Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Beauty of Submission, Part 1

Ok, Ok ... I know that some of you are reading this and are smirking and saying, "what is beautiful about submission?" But I'm happy to say that because God designed us to be 'submissive' beings (1 Peter 2:13), that when his design is lived out as He intended it to be, it is indeed beautiful! (Jesus even submitted to his parents and to God!) I certainly don't have the whole submission thing down yet, but I'm learning and as I see glimpses of it working out like the way I see it in scripture, I'm in awe of God's design!

Unfortunately, our culture would have us believe that submission is the lack of freedom and ushers in inequality and the free reign to demean women, but I know that biblical submission is very contrary to that. If we do not conform to the lies of this world (1 Peter 1:14) any longer and seek the truth of God, we will find true freedom, true equality and blessing as women!

I have wanted to blog about submission for a while now because I believe that submission plays such an essential part of who we are as women and in our understanding of who we're suppose to be and what our role is ... but the cultural faux pas against submission and my lack of understanding on the subject scared me away. This morning, however, I was diving into 1 Peter 1-3 and I feel like God gave me a greater understanding through this passage and related commentary about this widely debated topic. So, without further ado, here we go ...

Submission In the Garden
If we first go back to Genesis 2 when God created Adam and Eve, we can see how God's sense of 'order' among humanity first came into being when God took one of Adam's ribs and made woman from that rib and brought her to man. In David Guzik's commentary, he says this:
God brought Eve to Adam and created Eve out of Adam. He was first, he is the source, and he is the head. She was created to be a helper perfectly suited to him. Thus, the subordinate relationship of wives to husbands is found before the curse, not only after it.
And in this sense of 'order' that God depicts through submission, we have to remember that since we -- male & female -- are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), we depict the masculine and feminine qualities of God and the trinity, and also exemplify God's order of design through the roles that He created us to have: male = head, female = helper. However, just because our roles are different, neither one is of greater value or importance than the other. Both roles play an essential role in God's design. Guzik has this to say about it:
... submission to authority can be totally consistent with equality in importance, dignity, and honor. Jesus was subject to his parents and to God the Father, but was not lower than either of them. 'Thus the command to wives to be subject to their husbands should never be taken to imply inferior personhood or spirituality, or lesser importance.' (Grudem)
So, even from the beginning, God demonstrates his design for submission through Adam and Eve, but we see all too quickly that Eve gives way to her curiosity and abandons her role as Adam's helper (Genesis 2:18) -- to help him rule and subdue the earth -- when she wanders off and stumbles upon the crafty serpent (Genesis 3).

Now, I'm not sure what really went down between Eve and the serpent, other than what Genesis 3 tells us, but if I put Eve into a woman's shoes these days, I can only imagine that Eve was telling Adam, "I have everything under control. You just sit there, watch Animal Planet and I'll take care of everything." Does that sound familiar? I know that I've said things like that before, and it's not coming from a servant's heart ... it's coming from a woman who wants to take control and feed my husband's natural inclination toward apathy. (I'm not saying this specifically about my husband in general, but it seems like a man's greatest sin is apathy and a woman's greatest sin is to devour her husband as she tries to take control and say whatever the heck rolls off her tongue (Proverbs 11:22).) This may or may not have happened during the Fall, but either way, we see God's design for submission here and because of our brokenness, our natural inclination is always going to be to rebel from it ... heck, it's not something that the world advocates so why should it matter to us? Well, submission does matter to God because His design is perfect and He knows what's best for us! Let's dig a little deeper ....

A Look Into 1 Peter 3
When I typically think of submission, I usually turn to Ephesians 5, but more recently as I mentioned above, I've been studying 1 Peter 3:1-6 and I think this passage provides a great deal of wisdom on this matter.
1Wives, 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, 2when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 5For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
Let's look at verses 1 & 2 first. To me, it seems as if the statement, "Wives ... be submissive to your husbands ..." just jumps off the page in bold, and I get a little tense and I forget to read the rest of the first clause. But if we reread the statement and see that it says, "Wives, IN THE SAME WAY, be submissive to your husbands ...", the phrase "in the same way" should cause us to back up and figure out what "in the same way" is referring to. And if we look back at chapter 2 of 1 Peter, we see that there's an entire section about how EVERYONE is suppose to submit to someone: "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men ...." This includes the king, governors, and masters (in relation to slaves).

