Why I Submit to My Wife (It Honors God)

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

– Eph 5:21

Looking back on my life, there are a few days that I’d prefer to forget.

One such day was a weekend in November 1998, when I met the woman who’d later become my father’s wife. I was living in Germany at the time, and my Dad invited me to meet up with he and his new girlfriend for a long weekend in Athens, so I flew down and joined up with them. After a day of exploring the city, we settled down for a few drinks in a local bar and began getting to know each other. At the time, my mind was still diluted with an obnoxious fundamentalism, and my Dad joked that his was one of the rare circumstances where a child grew up to be more conservative than the parent.

The conversation somehow took a dark turn– perhaps it was the extra shot of Ouzo– and I went off on one of my rants about female submission (Great first impression, I’m sure). She was gracious, kind, and asked good questions while I firmly explained to her that in marriage, the man is the head and the wife’s job is to submit to his authority. I even remember giving the example that if a husband wanted to buy a new car, but the wife thought it was a bad idea, the wife needed to submit to the husband’s “purchasing authority”.

Just thinking about that night makes me want to vomit.

If I could clone myself and build a time machine, I’d go back in time to that evening and sit down at the table so that I could reach across it and slap myself silly.

It’s ironic how life turned out. 15 years later, I’m now married with a growing family, and ironically, I submit to my wife.

Yup– this once fundamentalist punk is now in his late 30’s, has salt n’ pepper hair, and submits to his wife. Not only am I not ashamed of that fact, I’m pretty darn proud of it actually.

Before Paul gets into the controversial passage of wives submitting to husbands, he first teaches mutual submission– something I’ve discovered to not only be the Godly way to do marriage, but also the most practical way to do marriage. My marriage works because my wife is my equal– we’re in this together and we’re doing this together. I’m not her head anymore than she is my feet… we’re two whole people just doing our best to walk in the same direction together. This means that sometimes she defers to my leadership in a certain area, sometimes I defer to her leadership in a certain area, but whatever we do, we do together as equals.

My wife is my equal partner, not my child. I don’t want to lead her, I want to walk beside her. I wouldn’t have been able to navigate this difficult calling God gave our family if she were two steps behind me– honoring God with our lives has only been possible because we have walked side-by-side, in lock step with each other. During those seasons where one lags behind and we find ourselves out of step, we stop and wait until we catch back up with each other.

Having just celebrated six years of marriage together, having survived the loss of a child together (something that has an 80% chance of destroying a marriage), and having navigated a massive paradigm shift from fundamentalism into a new kind of Christianity, we’re finally starting to hit our stride. Ironically, I’m starting to figure out how to do marriage by ignoring everything American Christianity taught me about gender roles in marriage.

If I were to evaluate my marriage based upon my old paradigm of seeing things, I would only be able to arrive at one conclusion: we’re doing it completely wrong.

I’m sure to those in my old paradigm it certainly looks that way. In fact, I know that to them it looks that way. During our marriage I’ve actually been publicly questioned as to my fitness for church leadership because of the appearance that I’m not the “head of my household” (an event that is still incredibly painful for us to recall). And, I’d agree that we are completely doing it wrong if it weren’t for one thing:

We’re actually doing it right.

“Submit to one another”, Paul first tells us.

 The realization that we’re doing it right, and my rejection of a male dominated paradigm ultimately boiled down to one thing:

As shocking as it was to discover, I realized that I don’t know everything.

The realization that I don’t know everything and the practical discoveries that occur in marriage, have led me to believe and embrace that Paul’s statement on mutual submission is the only way to go.

And so, it’s true… I submit to my wife.

It’s also true, that I am not her head (if head means I need to control and think for her). Want to know why?

Well… it’s because she has a pair of feet. Attached to those feet is a pair of legs. Attached to the legs, one would find her torso and slightly above that, you’ll find two dangly things we call arms. Moving northward, you’ll see she has a pair of shoulders… and smack between them, you’ll find her neck. And, on top of her neck, you’ll find something interesting…

A head.

Yet, what’s most fascinating, is what you’ll find inside of that head…

A nice big brain that Jesus gave her.

