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Friday, August 12, 2011
Her answer was both gracious and sincere. "Thank you for that question, Byron,” she said after a brief pause and a big smile. “Marcus and I will have been married for 33 years this September 10. I’m in love with him. I’m so proud of him. What submission means to us, if that’s what your question is, it means respect. I respect my husband. And he respects me as his wife. That’s how we operate our marriage.”
Not surprisingly I’ve gotten a bunch of hits on my blog since last night from people searching on some combination of “submission” and “respect.” Most of these landed folks on the same post: “Respect, Submission and Trust.”
I’ll quote the relevant part of that post here to save you the trouble of going back and forth. In what follows, I am explaining my interpretation of the words typically translated as “respect” and “submission.”
I’ll start with respect by noting how the Apostle Paul ends his instructions on marriage in Ephesians 5 with this summary:
However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Eph 5:33)Though he begins this text in with instructions to wives on submission, he ends with the need for them to respect their husband. But are these really the same thing? Let’s look more closely.
Strong’s defines the Greek word Phobeo, in this context, as to reverence or treat with deference. Some dictionary definitions I’d like to include here are: holding in honor or esteem, to pay proper attention, and to show consideration for.
I have mentioned before the survey results that clearly show the highest stated need for husbands is the need to feel respected, in contrast to wives’ highest need, which is for love and affection. Interestingly, these are the very two things that Paul includes in his summary, quoted above. [ed. See the link in the left sidebar to the “Marital Needs Poll” for an interesting confirmation of Eggerich’s assertions.]
In contrast, Strong’s defines the Greek word for submission, hupotasso, as “to arrange ones self under,” and “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.”
So what’s the difference between submission and respect? The way I see it, respect is the attitude and submission is the action that flows out of the attitude.
Emmerson Eggerichs, in his book “Love and Respect,” makes a pretty strong case that a wife’s respect should be unconditional in the same manner that a husband’s love should be unconditional. By this he does not mean unconditional admiration, agreement or approval. What I think he is getting at is the idea that if respect and honor is not the primary expression of your unconditional love for your husband, he will not feel loved. Again, this doesn’t mean you necessarily agree with or approve of his attitudes and actions. It means you approach him with respect out of reverence for that fact that he is your husband. See the difference?
But I also believe that without respect, martial submission is really hard. A husband who requires grace from his wife in order for her to act with respect toward him will make her job of submission much more difficult. So although I tend to agree with Eggerich’s call for unconditional respect, a husband who works to earn that respect will add grace to his wife rather than requiring it from her, and in so doing further enable her to walk in submission to him.
In all I think Michelle Bachmann’s answer, that submission means respect, was the best you could hope for given the context.
Though she didn’t answer the moderator’s question directly, neither did she deny her belief being submissive to her husband. Of course she was careful to stay away from the hot button questions of “authority” and “obedience,” but she did get at the heart of the issue of biblical marriage roles. It would not have been possible for her to go into the meaning of the original Greek, the complexities of biblical translation, or expounded upon the theological arguments of complentarians and egalitarians.
She also made it clear that her answer was in terms of “what submission means to us,” a point that many in the inflamed (and mis-informed) liberal blogosphere have missed completely in their rantings on this subject today.
To use my own term, I would say the Bachmann’s probably have a Surrendered Marriage*. In any event, it at least seems to be one of the few highly visible examples of a thriving biblical marriage. Pray for them. This probably isn’t the last time we’ll see their marriage beliefs under attack!
How did the question and her answer strike you? Does submission and respect mean the same thing to you? I’d love to hear your take!
* For more details on Surrendered Marriage, check out the “Notable Series” on the left sidebar entitled “My Marriage Beliefs.”
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