what makes us human. Noone else can make them for you. To have a nice master to make all your choices for you may be nice sometime-after all you will never have to risk making a wrong choice, but that is what makes us human-or at least an adult. Treasjure your freedom-and please think about making your own choices, even if they are wrong. Does your master make all the right choices for you? Even if he does, making wrong choices are what makes us learn. Please think about it-at least for your daughters. Submission equals inequality, and so many girls have low self-esteem-probably due to religion constantly putting women down. I'm not saying this to be mean, I just don't understand why someone would give somebody else their free will. their freedom, how many soldiers have died to provide us Americans with our freedom, and you are willing to give it up-and to somebody who's only qualification is that they were born a male. Freedom is not always the easiest route, and sometimes it may be easier to let someone make all our decisions, but in the long run -you are cheating yourself. All the best marriages I see are equal. No dominate, no submissive. An equal opportunity household.

Scott said...

Anonymous from Akron,

I think you are confusing two very different things. What you describe is a master/slave dynamic, akin to what you'd find in a secular BDSM relationship. What I am talking about has nothing to do with that.

You seem to be implying things from your understanding of our English word "submission" that the Bible does not say in the Greek and that are not what God intends for marriage. It has nothing to do with a husband making decisions/choices for, controlling or dominating his wife. All of these would be unbiblical in my opinion.

It sounds like you are single, so I wish you the best in trying to figure out the kind of marriage you want. I would encourage you to look into Jesus, because he is the very model God set up for husbands. It is my relationship with him that allows me to know that surrender to love does indeed bring tremendous freedom.

God bless you in your journey.

Anonymous said...

We'll agree to disagree on the submission issue. And I certainly would'nt want a christian slave-monger, spouse. How can submission bring power, or even freedom? To submit-to yield to the power of another. Maybe you are a nice master to your wife, but if she is submissive, that's what she is. Do you even know the definition of submission? I'm really not trying to be mean, and I know I can't change the world, but I'm working on helping girls with their self-esteem issues because of the horrible things the bible says about women. Would you like to be dominated? I don't think so? Would you like to give your power or your decision making abilities over to someone else? While you don't understand why I say submission is like slavery, I don't understand how you don't think it is. Whenever one person has all the power in a relationship, it is certainly not equal.

Scott said...

Annon -
Yes, we'll just have to disagree. I think we just come at this question from two very different viewpoints. Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

sorry, I didn't mean to offend on my last post. I just found it strange that people still live this lifestyle. The reason I cam to your post is I am doing a paper called Women and Religion-good or bad? I am just trying to get info on all aspects. Since I only know people with equal marriages, I have no idea what is involved in your lifestyle. If you don't want to answer my questions, that's okay. I understand. But here goes: as your wife's head to you give her certain privledges? I mean the submission verse is equated with 2 relationships- the master/slave and the parent/child relationship. You were very adamant about it not being a master/slave type relationship, so I assume it is similiar to a parent/child relationship? Am I correct? and if it is-is it like a parent/teenager relationship (where she is given some rights and privledges, but still must do what her parents want her to do) or like a parent/ young child relationship where she has little freedom? Do you feel you make her decisions with her best interest? (it sounds like you try). Did you discuss the boundries of her submission before you married? ie-you make all the decisions except I need full authority on ___? Do you give her at least a little power? Does your wife celebrate the "freedom holidays" like the forth of July? Since she freely gave her free will to you, I am thinking she might still (since she freely gave it). I would say that's a tremendous compliment to you, and I do really mean that. I could'nt imagine someone yielding to me in everything. Is it a relief to your wife not to have to make major decisions for herself. Honestly, the thought of never having to make decisions is kind of calming. If you make the wrong decision for her, how do you feel? Do you try to make it up to her? I'm sorry for the above comments, I was just shocked that people still have the Head/submissive relationship, and I'll be honest, I was a little offended when I started doing research. I know to offend someone is not really the way to get their perspective, so I am sorry about that. Hopefully, you will answer some of my questions, but if not-take care. Thanks, Judy.

Anonymous said...

P.S. I know that this is not a BDSM relationships you are talking about. I did come across some of that in my research-and those kind of relationships are even more foreign to me. Thanks if you decide to anwer my questions. Judy

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry-but I have another question, and I hope you will answer it honestly. As your wife's head, do you feel superior or better than her in any ways? Does she feel inferior to you? In my research on the head/submissive marriage, many people say that they feel equal to each other, even though one is the "head" and one is the "submissive". With such hierachal roles, I would say that it is not an equal relationship, but I know some think it is? If you decide to respond to me, I would like to know your opinion. Thanks, Judy.