Yeah, remember that scene in Pulp Fiction where Samuel L. Jackson says “Check out the big brain on Brad!”? Well, if Mr. Jackson were to get to know my wife, he’d be saying, “Check out the big brain on Tracy!”

And as it turns out, that big brain on Tracy knows a lot of things I don’t know, has compiled a lot of life experiences I don’t have, and makes her good at a lot of things that I’m simply not good at.

Adopting older children with trauma histories and special needs? As luck would have it, that big brain belongs to a trauma therapist.

All those organization and management skills that I don’t have? Turns out, they’re all in that head she already has, but they aren’t in the head I would give her.

So, it’s true– I refuse to be her head, because I’m happy with the one she’s already got.

Instead, we do life together in mutual submission to each other. There are plenty of tasks to to go around and plenty of hats to wear, so we mutually assign those roles to each other based on skills, talents, and abilities, instead of based on who has which private parts.

She leads, I lead.

In tandem.

And, it works. In fact, I actually think it’s the Godly way to live. There are countless areas of our life where I’m not skilled, equipped, or gifted to lead– but she is.

So, I submit.

Likewise, on top of my neck is a big brain that Jesus gave me that has skills, talents, abilities, and has compiled life experiences that she doesn’t have. So in those areas, she defers to me.

In tandem, side-by-side.

Sure, our household has a head– his name is Jesus. She and I are simply chasing him together as two equal partners who want to help build a family and contribute to the Kingdom, together. Yes, we often have different “roles”, but those roles are assigned based on gifting, not gender. Not only does this make our family stronger, closer, and more efficient, I actually believe it honors God by honoring the gifts he has given each of us as individuals.

So my question becomes: what would it be like if we did church this way?

What would it be like if we assigned roles based on gifting and training, instead of assigning roles based on who has which kind of private parts?

For too long in the Church, we’ve limited ourselves by dismissing half of the population– not because of lack of gifting, lack of calling, or lack of ability– but simply because they’re not men.

And, well,  based on what I’ve learned in marriage, I think that’s just foolish.

Instead, may we become a people who honor God by honoring the gifting he has given each one of us– not as men and not as women, but as individual bearers of the divine image.

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  • gimpi1

    “I’m not her head anymore than she is my feet… we’re two whole people just doing our best to walk in the same direction together. “

    This is the basis of my marriage as well. I have tried over and over again to explain it to patriarchal folks, to no avail. I am always asked, “If you can’t agree, who makes the final decision?” In 14 years of marriage and 7 years of living together before marriage, that has simply never come up. We each have our own strengths and we respect each other’s strengths. We each have our own weaknesses and we acknowledge them. We discuss things. We compromise. We help each other out. It works.

    Seriously, if someone claims that there must be a ‘head’ in their relationship to their spouse, I question how well they really know, love and understand that spouse. Love should have no need to dominate. Or submit. (Unless your tastes run that way, I guess. Not really my cup of tea:)

  • Raymond Watchman

    I am reminded of Thomas Merton’s perceptive quip: “If the you of five years ago doesn’t consider the you of today a heretic, you are not growing spiritually.” And my wife Gabrielle coined a wonderful truism when we were discussing our marriage some years ago – I never forgot it and have quoted her often: “Those who say that marriage is about two halves making a whole have got it wrong. In a marriage it takes two wholes to make a whole.”

  • platypusfriend

    The dictionary definition of “Heretic” makes that quip a little off-base, because in that case we’d only be growing spiritually if we’re constantly “believing in or practicing religious heresy.” — Contrast this with living day-to-day according to Jesus’ and Paul’s teachings in the New Testament yet making mistakes as a sinner.

  • Raymond Watchman

    As you say, it’s a quip and needs to be read as such. Merton had an impish sense of humor! I entirely agree with your comment re Jesus’ and Paul’s teachings, but I add the rider that Paul’s teachings really do need to be understood contextually.

  • Jonenred

    it’s so cool that some christian denominations believe in a women’s right to kill her baby. So Christ-like.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    I don’t know whether to laugh or to bang my head into the table. You do realize that this post has nothing to do with abortion, right?

  • Jonenred

    True, it’s off topic, but I think it’s really cool….

