Christianity’s Dirty 10-letter Word, part 1

Submission blog2

On Wednesday, I heard part of Adrian Rogers’ sermon on “The Magnificence of Motherhood” and something Pastor Rogers said made what has always been such a huge debate in the church actually make sense.  (Side note: the whole series Pastor Rogers is doing sounds excellent for anybody who is married or thinking about getting married).

In most circles, this word is considered a dirty word, especially in the secular world, but also in the Christian community.  What is this word?

Submission

 Why do so many people, women especially, have such a problem with this word?  Sometimes it seems like people have more of a problem with this 10 letter word than with most 4 letter words or people who take God’s name in vain.  Before I get into the reasons why there shouldn’t be such an uproar over this word, let’s take a quick look at a few definitions, verses, and problems associated with this “bad” word from a Biblical viewpoint.

The Definitions

sub·mis·sion

[suhb-mish-uhn]noun

1. an act or instance of submitting.

2. the condition of having submitted.

3. submissive conduct or attitude.

And since each of those definitions has a derivative of the word “submit”:

sub·mit

[suhb-mit] verb (used with object), sub·mit·ted,sub·mit·ting.

1. to give over or yield to the power or authority of another (often used reflexively).

2. to subject to some kind of treatment or influence.

3. to present for the approval, consideration, or decision of another or others: to submit a plan; to submit an application.

4. to state or urge with deference; suggest or propose (usually followed by a clause): I submit that full proof should be required.

verb (used without object)

5. to yield oneself to the power or authority of another: to submit to a conqueror.

6. to allow oneself to be subjected to some kind of treatment: to submit to chemotherapy.

7. to defer to another’s judgment, opinion, decision, etc.: I submit to your superior judgment.

Of the above definitions, I think this one best fits the Biblical definition of “submission”: 1. an act or instance of submitting. And these two fit the Biblical definition of “submit”: 1. to give over or yield to the power or authority of another (often used reflexively); 5. to yield oneself to the power or authority of another.

The Verses

Now that we have the word defined, let’s look at some Bible verses on submitting and submission.

“But my people did not listen to my voice;
Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
to follow their own counsels.~ Psalm 81:11-12 (ESV)

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot…For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.~ Romans 8:7, 10:3 (ESV)

And of course, then there is one of the most controversial passages of Scripture:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. ~ Ephesians 5:22 (ESV)

The Problems

Submission blog

 *rubs hands together and tries to keep evil grin off face*  This is where we get to the part when I get to wax eloquent about problems.  ^_^  Ahem!  Sorry about that.  Moving on.

I will start with the last verse I quote, Ephesians 5:22.  The first problem that I have with the use of this verse, is that so many people take it out of context.  Here is Ephesians 5:15-24 (ESV)

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

The word “submit” in verse 22 isn’t even in the original language.  The verb comes from the verse before.  If you will notice, everybody in these verses is submitting to someone.  Verse 21 says for all Christians to submit to one another.  Verse 22 says for wives to submit to their husband.  Verse 24 says that the church is to submit to Christ.

This brings up a few questions that I have always wondered about.  Why is it so hard to trust God when he told wives to submit to their own husband, but we don’t have an issue with submitting to one another as believers or submitting to Christ as the head of the church?  And what about submitting to your boss, the police, the government officials, the law?  Why is it that when a wife submits to her husband, she is suddenly inferior to him?  Does that mean that when her husband submits to a police officer that he is suddenly inferior to that police officer?  No, it doesn’t!  They are still equals, one just has a little more authority and responsibility in their certain area.

In marriage, this means that the husband simply (or not so simply) has a little more authority and responsibility over his home.  This does not mean that he should lord it over his wife and his family.  In the same way that Jesus is the head of the church, the husband is the head of his home.  He can still take advice, weigh the options, etc., but when he says the family is going to go this way, the family needs to go this way, not that way.

Or to put it another way, taking our police officer analogy from before.  The police officer pulls a man over for speeding because he was going 34 in a 25 mph zone.

