Submission in marriage. What it is and what it isn’t.

An extract from yesterday’s sermon from Colossians:

Britain's oldest married couple: 80 years together

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Colossians 3:18-19

If there’s one concept in Christian life which makes modern women recoil in horror it is the instruction to submit to their husbands. This verse will turn the feminist right off Christian faith altogether. It’s therefore vital to know what Paul means and doesn’t mean by the instruction to submit. It’s also vital to know that we all suffer from selective hearing syndrome? What it is selective hearing syndrome? It is when you can only hear one thing and that one thing eclipses everything else that you have heard.

We’ve read in Colossians that Christians should be compassionate, kind, meek, gentle and patient, bear with one another’s sins, forgive one another, teach and admonish one another in love from the riches of God’s word. They should relate well, husbands loving their wives and not being harsh with them and wives submitting to their husbands. All some will hear is “submit!”

Do you notice that the two verses which deal with husband and wife come together and like salt and vinegar, fish and chips or Laurel and Hardy.

Wives submit to your husband is as is fitting in the Lord and husbands love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

This is what God says makes good marriages. If you want your marriage to work the way that God intended, then both husband and wife must do their bit as God intended.

So husbands, love your wife so that she knows that you put nothing, except Jesus, before her. That you want what’s best for her at all times. Make sure that your wife knows that you want her to be emotionally and spiritually and physically healthy and that you will move heaven and earth to make sure of this. Choose to sort things out in your life so that she can flourish and be the woman God made her to be with all her gifts.

Listen to her, know her, make sure that she has time for herself and for God, to read her Bible and pray, make sure she’s not over are loaded physically and emotionally, either at work or at home, love her so that she feels beautiful on the inside as well as on the outside.

Do you know the five love languages? Words, actions, time, gifts and touch. Work out which ones are your wife’s love languages. And then use the right words do the right actions give her the time she needs buy gifts she likes and touch her when she wants to be touch and not when you want to touch her.

And do not be harsh. No shouting or screaming or hitting, no bullying. No domestic violence.

And wives if your husband loves you like that then you will find it easy to submit to him.

That does not mean be a doormat. Nor does it mean let him make all the decisions for a you. He is not the boss in an executive sort of way. He does get to decide things for you against your will.

One evening a little girl and her parents were sitting around the table eating supper. The little girl said,
“Daddy, you’re the boss of this family, aren’t you?”
Her Daddy smiled, he was really pleased, and said
“yes, darling, daddy’s the boss”.
The little girl continued
“That’s because Mummy put you in charge, isn’t it?”

That joke is nearer the mark than we think. Wives need to choose to let their husbands take responsibility.

Submitting to your husband does not mean signing your life away. It simply means don’t fight against him. It means work with him in the Lord.

Make sure that he is expected to engage with you and your family and that he takes responsibility for family life. To do this you need to give him space and time to take his responsibility seriously, men find it ever so easy to give up if a wife fights against him or steps in and takes over. So to submit means to discuss things and come to decisions together in prayer but men you must carry the responsibility for family life.

That it is completely counter cultural to today’s society, where men are on the fringes of lots of families, and women rule the roost and call the shots.

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
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2 Responses to Submission in marriage. What it is and what it isn’t.

  1. Laurence says:

    I agree with what you’ve said here, and would be very interested in examples of how this works practically.

  2. neilrobbie says:

    Hi Laurence, good to hear from you. Paul doesn’t give any worked examples. I think the point is that every couple is different, with different needs and gifts and so we each have to work out what it means to love and submit in our own marriages. Live and learn.


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