Submission is Not a Dirty Word

In American society and even among many evangelical Christians, the term submission is often considered a dirty word. This term tends to be particularly offensive to women, most of whom have some vague notion that the Bible commands them to be submissive to men because of their inferior status. Based on general perceptions of his teachings, many consider the apostle Paul to be sexist in his theology. While, in actuality, these notions are false, they are exaggerated and perpetrated by American culture’s perception of what a woman should be. Culture says women are no different from men and, thus, should compete with them at every level. Society tells women (and men for that matter) to look out for “number one” and to subject themselves to no one. The message women are receiving from the world is that homemaking is for the unintelligent, children are a burden, and husbands must be controlled and manipulated through sexual prowess. While the world’s message is loud and clear, Christian women must consult a different source for the knowledge of real truth. The questions must be asked: What does God say about the nature and role of women? What is God’s agenda for the Christian wife? Nancy Wilson writes, “We must find out what the Bible teaches about marriage, about children, about men and women and their roles, and then we must be obedient with no apologies, no matter what the cost. Is this radical Christianity? No. This is basic Christianity.”

 The good news for women is that, upon careful and thorough study of the biblical text, the truth emerges that Paul really was not at all sexist in his teaching. On the contrary, he held women in high regard as created by God with great dignity, worth, and unique purpose. This paper will focus specifically on the Bible’s teaching concerning the submissive role of wives to their husbands. The goal is to clearly demonstrate that the biblical mandate for submission of wives to husbands within marriage is not a sexist concept. Rather, it is God’s perfect, creation design, established to beautifully accomplish His redemptive and Kingdom purposes. Furthermore, it is not and was never intended to be a punishment or demeaning burden to women. Rather, God’s design for submission is intended to be a gift of grace to wives, their husbands and the family as a whole. 

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The excerpt above is the introduction to a research paper I recently finished for my Marriage and Family Counseling class. I was motivated to write on this topic after a discussion in my BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) small group. When the concept of submission came up, someone commented, “Submission is a dirty word in our culture!” And isn’t that the truth!?! Without the transforming power of Christ in our hearts, we all internally resist submission to anyone or anything. It’s part of our fallenness. But to the one who is found in Christ, submission shouldn’t be a dirty word. The Bible tells us all to submit to God. It also tells us to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. The Bible calls children to submit to parents, wives to submit to husbands, and all people to submit to governing authorities. Submission is a truly Christian concept.

This paper was written in an effort to bring to light what the Bible really teaches concerning the submission of wives to their husbands. Writing this paper was convicting to my own heart, as I realized how my own spirit so easily rebels against submission to my husband and ultimately to God. But in Christ, there is hope for me. And for you. My prayer is that, as women and wives grow in their affection for the Lord Jesus and His Word, we will truly see the beauty and grace in God’s design for submission within the marriage relationship. Because we follow a God who is perfect in character…perfect in wisdom and love and truth…we can obey His way with trust and joy.

You can read the whole paper here. While it is somewhat lengthy, it is necessary to read  it in its entirety in order to avoid a skewed perspective. So, read it when you have some time, when you need a resource as you minister to women in your sphere of life, or when you’re just seeking to grow in your personal knowledge of the Bible’s teaching on this issue.

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