Blog Archive

Friday, February 18, 2011

Question of the Week:
Balance in Marital Submission

by Anne Lang Bundy

"I can't promise you that I will bring you all home alive. But this I swear, before you and before Almighty God, that when we go into battle, I will be the first to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off, and I will leave no one behind."
~ Lt. Col. Hal Moore,
from the movie We Were Soldiers
(© 2002 Paramount Pictures)

A biblical look at "Submission to Authority" was planned as one post but is being stretched into three:

February 4: Submit to Bad Government?
February 11: Obedience or Submission?
February 18: Balance in Marital Submission?

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Last week's post ended with these words:

The principle of love acts not according to mere duty, but according to what is in the best interest of both [neighbor] and myself, in light of eternity and God's truth... Where marriage is concerned, the Bible teaches that balance comes not only in understanding the distinction between obedience and submission, but in understanding how both husband and wife submit to each other.

Jesus epitomizes a principle which God stressed most emphatically throughout the entire Bible: the greater the power a person has, the greater the responsibility to use it for good to serve others.

No human has greater power or has served others as sacrificially as Jesus Christ. He is the standard for servant leadership.

The headship of a husband above his wife is not about exercising power and authority, but about leadership and order among equals. The principle is perhaps seen most clearly in the military, where good leadership values and relies upon lower ranking officers, while exercising decisive leadership for the best of all. Good leadership would not think of asking from a subordinate what one would not be willing to do, as seen in the example pictured above.

I have observed two extremes purported to be marital submission.

One extreme says the husband speaks for God, and is therefore heeded without question, perhaps without a wife even thinking to offer input. This approach 1) makes an idol of the husband; 2) denies a husband the value of his wife as a helpmeet; 3) makes a woman a subservient pet at best, a doormat at worst.

The other extreme embraces the "forgiveness is easier to obtain than permission" mantra, with a wife doing her own will unless expressly forbidden by a husband. Such an approach 1) disregards the high price of forgiveness; 2) is blind to the high cost of lost trust in a relationship; 3) undermines the true spirit of submission.

Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is...
submitting to one another in the fear of God.
~ Ephesians 5:17,21 (NKJV)

In a balanced, biblical approach to submission, husband and wife both submit personal will to God first, and each other second. The husband exercises responsible, sacrificial servant leadership, taking the lead in laying down personal desires, and seeking a wife's unique perspective to make informed decisions. The wife follows her husband's lead with a submissive spirit, recognizing that the Lord appoints her husband as a minister for her good, respectfully sharing her relevant knowledge and supporting his final decision unless he chooses a clearly immoral path. Both accept that they're mutually fallible and actively seek God's guidance.

"Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
~ Lord Acton

The above principles of servant leadership, trust, and fallibility also apply to government authority. Esteem the exceptional official who, regardless of political affiliation, behaves as a public servant rather than as a totalitarian prig feeding at the trough of public monies.

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This post originally appeared at Bullets & Butterflies. To see ongoing dialogue in comments posted there click here.

What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @

© 2011 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

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