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A few weeks ago, my husband came to the end of chapter 3 in his sermon series on Colossians. As he prepared to preach on the gospel in our relationships, he asked me to say a few words to the ladies of our church about verse 18.
Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
My initial reaction was not one of a submissive heart. I refused, feeling intimidated by speaking in front of a full auditorium on such a gigantic subject.
Eventually, I agreed to speak to our ladies because I believe it’s important for the women in the Church (both married and unmarried) to understand that submission is not a scary or bad thing – instead it is a beautiful part of God’s plan for relationships.
A simple definition of submission can be found at any online dictionary. Most use terms similar to rank under or to obey.
Out of the context of marriage submission happens all the time….corporate settings, government settings, even fast food settings. It’s how relationships work best. If everyone is a leader, no work gets done and there is continual strife.
When we take that definition into the marriage realm, we can see that our role as “submitters” is just that – a role. It does not define us as individuals. It does not make us inferior or “less than.” It doesn’t mean we can’t offer an opinion because we are remaining quiet at all times. Practically, however, our role means that we give in at some point.
When Adam and I just can’t see eye to eye on a decision. When he has given me the time to give my reasons and make my arguments, but still strongly feels that God is leading us in a different direction, what do we do? It is in those times, that I step into my “role.” I submit to his decision (even if it goes terribly wrong).
Side note: if it does go terribly wrong, I should take it humbly. There’s no need to point out that I was right and he was wrong!
As wives we were created as helpers. Genesis 2:20-22 describes it like this:
” So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.”
The only reason Eve could be created to be a helper is because she was like Adam. This is a beautiful thing because she was created with her own personality and talents yet her role was to support Adam in his responsibilities.
In the same way, our role is to help our husband on his mission or calling using our own giftings. That’s why submission can look completely different in different homes. There are no traditional or “godly” submissive jobs. I can’t tell you what it should look like in your marriage. I can be submissive while working on the investments of our family’s money in the same way that I can be submissive while doing the dishes.
Finally, it’s so important to realize that submission is a requirement for all believers.
Scripture is packed with instructions to every Christ-follower, married and unmarried, men and women, adults and children, to live with a spirit of humility and submission to various authorities. In other words, submission is NOT a women’s issue.
That means that I can submit to my husband’s authority knowing that he has the calling to submit as well. In fact, my submission to him is only a tangible expression of my ultimate submission to Christ
That means that those women who are not married or have been widowed must still practice submission even if there is no human authority over them anymore in the form of a father or husband.
Because submission is a universal calling for all believers we are all on equal footing. When I realize this overarching truth, then I can more easily agree with and even thrive with this definition of submission in marriage from John Piper:
“Submission is the defined calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership, and so help to carry it through according to her gifts.”
I could sum up my thoughts on submission in one simple sentence:
My submission in the home is an act of worship and awe at the submission that Christ showed by obeying His Father to Rescue me.