The word alone causes my heart rate to increase and my eyes brim with tears. I find the theology of submission in a religion that promises freedom in Christ absolutely maddening.
I’ve spent many hours attempting to tame my language in this series. My sincere hope is that my passion for women comes across without too much scorn for submission. Honestly, I tried. My desire is that you read through this series with an open mind, knowing that my only goal is to argue for a new understanding and not against any one person or people.
In the words of Leslie Knope: “If I seem too passionate, it’s because I care. If I come on strong, it’s because I feel strongly. And if I push too hard, it’s because things aren’t moving fast enough.”
Buckle up, this is only Part 1.
Freedom in Christ / Submission in Marriage: Why I don’t submit to my husband, Part I
I. Paul Wasn’t Jesus
But it’s true.
Paul. Was. Not. Jesus.
(Paul never even met Jesus in the flesh.)
Was Paul a great guy? Sure, maybe. Did he help spread the gospel? Absolutely. But was he God in person? Nope. So when I read something that Paul wrote and it seems to contradict the way Jesus treated people- you bet your boots I’m going with the J-man.
When Paul said “Women, be silent in church”
But Jesus said “Mary, go tell the disciples that I have risen”
I’m going with God.
When Paul told the people of Ephesus: “Wives, submit to your husbands”
But Jesus affirmed, supported, and revolutionized a woman’s role in marriage, and in all his teachings never once told women (or men) what “her place” is…
I’m going with God.
We only have four books in the entire Bible that give us an account of Jesus’ life. In these Gospels, there is ample evidence of Jesus uplifting women. But perhaps more importantly, nowhere in scripture does the Son of God treat women as inferior beings.
II. These verses were written to specific people, at specific times, in specific cultures.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Ephesians 6:5
Just thirteen verses after Paul tells the women of Ephesus to submit to their husbands, he tells slaves to be good slaves. How lovely. And yet, civilization has moved past thinking that owning human beings was A-okay.
Apparently, we haven’t gotten around to rethinking this bachelor’s marital advice. Paul is writing to a culture where women cannot own property, they cannot ask for a divorce, they cannot work or study scriptures. Paul’s assertion that women should submit to their husbands may well have made good sense at the time. But thankfully we’ve evolved, albeit slowly, into a much more egalitarian society.
Here is a short list of other New Testament commands that culture seems to have moved past:
Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Luke 16:18
Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 1 Corinthians 7:27
But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 1 Corinthians 11:5
The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak. 1 Corinthian 14:34 (like completely silent, don’t speak at all… not in Sunday school, not in women’s group, not in praying for one another. Shut your trap ladies!)
Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. James 5:14 (better cancel that flu shot appointment)
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear. 1 Peter 3:3
Oh, but you are taking these out of context!
And that was for a specific situation!
It was an exaggeration!
It was a cultural thing!
We view such laws as archaic and out of touch, but we hold fast to the theology of submission because it already fits comfortably in our secular patriarchy.
III. Jesus was revolutionary in his relationships with women
When we look at the Gospels- at how Jesus lived- we do not see a man who came to tell women to submit. We see a man who continuously lifted women out of their cultural bondage.
He set time apart to teach women,
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. Luke 10:38-39
and to heal them.
Now Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever. They told Jesus about her right away. So he went to her bedside, took her by the hand, and helped her sit up. Then the fever left her, and she prepared a meal for them. Mark 1:30-31
He even likened himself to a women (completely unheard of at this time)
“…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Luke 13:34
And it is women who Jesus ultimately chooses to share the good news that He is Risen.
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Matthew 28:5-8
There is so much more to say on this topic, and I will be coming back to it later in the series.
IV. Why submit yourself to anyone who isn’t God?
Thou shalt have no other Gods before me. Exodus 20:3
If your own religion considers humanity totally depraved, originally sinful, and in need of saving from the pits of fiery hell, why are we okay with married women being submissive to these creatures? According to this theology, we are flesh bags filled to the brim with sinful desires tamed only by constant repentance, adequate “quiet time” and just enough Hillsong music (I’d love to argue this here but there isn’t time and blog posts are only supposed to be like 800 words.)
In my experience, a core component of our religion teaches that it is a women’s role to submit to her sinful, totally depraved husband.
What could possibly go wrong?
Allow me to say my husband of 10 years is quite possibly one of the best humans on the planet. He constantly amazes me with his unending love and (annoying) grace for others. Honestly, it’s like being married to Jesus sometimes.
But even he isn’t perfect. He is human, struggling with his own pain and sin just like I am.
So why are we telling women to submit themselves to anyone or anything other than The Divine?
Stay tuned for Part II.
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