What practical things should we keep in mind when we talk about submission in marriage?
Last week I started a two-part series, (you can read part 1 here What Does Submission in Marriage Mean?) which concludes today.
In last week’s post, we asked ourselves what submission means by looking at a gospel account on the power choice.
Today I want us to look at four practical things to keep in mind because it’s far too easy to talk about submission in marriage without drilling down to it’s actual demonstration in marriage.
But before we jump into the four things, let’s turn to Scripture to understand the foundations of submission in marriage.
What submission in marriage really means in light of God’s grace
The foundation of respect in marriage (respect is another word used in the Bible in place of submission) is the freedom of salvation.
The root of freedom is the grace of God.
Ephesians 2: 8-9 says “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”
Grace is God’s undeserved generosity towards people. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, we are delivered and set free. The grace of God preserves us and comforts, encourages, and strengthens us*
Once Christ sets us free, we are free indeed.
He doesn’t save us to throw another type of bondage on our lap; He sets us free, so we can enjoy a life of freedom, joy and liberty in Him.
Unfortunately, when it comes to submission in marriage, there seems to be a caveat that comes with that freedom.
At least in practice.
We tend to think a wife’s freedom is linked to her husband. Not to Christ.
For example, when a husband is spiritually unhealthy, we feel the wife’s spiritual health is at stake as well.
So she has full freedom in Christ but only as far as her husband is walking in his own freedom. When he drops the ball, she gets hit too.
Another example, a husband gets involved in questionable practices, and instead of the godly wife drawing godly boundaries and sticking to them, she follows along or turns a blind eye because “he is the man of the house.”
In this case, she loves Jesus, but it becomes more important to please her husband and preserve the marriage than to honor Christ.
Do you see a problem there?
Now, most of these beliefs are unconscious; they ride to the surface when we hit a crisis and begin to ask questions and wrestle with fears.It's far too easy to talk about submission in marriage without drilling down to it's actual demonstration in marriage. Read about the four practical things to keep in mind
Now before we go on, let me add this:
In this series, I am not implying that submitting to God and one another other is easy. Not at all. We are called to serve one another and service means self isn’t priority and that hurts.
What I am saying is that, it’s important, when a wife feels used, left out, unseen, unheard, unloved and looked over to pause and reflect on some of the principles guiding her marriage.
Saved because of fear
I don’t know about you, but the reason I became a Christian was because I was afraid of going to hell. I think a lot of people begin there!
In marriage, a lot of wives start with the views that were passed down from mentors, parents, culture, upbringing and life experiences.
And it’s okay to work with what you have at first.
However, God doesn’t want us to stay there. He doesn’t want me to be a Christian because I am scared of hell. He wants me to stay Christian because I love Christ.
In the same way, we should not remain at a beginner’s-understanding of marriage dynamics.
We must dig deeper and explore what it means to be free in Christ and therefore free to serve our spouse in whatever capacity God calls us.
You see, Christianity is not about what I have been saved from but Who I have been saved to.
That’s the heart of marriage too.
To create a love that is not based on roles and responsibilities as the highest dynamic but a deep sense of shared values.
Values like love, honor, service, partnership, reflecting whose we are.
Now, let me pose a question that arrested my heart the other day.
How would your relationship with God, and consequently marriage, look like if you related to God as a Father and friend?
How would marriage be if you allowed His love and affection to be your only driver, not what people say or the reward of checking off another “good-wife” box?
My answer was that it would change everything, including how I approach respect and leadership in my marriage.
See, while our actions matter, it’s the attitude in which those actions are done that carries the day.
You can check all “submission” boxes outwardly but have a lousy attitude on the inside.
Or you can have an appearance of respect, but it never crosses your mind that God doesn’t want your marriage governed by strict roles or bondage.
So let us look at the four things to remember if we want the freedom and liberty of Christ to flood our marriage.
What Submission in Marriage Really Means Plus Four Ways To Discard The Rules
1. Accept the uniqueness of your marriage
While we are led by the same unchanging Word and Person of God, we accept that we are in a personal relationship with Him.
That means we lean on Him for our identity and authority not on what naturally occurs to us, what we’ve heard, what culture feeds us, what the couple next door does etc.
God gave you (and your spouse) different passions, gifting, skills, preferences, personality, life experiences, and values for a reason.
You are not like everybody else, and your marriage will reflect that. The Bible says
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10
It’s okay to be different.
An example, your husband might not be inclined towards balancing books, but you are passionately enthusiastic about all things budgets and accounting.
His little enthusiasm doesn’t make him unmanly, lacking in stewardship or ungodly. It makes you the proper help-meet for him.
Embracing your uniqueness as a couple goes back to intimacy with Christ.
If you want to walk in His freedom and courage and consequently your uniqueness as a couple, you must nurture your relationship with your Creator.
Unfortunately, many of us want an intimate walk with God and the freedom that comes with it but want to skip over the responsibility of the relationship. But Christianity doesn’t work like that.
You can’t operate in your uniqueness as a couple without the enabling of your Creator. So seek God, and He will lead you into all truth.
His grace will provoke you to clear out those stereotypical approaches to marriage and help you thrive as a unique couple.
