Over at Dalrock’s post on advice to a wife about troublesome mother-in-laws many of the same debates have risen up again. In particular, women have the tendency to ask about submission when a husband tells her to sin. I wrote this post over there, but I’m reposting it over here because this concept needs to be reinforced.
As many of you know, this line of conversation is also a red herring as Cane has addressed this topic before in You Bowed Up When You Should Have Bowed Down. In effect, looking at such obscure scenarios is a red herring compared to the vast majority of circumstances. Indeed, the true answer lies not in submission itself but in respectul submission:
Over and over again we see examples in Scripture where a servant cannot or will not obey a master; whether good or evil. The righteous servants always say something along the lines of, “I cannot comply with this. What can I do instead to appease my lord?” David says this to Saul; Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar; Lot to the men of Sodom; Esther to King Ahasuerus; Tamar to Amnon…
This is not ONLY about submission or obedience. It is FIRST about attitude.
A disrespectful heart will see a command or request from someone in authority and first think about the self: how do I get out of this or how can obey minimally or do I even have to obey at all? A respectful heart will think about the whole picture, especially including the desires of the one in authority: “I cannot comply with this. What can I do instead to appease my lord?”
Matthew 15:18 But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, [i]fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”
If they encounter a situation where they think it would be a sin either because of a conscience, Scripture, or whatever then their first reaction should involve not acting a rebellious manner nor a kowtowing doormat manner. Instead, they should reflect a proper heart attitude of respect to desire to act in a submissive manner. In the vast majority of cases it is the attitude of respect in a difficult situation will turn a husband’s heart towards kindness, grace, and mercy.
The Scripture reiterates this twice in Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3: wives are to respect their husbands.
1 Peter 3:1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and [a]respectful behavior.
Ephesians 5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. […] 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she [r]respects her husband.
Many a wife may submit but if they obey with a disrespectful attitude they will not win the heart of their husband. This is because their heart is set upon rebellion even in obedience. There are many parallels for this which I’ve used before:
- The kid who is forced to say sorry will have a bad attitude but will obey what they are told to do. But you can tell from their attitude that they don’t mean it.
- We all know employees at work who complain and moan about everything their boss has for them. No one wants to be around this type of employee because the atmosphere is rotten to the core.
This is the same thing that husbands feel when their wife is disrespectful even if they obey. It is a wife’s respectful and chaste heart that wins her husband in submissiveness. Not solely her obedience.
This does not just apply to solely Christian husbands and wives. This is why when I have to submit to authorities such as the Church, in a job, in academic settings, the government, and other areas of life where I am under authority I always try to make it a point to obey respectfully. You will have more favor from those in authority if you obey respectfully rather than obeying disrespectfully, and this is part of your witness of Christ as salt and light of the earth.
- A respectful heart searches for ways to obey in the fruits of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self control.
- A disrespectful heart searches for ways to disobey, often without care for the concerns of the one in authority even if they ultimately obey.