Ever since my good friend, GreenGem, posted her Thoughts On Leadership I have been pondering my own thoughts on submission. When someone actually emailed me to ask me whether I believed in Wife Only Submission (WOS) or Mutual Submission (MS) I pondered even harder. Now I am feeling led to solidify my thoughts.
MS starts with Eph 5:21 which says, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” WOS starts with Eph 5:22-24 which says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so [let] the wives [be] to their own husbands in every thing.” (Note that the words in brackets are not in the original Greek but were added by the translators.) Crystal Lutton has very good explanations of what the word, “submit” means, and what the word, “head” means. You might also want to read this explanation for more information. I’m very thankful for theses explanations because I knew that I did not agree with the patriarchy explanation which leads to so much abuse. I have seen many healthy marriages which claim to believe in WOS yet they are really following MS. This is not to say that a WOS marriage cannot be healthy, I just have not met any.
Now, I’d like to note that both those verses are followed by Eph 5:25 which says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” It occurs to me that I have never seen anyone teaching Husband Only Love (HOL.) It seems obvious to everyone that the wife is still supposed to love her husband. The fact that this passage tells the man to love his wife and does not tell the woman to love her husband seems to suggest if the man is loving his wife, she will naturally love him in return. So, maybe if the wife is submitting to her husband’s will while he is loving her, his natural reaction is to want to please her and so will naturally submit his will to what she wants. So, as they love each other and submit to each other, they work together to try to meet each other’s needs. Which is exactly how I understand MS.
Note, someone commented below that the Bible says that women should love their husbands in Titus 2:4. I would like to point out that while Eph 5:25 uses the word agape (perfect and sacrificial love), Titus 2:4 uses a variation of phileo (brotherly/family love). Also, the Bible teaches in many places that we should love everyone.