The idea of submission is neither a cultural norm nor an accepted virtue. The human heart, untouched by God’s grace in salvation, naturally wants things its way and the voice of culture screams to us at every turn that getting what we want is most important.
If you embrace the theological position that God the Son is eternally (read “permanently”) subordinate to God the Father and then ground your belief that submission of the wife to the husband is permanently true because of this theological position, then what does Mt. 22:30 mean?
Our kingdom vision reminds us that we need to hold tightly to Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. No longer are we bound by the Fall or called to perpetuate the effects of it! We are called to live in a redemptive reality, which is counter to worldly division.
It’s not fair, we might think! If only they had not eaten of the fruit, men and women would be serving side-by-side without the scourge of dominance to distort their view of one another. Work would be fulfilling for all of us and we would not be struggling with the never-ending, unattainable quest for balance.
Life doesn’t come with a manual, and neither does marriage. Whether we’re making difficult decisions, entering new seasons, or dealing with unexpected changes, most of us married folks are just figuring it out as we go.
The women’s Bible study I was attending was going through A Woman After God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George, one of those guides to “biblical womanhood” that offered a few good insights, but mostly just made me feel guilty and inadequate about my fledgling homemaking skills. Something about the theology seemed off, but as a young mom, I took the older, more experienced women’s words to heart.
The epidemic of women’s unpaid work is a serious problem and it’s one that should concern us as Christians. Whether by implication, necessity, or demand, women aren’t being credited or compensated for their work. They are often taken less seriously as professionals and expected to take sole responsibility for housework and other traditionally feminine kinds of work. Not all labor—such as household work—is the kind of work for which we give and receive a paycheck. But it remains that for much of history, patriarchy has ensured that all of women’s work—official and unofficial and paid and unpaid—is seen as less than, and that women’s labor can be taken for granted.
The Browns’ church held strongly to the view that “women should be silent” (1 Cor. 14:34), and that all leadership in the church should be male. The congregation was taught that God was male, as Jesus called him “Father” (John 10:30). And, for the first years of their marriage, Norma obediently adhered to the teachings of her church and to the lifestyle she had experienced in her patriarchal childhood home. She submitted to Charlie as he made all of the family decisions and controlled the finances, and she embraced her role as a stay-at-home mother.
Marriage and friendship aren’t in competition. They aren’t two separate concepts on opposite sides of space, racing against each other to cross the finish line. They’re interconnected and intertwined, constantly intersecting to reveal a breathtaking paradigm of mutuality.