Scott said...

Judy,
Genuine dialog on this topic is going require more space than I have here in the comments. If you are interested in hearing my answers to your questions, I'll be glad to answer them via email: scottmeansit (at) gmail (dot) com

peacefulwife.com said...

I am a Christian wife who did NOT understand the concepts of biblical submission and respect very well and my husband, my marriage and I all really suffered because of my lack of understanding and lack of application of these freeing truths!

I can understand how the world doesn't get that submission can be freeing. But here's the thing, being in charge of the marriage is a HEAVY burden. It was too much for me. I tried to be in charge because I thought I had to - but really, I just wasn't patient enough to wait on my husband to lead. I tried to make the decisions and force things to go the way I thought they should. My husband became more and more passive and unplugged. I felt like I was drowning with all the responsibilities on me and without his leadership. I was anxious, afraid, stressed out, grumpy, irritable, disrespectful, bossy, controlling, miserable and lonely.
When I finally read Dr Emerson Eggerich's book - Love and Respect - I felt like I had been punched in the gut. All these 15 years, I thought if HE would change, if HE would be more loving - everything would be great. I prayed, sometimes for hours a day. And I was so disappointed because I didn't see us growing together emotionally or spiritually the way I wanted to. He seemed so distant and I truly had no idea why. Makes me laugh when I think about it now - it is so obvious that I had pushed him away and been so disrespectful that he didn't feel welcome.
I decided I was going to learn to be the most respectful wife and have my husband feel like the most respected husband on the planet! But I had NO CLUE what respect looked like. I devoured everything I could read about biblical submission (empowering my husband's leadership) and respect. It was like learning an awkward foreign language at first. My goal was to learn to meet my husband's needs. I finally had something that I could do that he needed! All that time I thought I needed him and he didn't need me at all.
As I began to unload my burdens - the ones I thought I had to carry - onto my husband's strong capable shoulders - I felt free and light - for the first time in my life! I felt peace! REAL PEACE. I didn't feel anxious anymore. The more I learned to trust God and to trust my husband and to have faith that God would lead me through my husband, even through his mistakes, the more i learned to relax and just rest in my husband's love and God's love. I had NEVER done that before. I didn't know how! It was the best feeling in the world! And now I have had this incredible peace every day for the past 2 years. It took about a year and a half for me to really feel like I had a clue what i was doing.

peacefulwife.com said...

I discovered my power as a woman - I discovered godly femininity. My power is in my praise, my respect and admiration! I got rid of all the negativity, criticisms and complaining. I began to build up my husband with my words, to look at him with a pleasant smile on my face, to appreciate him, to enjoy him, to be thankful for him. And I began growing spiritually like crazy! My children began to speak more respectfully to both of us. My husband began to blossom into the man I always knew he could be! He began to look at me and smile at me again when I came in the room. He began to care about my feelings again. I left decisions at his feet. I would tell him what I wanted and how I felt, and then I would just leave it. I didn't mention it again. He began to have a huge pull to really make the best possible decisions because he knew I put all my trust in him and he didn't want to disappoint me. He began leading our family. I praised everything he did that was good. I ignored the mistakes and gave grace for the first time in our marriage.
Last spring, my husband asked me to share what I was learning with other wives. He knows now that this isn't some passing fad, it is the new normal for our marriage. We are both so fulfilled, so much more in love than ever, so full of joy! I started a blog in January to share what i had learned.
Then 2 months later, my husband started a blog called, www.respectedhusband.wordpress.com. MY HUSBAND, the one who used to seem to care only about tv, sports and the flea market. My husband - who used to seem so distant... This same man who I was convinced didn't love me any more sometimes - He calls himself the respected husband. It blows my mind what God has done in the past 3.5 years. I see answers to prayer daily in our marriage. My husband is writing about godly leadership in marriage and headship. He also writes to the women who read my blog and gives them his perspective of why submission and respect are so powerful for a husband from his point of view and what he saw change in me and how that changed him for the better.
I am living, breathing proof that obeying God produces peace, joy, freedom and abundant life. I am SO THANKFUL that God allowed me to learn His ways and that I am no longer imprisoned by burdens that were too heavy for my shoulders. I am so thankful to be free of fear, free of worry, and able to know I am cherished, protected, provided for, adored, feminine, beautiful and loved.

With prayers for all women to find such joy!

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