Biblical Submission

“[A woman] is to obey her husband as if he were God Himself. She can be as certain of God’s will when her husband speaks as if God had spoken audibly from Heaven.”[1]

And thus,

“[She has] freedom from having to take the consequences of making decisions.”[2]

This, according to Elizabeth Rice Handford (author of the “classic resource”[3], Me? Obey Him?) is what submission looks like.

The true biblical definition of submission is neither “obedience” nor “exemption from accountability”. Biblical submission does not shape wards, subordinates or dependents. It is not the opposite of strength, competence and maturity. Rather, it is “serving one another humbly in love” (Gal. 5:13) and “in humility valuing others above ourselves” (Phil. 2:3), and it is a way of living we are ALL called to, regardless of gender or marital status.

[1] Elizabeth Rice Handford, Me? Obey Him?, p. 34
[2] Elizabeth Rice Handford, Me? Obey Him?, p. 67
[3] Typical example of conservative evangelical praise for this book:

The Model Wife

I like listening to music on a Christian radio station while I’m driving, but they do throw in the occasional pep talk as part of the bargain.  One day the hosts were talking about a friend who was having marriage difficulties. Apparently her husband was behaving in a hurtful way and she didn’t know how to handle the situation. Their advice?

“Your husband is your spiritual covering. You need to be his follower. If something is bothering you, simply pray about it. If he needs to change, God will take care of it.”

I could not help but think of Sapphira’s story. A woman who followed her husband’s lead, supported him loyally and, if she had any misgivings about his decisions, she left them all in the Lord’s hands. The model wife.Christ-Husband-Wife-Covering-Umbrella-200x300

Which is why the Lord praised her and gave her to us as an example to follow.

Oh wait, except that’s not how the story went.

Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. | Acts 5:9-10

How embarrassing for the spiritual covering theorists.

This is the thing: if your husband is being a brat, he needs a true friend (Proverbs 27:6) not a groupie. If he is doing something wrong (which includes wronging you, or your children), you don’t get spiritual points for keeping quiet.

It’s a mistake to confuse humility with servility, or gentleness with weakness. The model wife has an opinion and a voice, and she does not act the part of a subordinate (because marriage is not a chain-of-command, and domineering is disrespectful behavior which should not be a feature in any relationship). These are qualities that make her a worthy companion.

We really need to find healthier, saner, more practical and more biblical marriage advice to offer. Here are a few things I came up with:

  • Be honest with your husband because relationships are built on communication.
  • Pampering someone’s ego is not respectful or loving.
  • Remember that although you are a team, you are also two individual people responsible before God. There is no such thing as someone acting as a “covering” for you, or standing in front of you before God.
  • Praying about situations is vital but it does not replace actual relationship work.