Today, as I was leaving my daughter's Christian preschool, I overheard my good friend(whom is a Bible-believing Christian), involved in a conversation with another mom (whom is not a Christian), discussing what it means to be in submission to one's husband. As the conversation went on, another Christian mom and myself got sucked into the conversation as well, since our friend was giving us the "help me out here" look.
In today's context, let's face it, submission has bad connotations associated with it. I looked up "submission" in Webster's Dictionary, and this is what it said:
1 a: a legal agreement to submit to the decision of arbitrators b: an act of submitting something (as for consideration or inspection) ; also : something submitted (as a manuscript)
2: the condition of being submissive, humble, or compliant
3: an act of submitting to the authority or control of another
I think in today's society, sadly, people only think of submission as #3. When they hear Ephesians 5:22 or Colossians 3:18, they think it means a man has the green light to absolute control over a woman. And the idea that anyone has absolute power over another human being just sounds so wrong, like abuse or slavery - 2 things our culture absoultely doesn't condone in most circles/societies. And for good reason, obviously.
So what is the Biblical definition of a wife's submission to her husband? I went to the good ol' Strong's Concordance (if you don't have one, get one!) and looked up the famous, "Wives submit yourselves unto your husbands..." (Eph. 5:22/Colossians 3:18) verse(s) for some insight. What a lot of people know, and many non-Christians point out all too readily, is that some of the language has lost its "potency" (though it has NOT lost its meaning, sovereignty, or relevance!!) in translation from Greek to English; Greek is a much more complex language, with far more words and meanings. (The word "love" for example -- there are 4 different "loves" in Greek.) So, the best way to approach this wasn't to go off "face value" or my own conjecture, but to go right to the source - the original Greek. This is what the Strong's says:
1) to arrange under, to subordinate
2) to subject, put in subjection
3) to subject one's self, obey
4) to submit to one's control
5) to yield to one's admonition or advice
6) to obey, be subject
This word was a Greek military term meaning "to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader". In non-military use, it was "a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden".
I found this VERY enlightening!
Backing up to our conversation a bit... The mom who was questioning wifely submission kept asking for examples of what exactly submission meant when practically applied. We explained that a marriage is supposed to be a partnership. Yes, the man is the godhead of the family, and the wife is the helpmeet, but a man isn't supposed to lord over his wife and have control over her. That IS abuse, and it is absolutely wrong! We further explained that submission is actually the priviledge of trusting your husband to make the best choices for his wife and children. Submission is ultimately about trust, communication, and partnership. Sadly, she failed to see the distinction. She still saw it very black and white; its either a man has control over his wife's life and decisions, or its a partnership of equals. Which unless you really apply and live it out, it really is one or the other. (But it certainly didn't stop us from trying to explain what is largely unexplainable.)
I do believe Jeremy and I absolutely are equal partners in our marriage, but we do have very different roles. I don't believe he has control over me. He LOVES me and trusts that I will do the best job I can in my decisions regarding myself, him, our marriage, and our children. And likewise, I trust him.
What I find interesting is, within a Biblical/historical context, submission is a choice, it is NOT forced! So if a man does "force" his wife into submission via abuse or manipulation, he is outside the bounds of God's true Word and intentions.
What people also fail to recognize (or read in general) is that the verse doesn't stop with the woman's job, and they think its much harder than the man's job. The verse goes on to say, "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church." Well, we all know Christ loved the church - past, present, and future - because he died for us. That is a total no-brainer. Laying down your life for someone else is ultimate, selfless love. So if husbands are supposed to love their wives at that extreme of a level, then they really DO, in my opinion, have the harder job! Love isn't about the "ooey gooeys"; love is about sacrifice and putting someone else's needs above your own. And Christ has called men to do that very thing in everything concerning their wives. (Talk about pressure!) So while wives are called into voluntary service (like the military - nobody forces them to serve, that is each soldier's choice) to their husbands, husbands are called to lay down their every desire, want, and decision to the ultimate benefit of their wife.
So if a man is supposed to continually lay down his life to the ultimate benefit of his wife and family, then we ARE equal partners! Or actually, when you break it down like that, the man does have the bigger responsibility. We wives are called to serve our husbands on a pretty small scale compared to our husbands. Our job is to serve and honor our husband (and the Lord, of course!), but their job is to uphold and make the best decisions for his wife and entire family. Our job is to lighten his load, his job is to carry it.
To bring it one step further before wrapping this up, if you think of it in military terms, there HAVE to be ranks! If everyone thought they were in charge and could perform any duty within the military, and there were no checks and balances, when we went into war it would be mayhem and we would get annihilated! Much in the same way, when the rubber meets the road in a marriage, the husband and wife need to know their positions, their rank, and their roles in order to do their best to get through the "war."
I could go on and on, but I found this so enlightening and encouraging! And I hope it enlightens and encourages others. :)