Submission vs. Subjugation

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. –  Ephesians 5:22-23

Christianity demeans and subjugates women.

Christianity elevates and celebrates women.

You can hear either assertion in the world and sometimes even in the church. What you believe about the Bible’s teachings on the role of women in the home depends upon what you believe about the Bible.

“Submission” has become a dirty word. But by definition, it’s simply a matter of yielding to another’s authority. Just as a merging driver must yield to oncoming traffic to avoid a crash, someone must yield in a marriage to avoid a clash. I’ve experienced crashes, such as the time when a man who thought he was Satan deliberately rammed into my minivan, and I don’t recommend them.

Jesus willingly yields to the will of God the Father, but no one could logically assert that Jesus is somehow inferior to the Father, not when Philippians 2:10-11 tells us “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” He is no wallflower. Neither is the biblical woman.

Yet many insist that submission is actually subjugation, which requires bringing something or someone under dominion or control. I have been forcefully subjugated in an abusive relationship, and I have been willingly submissive in a healthy one. I can assure you submission and subjugation are two different things.

Now, to those women who are actually experiencing subjugation, I implore you to seek godly counsel from your pastor or a Christian counselor. Such treatment is a biblically indefensible form of abuse.

But let’s get back to biblical womanhood and that nasty submission thing. God created man first; woman was created to be man’s helpmate. As for me, I do not find that role offensive because I know how much my husband relies upon me. In fact, I’ve considered creating a handbook he can follow in the event I die before he does. He’ll have to become a very quick study. In the meantime, he very wisely seeks my counsel before we—an important pronoun—make any decisions for our family. However, in the event of a stalemate, it is his obligation to lead based on guidance from God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. This is where yielding comes into the picture.

However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God. – 1 Corinthians 1:11-12

Because men and women are both coheirs with Christ, men should never lord it over their wives. In fact, 1 Peter 3:7 implores them to “live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” God created us and knows we are generally more frail than men, and so He insists men treat us with respect or else. I like that “or else.”

So, my sweet women friends, the next time you think about submission—or you’re in a quandary about whether to submit—remember you’re in good company with Jesus Himself as your example. And if that’s true, and it is, then Christianity truly does elevate and celebrate women.

Thus ends my submission in the defense of submission.

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