Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wives Really Should Submit to their Husbands

This past weekend, I was blessed to be part of an Marriage Preparation retreat.  There were about 21 engaged couples who attended, and through this conference, we provided them with an opportunity to talk about different aspects of the vocation of marriage.  We touched on many different topics, including finance, sex and communication.  The main focus of the weekend was to discuss marriage in God's eyes and how to live a married life that will be blessed by God.

One of the verses in the Bible that we looked at regarding marriage, was one that I was already familiar with.  It was actually one of my favorites.  It is the dreaded verse that many women have a very hard time with.  It is Ephesians 5:22-24, and it says:

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Eph 5:22-24


This is one of those verses in the Bible that many believe degrades women.  Many read this, and believe that for a woman to serve a man and to be submissive, is to be the slave of a man and his needs.  After this weekend, I learned that this verse is less of a challenge for wives, and more of a challenge for husbands.

Paul says that wives should submit to their husbands just like the Church submits to Christ.  Why does the Church submit to Christ?  Why does the Church do all that Christ commands?  Why do we follow God's commandments at all?  It is because we trust, and we know that He has our best interest in mind.  There are things that God asks of His people, that the people do not understand, but they do it anyways.  This is because we  know that God will always lead us to truth.

Not only that, but Christ came to serve.  His mission is to serve us.  I think that many of us takes this for granted.  The Creator of the Universe came down to suffer for us.  He did not come down to suffer for Himself.  He loved us so much that he took on our human nature and suffered horribly for us.  He literally loved us to death.  For this reason, we submit ourselves to Him.  We live in submission (under the mission) of Christ.

The ultimate challenge of submission is not for the wife, but for the husband.  Paul tells us:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her Eph 5:22 


Our challenge as husbands is to love our wives just like Christ loved His Church.  How much did Christ love his Church?  So much that he spread out his arms and died for it.  That is the level of love that we are to have for our wives.  We are to forsake ourselves and sacrifice our life for our wives.  Many of us will not have to physically die for our wives, but that does not make our lives less sacrificial.  We are to put our needs and desires second to our wife.  We are to love her completely and fully.  If that means that we do not get a chance to buy the new fancy car that we want, or to go to all of the sports games, or hang out with the fellas at the bar, then that is what it means.  This is our mission.  Now, what wife would not be able to submit (be under the mission) of a husband who loves them like Christ loved the Church?

Lord, I pray for all of the husbands and the wives that may encounter this post.  Please strengthen their marriage, and give them the grace that they need in order to meet this holy obligation.  Strengthen the husbands that they may love their wives just like you love your Church.  Strengthen the wives so that they will be able to submit to their husbands the way that the Church submits to you.  Only through you is this possible.  Help us all, Lord to live out the type of marriage that you have called us into.  Amen.

17 comments:

bilbannon said...

In Casti Conubbii in section 74, the submission of the wife was insisted on in very strong terms.
Vatican II left it out as does the present catechism.....
The problem is in the teaching Church on this matter. John Paul II's comments in this area even had his followers not knowing what he was saying in Dignity of Women and TOB.

Carlus Henry said...

billbannon,

I am not sure I am following you.
What is your conclusion?

Are you suggesting that this teaching is no longer taught in the Catholic Church?

Thanks and God bless...

bill bannon said...

I'm saying it should be taught. There are 5 other passages in the New Testament that are likewise explicit on this. Too often Rome is "politic" about not offending...in this case women. In the mid 19th century, Pius IX did not write against the second Opium war of France and England because France alone was protecting the city of Rome for him as Italy took the rest of the papal lands....and France in the treaty with China forced all provinces in China to allow missionaries while simultaneously forcing them also to allow England to export opium into China.

Hence Rome was silent on the Opium War because France was doing two good thing for the Church: protecting Rome and forcing China to accept missionaries.
Now Rome is silent on your issue because women are the mainstay of the parish and often don't want to hear about jurisdictional headship of men.

Carlus Henry said...

bilbannon,

You make some very interesting points. I have to say that one of the points that you make that I find very interesting is the idea that the Catholic Church tries to be politically correct. I think that is the last thing that I would classify the Church as.

