What does a submissive wife in a Christian marriage look like?
James F. Pope
While Scripture provides the definitive answer, I also will be passing along excerpts—in quotation marks—from wives who gave me real-world insights. These wives had ties to courses I taught at Martin Luther College last summer.
“I don’t really think of myself as ‘submissive’ because today’s society puts a bad spin on being submissive. I like to think of myself as a ‘suitable helper.’ I need to support my husband as the Christian leader of our family.”
To many people today, “submissive” means “a willingness to be controlled by other people” (The Cambridge Dictionary). Many view any form of submissiveness in a strictly negative sense that pits one person in authority against another who merely yields to the authoritarian.
That is not the Bible’s meaning of submissiveness. When the Bible instructs Christian women to “submit yourselves to your own husbands” (Ephesians 5:22), there is a context that removes anything that might be demeaning, degrading, or insulting to women. That instruction follows this command that God gave to Christian men and women: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). Also, Christian women are to “submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. . . . Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22,24). How the Christian church submits to Christ is the pattern for Christian women interacting with their husbands
Christian wives explained what that pattern looks like in their marriages:
- “Look for ways to encourage your husband, in private and in public, and build him up.”
- “A submissive wife in a Christian marriage is a supportive wife. You work together with your spouse, and respect and support him in your marriage.”
- “Within a Christian marriage, a wife freely expresses her thoughts, trusting her husband’s response will lovingly support her and look out after her best interests.”
- “A Christian wife happily submits to her Christian husband because she knows every decision he makes will be done selflessly for her happiness and the good of their marriage.”
To provide balance, I also asked husbands who were on campus for courses last summer for their responses to your question:
- “She serves the Lord before she serves me.”
- “Because people are different,that submission on the part of wives will look different from one marriage to another.”
- “1 Corinthians 13 describes the kind of love husbands are to have for their wives.”
That last comment puts the instruction of wives submitting to their husbands in the proper context. While wives are to submit to their husbands “as the church submits to Christ” (Ephesians 5:24), husbands are to love their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Just as Christ is the pattern for a wife’s relationship to her husband, so Christ is the pattern for the husband’s relationship with his wife. Husbands are to love their wives with self-sacrificial love. It is to a loving leader (Ephesians 5:33) that a Christian wife submits.
A wife like that said: “Although my sinful pride can get in the way at times, it is not hard to agree with the authority of my husband as he demonstrates love for me in everyday life.” That wife describes Christian submission and Christian love well.
Author: James F. Pope
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019
- Q&A: Why is Pontius Pilate immortalized in our creeds?
- Q&A: How does remembering my baptism help with the guilt I carry?
- Q&A: Do parts of the Bible teach works righteousness?
- Q&A: How can I overcome my struggle with lust and pornography?
- Q&A: How should I help my child struggling with same-sex attraction?
- Q&A: Should Christians pray to saints?
- Q&A: Is anger sinful?
- Q&A: How can parents encourage adult children who wander from the faith?
- Q&A: Does the doxology belong in the Lord’s Prayer?
- Q&A: Is God fair?
- Q&A: When we pray, “Your kingdom come,” what are we praying for?
- Q&A: How can I better manage what God has given me this year so that I glorify him?
- Q&A: What are ways to glorify God besides singing in church?
- Q&A: I have no special gifts, and I mess up all the time. Does God really need me?
- Q&A: How do I overcome the feeling that my life has no purpose and I don’t make a difference?
- Q&A: My friend died and was not a professing Christian. What do I say to the family?
- Q&A: How can my mother and I forgive my father for being unfaithful and causing my parents to divorce?
- Q&A: Why were demon possession, gifts of healing, and gifts of tongues more prevalent in biblical times?
- Q&A: Is Christianity the only religion that gives the certainty of heaven?
- Q&A: If people go to hell, isn’t it their fault because God gave them free will and they rejected him?
- Q&A: Why are the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension important for the disciples and for us?
- Q&A: Can you explain Jesus’ words to the wailing women he met on his way to be crucified?
- Q&A: What if spouses don’t “love” each other anymore?
- Q&A: Is it wrong to have a cross with Jesus’ body on it?
- Q&A: Is our time of grace really unchangeable?
- Q&A: I know that we are saved by grace apart from works, but how can it be that easy?
- Q&A: Are there degrees of glory in heaven as a reward for good works?
- Q&A: Do Lutherans take the Bible literally and teach millennialism?
- Q&A: Are there different interpretations of the Bible?
- Q&A: How can we be sure the Bible includes what God originally gave us?
- Q&A: Why does it seem like Christianity is so negative?
- Q&A: How can I explain how Jesus’ resurrection is possible and if the Bible is reliable?
- Q&A: Is it okay to live together if we are planning to get married?
- Q&A: How is the Bible God’s Word?
- Q&A: Were we “created to make a difference”?
- Q&A: Am I being judgmental if I point out someone’s sin?
- Q&A: Do I need to read the Bible to have a relationship with God?
- Q&A: Can a Christian vote for a political candidate who supports abortion?
- Q&A: Does God really care?
- Q&A: Does it really matter how God made the world?
- Q&A: Does God send people to hell?
- Q&A: Is death natural?
- Q&A: How can I forgive and forget?
- Q&A: Does God help those who help themselves?
- Q&A: How can we say that the Old Testament God is the same as the New Testament God?
- Q&A: Is Jesus the only way to get to heaven?
- Q&A: Doesn’t God want me to be happy?
- Light for our path: Does God hate us?
- Light for our path: What kind of comfort can you give someone when a loved one commits suicide?
- Light for our path: What does a submissive wife in a Christian marriage look like?
- Light for our path: Is it a sin to want to die from a terminal illness?
- Light for our path: What advice can you give about applauding in church?
- Light for our path: Can you please explain Matthew 5:20?
- Light for our path: What is karma?
- Light for our path: Can the devil personally be tempting me and a lot of other people at exactly the same time?
- Light for our path: Does the word Easter refer to Ishtar, the Babylonian fertility goddess?
- Light for our path: What role does emotion play in contrition?
- Light for our path: What does the white stone in Revelation 2:17 mean?
- Light for our path: Is the cross symbol now anti-Christian?
- Light for our path: Were Joseph and Mary engaged or married when Joseph learned of Mary’s pregnancy?