In my previous post on authority, submission, obedience, and servanthood, infowarrior1 raises a good point about the nature of submission in marriage:
The “voluntary” aspect rubs me the wrong way unless it refers to the choice of the wife to submit to her husband upon marriage. I am troubled by the potential wriggle room though to pick and choose which submission is convenient or inconvenient. How can it be sin if submission is voluntary?
What would be your suggestion to the husband if his wife is consistently rebellious?
The choice to become a Christian is much like the choice to enter into the contract of marriage.
When we become Christians, we become children of God. However, Christianity is not a one time deal that we reach with God upon salvation:
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [h]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
We, who become Christians, submit our lives to God in order to do His will. As James so eloquently puts it: Faith without works is dead, and as Jesus states in John “If you love me you will obey my commandments.”
Likewise, so too marriage is of a similar contract.
The wife, upon CHRISTIAN marriage, pledges to become her husband’s helpmeet, to respect him, and submit to Him as unto the Lord.
However, as Christians, we still have the choice — the free will — whether to obey God or not. We fight this battle everyday:
Ephesians 4:22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old [a]self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new [b]self, which [c]in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
So too the wife has the same battle everyday whether or not she will be her husband’s helpmeet, whether she will respect him, and whether she will submit to him. The same is true of the roles and responsibilities of the husband in marriage in headship, love, not embittered, and to honor as co-heirs.
God doesn’t want to coerce Christians into serving Him. It is a willful, joyful choice to do so. The same is true of the modeling of Christ-Church and husband-wives. God wants wives to have the free will to submit to their husbands in marriage.
Just as when Christians fail to do what is right or don’t call out sin, we fail to submit to God and instead hold ourselves or the world as more important. The same decisions are made by the wife to submit to her husband in marriage.
Now, what should the husband do? Two things.
- The husband SHOULD do as the Scriptures state which I elaborated on in this article on Jesus and the Church is husbands and wives.
Essentially, just as the Scriptures are useful for teaching, rebuking, training, and correcting to too husbands have that same role as Jesus does with the Church.
- The husband should also continue to do what God has said the roles and responsibilities are for the husband in the marriage. There is no “get out of my duty free card” if someone else isn’t obeying God. We want to obey God because we love God. Donal posted this link in the comments which elaborates on this.
Husbands should never attempt to force compliance to his will as that is never what Jesus did. Jesus always gave those under his care the free will to choose whether to follow Him or not.
John 6:59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. 60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62 What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would [j]betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” 71 Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, [k]was going to betray Him.
The most difficult thing, which I have talked before, is that when wives choose not to submit to their husbands then the husbands should allow the wives to take responsibility for their own decisions. This is the same as God and Jesus do when Christians sin: He doesn’t stop us from going off the reservation, but He makes His position clear through His Scriptures in regard to sin.
Given that the husband tasked with headship, in some more destructive behaviors to the whole family such as compulsive spending or overeating or whatever the husband may need to protect the wife through management of finances or other resources.
However, the wife still has the choice whether or not to submit and therefore love God and her husband, or to not submit and sin against God and her husband.
Those who claim to be Christians and do not follow God’s commands and wives who claim to be Christians and don’t submit to their husbands will be punished more than unbelievers:
Luke 12: 41 Peter said, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his [u]servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that slave whom his [v]master finds so doing when he comes. 44 Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master [w]will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; 46 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
47 And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, 48 but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of [x]a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.
Be forewarned, if you call yourself a Christian but don’t do what God says or submit to the roles and responsibilities in which God’s Scriptures say you have in marriage or other areas then you heap judgment upon yourself.