We’ve been talking about submission this month, and today I want to ask a simple question: Who should we ultimately follow?
I’m trying to dedicate every Wednesday in the month to one simple theme. Last month we talked about the MBTI personality inventory and marriage; this month we’re talking about submission. And I have more than four posts in me, so I thought I’d take today to write an additional one, even though it’s not Wednesday!
Yesterday I was talking about how submission to your husband doesn’t mean that he makes all the decisions. I frequently get into conversations with people about this, because the main point I want to make is that ultimately, we’re supposed to be doing God’s will. In a marriage, then, what’s the best way to ensure that God’s will is done?
To me, it seems obvious that you wrestle things out together. After all, if you disagree on something, and then the husband decides what you do, there are only two possibilities: either one of you isn’t hearing from God, or both of you aren’t hearing from God. If, instead, you decide to pray it through, talk it through, ask others for help, and wrestle it through until you’re in agreement, then there’s more likelihood that both of you will indeed be hearing God’s voice.
When I talk to people about it, I tend to ask this question: “What happens when you disagree?” I want people to work through the fact that assuming that he should make the decision does not necessarily mean that you’re doing God’s will.
Recently, though, I was involved in a discussion on Twitter with a man that just wasn’t going anywhere. But as I pushed, I realized what the issue was, and it helped me to see the more husband-centered marriage theology in a new way.
They never disagreed on a decision, you see, because he always made the decisions with virtually no input.
Here’s how it works:
He believed that God called him, as the husband, to lead and make decisions. Therefore, whenever he led and made a decision, he was ipso facto doing God’s will.
But that’s rather circular, because what it’s saying is this:
Because God asks me to make a decision, when I make a decision, that decision is automatically God’s will.
We have now equated a husband’s will with God’s will. And that is highly problematic.
What if in a disagreement, our husband’s will doesn’t match God’s? Does our husband still have the final say? A better way to look at submission in marriage.
He honestly believed that if his wife were to have input, then they would not be operating as God intended. The only way to have a marriage that is God-centered was to do what the husband felt was right, and never do what the wife felt was right. If they did what the wife thought was right, then they would be disobeying God. The wife’s views, then, became irrelevant and unimportant.
This may sound bizarre, but I actually really appreciated that Twitter conversation, because it opened my eyes to how some people do view submission. Indeed, if you believe that what God wants most in marriage is for a husband to make the decisions while the wife follows, then giving her a chance to follow a decision she disagrees with becomes more godly than working through a problem together. If the best way to obey God is to obey your husband’s decisions, then if you agree on something, you don’t actually have the opportunity to obey your husband–and thus obey God. It sets up this really strange dynamic where disagreement becomes more godly than unity!
If you believe God wants a husband to make decisions while the wife follows, then giving her a chance to follow a decision she disagrees with becomes more godly than working through a problem together. Anyone see a problem with that?
God doesn’t want marriage to be a place where the husband gets his way. God wants marriage to be a place where God gets His way.
2. There is no mediator or substitute for God on earth.
You cannot claim that the way to obey God is to simply follow what someone else says. Peter said, “We must obey God, rather than man.” (Acts 5:29). Paul wrote that the only mediator we have between God and us is Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). Women do not have an additional mediator in our husbands; we are called to obey God first and foremost.
The only mediator we have between God and us is Christ. A husband is not his wife’s mediator.
3. God’s main desire is not that we have power, but that we serve.
So much of marriage theology is centered around who has power, and I think this neglects the heart of the gospel. As Jesus said in Matthew 20:25-28 (NIV):
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
When we start saying, “Oh, but someone needs to have power!”, we’re missing the point. Jesus never asked that. Jesus said, “who can serve?” (And, indeed, that’s what we’ll be looking at next week when we see what submission really means in marriage!)
So much of marriage theology is centered around who has power, but God’s main desire is that we serve, not that we have power.
4. We are never to follow anyone into sin.
God is very clear that we are responsible for ourselves, and there is never an excuse for sin. Adam and Eve got in a lot of trouble for trying to blame others for their own sin!
Most people would agree with that, even those who say that the man should make all decisions in marriage. However, you can’t simultaneously believe that submission means following his decisions and also believe that we shouldn’t follow anyone into sin, because of Ephesians 5:24:
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
In everything. No ifs, ands or buts. If submission is about decision making, then wives should follow every decision. If, on the other hand, we’re called to faithfully serve our husbands in everything, then the verse makes perfect sense.
So next week I’ll issue my challenge to you (and it’s a big one!) on what it means to serve our husbands in everything. That’s what Jesus wants us to do. That’s what He modeled to us. And that is the heart of the gospel, and His will for wives in marriage.
- What Sarah teaches us about submission
- What Jesus would say to those who believe a legalistic view of submission (and marriage)
- Is Submission about Decision-Making?
- Who Are We Following–Jesus or our Husbands? (this one!)
- What Submission Really Means (It’s about Serving!)
Don’t forget to check out 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, which covers all of this, plus more, in greater detail! You really can create peace in your marriage when you focus on serving each other and following God.