The Beauty of Submission

Titus 2:3-5:  Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Titus is a wonderful book to give us examples as to how we should walk a Christian life. Titus 2 3-5 deals specifically with what a Christian woman looks like – and how older women are to “train” younger women how to model this.

Most of us can sit here and read that verse and find it easy to say, “Of course I love my husband, and I love my children. I’m a kind person who makes her house a home and has self control.” But now we’re getting to the part where a lot of women tend to buck. I think the reason is two-fold: one, society has given this misguided impression that a wife’s submission is the husband’s idea; and two, we think the word ‘submission’ translates to ‘door mat’.

According to the Bible, nothing could be farther from the truth. In Genesis 1:27, we read that God created male AND female in His image. We women are as much in the image of God as men are. In a marriage, wifely submission does not mean male dominance nor does it mean male superiority.

Genesis 2:20-24 says, “I will make him a helper suitable for him…and they will become one flesh.” The term “one” used here is the same term used in Deuteronomy 6:4 describing the Holy Trinity: “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” I think that is a powerful message from God that puts husband and wife as one – one flesh, one in the eyes of God as much as the Trinity of God is one. Genesis 2:20 calls woman man’s helpmate, not “helpless” mate.

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God said: Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) The word “head” here is a military term, not a social placement term. A book I once read (and I’d cite it if I could remember the source) worded it as “first among equals.”

I’m going to put my military wife hat on for just a sec: In the military, someone must be head, there must be order and ultimate authority and responsibility.

militaryIn a biblical marriage as defined by God, that ultimate authority and responsibility is the husband, even though the wife is his equal in the eyes of God.

A lot of modern marriages suffer because couples want to shed this “archaic” concept of “head” and “submission”, and the end result is that husbands and wives try to make themselves the same – treat each other the same – rather than revel in their differences as different sexes. For instance, God commanded men to unconditionally love their wives as Christ loved the church (in that Christ died for her).

We all know that and can recite it by rote. Unconditionally love – so that even when a man’s wife is unlovable, he’s still to love her with the same vigor and passion that Christ gave the church while He was being beaten to the point of not even being recognizable as a human, and then killed in a heinous fashion.

But what we don’t also hear is that women are NOT only commanded to love their husbands, we are primarily commanded to unconditionally respect our husbands. Whether our husband “deserves” respect in our eyes or not, we’re to respect him, to show respect, to freely give it. And submit to him.

Within establishing these commandments, God gave women, deep in their hearts and souls, a yearning to be loved and also gave men, deep in their hearts and souls, a yearning to be respected. I believe that it goes further that men actually yearn to be respected as the head of the household, submitted to as the leader by their wives – by their “one”.

Elisabeth Elliot, an accomplished speaker, writer, and missionary, once made this comment about Ephesians 5:22:

Many are the discussions I’ve heard on this one, almost all of them directed to what it “can’t possibly mean,” rather than to the plain word of the Lord. The statement is simple. Not easy for women like me, but simple, that is, I understand it only too well. (As Mark Twain said, “I have far more trouble with the things I do understand in the Bible than things I don’t understand.”)

The biggest problem women have in submitting to their husbands is a consequence of the Fall. Genesis 3:16 explains, “their [wives] desire shall be for [their] husband[s].” The word desire here actually means an urge to manipulate, control, or have mastery over.

A result of the fall is a desire to rule over our husbands. Isn’t that insane? To submit to our husbands actually goes against our natural sinful nature.

As Carolyn Mahaney says in the book Feminine Appeal, Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother:

So we see that the submissive wife – far from being the weak-willed woman our culture portrays – is actually a model of inner strength. By God’s grace, she has conquered this opposition within her own heart. It is actually weakness on display when a wife is not submissive; she is only caving in to her natural inclination to usurp authority and demand her own way. That doesn’t take any effort at all.

We can use the Apostle Peter’s words as a good outline of submission:

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.  Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.  For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. (1 Peter 3:1-6)

Verse 1 parrots the same words as in Titus 2: wives, submit to your OWN husbands. This is a very clear distinction. This does not say all women submit to all men. It says, wife, submit to YOUR husband.

No one else’s husband, nor any other man for that matter. We should not seek leadership from men other than our own husbands. Wives are subject only to their own husbands.

Peter goes on to say in verse 2 that our attitude should be “respectful and pure.” The Greek word here for “respect” means, “to be in awe of, to revere, or to treat as someone special.” Is this how we treat our husbands? Do our actions, tone, countenance, body language all express respect? Do our husbands feel like they’re treated as someone special?

To be clear, the Bible doesn’t say, “Wives submit if your husband is worthy of respect.” Again, we are commanded by God to respect our husbands and submit to them. Period.

Unless there is a Biblical moral issue at stake (in which God’s authority will supersede our husband’s) then we are to submit to them whether they’ve “earned” it or are “worthy” of it or not.

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Verse 3 tells us that being submissive to our husbands makes us beautiful. This is not an outward beauty. 2 Corinthians 4:16 says that outwardly we are perishing. Looking in the mirror, I can see the years slipping away, gray hairs, wrinkles, places not as firm as they once were. But that is merely outward appearance.

God looks at our hearts, and when He looks at a wife who submits to her husband, He sees beauty. I believe that our husbands will see us as beautiful, too.

While we are to respect and submit to our husbands, verse 5 makes it clear that we aren’t to make them gods. They are humans — fallible sinners. They are not designed to bear the full weight of our dependence. We are still to put our hope in God, to depend fully and completely on Him.

In verse 6, we see a wonderful, beautiful, example of a flawed human being in Sarah – just like us. A woman we can read about, whose life took twists and turns – some of them when she stepped out away from faith and tried to take matters into her own hands, some tested her faith, others tested her resolve, and in the end she came through full of faith, trusting in God, respecting and submitting to her husband. Hebrews 11:11 commended her faithfulness. And it’s through her example and her struggles that we can bolster our own efforts as we grow in our own marriages.

Ultimately, we need to put our faith and trust in God, trust that He will lead our husbands so that our husbands can lead us. In doing so, we will be pure and beautiful in God’s eyes and in our husbands’ eyes. And, importantly, we will provide an example to younger wives, teaching them how God’s word should apply to their own lives.

In Christ,
Hallee

 

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