So, when we get to verse 1 in chapter 3, God's call for wives to submit to their husbands is not out of the blue, but in line with the other submission relationships that God designed and Peter mentioned in chapter 2. If we look back through scripture, we see a variety of other submission relationships as well:
  • Jesus submitted to His parents (Luke 2:51)
  • Demons submitted to the disciples (Luke 10:17)
  • Citizens should submit to government authority (Romans 13:1 & 5, Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13)
  • The universe will submit to Jesus (1 Peter 3:22)
  • Unseen spiritual beings submit to Jesus (1 Peter 3:22)
  • Christians should submit to church leaders (1 Corinthians 16:15-16 & 1 Peter 5:5)
  • The church should submit to Jesus (Ephesians 5:24)
  • Servants should submit to their masters (Titus 2:9 & 1 Peter 2:18)
  • Christians should submit to God (Hebrews 12:9 & James 4:7)
In David Guzik's commentary, he mentions that "None of these relations are reversed. For example, masters are never told to submit to servants, Jesus is never told to submit to the church, and so forth." (The list above is also taken from Guzik's commentary.)

And after reading through Wives Like Sarah, and the Husbands Who Honor Them by Wayne Grudem in Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and through David Guzik's commentary, we see that submission is more about the condition of our heart than an actual action. Submission is exihibited through willing obedience, but that's only a small portion of it. We must trust in our HEART that God knows what's best for us and willingly submit because He calls us to (when that submission doesn't lead us into sin -- Acts 4:19-20).

Moving on to the second half of verse 1, we see that we're suppose to "... be submissive to [our] 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 ...." I think that the later half of this verse speaks a lot about the condition of our heart. Here's a few thoughts from Guzik's commentary:
A wife's submission is a powerful expression of her trust in God. This kind of faith and obedience can accomplish great things, even without words.
Wives may want to shape their husbands -- either to Christ or in Christ -- through their words. Peter reminds them that God's plan is that wives impact their husbands not through persuasive lectures, but through godly submission, chaste conduct, and the fear of God.

There is a sense in which a wife's efforts to shape her husband through her own words and efforts may hinder the power of God's working on the husband. It is much more effective to submit God's way, demonstrating trust in Him, and to let God have his way with the husband.
Ha, I'm sure that we all can relate to these situations at one time in our marriages. As women, since we are naturally inclined to speak our mind and take control, just like Eve, it is our natural inclination to 'demand' that our husbands lead (or just sit back and watch Animal Planet) and make decisions OUR way. We, however, see where that got Eve!

Now, I'm not insinuating that we just sit back, spectate and relinquish our responsibilities as wives and mothers of the family. That's not where I'm going with this at all. God calls us to pursue wisdom so that we can build up our house (Proverbs 14:1), take our family to Jesus and encourage our husbands in the Lord. What I am saying is that if we follow the commands of 1 Peter 3:1, we're not going to impose our own agenda on our husbands. We will not be quick to open our mouth and say whatever we feel like saying. We will hold our tongue and speak wisdom when it's appropriate and participate in discussion, not lecture. And in the end, if it's not our point that is best or even if it's what our husbands deem best, we need to submit to our husbands and trust in God's plan for us in that situation.

Grudem has this to say from Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood:
For a wife to be submissive to her husband will probably not often involve obeying actual commands or directives (though it will sometimes include this), for a husband may rather give requests and seek advice and discussion about the course of action to be followed. Nevertheless, a wife's attitude of submission to her husband's authority will be reflected in numerous words and actions each day that reflect deference to his leadership and acknowledgment of his final responsibility -- after discussion, whenever possible -- to make decisions affecting the whole family.
This is where it becomes very important that we are women of wisdom, not of folly (Proverbs 9:13), so that we can contribute a wealth of wisdom into the decisions that need to be made as a family AND for our own understanding of when it's important to plead for the truth and when it's best just to listen and defer to our husband. I believe this is the part of submission that takes a great deal of humility, discernment and discretion.

If we look on to verses 3 & 4, we see that our beauty should be reflected through our inner self, not through outward adornment and how that beauty is seen through "a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." If we look at this part of the verse in contrast with the loud, boisterous woman of Proverbs 9:13 that I referenced above (the opposite of pursuing wisdom), I think we can quickly see how having a gentle and quiet spirit is much more Christ-like and will be much more conducive for a submissive heart and attitude than lacking discretion and being boisterous. Having a gentle and quiet spirit is definitely not natural for me, but as I submit to God and cry out for humility, God is changing me (James 4:10). This is the only way we're going to get there!

Take some time to digest this, comment and I'll finish my thoughts and share what I'm learning in verses 5 & 6 sometime next week. In the mean time, check out Chapter 8: Liberated Through Submission of Biblical Womanhood of the Home as you grow in your understanding of godly submission ... it's pretty insightful.

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