Submission Isn’t For Your Wife Only, Brother
If there is one verse that guys have memorized, it is Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Yet many of us have misconceptions about submission and thus misapply it in the context of our marriages. Our view of submission almost, at times, seems to closely resemble the “She’s Your Queen To Be” scene from the 1988 classic movie Coming to America more than it does the Bible. Prince Akeem (played by Eddie Murphy), heir to the throne of Zamunda, is introduced to his arranged-bride-to-be, Imani Izzi (played by Vanessa Bell Calloway). Prince Akeem kindly leans over to Imani and asks to speak to her in private. He escorts her into a private chamber to have a conversation.
Prince Akeem: “So…”
Imani Izzi: “Ever since I was born, I’ve been trained to serve you.”
Prince Akeem: “Yes, I know this. But I would like to know about you. What do you like to do?”
Imani Izzi: “Whatever you like.”
Prince Akeem: “What kind of music do you like?”
Imani Izzi: “Whatever kind of music you like.”
Prince Akeem: “Look, I know what I like. And I know you know what I like because you are trained to know what I like, but I would like to know what you like. For instance, do you have a favorite food?”
Imani Izzi: “Yes.”
Prince Akeem: “Good! What is your favorite food?”
Imani Izzi: “Whatever food you like.”
Prince Akeem: “Are you saying that no matter what I tell you to do you will do?”
Imani Izzi: “Yes, your highness.”
Prince Akeem: “Anything I say you’ll do?”
Imani Izzi: “Yes, your highness.”
Prince Akeem: “Bark like a dog.”
And then the awkward hilarity commences. She complies and barks like a dog, and according to Prince Akeem’s other requests, even hops on one leg and makes a noise like an orangutan. We all know that is Hollywood, but in reality there are unfortunately men who want, expect, and even demand robotic submission from their wives. Don’t express your opinion, no matter how respectful the tone and approach, unless it is solicited. Agree with everything we do. And definitely don’t lovingly hold us accountable. Just do as we say and all will be well. This is submission, some think. It might be that way in a movie, but not in real life and especially not according to God’s script.
So my aim is simply to help us as husbands to understand biblical submission. To begin, I want to bring to the surface two common beliefs many men in general, and husbands in particular, hold to as it relates to submission, and examine them under the microscope of God’s word to see if they are true.
Submission is for Women
Is submission solely relegated to our female counterparts? In other words, is submission for women only? The answer is no. If you take a cursory read through the New Testament letters, you will discover that submission is a virtue of the Christian life and, therefore, applicable to all believers, no matter your gender.
All Christians Submit to Jesus. Interestingly enough, in the very same passage of the verse that was just referenced at the outset of this chapter, Paul uses this idea of the church, or all Christians, submitting to Jesus as an example of how wives should submit to their husbands. He writes, “Now as the church submits to Christ…” (Ephesians 5:24a). Submission is a way of life that is to be continually exhibited by all Christ-followers, men and women alike.
All Christians Submit to their Parents. Paul commands us as children to obey our parents in the Lord (Ephesians 6:1; also cf. Colossians 3:20), whether we were raised by a father and mother, a single mom or dad, grandparents or some other relative, or foster parents. And even though we are married and living in our own place, this command is still valid. The dynamics of it look different now, of course. So, although we are not directly under their authority anymore, when we go home, for example, to Mom’s and/or Dad’s place, it is their house, their rules.
All Christians Submit to the Elders/Pastors of their Local Church. When we join in covenant membership with a local church, we come under the pastoral leadership, care, and preaching and teaching of those elders/pastors. The writer of Hebrews instructs all believers to “obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)
All Christians Submit to the Governing Authorities. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, directs all of us Christ-followers in Romans 13:1ff to individually submit ourselves to the governing authorities. If there ever was a morally loose and corrupt, and religiously idolatrous, pluralistic and syncretistic government, it was the Roman Empire. And yet Paul commands the believers in that sociopolitical context to submit to the authorities. So it is for us in America and for our other brothers and sisters in Christ in other countries around the world as well. Should Christians be involved in politics to help shape and steer legislation according to God’s word? Absolutely. Is there a time for civil disobedience? I am sure there is, especially those believers who find themselves in closed countries (i.e., where the government is explicitly hostile towards Christianity). But, overall, we are to submit to, honor, and respect our governing officials and authorities, from the President to the police officer. Regardless of how democratic a government is, it will never be perfect because flawed, sinful, and even lost human beings are involved. But that does not circumvent our obedience to the Lord Jesus in submitting to the authorities he has established and sanctioned, as long as they are appropriately executing their authority according to, and informed by, God’s word.
Women Should Be Made To Submit
Quite frankly, this is just absurd. Excuse me for being passionate and straightforward when it comes to this point. But this idea of husbands feeling justified in their passive or aggressive attempts to bring their wives in subjection to them is patently unbiblical. I would even go so far as to say that if we seek to do such a thing we are sinning against God and our wives and need to repent. On what basis can I make such an indictment? Fair question. And I don’t think it will be difficult to substantiate. There is a real simple explanation. Let’s go back and read Ephesians 5:22, 24: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord….Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything their husbands.” Who does Paul address in these verses? Wives. To whom is the command directed? Wives. So who is responsible for carrying out this divine instruction? You guessed it…wives. Submission in marriage is the sacred responsibility of our wives to fulfill out of reverence for the Lord Jesus. It is up to them to see to it that they respect us (Ephesians 5:33). Did it say anywhere in those two verses about husbands forcing this upon their wives? No. Absolutely not. God will always call a foul on us when we seek to force them into submission. Any attempt to manipulate or threaten our wives into submitting to our leadership is an offense against them and God and an insidious abuse of our headship as husbands.
Note: This article is adapted from a portion of the chapter “Understanding Submission” in my book Husbands By Design: A Biblical Blueprint of Godly Husbands. To read more, purchase your copy here.