Misunderstandings of Submission

 Misguidance of Authority




At the risk of being considered a secret feminist, I must still write this. For those who will be perhaps determined to do just that, the false accusations will fall on their very own shoulders. I am not a feminist and have full Scriptural reasoning and support for my following thoughts. Need I make mention, that is all that is required.  As women, we are not abandoned or abased by God in His commandment of submission for us. Whatever perceived importance that we hold, should not be considered abbreviated or diminished by any authority over us. Furthermore, we are not intended for our husbands to reign any kind of adverse and abusive influence. Idealistically, we are not only protected but we are virtually vindicated by Scriptural ordinance. God has designed more rights for women than any feminist movement has been able and He will be successful in His plan of care, unlike any endeavored organizations of our day. There are obvious passages in our favour. We are not only safeguarded by Scripture that is for our personal good but we should also be ever uplifted by them spiritually. These passages are not more admonishment for us to adhere to but rather for our husbands to obey in the fear of Jesus Christ: “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church” (Ephesians 5: 28-29) In every biblical passage that commands the wife’s submission, it is systematically followed with a command for the husband to love his wife unconditionally and not to take advantage of his position of authority. Interestingly enough, the definitions of subjection and submission are not exclusive to women. These words in their various contexts are used much fewer times in specific reference to women, than they are used in general reference to All who are under Christ. The same applies to the various other synonymous words such as yield and obey.  No doubt most of us have heard a preacher say: “Take hold of your life; take hold of your wife!” As far as I know, nothing is for the husband to take but for God to give him through the wife’s voluntary submission. There are many things that we ought to do, but does God make us do them? No. He actuates us to do them through voluntary and willful submission. That is His way of operation. The above attitude does not sound very Christian to me, since we are to look to the grace of God for all things. If we believe that anything lies in our hands, we are sadly mistaken. That is utter vanity speaking. If husbands fully registered what Christ’s likewise demands were of them, they might well cringe at their own trespassing. And if the husband can demand any degree of authority, the wife then has biblical reasoning to demand any degree of understanding and consideration from him. For the amount of authority he takes, he should be giving his wife the same degree of compassion. Otherwise, he is a vile hypocrite. “Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” (Ephesians 5: 33). There indeed seems to be as many physically and emotionally abusive husbands as there are insubordinate wives. Where is the proper justification in our churches, for lavish concentration to be on the lack of subordination of the wife, while there is seldom any reference being made to the sin of the husband in his lack of care and consideration? There is no husband who does not fall short of treating his wife as his own flesh. All husbands will fall short of this biblical precept (often every single day), as they are imperfect human beings with as many iniquities as the opposite gender. My best scenario would be a husband who falls short rarely, while my worst scenario would be husbands who beat their wives, who are already in submission to their husbands. Both scenarios along with every scenario in between are in many of our churches and even among alleged saved souls. While I was growing up, my father meant everything to me. I know not another person whom I respect more. As much good as I can say about my dear father, I still realize how many occasions he managed to unintentionally fail my mother through either simple obliviousness or common ignorance. Naturally, they are both quite capable of failing one another. I believe there is really little difference between our unintentional sin and then our intentional.  Further on in my adulthood, I realized that area of failure in husbands was as commonplace as any other prevalent human failing. I would see much more of it as time passed, in the congregations that I visited and in the congregation I belonged. It was frustrating for me to see and devastating for me to experience first hand. Devastating because in my lack of understanding of what was really going on, it caused me to question God to a degree and reject submission, rather than, questioning those particular men. The devil was in the details. Certainly, there was more of it outside the Christian circle, and still worse, there was much of it within the churches. There was adversity where there should have been clearer understanding. It remains no more Christian to carry the superior attitude and mannerism of a male chauvinist, than it is to carry the attitude of a competitive feminist, for a woman. It is no more right for a man to think of women as inferior, as it is for a woman to think of herself as superior. When I first discovered the passages that dealt with roles and order for men and women, I could not even read them and they made me sick to the stomach with feelings of injustice. I would say to myself that: “it could not be!? God would not treat males better than females…!” For me, it reflected contradiction and did not seem righteous and in my defective understanding, it actually felt demonic. I was right that God would not do that. For I had misunderstood the Scriptures in the very way that Satan wanted me to and so that I would reject them. My fears and weaknesses had successfully been fed. Though we are not the same, neither is inferior or superior. Certainly, there are activities that one gender can accomplish better than the other. Most certainly, that does not balance out and is quite evident in all different kinds of circumstances. In the sight of the Lord we are spiritual equals and receive the same amount of that spiritual care. To the Lord, women are as important as men are: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28). That does not mean we have the same capabilities or positions, by any means. We are different and therefore are suited to have different capabilities and responsibilities under God’s established ordinances.  