2. Accept your husband isn’t always right
The Bible is clear – everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s standard. And “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.” 1 John 1:8
The idea that a husband is always right and his wife should always follow what he says is not from Scripture. A husband is as much of human being as his wife.That means he’ll get things wrong sometimes. And that doesn’t make him a lousy husband; it makes him a human husband. Stewardship in marriage isn’t about who is better, more capable or more brilliant.
It’s a service and assignment that we all grow into.The idea that a husband is always right and his wife should always follow what he says is not from Scripture. Here's why plus 4 ways to apply submission in marriage
And that is why marriage is so wonderful. Because two people get an opportunity to plug each other’s holes i.e. help each other where they fall short.
We affirm and celebrate and encourage each other but also respectfully challenge ourselves to grow. We don’t force growth, but we don’t ignore gaps either.
That means when you as a couple don’t agree about a decision; the automatic solution isn’t “he’s the man, let him have the final say.”
Certainly, there are times when we let go of some small issues for the sake of peace; not everything is worth sacrificing your peace, time or sanity.
Other times the spouse with more insight into an area takes the final call because they have more knowledge in that area.
But for the most part, husband and wife should wrestle through decisions together to find God’s best. Not default to “let him decide.”
As a man, if you make decisions without involving your wife, when you don’t engage her because she seems uninterested when you say you include her but really all you do is inform her what you already decided, you are missing out on God’s best for your life.
God gave you a help-meet for a reason.
If you didn’t need help in all areas of your life, you likely shouldn’t have married. “The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, and he receives favor from the LORD.” Proverbs 18:22
Ladies, we are help-meets for a reason. When we roll over without adding value, when we don’t speak up because we are tired, when we quit because our husbands aren’t listening, when are too timid, when we think “he’s the man, let him decide,” we rob our marriages of opportunities to be greater.
Literally, deprive it of God’s best. “A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. Proverbs 14:1Yes, wrestling through decisions together, balancing each other out, helping each other grow is the harder route. We would rather hide behind the “roles” facade than be channels of growth and God’s freedom in our marriages.
Certainly, people will fling mud at the idea that a wife has as many rights and liberties in marriage as her husband.
But what other option do we have? Ignorance isn’t bliss. When we don’t know the truth, we don’t live in truth. Thus we stay bound.
And other people look at us and think “I don’t want that!” We are called to be a light to draw people to Christ through the way we do life and marriage.
3. Accept true love means more, not less
God did not come to dump a set of religious obligations and rules on our lap; He came to set us free in Him.
When you live like love means more, who God says you are becomes louder than what people say you are.
As the clutter clears and you catch a vision of the freedom you have, His voice becomes more evident. You have an inner witness for right and wrong.
You don’t worry about breaking God’s “marriage standards” because you refuse to submit to sin or wrongdoing. You know that guidelines for marriage do not replace their Giver.
Love is deeper than roles and love triumphs over all.
4. Accept that grace does not eliminate consequences
Yes, Gods love changes our eternal address and transforms our internal engine. But until eternity comes, we will feel some of the consequences of our sin right here on earth.
In fact, it’s the pain of our repercussions that sometimes drives us to grace! In a marriage where the freedom of grace is the driver, you allow your spouse to reap consequences.
You know you can’t and shouldn’t fix all hurts and pain.
If your spouse has a problem keeping his vows, you refuse to make that choice for them.
You don’t condone threats of leaving or divorce – you discuss it and draw limits as to what talk is appropriate and what is not.
You see, grace does not replace our will. The same way we said yes to God and yes to our spouse, is the same way we have to continue saying yes to enjoy a good relationship.
Summary and more resources
I’ve dropped a lot of information in this short series and I hope you’ve gleaned a few things. I am a recovering rules-girl myself (read last week’s post!) so I am still growing in this area.
But I want to know how you are are growing – of the four points, what has stood out the most? What is your view of submission in marriage and how are you growing? Let’s talk in Comments below!
I also want to mention two resources that are helpful in exploring submission and freedom-based living.
1. Sheila Gregoire, one of my favorite marriage bloggers, has excellent pointers on how to serve your husband in way that honors God and enriches your marriage. Read the article: Our Submission Series: Do We Know What it Means to Serve our Husbands?
2. Phylicia Masonheimer is a blogger and author who has a beautiful blog which focuses on helping Christians understand why they believe what they believe. If you want to know what it means to follow Jesus in all areas of your life, including marriage, click here to check out her blog and follow her on social media.
Are you wrestling with the overwhelm of new marriage? My book Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily Ever After in the Early Years takes you through the top hot spots of new marriage – including submission and leadership! – and shows you how to thrive. Learn how to kick out fussing, anger, passive-aggressiveness from your relationship. Restore joy, healing and happiness to your marriage. Learn to love better, create the marriage of your dreams, God’s way. Get on the road to a great marriage when you pick up my book Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily Ever After in the Early Years -> Amazon Paperback I Amazon Kindle I Barnes & Noble I PDF I UK/Europe PDF . Or click here to go to book page
*Sources https://www.gotquestions.org/definition-of-grace.html, Faithlife Study Bible
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.