Posted by: Ety W. | June 23, 2008

Submission: Where Do We Draw the Line?

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This is part 5 in a series on Biblical Submission. To start at the beginning, click here.

Everyone struggles with submission, and yet no one is free from it. In the Bible we see Jesus submitting to the Father, the church submitting to Christ, men submitting to Christ, women submitting to their husbands, children submitting to their parents. Even in the secular world submission exists, whether to employers, teachers, civil authorities, traffic laws, etc. When we voluntarily agree to abide by the various authority structures in our lives, we are (theoretically at least) protected from chaos and it’s consequences. If we rebel, the integrity of the structure is at risk.

This of course assumes that the structure is set in place for the good of those who must function within it. The problem is that we live in a fallen world. Because of that, we often find abuses of any given authority structure; from those who use their power to promote themselves at the expense of the ones under them; to those who rebel and refuse to abide by the “rules.”

How does this apply to marriage? Because we are looking at a God-ordained structure occupied by imperfect humans. Under the best of circumstances, both parties try their best to cooperate. Commonly, one, the other, or both, refuse to cooperate and insist on their own way. Occasionally, one abuses both the structure as well as their spouse.

Consider this verse:

But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Eph. 5:24

Everything – Strong’s 3956 – πας – pas = all, any, every, the whole, thoroughly

Everything? As in every thing? A selfish, thoughtless husband is bad enough, but what about the husband who is physically abusive? Is a wife supposed to submit to that? Or to pornography? Or to drugs?

Tragically, some would say “yes.” However, I absolutely do not believe that this verse teaches blind submission on the part of wives. For example, if something is illegal, then it is not to be submitted to. What am I basing this on? Common sense surely, but also on the Scripture itself.

Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Romans 13:1

If we submit to illegal activity in our home, then according to this verse, we are being disobedient to God as well as the law. For some crimes, such as domestic violence, we may be the victims. For other crimes, such as illegal drugs, child abuse, or pornography, we become accomplices at the risk of going to prison an losing our children. According to this verse, we are accountable not only to the law, but to the Lord for what takes place in our home.

This points to what we’ve already seen in studying Titus chapter 2, that a wife’s God-appointed role is to be the guardian of her home. She is not simply guarding her home for her own well-being, but especially for her children’s. Not only is she to protect them from harm, but because whatever goes on in the home will become their concept of “normal.” They will grow up and live out what they have seen modeled by their parents.

Blind submission? No. Biblical submission? Yes. And always with an eye to the Lord, trusting that He is accomplishing a greater good because of it. (Rom. 8:28-29).

Next ….. Submission To Whom?


Responses

  1. Very good post!
    I wish more teachers would not only focus on the instruction to submit to one’s husband, but also on a wife and mother’s responsibility to protect her home. It’s true, if a child grows up in a dysfunctional, abusive home, he’s likely to grow up dysfunctional and abusive.

  2. Thank you for your kind comment! Having experienced the fruit of dysfunction in my own childhood, I agree with you completely.

  3. I think the submissive verses do horrible damage to girls and women. Submit means to “yield to the will of another” therefore to submit means to have no free will. You are not free. So, the god of the bible advocates slavery for women and for men to be nice masters to them. This was so damaging to me that I tried multiple suicide attempts. Here are some examples of my logic:
    The bible says for women to be submissive therefore god wants women to be submissive therefore god want women to be slaves therefore god hates women therefore god hates me.The bible says for women to shut up (be silent) therefore god says women should be quiet therefore God thinks women have nothing important to say therefore women have nothing important to say therefore I have nothing important to say therefore I am nothing.
    The bible says men should be “heads” of women therefore god says men should be heads of women therefore god thinks men are better than women therefore god only loves men therefore god hate me.
    I just wanted to give you some ways in which these words can cause harm. If I could spare one girl going through the self-hatred and self-destruction that I did, I would gladly do it. These words can be destructive!!! I have a hatred and distrust of men-thinking all they want to do is be my “head” and destroy my freedom. I’m giving my story because I want people to know that to some people these words can be-and are-very hurtful. Our logic, and the way we form conclusion,, can vary greatly. I personally can’t see how a head/submissive relationship can ever mean equality (even in God’s eyes). Thanks for listening. Please, please make sure your daughters do not end up hating themselves, and having terrible inferiorty complexes. Thanks

    • Hello Tanya, thank you for taking the time to comment. It’s obvious we differ, but I think you are absolutely entitled to your beliefs, and I respect you for them. In reading what you have to say though, I suspect that you have been badly hurt and that the scars run very deep. To that I would say, that just because a man, or men, have misinterpreted what God says about themselves and women, and have abused their Biblical responsibilities, doesn’t make God wrong. It only makes them wrong.

      If what you write is true, then indeed, it is destructive. And hopeless. With respect, I have to say that is not true, rather it is erroneous. (And yes, I know some idiots still holler this stuff from the pulpit even today. But again, that doesn’t make God wrong, it only makes them wrong.)

      May I give you a couple of examples?

      One would be how you’re defining “submit.” It’s true that one of the many definitions to the English word “submit” is to yield to the will of another. The actual word used in the Bible however, is the Greek hupotasso. It too has a number of definitions, but firstly, it means to arrange under, it means, “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”. So yes, its very definitely involves a woman’s free will.

