Submission, Not Slavery
"Wives submit to your own husbands., as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church, and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." (Ephesians 5:22-24, New King James Version).
I know what you're thinking. Great! Another blog post by yet another Christian beating women over the head with "submit or perish!" I promise you, this is not that blog. I'm not here to brow-beat you or guilt you into doing anything. Instead I want to open your eyes to the beauty of God's design. So the commandment for wives to submit to their own husbands (not anyone else's), is a really important doctrine for our faith as believers. Submission itself has gotten a bad rap because many of us equate submission to "blind obedience" or make it synonymous with being subservient. But submission is not slavery. Submission literally means to be "under the mission."
Whose mission is it and what does it entail? The mission belongs to the One who instituted marriage from the very beginning, God The Father. Our Heavenly Father's mission is the same since the beginning of time, to bring glory to Himself. If we recognize God's mission (His glory) as a good and worthy end, we will seek it with our whole heart. How many of us have ever said the words "I just want to bring glory to God?" A really simple (not necessarily easy) way to do that is by recognizing that God's mission is greater than our individual desires. It is not about getting our way, whatever that may be, but rather about fulfilling God's purpose for our marriages, families and ultimately, our lives. It is not about being below or "under" your husband but rather being under God's mission.
Nowhere in God's word are we called to blind, unquestioned and total submission to other human beings. It is not commanded of wives to husbands, of children to parents or of citizens towards the government. The only time we are called to such unquestionable submission is towards the Lord. So, God's requirement for submission is not aimed at making us slaves of one another. If submission mirrors the relationship between Christ and His church, it means that the Lord wants wives to experience the same kind of sacrificial love, protection, guidance, provision and nourishment that the Lord lavishes on us daily as believers. As a woman, it does my heart much good to know that my desire to be loved and cherished by my husband are very much in line with God's desires for me. Submission becomes more of a joy and less of a burden when I see it as part and parcel of my reasonable service to the Lord. In light of Christ's love and sacrifice for me, the very least I could do is heed His commandment to submit to my husband.
Knowing that submission in marriage is my reasonable service to the Lord means that as a woman, I am much more diligent and discerning about the kind of man I choose to marry. The commandment does not vary because I think my husband is unqualified to lead, or less intelligent, or less talented than I am. Once he is indeed my husband, I owe the Lord submission in my role as his wife. I wonder how often we have bucked submission even to the Lord because we believe we know best in one area of our life or another. The requirement and commandment to submit is often unattractive to us, as women in particular or as human beings in general. We do not like being told what to do. So what do we do? Rather than giving God our reasonable service (obedience), we redefine the terms and conditions.
"I can submit as long as he's leading me the right way,"
"I don't have a problem submitting but if you don't know what you're doing then what am I submitting to?"
We say things along these lines not realizing that our unwillingness to submit reveals more about the true state of our own hearts rather than revealing anything regarding our husbands' qualifications to lead their homes. A heart that is geared towards its own desires will always find reasons why submission is impossible, impractical or illogical. A heart that is regenerated and bent towards pleasing the Lord will find a way to Honor him, even in circumstances that are less than ideal.
Submission is not slavery. The Lord asking us to submit does not mean He has released us from exercising wisdom, discernment or good judgment in any capacity. But because we have equated submission to subservience, we find it difficult (if not impossible) to believe that our lives can be trusted in someone else's hands, even if those hands belong to God.
My prayer for all us (myself included) is that we begin to see the beauty in God's design and realize that He commands us to submit because He knows best how to lead our lives.