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Published Date: January 9, 2011

Published Date: January 9, 2011

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A Bad Word?

Some bad words have more than four letters.

Here is a ten-letter word, with terrible meaning for many people:   SUBMISSION

Did you think of any particular group of people when you read the above? Slaves? Probably not. Children? Maybe. Women, especially wives? Many women would answer, “Yes, without question.” But  you perhaps didn’t think of wives at all; you wouldn’t have any reason to unless you had experienced the negative results of cultural and/or religious subordination of women. Especially in very conservative religious groups, there is concentrated teaching on the subjection of women to their husbands.

The Scripture passage often quoted for this view is an abbreviated version of I Peter 3:1, which says, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.” The shortened form we most often hear is only, “Wives, be submissive to your husbands.” Clearly, this is not all that the Scripture means to say. With the words, “in the same way,” Peter is referring back to verses in chapter 2. He speaks of suffering, reminding us that one can bear up under unjust suffering when he/she is God-conscious. He warns us, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (I Peter 2:21-23) So what Peter is really saying is, “Women, be like Jesus.”

We sometimes forget to continue reading verses further down on the page: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” (I Peter 3:7) There are many ways in which women are not weaker at all, although it is true that females often lack the size, the muscular strength, and the vocal power of males. Men are called upon to treat those differences with respect. What Peter is really saying is, “Fellows, be like Jesus.” By ignoring the gracious gift of God’s life in both husband and wife, the man puts himself in grave danger:   His prayers will be ineffectual.

Submission was not intended to create a master-servant relationship nor even a formal authority figure; it was not meant for the control of one person over another. Submission to each other was urged in order for there to be harmony. “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”  (I Peter 3:8, 9)  Have men and women alike forgotten the calling we have to live in harmony and be a blessing to one another?

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.