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    If you want to dialogue about content, great– but posting random comments that have nothing to do with the article, and which don’t even accurately reflect the ethos of this blog, is obnoxious.

  • $1754985

    Jonenred is the epitome of obnoxiousness. He did the same thing on Kimberly Knight’s blog. He needs to take his ax somewhere where people actually care about his asininity.

  • Unabashedly Christian

    The idea that I must remain silent and graciously accept the inferior status of my gender was for many years an enormous road block. The practical application of Complementarianism has always felt engineered and un-natural, like a large garden populated with plastic flowers. The practice is so blatantly at odds with my understanding of Jesus’ message that when I encounter it in corporate worship it leaves me disheartened. Recently while studying Matthew the extent to which the Son Of God willingly submitted truly began to dawn on me. As I contemplated the meaning of “poor in spirit” in Matthew 5:3, it seemed that Jesus was saying that God extends His benefits to those who are humble just as He, Jesus Christ was humble. When I read 1 Peter 3:9-24, Philippians 2:1-8, Luke 6:27-36 and James 4:1-10 in conjunction with Matthew 5:3 the concept of mutual submission seems clear. The verses also highlight a huge flaw in Complementarianism. Unilateral submission only requires one gender to reflect the humility demonstrated by Jesus Christ. The other gets a hall pass. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” Complementarianism says, it is ok for one gender to consider itself of inherently greater value to the plan of God. It permits one person to limit another’s usefulness in the Great Commission. Only a willfully blind person could call this an attitude of humility. Flowery language and sanctimony don’t change the fact that Complementarianism is merely an excuse to seize authority for oneself while denying other believers the full use of their God given gifts. So this post truly resonates. Reading your thoughts on the topic fills me with hope and gratitude.

  • http://thesidos.blogspot.com/ Arthur Sido

    This is a prime example of what happens when you read Scripture as a series of stand along verses. For example:

    “It’s also true, that I am not her head. Want to know why?”

    But Paul says:

    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 Cor 11:3)

    But hey, tell us why that doesn’t really matter.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    It depends what you mean by “head”. I was being provocative with that term. If “head” means that I am the decision maker and what I say goes, well, I don’t want to be her “head”– I’m already a parent. However, I suppose one could argue that I am the “head” but that I have decided as a leadership style to mutually share all power and authority with my wife. A lot could depend on how one plays with words.

    However, Jesus reminds us that “Blessed are the meek”, aka, those who reject power. I reject the notion that I need to dominate or have power over my wife. Do I work to influence her? Certainly. Are there areas where I lead and she follows? Of course (but the opposite is true as well– such as parenting children with trauma histories– I’m not a therapist, she is) but I don’t dominate her, I don’t take power over her, and I’m not foolish enough to think that I’m the only person on this team that knows what they’re doing.

    We make a much better team as husband and wife than we would as father and daughter.

  • BT

    See my comment above. I think Paul deliberately used a more nuanced word for head. He could have picked the obvious and unambiguous word “arche”, but he didn’t. Why?

    I think that nuance – which surely would have been noticed among native, Greek speaking, culturally patriarchal Christians – would have been immediately noticed as something different.

    I think that whole word shift reflects a paradigm shift – one that completely supports your point of view here.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Thanks! Just this evening my wife said that I should check the Greek when I got home, and looks like you beat me to it. Thanks for jumping in.

  • http://thesidos.blogspot.com/ Arthur Sido

    Benjamin

    There certainly are people that embrace “gender equality” who I think are taking the Scriptures seriously, who engage the difficult text and come to a different conclusion. I think their conclusion are flawed but I respect that. You don’t bother to engage in the text at all, you simply reference one verse and then launch into a explanation of why it means what you think it means based on your own perception of your family dynamics. You sort of reference the pertinent passages that follow but don’t bother to go there. I understand why you don’t because it becomes a lot harder to make your case when you get into the verses where the relationship between husband and wife is compared to the relationship between Christ and the church. Just as Jesus loved the church and gave Himself for us but there is no mistaking the relationship between Christ and the church as “mutual submission” unless one tries to force the contemporary cultural notion of “egalitarianism” into the text.