You also mention that there was a lot of sin and mistakes made in the Church. While I don't know the specifics of the France and China story, I do not doubt it. The Church is full of sinners and they do what sinners are known to do, which is to make mistakes.

I don't think that the Catholic Church is silent on this issue. I would be more interested to know how yo would define the submission of wives to their husbands. Also, what makes you think that the Catholic Church is silent on this? Is this because you have never heard it preached from the pulpit at Mass? Is it because the Pope has not come out with an encyclical on the matter? Do you believe that there is no official stance of teaching from the Catholic Church on this?

After doing a little digging, I did find this from Pope Leo XIII Encyclical on Christian Marriage:

11. Secondly, the mutual duties of husband and wife have been defined, and their several rights accurately established. They are bound, namely, to have such feelings for one another as to cherish always very great mutual love, to be ever faithful to their marriage vow, and to give one another an unfailing and unselfish help. The husband is the chief of the family and the head of the wife. The woman, because she is flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone, must be subject to her husband and obey him; not, indeed, as a servant, but as a companion, so that her obedience shall be wanting in neither honor nor dignity. Since the husband represents Christ, and since the wife represents the Church, let there always be, both in him who commands and in her who obeys, a heaven-born love guiding both in their respective duties. For "the husband is the head of the wife; as Christ is the head of the Church. . . Therefore, as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let wives be to their husbands in all things."(18)

Just because some people choose to ignore the Church's teachings on a particular topic (a certain Speaker of the House and VP come to mind), doesn't mean that the Church does not teach it.

God bless...

bill bannon said...

Carlus,
It's not in the catechism and that is where it should be if we are teaching it in anything but ancient encyclicals that no one reads but maybe 1% of 1% of Catholics worldwide (and I do not think it is that many).

And it is also not in the Vatican II documents and it is not in any sermon I ever had and it ought to be in the vow in my opinion. Pope Pius IX is more recent than Pope Leo XIII and I already gave Pius IX but who reads either of them at home.
It needs to be in the catechism.
As to what it means. There are two separate issues: headship that is spiritual and headship that is jurisdictional over decisions. One needs to exercise both. If one gives no spiritual guidance and example to one's wife and then claims to have headship in decisions where there is a dispute...then one is not doing all of what headship means.
But when the wife constantly wants to improve the house and the husband notes that some of that money should rather go to charities...then you can see why one person has to have the default authority status to keep the ship headed for Heaven and not the rocks.

Carlus Henry said...

bilbannon,

Okay. Now I better understand where you are coming from. I completely understand why you believe it should be in the Catechism.

At the same time, it is unfortunate, but I do believe that you give Catholics a little too much credit in thinking that if it was in the Catechism, it would make a difference. In order for this to impact Catholics, first we would have to assume that Catholics actually read the Catechism. That is the unfortunate part, I don't think that they do.

Side note, but it is on the topic of the Catechism. There is a great series on the Catechism by Father Larry Richards on the Catholic Men's Podcast. I have been listening to them, and I have found them great.

The other thing that I wanted to mention is that above the Catechism, we have the Word of God. While the Catechism is great, of course we know that it does not equate to God's Word, written and unwritten in Sacred Tradition.

I do understand your position and where you are coming from, and of course you are right. It would be great if it was in the Catechism. What would be greater is if we can all take the time to read the Holy Scriptures, Encyclicals and the Catechism.

God bless...

Christian Beyer said...

Carlus, I am surprised (considering the recent debate you participated in concerning Sola Scriptura) that you would not consider that Paul's position here was shaped by his position wthin a patriarchal society. Of course, for nearly 2000 years the church was patriarchal, but that is changing, even within the Roman Catholic church.

Rather than talk of submission, mutual or otherwise (as some Protestant apologists will term it) I think that wives and husbands would benefit more from a relationhsip of mutual sacrifice; to be more concerned with serving each other, rather than leading or following.

Just my take on how the Gospel ouldd be good news for most marriages.

