Honestly, it’s with a little bit of fear and trepidation that I approach — yet again — the topic of submission in marriage. The only reason I’m brave enough to even try is because my “blogging calendar” says that we’re on question #6 of the study guide for Chapter 2 of Juggling Life’s Responsibilities.
“Draw a simple chain of command for a family, using 1 Corinthians 11:3 as a guide.”
It’s the next thing! Honest! (As Winnie the Pooh has been known to say, “Oh, bother.”)
So here we go…
“But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3).
Taking this verse at face value, this looks like a pretty simple assignment. Christ is the head (leader) of man, and man is the head (leader) of the woman.
(Okay, blog post is over… we can all go home now…)
Seriously, I realize that the debate comes because these verses hit just a little too close to home. Just as God said they would.
After Adam and Eve sinned, way back at the beginning, God told Eve,
“Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).
To be very honest, no human being likes to submit to another. My husband was discussing this with another pastor just this afternoon. Just as Ephesians 1:21 says that we are all to submit to someone, even in the context of our local churches, in our towns (to government officials with whom we disagree), to leaders of all kinds — in the same way, it grates on our last nerve to be told that we have to do what someone else says.
But the Bible makes it clear that 1 Corinthians 11:3 really does mean that we’re to place ourselves under the headship, leadership, and command of our husbands.
“Wives, submit yourselves to [hypotasso - arrange yourselves under] your own husbands as you do to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22).
Samuele Bacchiocchi, one of my favorite authors on the subject of women, brings out several good points about submission.
- We don’t submit so we can sneakily get our own way (using our “feminine wiles”).
- We don’t submit for the sake of keeping peace in the home (“if Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”).
- We don’t submit because men always have superior wisdom. (Just ask King David about Abigail…)
Rather, Bacchiocchi reminds us that we should reject all worldly thought patterns about submission and substitute instead a new pattern of thinking (see Romans 12:2).
“submit… as you do to the Lord”
The previous verse tells us to submit to one another “out of reverence for Christ.” The old King James minces no words: “in the fear of God.”
The Bible makes it clear that the fear of YHWH God always results in my keeping His decrees and commands (Deuteronomy 6:2). Of course, it also tells us that obedience to His commands brings blessing and that His commands are always for my good (Joshua 1:8, Romans 7:12).
God, as Creator of all, established a chain of command for authority in the home, and He, as Creator of all, has the right to tell us what to do.
If I won’t submit to my husband, I’m telling God that I won’t submit to Him either.
I love how author Gary Sanseri puts it all into perspective:
“The woman in the flesh desires to compete for rule over the man, and the man will tend to either passively surrender or as a brute tyrant suppress the woman. The conflict traces back to the curse (Genesis 3:16). Only in Christ can the curse be lifted and woman submit with a meek and quiet spirit to the headship of the man while the man sacrificially and lovingly leads the woman without lording it over her” (Covered or Uncovered, p. 8).
Only in Christ am I able to submit — to Christ or anyone else, for that matter.
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
I’m praying that this week I’ll think about replacing my worldly thought patterns with a Biblical mindset.
That I’ll do every hard thing — as to the Lord.
And that I’ll do it all in His strength — not my own.