Scenario #1 (submissive man):

Officer (comes to driver’s side of car): In a hurry to get somewhere?

Man (sheepish): Not really, Officer. 

Officer nods: Can I please have your driver’s license and proof of insurance?

Man hands them to the officer and waits a few minutes.

Officer goes back to his car and does some things there before he returns to the man.

Officer: Thank you, Mr. X.  Please try to drive more safely next time and watch your speedometer.  I am just giving you a warning this time, but please try to drive more safely next time and watch your speedometer.  Have a nice day!

Scenario #2 (non-submissive man):

Officer (comes to driver’s side of car): In a hurry to get somewhere?

Man (scowling): Not really.

Officer nods: Can I please have your driver’s license and proof of insurance?

Man digs in back pocket and glove compartment, griping the entire time about the police.  When he finds what is needed he slaps them into the officer’s hand and waits a few minutes, complaining, muttering, and grumbling the entire time.

Officer goes back to his car, slightly ticked off by the man’s insolence and pretty sure that he had been talking bad about the police.  He does what is required to fill out a ticket and he returns to the man.

Officer: Thank you, Mr. X.  Please try to drive more safely next time and watch your speedometer.  Here is your ticket.  It needs to be taken to the courthouse by this date.  Have a ni…

Man (throws ticket out the window): Don’t bother.  I won’t pay it anyway.

Officer backs away, knowing men like this could not be reasoned with and would only pay when facing possible jail time.

Kinda corny probably, but does that give you a little bit of an idea?  The first man knew he needed to submit to the authority of the police officer and did so.  As a result they both left with happy faces.  The second man couldn’t care less about submitting to the authority of the law and ended up ruining both his and the officer’s days, not to mention probably ending up with an even higher fine.

However, even without all of the happy versus ruined day, there is another lesson in those stories.  In both scenarios, the officer was the one to be submitted to as he had the authority and the man was supposed to submit to the officer.  But, neither the man from scenario #1 or the man from scenario #2 were inferior to the officer in anyway except authority to give a ticket versus take a ticket.  If we chose not to take the ticket, the consequences could be even higher than if we had done what was expected of us to begin with.

What do you think about the Ephesians passage?  Do you agree or disagree with my conclusion?  Why or why not?  Are there other verses on submission you would like to see me expound on?

Part 2 to be posted next week and will expound on the first two passages referenced above.

 

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5 thoughts on “Christianity’s Dirty 10-letter Word, part 1

  1. Effy says:

    Wow, Faith, nice job. I did want to answer one of your questions that you said you’ve always had. The reason it’s so hard for a woman to submit is because of the curse that fell on men and women when they sinned. The husband will rule over the woman and she will desire him. So now that sin is there and she now has bitterness, anger and all the other wrong things, she’ll want to rule over him, even though he has the authority and must do it. And of course there’s now sinful men who lord it over their wives and are cruel.
    Culture doesn’t help much either and all the T.V. programs nowadays… well, that isn’t exactly a godly influence, now is it?
    Thanks for this post and I can’t wait for the next one!

  2. […] Friday, I wrote a post about submission and how it affects wives  and how the word submission really shouldn’t be considered such a […]

  3. Kathryn says:

    In verse 21, where it says “submit to one another,” it seems to imply a group of people submitting to each other (with no distinction between men and women). How do definitions 1 and 5 of the word submit work in the group setting? Does submission imply obedience and leadership? I don’t see how a group of people can all obey each other any more than they can all lead each other or all have authority over each other. Since the word for submit found in verse 21 is the same one used in the next verse in reference to wives, I question whether our understanding of the word “submit” is completely accurate. Since this word is, as you said, only written once in the Greek, then why do we assign two different meanings to it?

    • Faith Blum says:

      I’m not sure how I missed this comment in the approval thing, but I did. Sorry. Those are excellent questions. I will have to ponder them before I can give you an answer.

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