Is submission degrading for women?

Question:

“what does it mean for a woman to be submissive? it kinda sounds degrading. please explain in detail with examples. thank you :)”

Answer:

The idea of submission is highly perverted in most human cultures. From slavery, to physical violence and rape to economic oppression we see a corrupted view of order. This is because humans are under the plague of sin and pride thereby wish to replace God and elevate self as the highest authority on earth. Once a person begins to value him or herself as the standard for all intellect, righteousness, beauty, and or morality he or she automatically begins to diminish the value of others. The bible tells us that both men and women are equals in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:28) as well as equals in receiving punishment for rejecting God (Rom 3:23). Yet the world we live in is stained with racism, sexism, elitism, and other beliefs that presuppose some people as having an inherent value in them that makes them worth more than other people. To make things harder, while the bible equalizes as everyone as sinners, it also presents us with the idea of submission as something good and valuable in proper context, so how can we reconcile this with the degrading idea of submission we see in the world?

DEFINING SUBMISSION

When referring to interpersonal relationships the Dictionary defines the act of submission as:“to give over or yield to the power, influence, or authority of another and to defer to another’s judgment, opinion, decision, etc.” In 1 Pet 3:1, the apostle tells wives to be “submissive” to their husbands.  The Greek work for submission here is hypotassō, meaning: to arrange under, to subordinate, obey, submit to another’s control, to yield to another’s advice”

Reading the above we can be bombarded by images of wicked slave-owners whipping their slaves in order to force them to obey or all sorts of other diabolical situations. It’s easy to read the above and loosely interpret it as allowing sin stained humans to abuse each other. However, the biblical idea of submission is built upon the idea of servitude. Also the biblical idea of submission involves the submission of every living person, not a type or group of people that are singled out.

SHOULD ONLY WOMEN BE SUBMISSIVE?

The short answer is no. Every person is called to submit to their role, their responsibilities, their neighbors, and their Creator. And while we are to submit to other people, obviously we aren’t called to submit to anyone (pastor, parent, or president) against the Word of God.

Jesus submit himself

First we see that God the son, Jesus Christ submit himself to the will of God the Father Jesus humbled himself and came in the form of lowly man to serve people (Phil 2:6-8). He washed their feet, He obeyed some of their cultural rules, spoke in their language, wore their style of clothes, worked a human job as a carpenter, and even rendered to Caesar taxes (Mat 17:24-27). Jesus submit Himself to such a life and a horrific substitutionary death in order to fulfill the will of God (John 6:38, John 7:16, John 8:42). Jesus did this to show us an example as well as to live the life that we did not in order to attribute it to us by His infinite Grace and kindness.

 Children should submit to parents

The bible tells us that the natural order of things is for children to submit to their parents. This is actually one of the ten commandments in the bible. Paul also reminds us of this in the New Testament (Eph 6:1, Col 3:20). Although in Col 3:21 he sets a rule for that submission, that fathers wouldn’t use submission to make children bitter. This clarifies the heart of submission, that it cannot be done as to cause someone to be bitter.

 Christians should submit to church leaders

All Christians are called to be submissive in a great deal of situations, the first of these to Christian pastors and elders. In Hebrews 13:17, the author tells Christians to obey and submit to their leaders in an effort to cause leaders who are set up to care for Christians. Again in 1 Thess 5:12, Paul reminds the church to respect christian leaders who are set up to care and admonish (give good advice and guidance).

Christians should submit to government

Writing to members of the church in Rome, the very same government that later imprisoned and executed Paul, he tells them to be submissive to the Government (Rom 13:1-2,7). His life served as an example to define when we as Christians must stop obeying the government. The answer is when we cannot submit to both God and Government, we obviously choose God’s law. However, the civic structure is created as a “servant of God” (Rom 13:4) and unless Government is specifically commanding us to disobey God, we are to obey Government.

Christians should submit to each other

Even as Christians are to submit themselves to leaders, leaders are to submit themselves to the people as well. In fact all Christians are called to submit to each other! (Eph 5:21, Gal 5:13, Phil 2:3). When Jesus walked the earth, He taught his disciples a huge lesson, that those who want to be first or best, actually need to become last, that those who want to be leaders, need to become servants.

All people should and will submit to God

The examples above are passages written to Christians and thus we are sure that every type of Christian is called to submit and serve one another, caring not only for self but for your neighbors as well. However, submission isn’t limited to Christians, for one day every knee will bow and submit before Christ Jesus (Rom 14:11, Phil 2:10). God has commanded all humans to submit to Him, those that don’t submit in life, will submit in death.

Submission is a good thing, if everyone submits

Therefore submission as shown in the bible is not a degrading thing, in fact it is a privilege that Jesus offers people. Serving others for the Glory of God part of the purpose of the church. It is good to listen to others, hear their advice, to serve and help them. It is wonderful to have the privilege of helping others and of valuing their problems just as we value our. It is a great thing to uphold your friends and neighbors and place priority on someone other than you. This is one of the signs of a truly repentant heart.