    Submission of wives is not a matter of “power”. I am nowhere called to make my wife submit. She is called to submit to me as an act of obedience to Christ. Likewise I am called to love my wife sacrificially as Christ loved the church. My wife cannot make me love her, my loving her is an act of obedience to Christ. By trying to warp the idea and turning it into a power struggle, people who advocate for “gender equality” completely miss the point. We are equal in Christ but with different functions and roles, roles and functions embedded in who we are and commanded by Christ. Denying that and turning it on its head is not “honoring God”, it is telling God that you and the culture of the day trumps what He has revealed.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Oh, I affirm that Paul teaches wives should submit to husbands– there are plenty of areas where I lead and my wife follows. Likewise I affirm that Paul teaches both husbands and wives to submit to each other (something I haven’t heard you affirm yet), which means there are also areas where she leads and I follow (i.e, with finances: I hate math, so she runs the finances.)

    I also affirm that the model Paul gives is that of Christ, and it actually doesn’t make my argument more difficult. With Christ and the church, instead of lording over her, he emptied himself and became her servant.

    As we see Christ on his knees washing the feet of the disciples, and on the cross, we see a rejection of power and an embrace of being a servant. So, I’m totally fine with the Christ/Church model.

    Jesus had female disciples, God selected females to be the first evangelists, so I have no problem with my wife running our checkbook and taking the lead with raising traumatized children.

    And no, I’m not saying culture trumps– in fact, I just finished writing a book on how American culture has diluted the message of Jesus and invite people to reject American Christian culture in favor of following Jesus.

    All in all, what I’m hearing you say is that you disagree with Paul when he says “submit to one another”. Perhaps it is your individual culture that is influencing you to reject this portion of scripture, no? In a male dominated society it would be easy to read that into the text.

  • http://thesidos.blogspot.com/ Arthur Sido

    I don’t disagree with Paul at all, I just try to base my interpretation on everything he said rather than skipping right over the rest of his teaching on this subject. One of the most glaring flaws in your argument is that Paul never tells husbands to submit to their wives, just as he never tells parents to submit to their children. He clearly says that the church should submit to one another but then he gives specific relationships where the submission is one way, wives to husbands, children to parents, slaves/bondservants to masters. he could have easily said “husbands submit to your wives” but he didn’t. He said that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church. Since he clearly tells wives to submit to their husbands “in everything”, if Paul intended for husbands to submit to their wives wouldn’t he specify that? The fact that he not only doesn’t tell husbands to submit to their wives and instead gives them different direction certainly shows that he never intended for his readers to stop at verse 21.

    As far as the relationship between Christ and the church compared to husbands and wives, there is a difference between “serving” and “submitting”. Christ humbled Himself to wash the feet of the disciples as an act of humility and an example for the church to follow. However there is no question as to who is the head and who is the body in this case. Jesus is Lord, He is the shepherd and we are the sheep.

    You again try to draw power into the argument. As I said it is not about me making my wife submit, it is about her voluntarily submitting herself to me. That is the very opposite of coercive power. You can’t seem to get out of the paradigm that says that for one to submit, another has to be forcing them to do so. If you make someone submit, it is not submission at all. It seems the real issue here is that you don’t understand submission and headship in marriage and have instead substituted a contemporary cultural norm in place of Biblical teaching.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    I would also invite you to consider that there are many of us who believe that when you read the Bible as a whole you arrive at a position of gender equality– and we believe we’re taking scripture every bit as seriously as you. My arrival at the stance of equality was a result of taking the whole of scripture more seriously, not less.

  • Unabashedly Christian

    Think of how the Lord handled Himself. He didn’t just submit to God. In order to please His Father, Jesus also endured the sin and vagaries of mankind. Though His power was infinite, “the head of every man” humbly submitted to baptism by John, testing by Satan, doubt from His disciples, disrespect from the High Priests, rejection by His chosen people, betrayal from Peter and Judas, arrest, a trial by Pontius Pilate, jeering from a crowd and then finally a beating, a humiliating parade through the streets and crucifixion by Roman soldiers. Jesus example of humility is one for all to follow not just women and servants. If its not beneath Christ to submit to the whims of sinful man in order to set an example and please His Father, then why should it be beneath a husband to happily embrace the idea of mutual submission between he and his wife? If the idea rubs you the wrong way then you should ask what makes you more important than Christ. What emotion lies beneath an unwillingness to cede a portion of decision making power to someone you supposedly love? The reality of Christ’s example of headship simply does not align with the pretense of humility and “servant leadership” found in complementarianism.

