Theological Thursday – Being a Submissive Woman

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Politics, unorthodox methods of education… I figured I was on a roll this week with the controversial topics.  May as well keep it up.

So the Bible clearly says that women are to be submissive to men.

Right?

Well…

Sort of.

The verse that most often comes up when people (almost always men) are talking about the importance of submission (of women, to them) comes from 1 Peter, chapter 3.

“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.”

This verse has, at times, been taken so wildly out of context it’s just crazy.  A week or so ago, I read a blog which referenced a man explaining that books like “50 Shades of Grey” come from a woman’s desire to be put in her proper place, under the total domination of a man.  Women are, according to him, designed to be conquered, invaded, and dominated.

Uh… yeah.  I have to respectfully (or not) disagree.  Strongly!

The verse above is written in the middle of a fascinating and very encouraging letter.  Peter was writing to 1st century Christians who had not grown up in the Jewish faith, as had Jesus and his disciples.

He speaks of how extraordinary it is to him that these people, who had never seen Jesus, believed with as much, or more, faith as the people who’d walked with him.

He goes on to encourage them to live in such a way that others will notice that there is something that sets them apart.  He tells them to “be self-controlled… do not conform to the evil desires… be holy.”  By living in such a way, they will be sharing the Good News of Jesus without ever needing to speak.

That’s a whole blog post in itself!  How many Christians do you know who’s lives are so much different, so purely and honestly lived that, just by watching them, people are led to God?  Sadly, I bet not many.

Anyway…

Peter then tells them that they should “Submit… for the Lord’s sake, to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors… for it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.  Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil…. Show proper respect to everyone.”

Just because you don’t like the ruler of the land, you are not given permission by God to be disrespectful.  Hmmm….  Are all Christians currently showing the proper respect to the current ruler, whether they agree with all of his decisions or not?  Again… a whole other can of worms.

So the context is that we all have our place in life.

Everyone has someone “over” them.

The slave has a master, the worker has his employer, the governor is sent by the king and the king must answer to God.

“In the same way…”

wives are to be submissive to their husbands.

This does NOT say that women are to be submissive to men.

Wives are to be submissive to their husbands.

Just as the employer and his worker have entered into a partnership, so have the wife and her husband.

Someone has to be the head.

Here in the USA, we live in a republic… no taxation without representation and all that, right?

But there are still ranking government officials, police officers, employers, teachers and others that we must submit to.

Why?

Well, because someone has to be in charge.  If no one is in charge, there are times when nothing will get done.  Someone has to make “the final call” sometimes.  And sometimes, there just isn’t agreement.  When that happens, those of us who are in the submissive position have to deal with the decisions made by those in charge.

Example?

What if everyone who didn’t like the tax laws just stopped submitting to them?

We’d have no roads, no schools, no fire fighters, no clean water…. It would be chaos.  Someone “at the top” has to decide what’s truly important and make it happen and the rest of us need to deal with it.  Is it OK to respectfully disagree?  To ask for change?  To voice our opinions?  Absolutely.  But, in the end, we must submit to the final decisions of our leaders.

But wait!  There’s more!

After Peter tells the wives to be submissive he gives the husbands an extraordinary mission.

“Husbands in the same way (there’s that statement again) be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”

Husbands are not told to “rule and dominate, conquer and invade” their wives!  Quite the opposite!

Husbands should be considerate.

Husbands should treat their wives with respect.

An interesting note, the word, “weaker” is a pretty literal translation.  And I think that’s valid.  There are exceptions, I know.  But, as a rule, women are physically smaller, slower and weaker than men.

The word, “respect” could also be translated, “with great honor.”  “Value.”  “Nobility.”  “An item of great cost.”

Have you ever seen a professional in a museum handle a piece of art? It is delicate, fragile, and priceless and it is ONLY handled with the greatest of love and care.

THAT is how husbands are told to treat their wives.

FURTHER, husbands and wives are made equals in receiving the gifts of God.

God loves them both.  God has given them BOTH showers of blessings.  Including the blessing of a life together.

What happens if a husband doesn’t do this?

Well, the indication is that if the husband turns a deaf ear to his wife, likewise God will turn a deaf ear to him.

Can you guess what Peter says next?

“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another.  Be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.”

This is not an instruction for women to lie down and act as door mats.  This is a guideline for harmony.

Wives, submit to your husband as the head of your household.

Husbands, be a respectful and considerate head of the house.

God desires only for us to live in peace and love.

Why would any of us NOT want that?

We should, each of us, in our place (husband, wife, mother, child, ruler, employer, servant), be ALWAYS an example of God’s love and peace.

We should shine, in our places, and be content.

In that way, those around us will come to do the same and can you imagine how beautiful the world will be then?

If Thou Indeed Derive Thy Light From Heaven

by William Wordsworth

If thou indeed derive thy light from Heaven,
Then, to the measure of that heaven-born light,
Shine, Poet! in thy place, and be content: —
The stars pre-eminent in magnitude,
And they that from the zenith dart their beams,
(Visible though they be to half the earth,
Though half a sphere be conscious of their brightness)
Are yet of no diviner origin,
No purer essence, than the one that burns,
Like an untended watch-fire on the ridge
Of some dark mountain; or than those which seem
Humbly to hang, like twinkling winter lamps,
Among the branches of the leafless trees.
All are the undying offspring of one Sire:
Then, to the measure of the light vouchsafed,
Shine, Poet! in thy place, and be content.

