When I talk to other conservative Christian Men about marriage, I often hear about the complementary theological views, wives submitting to husbands, and men only in Church leadership. However, when I look at other aspects of these same men’s lives, I sometimes see that they are tyrannical in their man first attitude of life. I’m definitely not saying this is all conservative Christian men, or even the majority, only that it is present enough to be addressed publicly. There are several verses that these men often use to support this behavior; here are a couple of them:

Col 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

Eph 5:24 But as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

You’ll notice in both of these, scripture says to submit. It does not say to be subservient. While submission is similar to subservience, there have different connotations.  I’ve looked up the two words in the Merriam-Webster dictionary and this is what I find referring to people:

Definition of SUBMIT

transitive verb

1: to yield to governance or authority

intransitive verb

1: to yield oneself to the authority or will of another: surrender

2: to defer to or consent to abide by the opinion or authority of another

 

Definition of SUBSERVIENT

1: useful in an inferior capacity : subordinate

2: serving to promote some end

3: obsequiously submissive: truckling

When you look, submit is a yielding or consenting to be led by another. However to be subservient is to go one step further. Look at the third definition of subservient; obsequiously submissive. Obsequiously is akin to fawning affection; the way we describe a dog’s affection for his master. Throughout history, many men have sought this kind of relationship from their wives, some even treating their dogs better than their wives. This is not the way that scripture calls for and this is not how a Hardcore Christian Man treats the women in his life.

Look again at those definitions. Do you see that submit is mentioned in subservient’s definition but not the other way around? If God had intended for us to use the more severe of these two definitions, don’t you think that the word use would have matched? Instead all of the inspired authors of scripture use submit both in terms of marriage and discipleship to God. This is a show of God’s love. He does not want to lead us with an iron fist, but with a loving hand. He protects us and guides us, just as husbands are called to protect and guide their family.

Jam 4:7 So submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Look again at Ephesians 5:24 (above). It says that wives should submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ. Would you want Christ to command you in the way that a tyrant commands his subjects, as serfs? Why should our wives be commanded as serfs by us then? They submit to our guidance; they are not subservient to our rule.

I think a better way to think of submission is this: it is a partnership. In the case of Man and Christ, we are the junior partners, while Christ is the executive or senior partner, giving us guidance but allowing us to have physical input into the labor. So then should be a marriage, a partnership. Just as Mark 10:7-8 tells us, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother, and the two will become one flesh.” We are joined together as one through marriage. So, just as we partner with Christ through acceptance of Salvation, we partner with our wife by accepting the covenant of marriage. The husband is the head of the family, but he leads as a servant, just as Christ showed through His example.

I’ll talk more about servant leadership in a later blog, but it is an important concept. We best lead as Christ led. Christ led through giving up His ability to command and instead walked alongside His Apostles, leading and teaching. He led from among, treating us with dignity instead of as dogs. This is what we should do, men. When someone tells you to “Man up” they are not telling you to take control, but to join in and do your part. Doing your part is leading, not commanding.

I encourage you to study your Bible with this thought in mind, “How can I lead my family and wife as Christ leads the Church?” I think you’ll be surprised at how different His leadership is than yours.

Until the Whole World Knows,

Paul

Scripture references are from http://net.bible.org/. Definitions are from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/.

Comments
  1. Nice post brother. I’m not quite married yet, but I’m getting closer. Thanks for the thought!

    • Paul S says:

      Not just a topic for us married men, though. Think about how many times “submit” is repeated in scripture? It is used 40 times (in the original Greek) in the NT. It refers to how we should be to the Lord, how we should treat our fellows, and how we should treat our family. With Paul’s comments about staying single, he sure did talk about marriage and family a lot!

