Whoa—Not the "S" Word!

Laura Doyle is a self-proclaimed feminist, but interestingly, after years of marital struggle, she tried an experiment that brought greater intimacy and fulfillment to her marriage. The promotional page of her book states, "The underlying principle of The Surrendered Wife is simple: The control women wield at work and with children must be left at the front door of any marriage.”* Although Doyle may be unaware of it, what she discovered is not a new solution to an age-old problem but is simply the application of Scripture's principle of submission.

Do you cringe when you hear the "S" word? Do thoughts of wimpy women held captive under a domineering husband's authoritarian rule come to mind? Sadly, submission is greatly misunderstood and often misapplied. Before we examine submission, let's establish what it is not.

Submission is not:
  • Offering blind obedience to authority.
  • Enabling totalitarian dictatorship.
  • Suffering abusive treatment silently.
  • Living as a doormat.

Submission is:
  • Recognizing that God is our authority.
  • Willingly surrendering our rights to Him as our Ruler.
  • Setting aside our will for His will.
  • Living in the freedom that comes from obedience.

In the New Testament, the word translated "submit" is a military term meaning "to arrange in military fashion under a commander." Viewing submission from this perspective, we wouldn't argue over the need for one to fill the "commander" role in military combat. Imagine the chaos if there was no recognized "leader!"

Submission occurs even within the Godhead. Each member of the Trinity is equal in essence, worth, and value. But in addition to this equality, there is also a difference in role and function. The Son submits to the Father's will and plan (see John 5:30, 6:38), yet submitting does not make Him any less God. It doesn't demean His worth in any measure. But in a world that promotes independence, self-esteem, and "looking out for number one," submission is derided as weakness.

Ephesians 5 gives a clear description of the authority structure for the home. The wife demonstrates her submission to the Lord by recognizing and submitting to her husband as the spiritual head of the home. The relationship between the Church's position of submission to Christ is used as a parallel for the wife's relationship with her husband. Although this passage is totally counter-cultural and may at first seem to place the woman in a subservient role, in actuality she is being given the highest honor by comparing her to the Church—Christ's treasured possession. The more difficult task actually falls upon the husband, who is required to love his wife as Christ loved the Church.

Without the humility of Christ, submission is impossible. As we grow in Him and begin to follow His example, we'll find joy in our submission to Him and our understanding of submission will deepen.

Look back at my list of what "Submission Is" and what "Submission is Not," and let me know if you've incorrectly viewed submission.

 *Laura Doyle, The Surrendered Wife (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999), Promotional Back Cover.

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About the Author

Kimberly Wagner

Kimberly Wagner

Kimberly Wagner’s passion is Christ, and she desires to ignite women's pursuit of God's glory. She's the author of Fierce Women, and is a frequent guest on the Revive Our Hearts radio program, as well as a regular contributor to the True Woman blog. She enjoys sharing with women and hearing from them about what God is doing in their lives.

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