If you’re struggling with a deep-seated belief that the primary virtue God requires of women is submission and, in particular, submission to men, you’re not alone. Many sincere Christians believe that the word submission defines a woman’s role in the church and the home.
Scripture does teach submission. But Spirit-to-spirit, we learn that it doesn’t look at all as we had thought.
To help us grasp the stark contrast between God’s view and our view of submission, let’s consider the contrast between God’s view and the Jews’ view of Sabbath.
Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Jesus announced God’s view of Sabbath after his disciples picked some heads of ripe grain to eat on Sabbath and the Pharisees accused them of breaking Sabbath law.
The Jewish religious leaders rightly understood that Sabbath was important to God. They tried to figure out how everyone should keep Sabbath. Over time, they created a “one size fits all” model – a set of parameters that applied to all Jews and all Sabbaths.
They viewed their parameters as the measure of correct Sabbath-keeping. Come Sabbath, staying inside the box was paramount. To the Pharisees:
- Their Sabbath rules superseded personhood: People needed healing? Jesus’ disciples needed food? Everyone needed genuine rest – spirit, soul and body – not a litany of heavy rules? No matter. To step outside the established parameters for any reason, even to meet a legitimate need, was deemed “unlawful” on the Sabbath.
- Their Sabbath rules superseded personal relationship with God: On Sabbath, there was no leeway, none, for someone to listen to God, Spirit-to-spirit, and do something outside the box, that God said pleased him. Indeed, there was no acknowledgment that God might work in such a way. Jesus himself found that out when he miraculously healed people on Sabbath. In the religious leaders’ minds, if it didn’t fall within their rules, it “broke” Sabbath.
So Jesus announced what the Pharisees couldn’t grasp: God made Sabbath to strengthen his people’s relationship with him and so to enhance their personhood, to grow them in their love for him and in their likeness to him. God never intended that Sabbath be used as an excuse to treat persons as non-persons. He never established a list of Sabbath rules. He did not design Sabbath as a day of striving to stay within limited parameters, but rather as a day to delight in hearing and obeying him.
Sabbath was – and still is – very important to God. But keeping Sabbath doesn’t look at all as the Pharisees thought.
We Christians have rightly understood that submission is important to God. We’ve tried to figure out how submission looks in the church and in marriage. Over time, we’ve created a “one size fits all” model for submitting – a set of parameters we apply to all women, all marriages, all wives.
We’ve come to view our parameters as the measure of correct submission. We’ve called our parameters “roles.” We’ve believed that, for a wife to fulfill her role (formerly, to “know her place”) is the paramount virtue – superseding personhood, superseding personal relationship with God, superseding intimate and mutually honoring adult-to-adult relationship with her spouse.
And yet: Submission was made for people, not people for submission. So Jesus is Lord even of submission.
He has given us submission to serve and to enhance his image within us and to strengthen our relationships with one another and with him. He never intended that submission be used to deny anyone adulthood. He never sanctioned our invention of “one size fits all” roles. He did not design submission as a place where women/wives ever strive to stay within limited parameters, but rather as a way for all his people to delight in hearing and obeying him.
From What About Women? A Spirit-to-spirit Exposé, © 2013 by Deborah P. Brunt. All rights reserved.