Whenever you talk about submission problems in a marriage, you should never begin with the wife’s lack of submission. If your goal is to help a husband and wife work through their problems, you must find the correct starting point.
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I realize submission is a hot and debatable topic within Christianity. But civil discussions can move forward if you refrain from engaging the two extreme camps that participate in the debate.
- Those who are repulsed by the idea of submission.
- Those whose authoritarianism discolors biblical sense.
Between those two groups is an ongoing, unending charitable discussion about how much a wife should submit, which always includes two talking points, not one: (1) a wife’s responsibility to submit and (2) a husband’s requirement to lead well.
If a couple is genuinely interested in working through a wife’s “lack of submission problem” in a marriage, they must flip the coin over and talk about the husband’s responsibility in their one-flesh covenant.
A wife’s submission and a husband’s leadership cannot be divided and isolated as though one does not affect the other. It is dangerous to only talk about a wife’s lack of submission while not giving equal time to the husband’s leadership role. If the goal is to get to the bottom of this submission problem with humility and courage, you have to talk about the entire issue, not half of it.
Ironically, this “struggle with submitting narrative” is acted out in our country every day through politics. The government is making laws that are contrary to the Bible and the Christians are rightfully struggling with submitting to the government’s lack of biblical adherence.
If some of these authoritarian husbands followed their advice, they would stand up, keep quiet, and salute the flag regardless of what their beloved government did.
I don’t necessarily disagree with the Christian’s political apologetic or their lack of absolute submission, but I do think it’s hypocritical to be so, well, hypocritical when “authoritarian men” don’t apply the same logic or biblical scrutiny to their marriages.
The sword some of these authority types have sharpened to cut away political authoritarianism needs to be turned on themselves to cut away the scales that have blinded their eyes from addressing just one side of the leadership, submission conundrum.
No Behavioral Modification
Another instructive observation about the biblical submission issue is the lack of discussion about root-causes. A disproportionate amount of conversation is about the wife’s outward behavioral job of submitting to her husband.
This shallow approach to the problem is unfortunate because it leads to spiritual, psychological, and emotional bondage at best and irreparable physical harm at worst. No Christian discipler worth his salt would hang out at the surface of any problem, especially this one.
It should be evident that if a woman is not submitting to her husband, there is something under the surface of her life, her marriage, and probably her husband’s life that is hindering her. Here are ten possible reasons.
- She is afraid to submit because of sexual abuse as a child.
- She was reared by a verbally and/or physically abusive father.
- She struggles with habituated patterns of fear because of fallenness. This “Adamic shaping influence” is not her fault but an outcome of the fall.
- She has a small soul (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
- She does not know what submission looks like or how to do it. If she is similar to the way I was, she has no “template” on what it’s like to be a wife or mother.
- She is a new Christian.
- She imbibed on feministic, egalitarian teaching.
- She was trained to be self-reliant. (Self-sufficient people have a hard time relying (trusting, submitting) on others.)
- She watched her dad abuse her mother and swore it would never happen to her.
- She is on medication, which keeps her in cycles of erratic behavior.
This short list about the woman does not get into a comparable list about what a husband brings into the marriage that would inhibit her from submitting. Without question, he has his own baggage that is attached to the marriage. We all do (Romans 3:23).
If a wife is not submitting, the problem is a lot bigger than her lack of submission. If your only answer is to submit, you have not honored God or served the wife you just “cliche-ed her.” If you force her to submit without helping her and her husband, you might as well tie a millstone around the marriage and toss them both into the ocean.
If your first impulse is to talk about her lack of submission, it begs the question, do you want to find out why she is not submitting or is your goal just to get her to submit?
Call to Action
- Is your goal to help resolve the lack of submission problem in a marriage?
- If so, will you make sure you talk comprehensively about this problem rather than just focusing on the wife?
- Will you address the entire one flesh, which always includes the husband?
- Will you do more than say “submit” to the wife but deal with the matters of their hearts, which are always the sources of the submission problem?
- If you have not dealt with heart issues or the husband in any marriage/submission situation, will you confess your sins to that wife and her husband?
Also published on Medium.