Few things are quite as daunting for a single woman as the prospect of being called to submit to a man she doesn’t even know yet.
Will it mean being constantly overruled in decision-making? Will it mean that we are ordered around? Will we lose our real identity and freedom?
Indignation Feeds on Fear
Some single women may protest the idea that one day we should be called to submit to a husband. Is he inherently more qualified to lead? Why should I give up my independence? If men and women are equal in value, why should our roles be any distinct?
At the heart of our objections — at least for those of us who have yet to confront these issues in a serious relationship — is simply fear. We’re afraid that once we enter into marriage, we’ll find ourselves forced into sacrificing our unique opinions, dreams, goals, and personalities. It’s one thing to take these fears seriously and address them. It’s often easier simply to throw away the idea of submission altogether. Our fears are relieved, and we don’t have to admit that the problem is in us.
But when we invalidate our fears in this way, whether we realize it or not, we’re also validating a lie. Satan loves to distort our view of Christ and his love and, therefore, wants to warp our views of marriage. When we believe that our future submission to our husband’s authority is arbitrary, cruel, or oppressive, we inadvertently swallow the lie that God’s authority over our lives is arbitrary, cruel, and oppressive. But that could not be farther from the truth.
If we marry an unbelieving or ungodly man, we shouldn’t expect him to love us like Christ loves the church. But if we marry a man with a heart submitted to God’s, we need not fear submitting to him. If we are afraid of what submission to godly authority might take from us, our response should not be first to challenge the authority, but to examine our fears. When Paul says husbands are to love their wives the way Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25), he gives us a portrait of the type of man we should someday marry, and submit to, in our part of imaging the relationship between Christ and his church (Ephesians 5:22–23).
Submission’s Call: Receive Love
Our submission to God should shape our view of submission to a husband. Keeping a correct perspective of God’s love is the greatest source of empowerment for women, and it gives us a clear picture for what submission means for us as future wives.
The command for husbands to love like Christ is not small or insignificant. Christ’s love is not meant to demean, devalue, or hold us back. It gives us freedom, protection, direction, and provision. It is for our good, not our harm (Jeremiah 29:11). This is the kind of love we are called to graciously embrace in a husband’s leadership.
Christlike Love Is Kind
Christ’s love is gentle and kind, and this is what he commands of husbands (Colossians 3:19; 1 Peter 3:7). Christ convicts his church through kindness and exhortation, not shame or judgment (Romans 2:4), since he has removed the curse of the law’s judgment (Galatians 3:13). He speaks sweetly to us, to bring us to himself. Christlike love chooses kindness in exercising authority, to ultimately pursue, nurture, and strengthen the relationship.
Christlike Love Is Full of Grace
Paul’s command is clear, as he compares a husband’s love to Christ’s love. The foundation of God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice is grace (Romans 3:24), which we cannot earn and do not deserve. When we fall short of who we’re supposed to be — as we will daily — Christlike love draws us back to truth and welcomes us with open arms. It does not keep a record of our wrongs, and it is quick to rejoice when we turn from sin (1 Corinthians 13:5–6).
Christlike Love Is Servant-Hearted
Christ came to this world to serve (Matthew 20:28).
When we submit to a husband’s Christlike leadership, we follow someone who desires what is best for others, by placing them above what may be more comfortable for himself. He pursues God’s will above his own (Luke 22:42).
Christlike Love Brings Freedom
As followers of Christ, we have freedom through Christ, as we live out God’s will for our lives according to his word (Galatians 5:1). Christlike love reinforces the freedom that Christ won for us. A husband’s desire should be that we would live according to God’s command, pursuing his call on our life, and committing to use the time and abilities God has given us not as slaves, but as children of God who have been set free.
Submission to godly authority is not enslaving. In fact, the most freeing marriage is one in which we are led in the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21), able to walk obediently in the freedom that is in him (Galatians 5:1).
Free to Submit Without Fear
Everything God has commanded is designed to bring him honor and to bring us joy. Following his commands and receiving his love, including the love he gives through a husband, will not always be easy. Our sin continually gets in the way. But God has shown us it is good, and it is for our good.
If the Bible’s vision of complementarian marriage produces fear in you, attack your fears by resting on the goodness, grace, and security of Christ. These will never change and, with God’s help, your future husband can come more and more to reflect these virtues as he leads you. When we accept our God-ordained role in nurturing and affirming godly leadership, we contribute to a beautiful, unique display of God’s love. We stand up to the world and choose to make an eternal impact through something temporary.
If you marry a man committed to this Christ and this gospel and this God-given vision for marriage, you need not fear. This kind of sacrificial love and loving submission is something to be celebrated.