Carlus Henry said...

Christian,

I completely agree with what you said. As a matter of fact, I think that we are saying the exact same thing.

Mutual service to one another is exactly the point of marriage. In other words, our spouses are our best chance to get into heaven, and we are theirs.

Of course the Church is patriarchal. That is not a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with being a man, yet we are innodated today with the softening of our masculinity. Unfortunately, we even carry the present day demasculation of men even unto Christ Himself.

Many people like to paint a picture of Christ that is far from reality. They make it seem as though He was a happy go-lucky kind of fellow, with treats and He wanted to paint rainbows and make everyone happy. Jesus is Love, but He is real love. Love sometimes disciplines and always challenges us to grow.

The Gospel this week (John 2:13-25) is evidence that He was not always the happy go lucky kind of Jesus. When the time is appropriate, he disciplines us not out of hate, but out of love, continually challenging us to grow deeper in our relationship with Him.

Christian, you have to forgive me for taking a couple of paragraphs to tell you that I completely agree with what you are saying. We are called to be a service to one another. We are called to submit ourselves to our spouse. Husbands in the same fashion as Christ laid down His life for the Church and wives in the same fashion as they are supposed to support the husband in that mission (sub-mission).

God bless...

Willison said...

Carlus, your original post was right on. God's idea of submission is premised on the proper execution of God's idea of leadership. Let's not loose focus in the face of these comments.
The Catechism is the "compendium (not a complete restatement) of all Catholic doctrine regarding both faith and morals". If we lived the way the catechism teaches, this would be a non-issue. Husbands would love as they should and wives would cheerfully submit to that love. The catechism is almost entirely about submission - lessening self and increasing the influence of God. The problem of writing a section that is specific about the roles of women toward men is that certain self-indulgent men would use it to do harm. Should Mother Teresa answer the call to be a foundress? Should Teresa of Avila be a Doctor of the church? Odd that there are no equal amount of complaints about the lack of catechism on how men should lay down our life for our wives even if she's not doing her part (like Christ did for the Church). What is really being said is "Gee I wish the Church would tell women to submit - TO ME." And that is often dangerous to men and women, because most of us (men and women) are so controlled by sin that no one should be submitting to us.
Perhaps there is wisdom in the Church drawing our attention first to how we should treat others rather than focusing on how others should treat us. Maybe we shouldn't assume that the Holy Spirit, speaking through a Council of the Universal Church, was cowardly or mistaken and instead spend some time considering why the Spirit thought other topics deserved our attention first.

Anna said...

I doubt anyone will ever see this, but it is absolutely ridiculous to compare Christ's relationship to the church to a husband's to his wife. This is insinuating that Men are wiser than women just as Christ is wiser than the church. Also I have heard if the husband is going against God's word, then the wife is not to submit to them. So in reality she is only submitting to God's will. She submits to the husband when it is God's will, but if it is not she doesn't. This is not submitting to the husband then, but to God. The fact that people have used this verse to keep women repressed sickens me. It is like using the verse about slaves submitting to their masters to keep slaves in their place. I know of no good Christian that would say a slave should willingly submit to the master and not try to better their situation. This verse is outdated. The men may have had more wisdom back then because they were simply more educated. Generally one who is more educated is going to make better decisions for the family. The bottom line is that this verse has no relevance for today's educated women. The fact that this is one of your favorite verses shows how big of a sexist biggot you are.

Carlus Henry said...

Anna,

Thanks for submitting your comment. I have to say that this is the first time in my life I have ever been called a sexist biggot, but I guess there is a first time for everything.

You said:
it is absolutely ridiculous to compare Christ's relationship to the church to a husband's to his wife. This is insinuating that Men are wiser than women just as Christ is wiser than the church.

To which I will reply:
Comparing marriage to the relationship that Christ has with His Church is completely appropriate. To think that this is insuating that Men are wiser than Women is a misrepresentation of what the Author intended. It is like saying that because of this comparison, we must believe that Men are free from sin while Women are not. Or that Men should be worshipped and women should not. It is a complete misunderstanding of scripture. Of course there are women out there that have married men that are much less intelligent than they are. I am sure that you can think of plenty of examples of women who are much wiser than their husbands.

