If one were to survey what are important aspects of the marriage relationship, we would probably hear words such as love, trust, caring and loyalty. Actually, according to a 2010 Pew Research Center survey, love was named as the main reason to get married over “companionship, making a lasting commitment and having children.” One word that probably would not be mentioned that is actually a very important aspect of marriage is submission. Submission is also a vital part of any Christian relationship. Submission is an aspect of any relationship that honors God. In fact, Jesus was the perfect example of obedience in submission as He perfectly honored God in obedience, John 12:49 “For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.” However, in our society, the word submission has lost its meaning as it pertains to the marriage relationship.
On the one hand one can occasionally hear even Christian men saying that their wives need to submit to them and on the other hand women saying that they would submit if their husbands showed them they cared for them. So how does submission work in the marriage relationship? Is the wife the only one that has to submit? What role does the husband have in submission?
Submission is a vital component in any relationship as expressed in scripture. There are several verses in scripture where the reader is encouraged to submit to authorities, especially those who govern us. Peter wrote about this in 2 Peter 2 as did Paul in Romans 13. Peter went further to encourage husbands to do the same, as seen in 1 Peter 3. So we see that there is also some responsibility on the man’s part in a marriage in terms of submission rather than just barking orders.
Although God’s design of marriage relationship included a leader and a follower, He also designed the husband and the wife to be co-heirs of His kingdom. But this is not to say that the follower has any less rights than the leader. Just as the Son of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ follows the lead of His Father. Even though, Jesus Christ is one with the Father, He sill is led by the Father.
So as it pertains to the marriage relationship, the man was designed to lead and the woman to submit. This is completely different from the negative connotation given to the word submit. It is completely different from a husband dictating to his wife what he wants her to do. This of course, would be tyrannical and has no place in a Christian marriage nor is it honoring to God. The husband is not to lead as the world leads him. This is how we end up seeing problems with neglect, abuse and divorce. We are to lead as Christ leads us. And Christ would have us lead by mutually submitting to our wives. Yes, a Christian marriage is marked by mutual submission. This actually means that the husband treats his wife as a co-heir and although he leads her, he does so with respect, concern, love and most importantly, in submission to God. In fact, the way God would have us lead our wives is best described by Paul in Ephesians 5:25-28, “Husbands,
love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”
If a marriage is marked by mutual submission, where the husband and wife truly respect and love one another as they honor God, the union will flourish and they will truly “become won.”