Are Women Supposed to Submit to Men?


So there’s this concept that I have been working on that came out of a conversation with my father. It has to do with relationships. It can be generally applied to most any relationship, but it especially has ramifications for interpersonal relationships.

The basis for the discussion is the following passages: Ephesians 5:21-33 & Colossians 3:18-25.

Most people –particularly women –cringe when you pull out these passages, especially the Ephesians passage. I believe that is because they start in the wrong place. Most people start in verse 22 “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” The tone of the passage, however, is set in verse 21 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” With that as a back ground we can take it all in context. The apostle Paul is not admonishing the wives for the sake of subjugating them; he is admonishing them in light of a larger scriptural principle that includes the husband and even the children. He admonishes one side, then the other in an effort to strike a balance. Wives are to submit to their husbands, but why? They are to submit because husbands are to love them as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her (i.e. he died for the church).

Not to limit the principle to married folk he goes on (in the Colossians passage) to admonish the children to be obedient to their parents. He doesn’t just tell them to be obedient because he said so, but because it pleases the Lord. Then he flips the coin to the parents’ side and tells them not to embitter their children. There again we see the give and take. Children are supposed to obey, but parents should not exasperate their children either.

The over aching concept here is the following: mutual submission. A give and take if you will. We submit to one another in expectation of love, we love in expectation of submission. We obey without becoming bitter because those who tell us what to do, do so without malice.

This principle can be easily extended to the realm of leadership. We submit to the leadership of the church, but we do so because the leadership is supposed to love us (i.e. give themselves up for us, take care of us). Deacons (elders) submit to the leadership of the pastor because he is to be a loving shepherd to the congregation. At the same time pastors are to submit to the deacons (elders) because they should have his (and the church’s) best interest at heart.

This concept has ramifications to virtually every aspect of life including, but not limited to work.  You look at companies like Google and there can be no doubt as to the loyalty of the employees. They treat their employees like celebrities and their employees respond with loyalty and above average work. There is a mutual understanding that is beneficial to both parties.

In the larger context of scripture we see it played out, or should in our obedience to God’s commands. God does not just tell us to not murder, steal, kill, envy, and commit adultery, and the like just because He is a kill-joy. He gives us those commands because they are life giving. He cares for us enough to give us rules to live by that will keep us from harm and generally make our lives better.

On the flip side we see what happens when we disregard the concept of mutual submission. In marriage you end up with abusive relationships (to one degree or another) or divorce, in families you end up with rebellious children that bring heart ache to their parents, and in churches you end up with church splits.

I don’t think people realize just how revolutionary this concept can be to the Christian world. Taking that as our challenge and implementing it in our lives as a whole can and will change the way we think and behave in a profoundly positive way.

Jesus put it this way, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34,35

What better way is there to show the love of Christ to one another than by submitting to each other, IN LOVE?


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