Friday, April 13, 2012

The 'S' word: submit

Does that word give you hives?

We don't really like to talk about submission very much.  Recently, I heard a co-worker talk about how much she HATES to hear sermons on marriage because she can't stand the subject of wives being 'submissive' to their husbands.  I think this comes from a misunderstanding or rather misrepresentation of what the Bible says about wives and husbands.  The thing that is so despicable is not the way a wife would be submissive, but the way of a husband--am I right?  No wife wants to feel like she's under the thumb of her husband.

She doesn't need to be.  I don't believe the Bible is asking for that at all.  Let's start with what the Bible does say:

Ephesians 5:21-26

"21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
"22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 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. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
 "25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . . "

Ok, so we see the word submit in there, right?  'Submit to one another. . . ' that doesn't sound so bad.  But, when we get to the part about the husband being the head of the wife, we all get a little tense, don't we?

I do.

There's something about my understanding of that verse that has just never really settled in my mind.

The issue comes up when we have a disagreement, right?  When we both disagree and our desires are mutually exclusive, who wins?  Who gets to break the tie?  I've heard one philosophy: the man has 51% of the vote.  I've seen that kind of philosophy carried out even more often than I've heard it or others like it.  That, I think, sums up the traditional conservative, evangelical view of a husbands headship--even from some of my more liberal peers.  When we disagree, the husband gets what he wants.

So, my question is: can we back that up with an example of Christ and the church?

Just this evening, I'm thinking about all of this and something occurred to me: maybe I should look at what the Bible DOESN'T say:

It doesn't say that the husband is the one to enforce the submission.

It says that the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church.

I can't find any example of Christ enforcing his way on the church.

In the example of Christ, I see a servant.  A protector.  A kind-hearted friend, always choosing to do the right thing, giving everything up for his willing followers.  He never forces his way on anyone, he simply asks and lets each individual make his or her own decision, e.g. the rich young man(Matt 19:16-29; Mark 10:17-30; Luke 18:18-30) or the woman at the well(John 4:1-26.)

My conclusion: husbandly leadership is leading two people to a consensus rather than pushing one viewpoint aside when the two have not yet reached a consensus.

See also: leadership.

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