However, due to sin we see a breakdown in the order of submission. If someone does not submit to God, we obviously cannot fully submit to them, at least about things that are contrary to God’s word. If someone forces others to submit by violence, anger, hatred, yelling, racism, bigotry, sexism, manipulation, threats they are clearly they are not in submission to God and we can’t and shouldn’t be wholly in submission to them. So if you feel that submission is degrading, it may be because those that want others to submit, are not themselves fully submitting to Christ and Church.

 

SHOULD ALL WOMEN BE SUBMISSIVE TO ALL MEN?

There are a couple ideas that sexist men have proliferated in order to abuse, degrade, and defile women; I want to underline two. The first is that all women are less smarter and less capable than all men; or that the whole female gender is in all ways at a disadvantage to all of the male gender. This is untrue.

The second popular idea, which stems from the first, is that as a result all women should be submissive to all men. And clearly if all women were dumber, weaker, and inferior, then they should be submissive to all man, serving and obeying everything uttered to them. We do see this in some cultures, especially in history, that the men band together to abuse women and treat them as second class citizens. There were some native American tribes that would force women to do all of the chores and labor while the men sat and smoked in the temple.  This is wrong, abusive, sinful, and goes against Gods order.

The Holy Scriptures never tell every women to obey every man. First women like all people are to submit to their parents when they are children. Later when they are married, the Apostle urges women to submit to their husbands (Eph 5:22-24, Col 3:18-19) as to the Lord Jesus. Their husbands, not their neighbors, their friends, coworkers, and etc. There is a covenant (agreement) between a married man and woman, which closely mimics that between Jesus and Church.

As a sign of partaking in this covenant and being married the wife is to submit to the husband above all other men or women. Just like Christians are to submit to Jesus above all other men and women.

If a wife actually obeys some other man against the wishes of her husband, (or a man loves another woman other than his wife) this is a grave sin that mocks the covenant of Jesus and Church. The people that think all women are inherently worse and should obey every man are all dead wrong (and likely dead in sin.) Now of course this doesn’t mean a woman is to be defiant, loud, arrogant, and violent, she must simply submit to Christ, Church (and parents if she’s still single) just like everyone else.

SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF SUBMISSIVENESS

We have established that everyone is called to submit first to Christ and His word, then to appropriate human entities and actual persons. We have also established that women are not to submit to anyone else in the same way as to their husband, and never submit to other men against the will of their husbands (as husband are never to love someone in the same way as their wife, but only with a sisterly and Christ-like love). So how can a woman be submissive to her husband in a biblical way? I am obviously not a woman or an expert on femininity but here are a few ideas that may help illustrate the beauty of husband/wife submission.

 Be gentle and feminine in conduct

Apostle Peter states that women should imitate their mother Sarah (1 Pet 3:6), who we clearly know was not timid or shy, and while she called Abraham “Lord” out of respect, she was not a timid woman suffering an inferiority complex or abuse. In the same passage Peter tells women they may win their husbands over with their gentle and quiet spirit and conduct (1 Pet 3:4) this doesn’t mean a woman is to be flaccid with lack of character and opinions, conversely with her gentleness and femininity she may actually compel her husband to her side.

Reason with him, but accept his final say

The bible (obviously) does allow a woman to also talk with her husband and discuss important life decisions with him, even to council him, however, the final say is reserved for the (biblically correct and responsible) man. If there are issue where the husband is not loving or in obvious sin, the wife is allowed and encouraged to seek help from the elders as a last resort. Even in these situations don’t yell, or call each other names, but try to win him over with a lovingly gentle character (and if he remains abusive or wicked, the church or the law absolutely needs to intervene).

Serve him as you serve Jesus

Not by an exact copying of worshiping or praying to but by allegorically honoring and loving him. You ask Jesus for protection, guidance, and help, likewise ask and trust your husband to provide for you in and with these. You do good deeds out of your love for Christ? Likewise, out of your  love for your husband, do good deeds that would please him and fill him with joy. Remember you aren’t doing this because you are worse, but because it’s your God given privilege (the husband has his own privilege and responsibility as he submits to Jesus).

Treat your body is his (and his as yours)

In 1 Corinthians 7:4 the Apostle Paul writes an interesting truth, the wife does not own her body, but the husband does. Conversely the husband’s body also belongs to the wife (and this is a huge statement against sexism in a culture that sold women; men also belong to someone, their wives).  In the preceding verses Paul, talking about sexuality clearly says what he means, namely that the wife and husband are to submit to each other and give each other their “conjugal rights” (1 Cor. 7:4,5). This doesn’t mean a wife must forcefully submit to harassment and abuse, no never! Yet she is called to lovingly, with joy, offer herself to a husband who loves her like Jesus loves the church.

Remember gentle submission is your function, not position

As a final note, please contemplate and remember this, submission does not occur because you are worse, but because you are specially created to be your husband’s helper and counselor. It is NOT a sign of how lowly and ungifted you are, but of how specially created you are. Headship and submission is not an issue of who is worse or better, both husband and wife are equal before God, it is an issue of who fulfills their calling and God ordained function. And the husband is not better than you, but God placed upon him the hard responsibility of providing for you and loving you like Jesus. That is his function, and you have yours. These functions aren’t in any position, they are equal. The wife is called to love and respect the Husband like Christ, ready to give her all for him. The husband is called to love his wife like Christ loved his church, even to the point of dying for her.

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