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I realize submission is a hot topic within Christianity, but civil discussions can proceed if we refrain from engaging the two extreme camps participating in this debate. Those who find the idea of submission repulsive and those whose authoritarianism discolors biblical sense. Between those two groups is an ongoing, unending charitable discussion about how much a wife should submit, which always includes two talking points, not one: her responsibility to submit and a husband’s requirement to lead well.
Suppose a couple is genuinely interested in working through a wife’s lack of submission problem in a marriage. In that case, they must flip the coin and discuss the husband’s responsibility in their one-flesh covenant. We cannot divide and isolate a wife’s submission and a husband’s leadership as though one does not affect the other. It is dangerous to only talk about a wife’s lack of submission while not giving equal time to the husband’s leadership role. If the goal is to resolve a legitimate submission problem with humility and courage, we must discuss the entire issue, not half.
Another instructive observation about the biblical submission issue is the lack of discussion about root causes. This incomplete approach to the problem is unfortunate because it leads to spiritual bondage at best and irreparable physical harm at worst. No Christian discipler worth their salt would hang out at the surface of any problem, especially this one. It should be evident that if a woman is not submitting to her husband, there is something under the surface of her life that is hindering her. Here are ten possibilities.
This short list about the woman should imply a comparable list of what a husband brings into the marriage that would inhibit her from submitting to his inferior leadership. Without question, he has his baggage that gloms on to their marriage. We all do (Romans 3:23). I think about all the problems I brought into our marriage. When you mix the baggage of a man and woman into one flesh, you’ll have a season of complexity. Most of the things from the above list that apply to the woman could also apply to the man, making it wise to examine the entire one-flesh union, not just mandating a wife’s submission.
If our only answer is for her to submit, we have not honored God or served the wife. We will “cliche her” by gaslighting her into behavioral submission without addressing the inner complexities of her soul or whatever complications the husband brings to the marriage. If we go down that road of forced submission without helping them, we might as well tie a millstone around the marriage and toss it into the ocean. If our first impulse is to talk about her lack of submission, it begs the question, do we want to find out why she is not submitting and his role in the marriage problems, or is the goal merely to get her to submit?
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).