The “S” word
By Leslie J. Barner
When I first heard that Christian wives are to submit to their husbands, it was like hearing a four-letter word.
I’m the oldest of four girls. I was used to being the leader. “Submission” was not in my vocabulary.
For the first several months of our marriage, little decisions could turn into major battles. Then one of those battles went nuclear. I had a complete meltdown. But Aubrey remained calm and loving even as he stood his ground.
Wanting peace and harmony in our relationship, I decided to find out more about biblical submission.
One attitude-changing truth for me was discovering that God wasn’t calling me to be inferior to my husband. We’re both His image bearers (Genesis 1:26-27). We are equally loved and valued and have equal access to Him (Romans 8:17). He just calls us to different roles.
The husband’s role is as a servant first—loving his wife sacrificially and with humility—then as a leader who is in turn following Christ’s lead (see Ephesians 5:25).
The wife’s role is that of a helper, an ally (Genesis 2:18). To lead well, a husband needs his wife’s help—her advice and her involvement in their relationship, home, and family life, including the decision making.
I also learned submission isn’t just for wives. Both spouses are called to submission. Ephesians 5:22-29 tells me I’m to willingly yield to my husband’s authority out of obedience to God. And my husband, too, surrenders to authority—the authority of Christ.
I came to understand that submission was not being dominated or controlled. The authority God gives husbands reflects Christ’s relationship with the church—for whom He laid down His life.
With an understanding of what biblical submission is (and isn’t) and a desire to obey God, Aubrey and I went from all out war to becoming a united team.
The good stuff: But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Corinthians 11:3)
Action points: Wife, knowing what biblical submission is (and isn’t), what might it look like for you to yield to your husband’s leadership (for instance, supporting a decision he has made even if you disagree)?
Husband, what might it look like for you to be a servant leader to your wife (laying down your life for her)?
Then together, identify some hesitations you might still have about submission, and some possible solutions for addressing them. For instance, if there is a lack of trust, talk about some ways you can rebuild trust together.
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