      It’s also a military term used to arrange troops under the command of a leader. Think about it. A military leader’s authority is given to her or him to accomplish a job, not because they are better, smarter, or superior. The troops submit to accomplish a job. Not because they are inferior or stupider. So it is in Christian marriage. And if you read God’s commands to men, you will see that he is to put his wife’s needs before his own, in fact, he is accountable to do so. No where does God allow men to be cruel or abusive to their wives.

      Women not speaking, in context, is referring (again) to order. Paul is telling women not to be disruptive during the service and whisper about what the preacher is saying, but to listen respectfully and discuss it to their heart’s content with their husbands when they get home.

      Unfortunately, the Bible is all too often taught out of context by both men and women. It is so sad that this is how you were taught. Even more, it grieves God because let’s face it, none of us likes to have our words and intentions twisted in meaning.

  4. Thanks for responding. Thank you for telling you your side of the submission issue. I do have one comment, you mentioned the troops all being equal. I don’t really think of a private as equal to a captain. Maybe in their personal life they are equal, but not in their work life. Captain make more money than privates , and they have more authority and freedom than privates. So, in that analogy, privates and captain are not equal-at least while they are in their “roles”. I’ll be honest with you, I will never consider myself inferior to a man -ever. But feelings sometime go deeper than we can control. Don’t you ever want to make your own choices and decisions? I mean I can see how it may be advantagious ot have a “head” someone to make all the decisions, at least the hard ones. The two comparable relationships to the head/submissive are master/slave and parent/child, and there is no way that can be considered equal or even a partnership. I just wish women would realize that they are more than the bible makes them out to be. It breaks my heart to see any women submissive to her husband, not because she loves him (slaves don;t usually love their masters) but because a women-hating god says she should. I am doing research for a paper I am doing-no I’m not young-I am a middle aged student, and I wanted to do a paper on women and religion-good or bad, but I don’t think I can do it for I am crying my eyes out-wanting to tell women that their is a God that loves them -it is just not the god of the bible. That god only loves they precious men. My god love all people-and doesn’t think women need a head to tell them what to do. Even if he is a nice master, he is still your head. Thanks for listening. If God is head of men, and men are head of women, doesn’t that at least tell you men are closer to god than women. The bible was written by primitive men, who needed an excuse to keep women down. Thanks for letting me vent. I wish you the best.

    • Tanya, let me ask you this, how do you define equality? You gave the example of captains making more than privates, does money make us equal?

      Do I ever want to make my own decisions and choices? I always make my own decisions and choices! What our modern day society forgets, is that there are consequences to our choices, either good or bad. As Dr. Phil so often says, “when you choose the behavior, you choose the consequences.”

      In regards to my husband as my head, since he is a biblical husband, he always seeks my council before making decisions. He is also required to set aside his own desires in deference to what’s best for me and our family. It isn’t a matter of being nice, it’s a matter of him submitting to his head. My ability to submit to him, ultimately relies on my level of trust.

      You are correct that sometimes feelings run deeper than we control. The question is, do we really want our feelings to control us? Doesn’t that make them our master and we the slave?

  5. I have never been hurt by a man, believe me, I would never give them the chance. I hated them too much-because of those horrible lines. I thought all men wanted was to be a “head” and dominate me. I did have to go to church as a kid, but it was nothing extreme. And my parents were equal (not head/submissive) at least I think. I just happened to be listening at church at the wrong time, and heard the submissive verses, and based my assumptions on what I heard, I came to the conclusions I came to. The bible is toxic to me-it has given me so much hatred of myself and of men. My only point is that what is helpful to one person, is hurtful to another. I do believe in God, and prayed to God to let me let this go (the bible that is). It’s kind of a relief to get this out, so thanks.

    • Rest assured that God will never answer outside His character. But you’ve got me curious. Why would you want to believe in, and pray to a God whom you believe hates women?

  6. Because I don’t believe in the god of the bible. That god wants me to be a slave to men, and even tells me I am unclean. I am a free thinker, and I do believe in a god that loves all people. And, unfortunately, I don’t see the god of the bible as loving women. I’ve been explorng the deist religion. Here was my logic when I heard those horrible,d demeaning versus:
    The bible says women should be submissive therefore god thinks that women should be submissive therefore god thinks women should be slave of men therefore god hates women therefore god hates me.
    Another one- the bible says men are head of womentherefore God thinks men should dominate women therefore god loves men therefore god doesn’t love women therefore God doesn’t love me
    Another
    The bible says women were cursed by God to have pain and to have men rule over her therefore since only bad people are cursed, and need to have a someone rule over them women are bad therefore I am bad and unlovable.

    So, you don’tthink God will answer my prayers because I don’t believe I’m inferior to men. That was kind of mean. I believe in a God of love, and frankly I don’t see it in the bible. The only thing the bible did was make me hate myself and men. So, you think God only listens to slave wives, so God won’t listen to me, huh.

    • Since I don’t know the god of the bible that you describe, I don’t have a clue as to whether or not they would answer you.

      Of my God, I can tell you that He does not answer everyone’s prayers. For example, in 1 Peter 3:17, we learn that God does not hear the prayers of a man who disrespects his wife.


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