Consider what feminine equality has offered to American couples: series of empty and short relationships comprised of hookups; marriages typified by divorce over even trivial conflicts; a war between the sexes which is becoming more savage and hurtful all the time; and men simply giving up to go their own way. In the face of all this, is the reflexive hate and terror we experience when we hear those dreaded words, “submit to your husbands” really justified? Or is it time to consider that we may have taken a wrong turn and begin looking to God’s design for a better way?
This controversy is about something bigger than the People of Praise or Barrett . Rather, it requires us to defend the most hated Bible verses in America — the very ones that trigger so many of us who grew up indoctrinated with an irrational fear of masculine authority:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (Eph. 5:22-24)
Contrary to the way some Christians try to dissemble, these verses mean exactly what they say. They are not controversial because they are difficult to understand, but because they are simple. The key is Paul’s comparison to the church’s submission to Christ — a comparison so important that he makes it three distinct times in three sentences.
How then do Christians submit to Christ? Not as mindless automatons, but as people with agency and intellect who align ourselves with our Lord’s purpose. We do not bury our talents, but creatively devote them to his Kingdom, according to his instruction, and with the gifts with which God has equipped us. That is precisely how wives are to submit to husbands.
That profoundly transgresses America’s feminist inclinations, but it’s nothing to be afraid of. These words from God — repeated by Paul in his letter to the Colossians and by Peter in his first epistle — are meant for the good of women and men alike. Controversial or not, the common objections against submission are less compelling than we might think — at least once we pause to consider them instead of reflexively protesting.
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