Who really has the tougher role?
Featured Rightgrrl November 1998
February 11, 1999
(All Scripture references from the King James Version unless otherwise stated.)
Ever since the Southern Baptist Convention came out with the resolution about Biblical submission and the family, I have been hammered by people either asking me what it means or trying to tell me how wrong it is. Many of the complaints and confusion about the whole submission concept stem from a lack of understanding about what submission is really about.
The most common misconception about Biblical submission is that it implies a lower status of women. This idea comes from verses such as Colossians 3:18, Ephesians 5:22-23, and I Corinthians 11:3.
Some men have used these verses to say that all women should submit to all men, and men should always get their way. These people will misuse the Bible as an excuse to run their homes as dictatorships, abuse their wives, and even commit adultery. Anyone who does these things has missed the entire point of Biblical submission.
The whole teaching of Biblical submission has two parts to it, and one of them is almost always ignored. Critics and men misusing Scripture alike choose to harp on women submitting to their husbands and they forget that the husband also has a lot of responsibility to fulfill if he expects his wife to be submissive.
Both men and women are to submit themselves to God first. Period. Christians are also supposed to submit to one another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:22). Submission of all women to all men is never taught in Scripture. Rather, it is wives who submit to their own husbands and no other man. As a single woman, I do not have to submit to any man unless he is a fellow believer or a leader over me; and even then, I submit because he is a believer or in a position of authority and not because he is a man. I do not submit at all if I am asked to do something against God for He is my ultimate Authority.
Much of the talk about submission occurs within the context of the marriage and family relationship. Within the family, God has called the husband to be the spiritual head. This does _not_ imply inferiority on the part of the wife or children by any means. Rather, God had divided the responsibilities of the family between the husband and wife, and the husband got the spiritual leadership part.
Sounds great, eh? King of the castle? Not quite. Not even close. While each family member will answer to God for their own actions, the husband/father will have to answer not only for himself, but also for his family. It will be the husband/father who will be called into account if he neglected or misused his role in the family. Did he give up his role as the leader? Did he abuse his wife or children? Did he neglect them? Did he set a poor example? Did he not encourage his wife and children to use their talents fully? There are so many things the husband has to consider. Far from being a cushy position of power, the role of spiritual leader requires a lot of sacrifice for his family (Ephesians 5:25).
Are wives supposed to be doormats? Certainly not. Women have a powerful influence on their families. A husband who runs the house as a dictator and does not include his wife in decision making ends up getting himself in a lot of trouble. God made man and woman to have differing perspectives. The wife may be able to see important things in some situations that her husband would not normally take into account, so her insight is vital to the proper functioning of the family. Just because the leadership is not in her hands does not mean that intelligence, creativity, and common sense cannot be. We will usually have more of at least one of those three qualities than our husbands. That is not an insult to men, just a realization that God brings together people whose abilities complement each other's.
One interesting note: The Bible never commands a woman to love her husband, but it does command a man to love his wife as his own body (See Ephesians 5:25-29, 33; Colossians 3:19). She does have the command to obey, but think about this... we can obey anybody... a teacher, a parent, a boss, whatever. Who can we really love? If the husband is following God's will for himself and his family, he will love his wife. He will take the lead in his family. He will NOT take advantage of the situation to abuse or dominate (Ephesians 5:28-29). He will treat his wife and children properly. That'll make it a lot easier for the wife to do her part... and she will love him if he's being right to her.
People only pay attention to the wife's side of the submission issue... but the husband is really the one with the greater responsibility before God. *Now* who's got the tough job?
This article copyright © 1999 by Lara Ray, and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.