3 Thoughts About Submission in Marriage


 I was working in my office with the TV on this past Friday when I heard an anchor passionately raising her voice.

It turned out the all-women panel was discussing actress Candace Cameron Bure’s recent comments on HuffPost Live about her decision to live out biblical submission in her 17-year marriage to NHL hockey player Valeri Bure.

In her interview, Bure defined biblical submission as “meekness, not weakness” and “strength under control; bridled strength.” And while in her interview Bure assured she makes her opinions “very clear” to her husband, the anchor wasn’t convinced. In fact, she seemed to define submission as a wife blindly following her husband’s every capricious whim in a humiliating, subservient manner.

To be sure, I can understand how poorly the word “submission” can come across to those not familiar with a Bible-based worldview. The biblical concept of submission is easily lost in modern-day translation. To many outside the Christian faith, the marriage principles which Scripture teaches, and to which Mrs. Bure was alluding are at best outdated and at worst, foolish.

But missing from this latest controversy regarding biblical submission is a very important part of the story: what does the Bible say about the husband’s role in a marriage? The critics seem to take for granted that the Bible gives husbands a free pass at being unfair tyrants.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are at least three points about a husband’s role that critics should consider before dismissing what the Bible has to say about marriage.

1. God calls husbands to love, and live a life of continual sacrifice for, their wives.

In Ephesians 5:25-33, Scripture compares the love a husband should have for his wife to the love Christ showed the Church. For the husband, that means dying to self on a daily basis just as Jesus died for the Church. It’s a life of service to his wife, of tending to her needs and putting her in priority above all others.

2. Husbands must submit to God.

Jesus made it clear during His time on earth that He submitted to God the Father (John 5:19; John 6:38; John 14:31). In a similar fashion, husbands aren’t given the authority to unilaterally “rule” over their wives and households. They are to submit to the truths laid out in Scripture, which include principles like meekness, mercy, gentleness and self-denial.

As Paul wrote to the believers at Philippi, Christian husbands must “in humility count others” – starting with our wives – “more significant than yourselves” (2:3b).

3. A husband’s authority over his wife is not absolute.

Just like the husband ultimately submits to God, a wife must make her ultimate allegiance to God, too. This means that whatever leadership her husband extends over the home is limited to what is God-pleasing and good. In other words, if a husband wants his wife to do something that is clearly immoral or unethical, the wife can echo the words of Peter in Acts 5:29 when he said, “We must obey God rather than men.”

 I recognize there are various reasons why this is such an explosive topic in the culture, including the fact that many husbands have not modeled the type of servant-leadership that Scripture commands. I hope that Christian husbands, myselfincluded, will take this as something of a challenge. Let us demonstrate the type of self-sacrificial love that Jesus did to such an extent that someday those in the culture won’t automatically bristle at the biblical blueprint for marriage, but rather desire it for themselves.

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Eugene Rossi More than 1 year ago

--Gimme a break

Eugene Rossi More than 1 year ago


"We must teach the whole counsel of God, including the hard stuff.  As long as we continue to dance around a subject which is so critical to the proper function of a Christian family, we should not expect to see the divorce rate within Christian homes be different than the secular world's."

I agree, lets teach the hard stuff. While you're at it, how about getting back to teaching everything in the Bible, like slavery and executing people for picking up sticks on the sabbath. And don't forget that thing Paul said about women wearing a head covering and not being allowed to speak in church.

It was a male dominated culture that invented a male god, and we have millenia of religious barbarism to show for it.

My question is this - why are there thousands of successful families that consist of scientists and nobel prize winners who don't believe in this stuff, and they are doing great.

Eugene Rossi More than 1 year ago

--What a bunch of nonsense.