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23 responses »

  1. As always, you are well thought, well spoken and inspirational. Thanks for the boost! I’ve been pondering these thoughts about married life lately. Thankful for the blessing of a wonderful husband who makes it easy for my to “submit” 😉

  2. Just a thought…as a non-Christian family, we don’t have a head of the household or submission by any one party. We are a partnership of equals. My husband and I make decisions mainly by consensus and by compromise when consensus isn’t possible. We each have things we are good at or not, and we are honest enough with ourselves and with each other to defer (a much better word than submit, IMO) to one another’s knowledge or skill in those areas. Part of the hubby’s job is to bring home the bacon, reach the things on top of the cupboards, conduct bedtime story time, make pancakes, and do the laundry while I pay the bills and do the taxes, make the final decisions on major purchases, tell him what to wear when we go out, take the kids to the beach, and keep the kitchen clean.

    Anyhoo, I get the point being made (and I realize its not really directed specifically towards my world view), I just wanted to illustrate a different perspective. Heck, I even out-ranked The Hubby for half the time we were in the military, lol…

    • I totally get what you’re saying, and I think the word “defer” is better too. I think the idea that Peter is expressing is kind of based in the same place you’re coming from – we all have things we are good at, and we all have our place in life. Fighting against the place we find ourselves acomplishes nothing. Instead, we should be the very best we possibly can, where ever we are and, in that way, earn the respect and honor of those “over” us. As a soldier (sailor?) you had to submit all the time. But when a private (ensign?) submits with grace and does their job with the best of their ability, they are not only a help to their supieriors, but they earn rank themselves. (Please forgive any incorrect wording… I’m very much a civilian!) Many women can have a tendency to nag at thier husbands and undermine them, but perhaps by defering (it really is a better word) to them more gracefully, and acknowledging the value their husbands bring to the partnership, they would find that their husbands become more willing to listen to their opinions and respect what they have to say.
      Even outside Christianity, governing and submitting are considered important. One of the Delphic Maxims is, “Rule Thy Wife.” (I only know that because you told me about the Delphic Maxims!)
      I’m very sleepy. Am I making sense at all?!? LOL

      • Lol, you make sense! And that is one of the maxims I’ve been mulling over how to discuss…I’ll get to it eventually!

      • I keep having the thought that taking a few days to drive the coast and tour a ship would be a great homeschool project. My daughter has never even seen the ocean! Maybe someday I’ll come thank you in person.

      • That would be awesome! If we take the train thru Chicago again, we plan to stop to go to the aquarium and the field museum…so we can meet up eventually that way too!

  3. Good post. 🙂 Well said, but physiologically what women lose in “bulk” strength from men we make up in in endurance. Physical strength-wise women are built to be in it for the long haul, while men are made to blow it on one shot kind of things (life the stuff, etc). Having babies is hard physical business that takes strength of a different kind which is you know, probably the most physically challenging thing women on the whole “do.” lol

    • And that’s the truth! 🙂 I’m with you. I also marvel at the strength of our fine gender when we will get up at 6am, sick as can be, make lunches for everyone, get everyone out of bed, dress and on the bus, tidy the kitchen…. etc. Men just lay in bed with their runny noses and whimper. LOL

      • I know right! Ugh when He’s sick, the world is over. When I’m sick, life goes on. Funny isn’t it?
        Okay – that being said women also have higher pain tolerance. I’m not sure if this is because of how our bodies are designed for childbirth or if there’s something else going on with that one.

      • I’m funny with the pain tolerance. I was on my feet 18 hours after having my belly sliced open and a person pulled out, but give me a blister on my pinky toe and I feel the need to complain to everyone with ears!

      • Yes, some things hurt more than others. But studies show on the whole, women are more likely to work through pain and “deal” than men.
        Feet and tooth pain though are the worst… and papercuts. I haven’t had one of those for years – now I’ve cursed myself lol

  4. I have always hated when people quote that particular piece to me without the entire verse and background. You did an excellent job of review and thought.

    My husband and I sometimes struggle with our ‘place’ in our marriage, this is because of our very different backgrounds (his Pentecostal Christian and mine Recovering Catholic Deist). I am better read, meaning I have actually read the Bible and continue to do so; where his entire knowledge comes from what others have told him over the years.

    This one is always an interesting discussion for us. The other that I love is where duty lies (to me or his mother). In our marriage, at the end of the day we compromise and defer, depending on the issues. We have to.

    • Sorry I didn’t reply… somehow I missed your comment. “Pentecostal and Recovering Catholic Deist” are 2 very different worlds! Kudos to you both for finding your middle ground!
      Thankfully, we don’t have the “duty” conversation in our house. I’m not sure I could deal gracefully with that one!

      • I suspect I don’t always deal gracefully either. But because I actually read the Bible and have that conversation from a place of knowledge (after my initial itchiness) we usually can manage through. I am fortunate, his grandmother agrees with my read of the Bible, even when his mother tries to interpret in her favor.

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