    Philippians 2:1-8

    1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.
    3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

    5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

    6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

    7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

    8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by
    becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

  • BT

    But understand what Paul is saying here. If he had wanted to say “head” as being some type of authority, he would have used the word “arche”. He didn’t. He used the word “kephale”. Not authority – much more nuanced. What exactly he had in mind is hard to say. One thing we can be pretty certain though is that some idea of authority isn’t it.

  • Jeff Pugh

    My goodness. This is some of the most unimpressive pressing of the wax nose of the text I have seen for a fair day. The ‘either or’ categories being employed are very flawed. Find a classical example of ‘kephale’ that does NOT have something to do with authority!
    The original interpretation of the ‘one another’ clause is not sufficient a raft upon which to float the baggage of the equality politic. Sounds like an old 1980’s debate resurfaces without awareness of what has been said before.
    As then, this is not the way to skin the cat of mutual respect.

  • BT

    Easily done. See the many uses of kephale as “source”. Just like in English – “head” as in “headwaters”. Also can be a physical head.

  • alphabetasoup

    References?

  • BT

    See the Septuagint for one.

  • BT

    Septuagint. Hebrew “rosh” = head. Primarily translated kephale. About 240 times roughly.

    I am guessing Paul would have been familiar with that.

  • alphabetasoup

    Are you serious! You read apostles minds?

  • BT

    No, but when a writer uses a specific, nuanced word, only a doofus doesn’t ask why that word and not another more obvious choice.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    I’ve had the same argument with doulos. Often translated as slave, but it’s actually a catch all for “servant” which denotes servitude but not the type of service. There is however, a very specific word for slave but is only used in Paul’s letter to Timothy when the practice is denounced. I argue the same when translating that word– if he meant an actual slave, why not use the more obvious choice in such a precise language? There’s usually a reason, in my view.

  • BT

    Interesting. I had never looked at that before.

    In an age where women were essentially chattel, it’s interesting to me that Paul never uses an unambiguous term for authority except in one place. Even there, the authority he speaks of is turned on its head – he writes I don’t have authority over my body,y wife does. And vice versa. That’s a mutual authority and would have been striking in its day, which may help explain why women were drawn to the early church so strongly (see Rodney Stark’s book on the rise of Christianity there).

    Thanks for the good article.

  • alphabetasoup

    Not sure if you are still paying attention to this BT but here is my reply nonetheless.
    1. Whenever Paul uses Kephale the idea of authority is always present. See Col.1:14-18, Eph 1:22 for the way Paul uses Kephale
    The verbs he uses (hupotasso and agapao) are the keys to the whole shooting match) Agapao is a volitional intentional love. A love stemming from the will. Hupotasso is a willing subjection to or a conscious decision to place yourself under.
    The (extreme) cliff note version is that Paul in using the command for men to “Agapao thier” thier wives, is ASSUMING thier preeminet role of the husband. He is the source and director in the marriage. And he is to willfully, intentionaly direct his house. This is NOT hupotasso.
    When Paul uses hupotasso for the wives he is commanding thier wives to WILLFULLY subject themselves to her husband.This easily fits with all of Pauls theology and the greater context. As you so aptly pointed out, nuance matters, and this reading actually is the most fair with all of them
    There is much more to say and i hope you are still in this.

  • BT

    Yes I have heard all the complementarian arguments. I just don’t buy them. On this point I find William Webb’s idea of a moral trajectory instructive. I think Paul shows motion versus the prevailing culture here and no particular reason why that motion toward a more egalitarian form of marriage should stop with a first or second century ideal.

    In the end what I have learned is that egalitarian marriage works, that I can’t argue you into believing that it’s biblical, and that people have to sort this out for themselves. I just like to put these things out there so others know there are other viewpoints.