Husbands should not demand endless respect and submissiveness from their wives, unless they are capable of equally demonstrating their consistent consideration and care. In addition, blindness of actions is not a legitimate excuse or exoneration for the husband who is vain enough to believe he is doing just fine the way he is, without any given criticism. We are never doing fine just the way we are and there is always room for improvement. “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.” (Proverbs 26: 5). We do not expect perfect care from our husbands. No, we do not, as they are only human with human failings. We cannot carry such an expectation, when we are imperfect in our submission. What we do expect is an end to the prevalent hypocrisy within this area; (the husband who shakes his finger at his wife because she does not want to do as he says, while he has made some crucial financial decision and did not involve her; mocks her publicly, and he ignores her when she is speaking to him; has a lazy and indifferent attitude toward messing their home; ridicules her for talking too much when HE might have the greatest unbridled tongue of all.) With less of this pharisaical behavior, there is no doubt that many resentments would be willingly replaced with respect for the offending husband. When blame does absolutely have to be placed, it should be done in all meekness of spirit and without arrogance.  With all surety and conviction, the husband’s emotional and even physical abuse, not to mention common neglect, is just as abhorrent in the sight of God as a woman’s insubordination is to that husband.  I am not suggesting that wives should render evil for evil or that two wrongs make a right. I am saying no such thing. I hope that no one will attempt to put words in my mouth for me. Perhaps, the most difficult thing for women to do, is ignore their emotions and resign the notion of getting even when we have been seriously wounded. It is true that however our husbands treat us, we are still to respect them and be in submission. It is clearly not conditional. It is also true, that we are to be treated “as his own flesh” regardless whether we are in submission to him. When it comes to husbands, that is their command and responsibility. The rule for them is not conditional either. The strain of our own disobedience will specifically fall on our own individual shoulders. I am convinced, if one gender’s faults and responsibilities are to be ever ardently dealt with, so should the other gender’s. As wives are not to take Scriptural submission and order of authority lightly, so often struggling with it because their innate wills and determinations are every bit as strong as any man, let us not take the following Scripture without seriousness of mind: “Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it;” (Eph. 5:25) “And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the Lord; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity.” (Lev.5: 17) “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:” (Matt. 6:14). Definitely, there is an element of even saved men who also have their own secret agendas and personal motives for reciting Scripture and singling Scripture out, that only pertains to the woman in her insubordination. No one can realistically believe that there are not some men within our churches, who do not secretly consider themselves superior in many ways to their sisters, instead of the more correct assumption, that they are only different and God has appointed them a particular position in life that they might not even deserve. If we do not deserve life but deserve hell, no one can righteously believe that they deserve any appointed position. A favour has been done for them and not because of them. “As it is written, there is none righteous, no not one.” (Rom. 3:10) “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;” (Rom. 3:23) “And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hats punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this” (Ezra 9:13). One cannot righteously demand anything they desire. We are meant to pray for those things and furthermore, to accept the circumstances that we are given. It is the wife’s responsibility to be in submission with forcefulness. Although we have a Genesis passage that deals with Adam’s rule over Eve: “And thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16) this cannot condone strangulating constraint or any physical and emotional abuse, or it would be in a direct contradiction to the passages which command the husband to treat his wife as his own flesh. Since we believe in the harmony of the Scriptures, there is no other conclusion to come to, but that the husband is to rule over his wife with the hand of forbearance and understanding, rather than overbearance and demanding. We are all to be as servants unto one another. Obviously, gentle authority on the part of the man and sincere submission on the part of the woman, are not weaknesses but absolute and undeniable strengths. For the women who remain devastated in their sad misunderstandings of biblical submission and those misconceptions of authority that are carried by many: the male gender is nothing more consequential, more intelligent, or more deserving in the sight of God. They are only different and have a different position to maintain within an ordained society. I am in conviction that there are percentages of men and women who cannot understand this properly. We hear much on the importance of headship and the proper levels of authority, yet considerably little attention is given or elaboration made, on what that principle entirely constitutes for the man.

Copyright 1997  (permission granted for free distribution without editing)

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