Last week I posted this article on submission that drew some sharp criticism from some quarters (women especially) and accolades from others (still majorly from women, thankfully). As much as I had hoped to post a different piece this week, I felt it fair to revisit last week’s and hopefully serve due diligence to the few issues that were raised. Two took center stage; the concern that I was in some sense against women empowerment and the question of whether submission is exclusively for women or for men too in marriage.
I’ll go for empowerment first, my hunch being that it’s simpler a beast to dismember. I believe it was birthed as a righteous response to the suppressive attitude men have over the years looked on women with. And that it still is a good thing despite being checkered by hints of rebellion against what had always been the norm; male domination. In relation to submission, quoting a good friend of mine Vivian, empowering women has the upside of creating a submission that is out of willingness and not out of compulsion/ desperation because you wouldn’t do anything without the man.
The dominant trend with most women has been that whenever they rise a top the corporate world, they soon lose the reverence they had for their husbands. Still that wouldn’t be a basis for anyone to fight their empowerment. So, I’ll ask this: is empowerment what leads to submission? And is the lack of it what leads still to submission? I know these two questions would draw a roomful of thoughts and some quite compelling arguments. My take, however, is that neither leads to submission. Both have the capacity to enhance it or hamper it, but none orchestrates it.
I think submission is a thing of the heart. A quality one can either possess or lack, however schooled or illiterate, however senior or junior at the work place. It is that nature of Christ that comes with dying to self. Something no one woman would claim to be naturally gifted at but that they all can work on daily and grow to its perfection. Ever crucifying their independence loving selves with Christ and resurrecting to His humble nature that has no reservations toward being led, by their men.
Now onto whether only women are privileged, not burdened or tasked, with submission, or men should ganduka (that’s submission in Kinyarwanda – the only vocabulary I picked when I visited Kigali over Christmas) too. Ephesians 5:21 says that everyone should submit to one another. This offered a very strong defense for those who felt submission ought to be inclusive of everyone, especially in marriage. I’m sure the thought of how that plays out leaves men with butterflies in their stomachs. Is it not scripture anyway?
In my opinion, I encounter in the scriptures what I’d call two types of submission. There is the specific kind; exclusively commanded to wives. Then the general kind every being traced from Adam is charged with. The first refers to the woman willingly and consciously placing herself under the leadership of this man she trusts will lead her just right. You’ll find this a bit upsetting, but not even kids have this expectation over them when it comes to relating with their parents or any other authority. It is specially designed for and required only of women in a marriage.
I say this because this first level of submission has to be a choice action. Now kids don’t chose to be born to their parents. The respect required of them for their parents comes from a different background to that required of wives to their husbands. This first level is what I wrote about last time and suggested should be joyfully embraced for this one reason: it is the most liberating act to any married woman. Her surrender is her freedom, and her loss her gain (check previous article).
The second type generally commanded to everyone in Ephesians 5:21 must be referring to the faithful fulfillment of our responsibilities to each other. How would a man, for example, submit to his wife and children? I believe by honoring that which is Biblically required of him over them. He should love his wife and be faithful to her, clothe his family, feed them, etcetera. Children will fulfill it by respecting their parents and every authority God has placed over them. Slaves (equivalent of employees today) submit by respecting their seniors and faithfully discharging their duties. Masters or bosses in turn submit by treating their subjects in all fairness and kindness.
Authority remains, but somehow all get to submit. Wives or children do not become husbands or dads though men submit to them in this sense. Uhuru doesn’t become our subject and we take his place of presidency though he submits to us in this manner. Everyone, simply, is to take on the humility of Christ and consider others better than themselves (Phil 2:3). We place others first and seek to serve them. That’s exactly how we submit to each other.
Now, since it is men that have been charged with loving their wives, does it mean then that wives shouldn’t worry about loving their husbands? If this were it, then scripture would be self-opposing. All through it God commands everyone to love. And no marriage would function at its maximum when only one party to the covenant was faithful to loving. My mentor Allert says that the reason Paul addressed the men on love and the women on submission was because these are their respective struggles. It wasn’t a new command he was establishing, but an old one. He was just restoring an audience that had veered off the design.
To both struggles Christ offers a way out; Himself. Actually, please get to check out this inexplicable article on marriage by the one blogger I’ve always admired and learned so much from. In fact, just read everything on his blog if you can. That aside, if Jesus is that high priest who has been tempted in every way that we can be tempted (Heb 4:15) then He must relate with men’s temptation to not love and women’s to not submit. “How?” you ask.
Two significant events in Jesus’ life offer us an understanding of how he dealt with and overcame both these struggles. How the husband of the Church modeled both the submissiveness of a wife and the love of a husband.
- When Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness to mark the start of His ministry, He neither used His power as God to make bread and satisfy His human hunger nor did He allow His human self to worship Satan for the allure of earthly kingdoms. First because He fully submitted to God’s authority and reserved all His worship for Him alone (illustrating the wife) and secondly because He loved man enough not to entertain anything in exchange of the redemption plan He had for him (the husband).
- During His transfiguration at Gethsemane towards the end of His ministry, staring His imminent suffering in the eye (He even wished the cup of suffering be taken from Him) and with an ability to put an end to it, Jesus chose not to back out. First because He longed to glorify His Father and entirely submitted to His will (not my will, but yours be done) – the wife. Secondly, because He loved His bride the Church so much, He would give away His very life for her; however painful – the husband.
We therefore learn to submit by imitating how Jesus submitted to God the Father. We also learn how to love from the way The Son has loved His bride the Church. The above two events draw me to conclude the following concerning submission and love;
- In the wilderness, Satan seemed to have all authority. The Father seemingly completely out of the scene, perhaps watching from the heavens how the Son was suffering. What did Jesus do? He followed through with the Father’s plan in as much as He (the Father) did seemingly nothing to save Him (the Son) – The challenge for women is to submit when their husbands seemingly can offer them nothing. That moment when it is you who pays the bills, puts the kids through school and buys the food even as your husband eats. He may not necessarily be broke, but you have more than enough too, you could do just fine without him. Be careful not to start disrespecting him.
- Jesus could have in a snap of a finger made bread out of stone if He wanted to. He had the power. However, doing anything the devil suggested could have eternally compromised the fate of His bride. So He restrained Himself – The challenge for men is to love and remain faithful to their wives when they have all other things they could need. When you hit the pinnacle of your career, the world celebrates and respects you, money is never a worry and you have such lovely kids you adore. Be careful not to think you don’t need your wife and begin to take her for granted.
- At Gethsemane, Jesus stood in the face of the ultimate cost He would pay a few days later in Calvary; His crucifixion. This would be the heaviest price ever paid and He had a choice to decline – The challenge for both men and women will be to love and submit, respectively, when the inevitable consequence to that choice is a heavy price you wish you didn’t have to pay. That moment your only act of love or submission is by letting your career take a fall, or letting some treasured relationship that functions counter productively to your marriage die. Be careful not to start thinking you can find another way around it.
Our hope is in Christ. He has gone before us. He overcame every temptation and so will we, all through Him. We will love and submit by His grace. Amen!!