If the Bible taught universal peace and equality between genders, races, and religions we would be colonizing the moon by now. Clearly many of these ancient teachings are simply the byproduct of the mythology and superstitions of a primitive culture. Anyone can read from the Bible and use it to promote slavery, racism, and misogynistic treatment of women. Just look at the middle ages - christians had women tortured to death because they thought they were casting magic spells on their crops. The reformation isn't much better - Martin Luther was an anti semitic teacher who believed in genocide and ethnic cleansing, and the salem witch trials? Need I go on?

Larry Ruggiero More than 1 year ago

--The fact is that leaders are superior to followers, in all contexts.  Submitters are inferior to who they submit to, in all contexts.  We can sugar coat this issue all we want; we can change the subject to tangential issues; and we can debate what "superior" means.  But at the end of the day, we know who is #1 and who is #2.  Nobody in this country aspires to be a VICE president, or a MIDDLE manager, or a BACKUP quarterback, or a JUNIOR military officer.  People aspire to be in charge, to be responsible, to call the shots.  True, leaders have responsibilities and there are good and bad leaders.  True.  But let's not misunderstand, the leader outranks the submitter.  Every time.  That's what God commands.  And to clear, when men and women submit to God, they are a very clear #2.  So let's not pretend it's somehow different here on His Earth.

Richard thomas More than 1 year ago

-- As the article states our society today, as in the resent past over look the part the husband is to play. We are the stronger sex but we must also display the gentle side God desires the Husband bring to a marriage. We are joined as one and must work as one to make our marriage grow as God would have it to grow. There is not an I there is but a We in Marriage!

Jed Morris More than 1 year ago


I would agree that many have done harm by mis-interpreting the Word to their advantage.  Your response to my post is an example of what I am trying to point out:  Let's avoid the teaching about what Godly submission IS;  Instead, let's focus on what it is not, how misuse of the concept is harmful, and the responsibility of others.  

Do we not also do harm (by omission) when we don't present the wife's duty regarding submission.  Instead we teach her ways to shirk the responsibility by shifting the focus to her husband's responsibilities or giving her excuses to call upon.

I listen to a great deal of talk radio.  When the submission topic comes up, the conversation quickly focuses to what it isn't and how it's abused.

The two sides of the same coin are:  The husband's duty to love & lead and the wife's submission.   Teaching about the latter, in my opinion, is neglected to the detriment of the family.

I have fallen short of my responsibility to be the spiritual leader of my home.  Similarly, I do not always love my wife as Christ loved the Church.  I continue to work on those commands.  I'm grateful that I have plenty of tools at my disposal and receive them daily by way of Christian talk radio.  My duties are independent of my wife's Godly submission.  But my shortcomings do not absolve my wife of her duty of Godly submission.  Her resources regarding submission are much more limited.  If she depends on the same type of resources that I do, she's going to go wanting.  In fact, she's going to be trained to shift the focus to my responsibilities and to change the subject to what submission DOESN'T look like.

We must teach the whole counsel of God, including the hard stuff.  As long as we continue to dance around a subject which is so critical to the proper function of a Christian family, we should not expect to see the divorce rate within Christian homes be different than the secular world's.

