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<< Holidays & Special Coverage << Marital Submission

What Does Submission Look Like?

  • Chuck Snyder Author, husband, father, and relationship expert
  • 2001 16 Nov
What Does Submission Look Like?

What do you have to do to be submissive? A friend of mine told me that I must obey all of my husband's commands unless he is asking me to sin. Is this true? What are some everyday examples of a wife being submissive to her husband? I really need your help because I get so many confusing answers from everybody. I want to be submissive to my husband and obey him if that is what God commands of me. Thank you for your time and help in this matter.

Chuck's Response

Thanks for the note on how to be a submissive wife. I'm so glad you reached out, because I think explaining this is one of the greatest failures of the Christian church. The church has been giving out a lot of false information over the past 2,000 years or so concerning what submission and headship mean. Most of us have been taught that submission is something a wife does, and leadership or headship is what the husband does. The problem is that Ephesians 5:21 says "husbands submit." It talks about MUTUAL submission under God ... equality ... teamwork. Then Ephesians 5:22 says, "wives submit," but the context is now a discussion as to how a wife feels loved and how a husband feels loved and the role in which they would be the happiest.

I don't think the church is taking a close enough look at the story about the time when in Matthew 20:20-28 the mother of James and John came up to the Lord and asked Him if her kids could sit up front with Him when He came into His kingdom. I'm sure He was polite to her, because that's what moms do -- look out for their children. But later, He took His disciples and followers aside and said in effect, "that's what the kings do, that's what the Gentiles do, that's what the Romans do. They have to be up front and in charge. If you want to be the head of a family, head of a church, head of a business, head of a mission, then become a servant. And if you want to become the greatest leader in the world, then become the greatest SERVANT in the world." He then referred to Himself, saying that He was the greatest among them, but He had come to wash feet and die.

The first book Barb and I wrote together gave a story about how I had gone ahead of her in a number of investments that she did not "feel" good about. I was taught that the man made the final decision if we couldn't agree, so I went ahead with my projects. But all of them exploded in my face, and we lost a great deal of money. I was not playing on Barb's team. Marriage is a covenant partnership. If Barb has the Holy Spirit (she does) and if I have the SAME Holy Spirit (I do), would the Holy Spirit tell Barb to do something and tell me to do just the OPPOSITE and break up our team? I don't think so. It wouldn't make sense for Him to do this. I like Genesis 2:18 that says the woman "completes" the man, and together they become one flesh, a team. If a couple doesn't agree on a decision, I believe that God is saying WAIT. I don't think He is honored by having either one of the partners do it their own way against the wishes of the other.

God is not asking women to be doormats. Barb has been in my face, making me talk, pushing me to honor relationships, working on my anger, helping me make God a priority, encouraging me to serve rather than have my own needs met all the time. It is only because she has done that that I write this letter to you. Barb has been God's key player in changing my life, and I will be eternally grateful.

There is also the matter of the "glory" principle. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the glory of God. That means He radiates all of God's characteristics like mercy, forgiveness, unconditional love, kindness, patience. Then it says that a man is the glory of Christ. Therefore as husbands we are to radiate to our wives Christ's attributes, such as mercy, forgiveness, unconditional love, kindness, patience, self control, dying to our own desires and the like.

Most churches get this wrong by thinking the Bible says women are the glory of men. If this were true, then my wife would have to be submissive to your husband, and the guy next door, and the men on the street. What the Greek says is that A woman (singular) is the glory of HER man (singular). In other words, it is talking from a marriage context. One time we heard Howard Hendricks say that when we see a sad wife, we should NEVER say, "What's wrong with her?" We should say, "What's wrong with HIM?" She is his radiance, his glory. She is reflecting back to him what she is receiving.

With God's Love,
Chuck Snyder

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