    Best,
    BT

  • alphabetasoup

    The reason is clear though. The home/family was the very first institution for a reason. Pauls overarching theme in the book of Ephesians is how the home is to serve as a model/picture of the kingdom. To say that the complimentarian model is outdated and to replace it with egalitarianism is to change the image God originally gave. There are grave consequences philosophically and theologically in doing so.
    I do not wish to argue with you either. Paul has dire warnings for those who quibble about words, and i dont want to do that. But realize that egalitarianism is coming dangerously close to communicating the we can be equal to God, and we all know where that line of thinking has gotten us.
    Pax

  • alphabetasoup

    Not to put it too bluntly but Mr.Webbs entire premise is pure and simple sophistry. There is nothing credible about this “hermenutic” at all other than that is what he thinks it should be.

  • BT

    One problem is that the logic on kephale in Paul always involving authority is circular. Ephesians has to be an authoritative sense because Colossians is. Colossians shows male authority because Ephesians does.

    This is why the argument can never have a winner. Debate between viewpoints here is rather pointless. Better to figure out how folks with opposing viewpoints can live together in the church peacefully.

  • alphabetasoup

    There is nothing circular at all about this. Im not sure how you get that. Its merely looking at the way Paul uses the word. It is a bit ironic that you are arguing a very small and possibly invalid use of the word Kepahale and throwing out the rest of the plain shades of the word.
    Also by getting hung up on the word “authority”, you are missing the greater concept. Primacy or centrality are better words that encompass more of Kephale. Authority is implicit in all of those but not the totality by any means.
    As I said before above, the verbs are the keys to correct interpretation. Both hupotasso and agapao involve the will. Men and women are called to two different excercises of that will. Men by intentional, volitional love and women by willful submissive, subjection of her will to her husband. These are both very wise commands Paul gives to men and women to counteract either genders natural tendencies.
    There is just no other way to make sense of Pauls theology or the rest of the verse if understood otherwise

  • Herro

    This is just wrong.

    “doulos” is the obvious choice, it means “slave”.

    The word in Timothy (1Tim 1:10) you’re thinking of means something like “kidnapper”, not “slave”.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    In 1 Tim it literally translates as “man stealer” which is the closest NT usage we have to slavery. There is one more precise word that denotes slavery in even stronger terms, but it’s not used at all in the NT. Doulos does not denote the type of servitude.

  • Herro

    “man stealer” is not a slave, and condemning it is not a condemnation of slavery.

    And “doulos” is the most common word for slave. It’s the most obvious choice if you’re speaking of slaves.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    All translation involves trying to determine authorial intent– we all do it, and is the only way to translate. It doesn’t mean one thinks they can read minds, just that one has made an honest attempt to get at authorial intent. When a word has multiple ways it can be expressed in English, one must attempt to get at authorial intent as one of the considerations in rendering a translation of the word/phrase/passage. We all do it– including the translations you read from.

  • alphabetasoup

    Sorry, I didnt see this reply so I never responded. I wholeheartedly agree with what you say. One of my most challenging and enjoyable courses in college was hermeneutics. It was made so by the incredibly intelligent professor. Consequently, the hardest tests I have ever taken too:)
    Translation is tough, but is made more so by interpretation. Context is everything, as you would i’m sure agree. Only we need to be sure of our own societal biases and etymylogical changes as well. What we run into nowadays is trying to “correct” all of the texts according to what we now know or think. This is the bain of all faithful interpretation and what I suspected here. That is the only reason i jumped in.

  • Heather McCuen Dearmon

    Thank you for addressing this Benjamin!
    In September my son turned 18 -a few days before I turned 40- and 6 days ago my husband and I had our 19th year wedding anniversary. The truths you speak of here are correct, and they work, but for my husband and I, it took about 14 years of various testing and trials (from getting pregnant right away, to chronic ailments, alcoholism, tragically losing our fathers, etc.) to even BEGIN to learn this concept of submitting to one another. Thankfully we had the help of a good christian marriage counselor (there are some bad apples out there, so couples: beware).
    This understanding of gender equality needs to be taught by the church. The leaders of last church we were a part of, where my husband was made an elder, told me, when I asked, that wives and husbands could not be “joint-elders” but my role was VERY important: to serve and uplift my husband in order for him to fulfill his role as elder. Yeah. So my husband respectfully left the “eldership” and explained to the other male elders, who were trying to lead without their wives, that they were “missing their better halves.” Wives may not actually be the “better half” but when we work alongside our husbands, great things are accomplished.
    The church is hurting itself, as well as being a horrible role model to the world -who continues to dishonor the role of women in society, and just plain dishonor women, some to the point of great neglect and abuse. It breaks my heart.

