Wives submit to your husbands as unto the Lord, is a command in the bible and whenever there is any conflict in a marriage or lack of peace, the woman is told to submit whether in the right or wrong.
As a woman, the word submission to my husband does not sound terrible at all, by agreeing to marry my husband, I have agreed to submit to his authority. The word submission becomes a terrifying word when it is enforced, when the husband is walking in disobedience or when the husband is abusive.
Yet as godly women, we must submit to our husbands. I would like to unpack this word submission and authority as stated in the bible.
When counsellors tell wives in a struggling marriage to submit to their husbands to win him over, they are probably seen as cruel, incentive and failing to understand the torture a woman might be going through in that situation. It is tough enough to ask women to submit to their husbands in our modern culture and even tougher when the husband’s behaviour is wrong, and abuse is present.
If so, how can a woman submit to an abusive husband and what does submission mean in this light?
1 Peter 3: 1-3 says – In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over 2 by observing your pure and reverent lives. 3 Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewellery, or beautiful clothes. 4 You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.
A gentle and quiet spirit can mean and suggest submission in a marriage, especially when there is a tense moment. For other people, submission is strength under control.
And still to some other people submission is the ability to remain calm and resist to say disrespectful words to a husband even when he hurls abuses and blatantly disrespect you as his wife. This can be tough, especially if you are not soft-spoken naturally and your reply be interpreted as aggressive.
Assertive women can have an issue with submission, if submission is seen as a docile and quiet character only. However, meekness and gentleness are the keys to achieving submission in marriage. Hence as women, we would need to learn to be gentle in how we respond to our husbands’ demands.
Submission is not about new age or culture, but characteristics women must learn and develop to live peacefully with their husband.
What makes submission not so easy, is when a man is not exercising his authority correctly and especially if they are Christian and claim to submit to Christ as their head. A man that submits to Christ’s authority, will avoid walking in disobedience and love his wife sacrificially as Christ loved the church.
Authority given to a husband over his wife is not for abuse or maltreatment but protection and blessing those under his authority. Authority is not given for power show nor for the benefit and exaltation of those in authority! Whenever a husband begins to exercise his authority outside of God, then he is exercising his authority wrongly and not in submission to his own head, Christ Jesus.
Look at the people we put in authority over the nations or an arm of government, we all complain when the people in authority use their power to oppress the people who they are meant to protect and use the resources given them to for themselves. When people in authority begin to oppress their citizens, they are referred to as tyrant and no citizen willing praise or adore an autocratic leader.
Because of sin, people in authority commonly abuse it and God will hold them accountable. In a marriage, because the husband abuses his position does not give the wife the right to resist, unless she must resist if doing what her husband wants will cause her to sin against God. That disobedience to husband in order to obey God can be a very thin line and a difficult choice to make especially if the wife desires to have a peaceful marriage.
For example, if a husband commands a wife not to attend church, the wife may see going to church as worshipping God, but if we truly dissect this, true worship is in heart and no one can stop you from worshipping God in your heart. Even though we are commanded not to forsake the assembly of one another, it may be wise for a woman to stop going to church for the sake of submission and peace. That is one case of submission, now is the husband commands his wife not to pay tithe to the Lord because he does not believe in it, they have a joint account and he would not allow her to deduct the payment for tithe. Paying tithe will not stop anyone from going to heaven but it will deny one of God’s blessings and protection from devourers.
How does a woman submit in this case? This is where most women get it wrong and stuck, I might say. Do I risk pleasing the Lord or do I risk pleasing my husband?
Submission should never be forced and can never be achieved by violence; a person chooses to willingly submit following action of trust and dependence.
Any husband who tells his wife to submit forcefully is not exercising his authority correctly. That is no longer submission but domination and subjugation.
The commandment of the lord to men is to love their wives sacrificially and from that love, she will not need to be forced to submit. Can you imagine if Christ ever forced sinners to submit to His rulership? Yes, we can submit out of fear, but it will never be a true submission, someone can be submissive on the outside but standing up on the inside.
Submission is the recognition of a husband as an authority and having an attitude of respect for that responsibility of authority. A submissive wife wants to please her husband, find out what her husband wants or like and do those things in a marriage. A man who wants a submissive wife would love and care for her.
However, the conundrum happens when one spouse places a demand or condition on the other. The wife says: I will not submit until you love me, and the husband says: I will not love you until you submit. Both attitudes are wrong and not in line with the word of God.
There is nowhere in the bible where God told the man to love his wife only when she is submissive. Neither did it expressly command the woman to submit to an abusive man.
The bible passage that is mostly misquoted or misinterpreted is for the unbelieving husband. Where a submissive woman can win her husband by her attitude to the Lord (1 Peter 3:1) “Wives, in the same way, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives”.
Submission is a character and an attitude which a woman must have to live peaceably with her husband.
Husbands must realise submission cannot be forced nor enforced; it is a willingness to yield oneself to another.
I will encourage women to see submission as a necessary character and attitude that makes a woman beautiful on the inside. It is a beautiful thing that adorns a woman whether married and even unmarried.
Having a Godly character is beautiful and you and I as women can learn to adorn ourselves with these characters. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are godly qualities God wants us as women to try and “put on” into our personality.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” (Galatians 5:22).
I want to be a gentle, loving, joyful, and a good wife to my husband. I am sure you would like to be that kind of a wife too, therefore let us see submission as a character and attitude we must possess.
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Abi Apalara loves sharing insightful information that helps couples flourish in life and their marriage relationship. I have enjoyed both good marital pleasures and challenging times in my marriage. I came to realise, the points where I missed it, were areas I lacked information on how to.
Making it up along the way, only meant I was going the wrong way. Desperately seeking to get back into marital bliss, I started exploring and reading about those areas of challenge. I also reached out to counsellors and began to see what I was missing.
After a surprising move into relationship study, I have found peace of mind and happy with my marriage. I have authored the book Are you ready? Marriage expectation versus realty to share my experience and encourage men and women to work on their
marriages, by seeking knowledge and apply it to their marriage relationship.
My latest book, Are you ready? Marriage expectation versus reality focuses on discovering some of the unrealistic expectations we bring into a marriage. It comes with practical advice and a guide on how to get it right before and after getting married. You can also preorder the book here