A couple of weekends ago, I heard a preacher say that submitting to her husband is the wife’s job description. He was preaching from Ephesians 5:22 which says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.“
Now, I had written a lot of job descriptions over the years. And so, when I heard that statement, I told myself that I needed to explore that some more. Here are my initial thoughts.
First, a job description describes the core or the essence of a person’s role in an organization. Therefore, if we believe that God is the author of marriage and that submission is the wife’s job description, then we are saying that God created the wife for submission. That is, if her role in marriage is only all about submission, then for me the implications are frightening: (a) God designed marriage as union of unequal partners, (b) God himself paves the way for the husband’s tyranny, (c) the husband is justified in bullying his wife on any issue whatsoever, and so forth. Nowhere in the Bible do you see this marriage design. God is not that petty or foolish.
Second, Genesis 2:18, not Ephesians 5:22, defines the job description or core role of the wife. When God established the marriage relationship, he said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). The wife is to be a “helper”–someone who completes, empowers as an ideal partner or complementary companion. The word helper here does not imply subservience because it is the same word used for God in Psalm 118:7–“The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.” Study the word “helper” some more in order to understand the job description or core role of the wife. She was created to help, not to submit.
Third, the word “submit” implies that it is a response to a stimulus. That stimulus is the husband’s core role of leadership. The Bible clearly states that the husband is the head or leader in the marriage relationship. His job description is to be a servant-leader in the mold or our Lord Jesus Christ. As the husband lives out his servant-leadership, the wife responds in submission. Submission, then, I believe is the woman’s core response to the husband’s core role of servant-leadership.
Do I believe that the wife must submit to her husband? Yes, I do. Fulfilling the role of a helper and responding to the husband in submission are not mutually exclusive. However, I am making a distinction here: submission is a response, not a role. You see the difference?
These thoughts are not a comprehensive treatment of the subject. Perhaps you have some ideas that can provide valuable input to our collective understanding of this issue, and so, I welcome your comments.
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