  • Bev Murrill

    you’re a cool guy, Benjamin. This is darn good sense and I would love to repost.

  • BT

    Oh! Benjamin – Forgot to add this earlier. One meaning for kephale that I find intriguing has the idea of being in the lead – as coming alongside in the vanguard / lead soldier in battle.

    My dad paraphrased it as “first in line to be shot rather than being the first to shoot.”

    I think that idea fits well with the idea earlier in the passage regarding a husbands duty to love sacrificially – even to the point of death like Christ.

  • Jonathan Dollarhide

    Good stuff bro! I have been married for going on 20 years, and I believe it is because I submit to my wife. I heard once that when God referred to Eve as Adam’s helpmate in Genesis, He was literally saying that she was the strength opposite him. Never researched it, but iv’e lived it! That’s exactly how I view my amazing wife, as the strength opposite me.

  • Herro

    I don’t think that the author of Ephesians was telling husbands to submit to their wives.

    If you understand the “submit to one another” in that way, then Paul was also telling parents to submit to their children and slave-owners to submit to their slaves. That seems strange.

    I say this because when you look at that section of the letter this is the construction:

    – “submit to one another” 5:21
    1. “wifes should submit to their husbands, but the husbands should be nice to their wives” (5:22-33)
    2. “children should submit to their parents, but the parents should be nice to their children” (6:1-4)
    3. “slaves should submit to their owners, but the owners should be nice to their slaves” (6:5-10)

    If 5:21 means that the first example he gives invovles mutual submission, then the same would also be the case for the other examples.

  • Jakeithus

    I think the call to submit to one another is meant to be somewhat strange at first glance. Jesus, despite being fully God, voluntarily submitted himself to become a servant. The idea of omnipotent God, submitting himself in service to fallible, inconsequential humanity, when you take it by itself, is far more strange than the call to mutual submission that we see in any of the examples you raise from Ephesians.

    Only husbands are given the command to love their wives in the verses in question, but no one that I know of claims that the command to love does not equally apply to the wife. “Submit to one another” and ” Love one another” seem to be pretty blanket statements, but only gets taken that way.

  • http://ourgirlsclub.blogspot.com/ Ginny Bain Allen

    My husband and I have lived our lives as a couple, for 33 years, first in submission to Jesus, and then in submission to each other, for that is what the Bible clearly teaches. God created me to be his helpmeet, and as such, his wisest counselor, after the Holy Spirit, of course. God did create woman as the epitome of His glorious creation! ;) Eve was taken from Adam’s rib, below his heart, to live as Adam’s equal partner, not from his head to rule over him, nor from his feet to be trampled as his doormat. Contrary to what many progressives erroneously claim these days, men and women are created physiologically different by God in many significant ways: lung capacity, sense of smell, brute strength, etc. I was created to be the main nurturer of our family. My husband is called by God to be the greatest servant of our family, as well as its protector and defender. After all, Jesus is the servant of all, and as the heads of their families, husbands are called to radical servanthood.

    Ben, it’s odd how often your writings appear to convey musings you seem to think are novel, and how you twist them to make it appear as if its not how followers of Jesus, who have gone before you, have already lived. It’s akin to how young parents these days seem to think that they are the first to do “attachment parenting.”

  • Tom Giacondra

    When God couldnt find a MAN to lead His people, He empowered a donkey to do it…seems to me (quite clearly by your own testimony), your wife is the donkey God will use in your family, as the leader.

    As scripture quite clearly states, God created woman as a help mate for man…not the other way around…

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Nope, he actually appointed female judges to take authority over the men.