Cindy Watson More than 1 year ago
Who is dancing around it. I am a 50 year old women who has been a christian since the age of 11. I have seriously considered leaving the church because of this issue. I have been married almost 30 years and fortunately my husband is not a jerk like many christian men. I have heard so many wife submit lesson over the years that they make me want to throw up. Your husband is in charge, your job is to do what he says, he gets final say (gets his own way), you are to adapt your life to his. He has the right to tell you how to wear your hair, what clothes you can wear, what you can read, what you can watch, who you can talk to, when dinner must be served, when you must go to bed, when to get up, etc., etc. You were created for him, he wasn't created for you. He is not your helpmate, it is not his job to help you, it is your job to help him. You are to abandon your ambitions and help him fulfill his. God has given him the priority in this life. I seriously took a razor blade to my wrist over this stuff when I was a teenager.Obviously I failed. I contemplated it again recently and wanted to leave a suicide note implicating religious teaching. I asked my mom if God hated women when I was about 12. We have to deal with periods  (cramping, mess, moods) every month for 40 or more years and pregnancy and the pain that goes with it. We get reminded regularly that it is our job to submit. (give in, let your husband have his way) I actually look at young little girls who seem so bouncy and happy and feel pity for them especially if they remain in the church. I hope my children don't have daughters, I hope all their children are sons. So yeah although the spend 40 minutes out of every 45 minute on marriage lecturing wives about obeying (like a dog or slave) and 5 minutes on men I can absolutely see your point. They only need 1 minute to tell men oh by the way love your and buy her flowers. There, that sums up loving like Christ doesn't it. Definitely I can see your point they shouldn't dance around the submit lesson they need to smash our faces in for at least an hour or more every week. Lest we actually think we have any value. Couldn't have those evil woman forgetting their place(last) now can we?
Jack Smith More than 1 year ago

--I'm going to post this link in a separate post so that the sensors can delete it without deleting my previous post.


It is a blog by people who have experienced much pain and suffering from people who have misread the Holy Writ. It makes it clear in a way that nothing else can that it is essential to be as clear about what the Bible doesn't say as what it does say.

Jack Smith More than 1 year ago

--"Why is it that every time the subject of 'wives submitting to their husbands' is on the table, the concept is sidestepped to focus on what it doesn't mean or the husband's responsibility in the matter?" Because very much harm has been done by husbands taking those words at their surface meaning. It has allowed many an abuser to feel good and Godly about the horrible things that he has done.

Larry Bauer More than 1 year ago

--Those who read this that don't understand or adhere to a Biblical worldview will also, most likely, interpret, "meekness" as meaning, "mousy". Meekness does NOT equal being mousy.

Jed Morris More than 1 year ago

--Why is it that every time the subject of "wives submitting to their husbands" is on the table, the concept is sidestepped to focus on what it doesn't mean or the husband's responsibility in the matter?  We've heard all that over and over.  I get the distinct impression that Christians are embarrassed that the Bible says that "wives are to submit to their husbands."   Is it improper to present this teaching head on to the wives?  

Michelle Mazzantini More than 1 year ago

--A wife's submission to her husband is an opportunity for the wife to honour and serve both her husband and God.  Jesus was submissive to His Father's will - and God loved & honoured Jesus for it, as husbands are instructed to love & honour their wives.  If Jesus sets the example of humble submission being the ultimate form of love, how can we be offended that wives are asked to do this for their husbands?  Instead, why do we not see it as a privilege & blessing to have been given that opportunity?  Surely as the ultimate servant-leader Christ evidenced that putting others before self is enacting God's love.

Michael Cirino More than 1 year ago
Good point, there is no reason wives and husbands should not mutually submit.
Beth Cody More than 1 year ago

--Why is everyone always so fixated on the wife submitting her husband when that section in Eph is prefaced by the command of MUTUAL submission? I am with Jack here.

Jack Smith More than 1 year ago

--So the Saint Paul that wrote that in Christ there is no male or female had to deal with that in a world where women were the property of men, bought and sold unless rented. So he wrote that wives should be submissive to their husbands, but he did it in a way that looks an awful lot like he really meant that wives and husbands should be submissive to each other. To be submissive to and to love are the same things, after all.

But he used the language that he did because he wanted Christians to stop scandalizing the outside word. But the outside world has changed, largely because of Christianity. Women are no longer regarded as property and the language of submission now scandalizes the outside world. Perhaps if we want to be faithful to Saint Paul we should stop using that language unless we insist that we mean the wives and husbands are submissive to each other.

Jesus told the rich young man to give all his possessions to the poor. Some Christians take that as a command to all of us, some take that to be a command to just that one rich young man. Well, Saint Paul's letter was addressed to just that one group of people at that one point in history. Some of it applies today, perhaps some of it does not.