  2. Tim Davies says:

    Dear Brother in Christ,

    Thank you for your post. I am in agreement with what you have to say. However, I think that we have become so politically correct these days that we tend to discount certain truths in scripture. I looked up your reference in Webster’s and found that it also pointed to subordinate. So, in order to follow this fully, I looked up subordinate as well and it said as follows “2: submissive to or controlled by authority”.
    If we refer back to Genesis we read in 3:15b “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” By definition, this places a woman positionally in a place of subordination to her husband. However, us men, being what we are, used this as a club over our wives and necessitated Jesus to clarify how we were to operate within this God-declared relationship.
    Even though it is true that positionally subordination exists as God has declared in His word, we are as men of Christ to rule first in submission ourselves to a holy God – and through that relationship, in the grace and love and sacrifice he has demonstrated, we love and lead our families.
    I think however we cannot say that Genesis is irrelevant just because the word “submit” appears in the new testament and “subservient” is only implied by decree in Genesis. It is unfortunate that we continue to see even being subservient to our Lord is a bad thing. It is a wonderful thing when done in love.
    Just my thoughts

    Be blessed

    • Paul S says:

      I appreciate your comment! Thanks for stopping in. I agree with what you are saying, until we look at the current connotation of the word, that is when we must revise our words. The meaning of a word in culture does mean a lot in how we share the message. We are slaves to God’s will, but our wives are not slaves to us, she is a slave to God. The scripture you reference in Genesis 3:15 is descriptive, not prescriptive. God was not telling man to rule over our wives, he was telling our wives that they would be ruled by an abusive tyrant. I did some more looking into this after seeing your comment though, as studying and reviewing our past study is always helpful. I actually found something I had not seen before. In Genesis 2:18, “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him.” If you follow the link, you’ll see I went to the NETbible this time. Instead of just looking at the scripture, I also looked at the footnotes. You’ll notice that I bolded “companion” above. This is because there is a special note about the use of this word instead of the traditional “helper.” The explanation goes back to the original hebrew, where עֵזֶר (’ezer). is used. I would explain this, but the note included does it better than I can:

      Traditionally “helper.” The English word “helper,” because it can connote so many different ideas, does not accurately convey the connotation of the Hebrew word עֵזֶר (’ezer). Usage of the Hebrew term does not suggest a subordinate role, a connotation which English “helper” can have. In the Bible God is frequently described as the “helper,” the one who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, the one who meets our needs. In this context the word seems to express the idea of an “indispensable companion.” The woman would supply what the man was lacking in the design of creation and logically it would follow that the man would supply what she was lacking, although that is not stated here. See further M. L. Rosenzweig, “A Helper Equal to Him,” Jud 139 (1986): 277-80.

      The other two notes in this section are also really awesome, addressing the definition of “good” and the meaning of “correspond” in this context. Reading this has made me understand complementarianism even better. I hope this has helped you better understand what I was trying to say in this post. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I’ve said.

      • Tim Davies says:

        Paul,

        Thanks for your thoughtful response. I agree with some of what you have to say, but these are my thoughts on your reference to Genesis 2:18, You are correct as it relates to the context of the verse.
        However, that was before the fall in the garden. Our relationship with God and one another changed because of that disobedience. It was meant to be different of course, but we fell just the same and then God issued a new declaration because of our fallen state.
        I do not propose that men be “tyrants” over their wives. That could not be farther from what I am trying to say. Christ has made it clear how we are to love them – with that sacrificial love He demonstrated to us.
        I do believe though, that just as our relationship with God changed (and not for the better) at the fall, that He makes it clear in Genesis 3 that our relationships with one another changed as well.
        In the new covenant that Christ has brought us, I feel we can come closer to what God had originally intended. That does not release us, I believe, though from the decree that was given by God in the garden.
        Personally, I cannot wait for the day when I am in His presence and no longer have to struggle with this sin nature which makes us fall so short of God’s perfect plan.

        Your thoughts?

        Be blessed my brother.

  3. chris says:

    They are both designed to make a.literal slave of a wife in marriage

    • Paul S says:

      I have to ask, did you read the piece? Genesis tells us the Eve was made as a helper. Paul’s epistles tell the wife to submit to her husband. They also tell the husband to love his wife as Christ loves the Church. It is not a slavery that scripture teaches, though to understand it as many English speakers have taught, it does look that way. That is what I am trying to explain, the husband should look to his wife for help in all things, but on his shoulders rests the mantle of leadership. If she will not follow his leadership, then she is undermining God’s design. If he will not lead, he is failing to follow God’s design. Does that help you understand?

      • Paul S says:

        Look up at the earlier comments. We address this topic when talking about what the Hebrew word עֵזֶר (ezer) means.

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