  • Tom Giacondra

    Not sure what part of my scriptural reference is “nope”; the part that scripture indicates God made woman as a help mate to man (Genesis 2:19-25), or the part where God empowered a donkey? (Numbers 22:21-32)

    The point being”order”, not privlige, is Gods sovereign edict. God is a God of order, man is the lead, because that is the order God decreed, not because he is smarter or better than a woman.

    Not recognizing Gods order is a sin, it is saying my opinion, or societies opinion overules Gods sovereign reign…and that is grievous error.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Just pointing out that to have a consistent doctrine of God, there must be times when women can lead too– such as when he gave Israel female leadership. You can’t gloss over that part. Also interesting that when God wanted to proclaim the resurrection to the world, he picked women to be the first evangelists.

  • alphabetasoup

    Would it be useful to point out that Deborah (i assume) was appointed to lead only because the men refused to do so and she reminded them of that fact to shame them?

  • Tom Giacondra

    yes alphabet, that is one of many scriptural support passages for my above statements

  • Tom Giacondra

    That is correct, there are “times” when a woman can and should lead..and that would be when there is no man willing or able to lead…but even then, that is typically a temporary solution until an acceptable male (acceptable by Gods standards…same holds for the woman by the way) can be found to assume the leadership role…as is God sovereign edict of order amongst His people.
    Unfortunately our understanding of Gods Order gets tainted by mans self invented and worldly socio-political correctness (feminist movement)…we must be careful not to confuse Gods Sovereign order with manmade social economic or political fads of the times.

    Again male leadership has ZERO to do with male being better, smarter, stronger (all are physical attributes)…it has everything to do with obedience, order, structure, and accountability to a Holy God. The males are suppose to sacrifically STEP UP to lead the People of God. They are then HELD to a higher standard before God for how the lead their families with compassion, humility and love…leading His own children to God and not away. similarly, Women will be judged for their obedience to their appointed role. (again humility, submission, obedience to…God…is indicative of a true believer)
    The woman or wife plays a key role in this scheme, she is his help mate, as you indicated the woman is far more adept at many common tasks the man is responsible for, the man must lead his wife, as Jesus lead, by serving her, heading her advice, knowledge, and meeting her needs. It isnt woman who fails so much in her role, as it is the man who fails, by acting like a baby, wanting his own way, opting to please himself, rather than sacrifice himself for his wife and family…the very picture of Christ to us, his believers! The differnce being, human males are flawed…wives know this. Boy do they know this!

    So the message should never be, woman should be allowed to lead…it should be…men, put on your big boy pants, and get up there and LEAD as God has called you to lead! Please dont confuse the issue…women can lead, but it should only be during a time of disgrace when man fails to step up and submit to Gods authority and lead His People, and should only be temporary…and believe me, a woman is fully capable of leading.

  • outragex

    Three points: much of Christianity has not taught that male headship. I grew up in the Episcopal Church where this was never an emphasis.
    Second, all the debate about St. Paul’s exact meaning is a form of fundamentalist legalism. We have to weight Paul’s words against the whole of the NT, and consider that we discount other words of the Bible, like approval of slavery or the ban on jewelry and makeup.
    Third, the male as ultimate head defies our common sense. We know that in many matters one spouse has more wisdom than the other, period. In an ideal situation one spouse’s strengh complements the other’s weakness. We also know that if two spouses truly respect each other, they want to consult each other on important decisions and it would be unwise to go forward alone, i.e. without the other’s agreement.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    I have a solution for all the folks who disagreed with the post: I will give my wife a direct order to lead and take charge in certain areas of our life (the areas where she is more gifted than I) and by leading in those areas, she will actually be “obeying” and “submitting” to me by exercising her God-given leadership skills and wisdom.

    Checkmate.

  • platypusfriend

    Ben, your wife is actually submitting to your will (as the household authority) that you treat each other as equals. A non-exhaustive list of edge cases where you may choose to uncloak your ultimately-authoritative side might be: (1) She chooses to not treat you as an equal, and you insist/lead her back to your original agreement; (2) She is leading your family into an unsafe situation, you take control of the situation and force them to safety. (Did that make sense?)