Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Take on "Mutual Submission"

Arguably, a great many of the problems in modern society
stem - at least in part - from the fact that strong, loving,
nurturing Homes have increasingly become the exception
rather than the rule.

While nobody's family is perfect, of course, the Home life
is supposed to prepare us for living in the world, for better
or for worse. When a kid's "role model" is some sports figure
or some rock star, or the mother's fourth boyfriend... Or when
the only tenderness and affection a kid gets is from that cute
girl in 7th grade Math class... then that kid will likely go
into adulthood ill-equipped to conduct him/her self in ways that
are productive, responsible, and honorable.

So what IS the pattern for a solid Home life? One of the reasons
I believe in Christianity is that here again -- as in SO many
other areas -- this World View offers us a meaningful, structured,
effective Answer for one of The Great Questions... This particular Answer
Christians sometimes call "God's Plan for Marriage" (read these two
excellent aritcles about it, one for the woman and one for the man)...

There are a number of excellent passages in Scripture about
God's design for Marriage, and (in my opinion) Marriage is something
Christians should be talking about all the time (all the while
attempting to put biblical principles on the subject into practice)...

Almost immediately, as soon as you begin discussing Scriptural
marriage, a conflict arises over this subject of Submission,
the idea that the Wife is to be submissive to her Husband...
The passages of note on this issue are 1st Peter 3 and Ephesians 5...
Both of these passages include the idea that Christian wives are to
"submit" to their husbands (another verb used is "reverence"!), an idea
that is not at all popular in today's contemporary culture,
even in many Christian circles...

I won't take the space here to go into a full treatment of this
idea of "submission" (the article above, for Wives, does a GREAT
job of that, I think), but I want to share my thoughts on the exact point
of controversy here: There are those who believe that Ephesians 5:21
teaches "Mutual Submission" between the husband and wife, and that
"mutual submission" in Ephesians 5:21 overshadows all the
talk about "submission" in the verses that follow it... Here is
side of that debate, and here is the OTHER...

The way I read not only this particular passage but the larger
context of Godly Attitudes throughout the Bible, it seems to me that
we MUST make a very sharp distinction at the end of Ephesians 5:21
and before Ephesians 5:22... Does the Bible call all Chrisians, in general,
to "submit" to each other? Are we to serve one another? Are we to
"in humility consider the other better than ourselves"? Absolutely!
This GENERAL attitude should be increasingly woven into the
character of ALL Christians in ALL places at ALL times...

...and so clearly this IS the broader "context" leading up to the
end of Ephesians 5:21, where Paul is talking to Chrisians in general...
BUT, Paul then changes gears a bit and turns his attention
DIRECTLY to the Wife, and then DIRECTLY to the husband, using a writing
technique that begins broadly and then focuses in on specific applications
(the more you read Paul, and observe his logical mind as revealed by
his conversations, the more this becomes clear)...

So while he is not leaving behind the more general concepts of
"submission" (that all Christians ought to practice toward one another),
he is moving on toward ANOTHER relationship that is similar (based on
the principles discussed) and at the same time significantly different...
Ephesians 5:22 clearly demontrates (by tone and language and specific
focus points) a SHIFT in the discussion; and the sticking point that many
folks get hung up over is this word SUBMIT...

There is plenty of material on both sides of the question, but I will say
just three things here (one of which I've been saying already):
      1. I do NOT think Biblical submission inside
      the specific boundaries of Christian Marriage
      has anything "mutual" about it

      2. I do believe that if more Christian wives
      would embrace, and personalize, and faithfully practice
      Biblical submission in marriage, many of the problems
      in modern Christian marriages would vanish

      3. I think it's critical, more than ever before,
      that our pastors and elders get behind this idea
      and find the godly courage to stand in the pulpit
      and teach, without fear and yet with obvious humility,
      this difficult concept

And I'll be the first to acknowledge that there is an entire VOLUME
of directives for the HUSBAND, which are equally difficult and
equally demanded of us in these passages...

It's just that I think we are (and have been for decades) in desperate need
of a balancing of the scales in the teaching we normally receive
on this subject...