In today's culture, submission and subjection are distasteful, if not evil words. They are words used by patriarchal men to control and bend women to the desires of their husbands. However, as Christian's who are devoted to God's word, we cannot deny that one calling of a faithful wife is to submit to her husband. It might not be popular, but we are not aiming for popularity, we are aiming for holiness. We are aiming for lives informed by the word lived to the glory of God.
God, as the creator, tells us what is good for our marriages, what will cause them to flourish, and what will honour him. In Ephesians 5:22 Paul says, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord". And in 1 Peter 3:1-2 Peter says, "Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct."
When you have a self-sacrificial husband who loves you as Christ loves the Church, this might come easily to you. But what about when your husband is not godly? What do you do when your husband is a fool? What do you do when your husband is sinful? What would you do if you were married to a murderer? There is a story in Genesis that highlights this. What should you do when your husbands are not honouring God with their actions?
Recently we looked at an article titled, "A Woman of Faith", and we saw Eve display a profound trust and faith in God. Soon after this wonderful example, we run into two other women who are put in a precarious position. Their names are Adah and Zillah, and they are married to a murderer.
Genesis 4:23-24 says, "Lamech said to his wives: "Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain's revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech's is seventy-sevenfold."
Lamech was a descendant of Cain, and since the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, he followed in his father's footsteps and killed a man. He comes to his wives and utters this curse upon anyone who would seek revenge upon him, even though he killed a man in his own revenge. The Bible doesn't tell us how the wives respond, but how would you? What course of action would a godly wife take?
When confronted by your husband's failing, which unfortunately happens all too often, you face the question of how you must respond. For Adah and Zillah, there was very little they could do. They couldn't run to the police, or speak to their pastor. They were confronted by the sin of their husband, and they needed to respond. The vast majority of you are not married to a murderer*, but you are married to a sinner. So how should you respond when your husband sins?
It starts by remembering your husband is also your brother in Christ, so what does the Bible call you to do when your brother sins against you? The Bible provides us with three levels of response. First, Matthew 18:15, "If your brother sins against you, tell him his fault, between you and him alone." When your husband sins against you, God expects you to go to him and tell him his fault. However, because of your privileged place at his side, you are also called to help him see his sin in other areas. James 5:19-20 reminds us that, "if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins."
What happens when your husband will not listen to you? Let's be honest, us husbands, like all humans, can often be blinded to our faults! Matthew 18:16 says, "But, if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses." There is a place to speak to a trusted friend, elder, or pastor. Ask them to help you speak to your husband together about the sin in his life.
Lastly, Matthew 18:17, "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." This might be a scarey concept, but it is necessary. The reason it is necessary is that the goal of all aspects of challenging someone about their sin is to restore them.
How does submission play into any of this? Being submissive doesn't downplay the need to respond appropriately to your husband's sin, but it drastically affects the way you respond. We cannot control the actions or behaviour of your husbands, but you can control your attitude. The scriptures command you to have an attitude of submission. This means that when your husband fails - which they inevitably do - your attitude must remain the same. This is probably the hardest thing to do. Let's be honest, it is easy to nag, complain, and gossip. It is hard to correct with a heart that is submissive to the husband you have been given.
When you go to your husband, you must go not as a master, but as a fellow servant of Christ. Not as a mother, but as a sister. You must go as a fellow sinner who has been saved by grace. You are called to go to him with the attitude of submission, not seeking to force change, but submitting as to the Lord, with gentleness, meekness, patience, and love. You must go with the goal of seeing Christ honoured in your husband. But also with the hope that Peter reminds us of that when your conduct is pure and respectful, you might win them back to the Lord.
The world looks down upon submission as if it is a disgusting abuse of power. The downgrading of the honour and respect of a woman. The truth is the opposite. As a wife, you have the power to act in such a God-glorifying way, that your husband will come to reflect more of Christ's glory in this earth.
Wives, we husband's need you, not as submissive chattel pieces, but as Christ promoting vessels of love and power. What should Adah and Zillah have done? Maybe call their husband to flee to the mercy of God, and you need to do the same thing.
* - It is important to mention that if you are married to a husband who is committing criminal actions, contact the police. It is incumbent upon us to treat crime in accordance with the regulations of the land we are in. For the safety of others and for our husbands good.
This article was contributed by Logan Hagoort, Pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church, and one of our editors.