You also said:
The fact that people have used this verse to keep women repressed sickens me. It is like using the verse about slaves submitting to their masters to keep slaves in their place.

To which I say:
You are absolutely right. People have used this verse to keep women repressed. That is why in my blog post, I am saying that this is less of a challenge for the woman as it is for the man. The duty of a husband is for him to love his wife, just like Christ loves the Church. That means that nothing is to be held back for her sanctification and ultimately her happiness. Husbands are to completely fulfill their wives needs, just like Christ fulfills the needs of the Church. That is the mission of the husband. What wife would not want to be under (sub) that mission - submission?

I do not believe that this bible verse degrades women. Instead I think that it ultimately a challenge for men. Men should be worthy of the sub mission of their wives due to the simple fact that they understand what their mission really is in the marriage covenant.

God bless.

e--rgent--e said...

St. Paul helps us understand his intent by the structure of his instructions in Ephesians 5. http://duodigest.blogspot.com/2009/06/should-wives-submit.html

Carlus Henry said...

e--rgent--e,

Great to have you...sorry that it has taken so long to respond.

I think what your post is getting at, is that we are called to be in total submission to God. To that, I say AMEN!!!!

Within the marital covenant, we are to be in total submission to eachother as well. Let's face it, our spouse is our best chance in getting into heaven. They should be continually holding us responsible to giving God more than just lip service. They should make sure that we are living and practicing our faith. Of course, we are supposed to be doing the same for them as well....

For example, I consider it my duty to help my wife learn over and over and over again, the virtue of patience... ;)

God bless...

Ann said...

I totally agree with Anna and Christian. You could have easily been born a woman and I don't think you'd find it one of your 'favourite verses' then. In every marriage there is 4 combinations: passive/passive, passive wife/assertive husband, assertive wife/passive husband, and assertive/assertive. Each person has a unique personality created by God. You can't destroy someone's harmonious marriage to another person by telling them they should do it completely differently to the things that drew them together in the first place. How can you say that two people who mutually submit, and compromise on everything successfully are wrong? When black people were treated with disdain by white Christians in the past and denied the chance to join a church, the white people would have been justifying it with passages from the Bible as well at the time - this just sounds like a replay. You could even have been born intersex (look it up on wikipedia -it refers to people being born with no established gender identity - like the runner Caster Semenya). God created them exactly the way they are from birth, perhaps to challenge us on our tunnel-visioned stereotyped perceptions of gender identity. You also have to consider women who never marry and lead themselves in all things in life perfectly well. Why should they then have their confidence gradually eroded as they suddenly end up not being allowed to make final decisions anymore like a baby? You end up talking about a father child relationship instead of two adults. And what if when they are older the husband dies first and the wife has to decide things for herself? You are biased because you just happened to have been born with an XY combination and have never experienced suppression, or grown up hearing about men being oppressed in other parts of the world as I have heard about with women. You are also taking advantage of the fact that men were able to dominate using their greater muscle mass to create a patriarcal society which then was transferred into the Bible. They didn't know any better but you should.

Carlus Henry said...

Ann,

Thanks for stopping by. As you know, I have written this post a very long time ago, but I will try to still address the concerns that you have brought up.

You could have easily been born a woman and I don't think you'd find it one of your 'favourite verses' then.

I guess I could have been born a woman, and you are right, my first response to this verse may not have been a positive one. Actually, my first response to this verse as a man was not a positive one either. However, after learning how much Christ loved the Church (that He would die for it), and comparing that relationship to the marriage covenant, I don't see this as being demeaning at all.

You can't destroy someone's harmonious marriage to another person by telling them they should do it completely differently to the things that drew them together in the first place.

I don't see how I have done any sort of thing....

How can you say that two people who mutually submit, and compromise on everything successfully are wrong?

I don't remember saying this either. If anything I think that I have supported this idea of mutual submission within a marriage. What did Christ hold back from the Church, His Bride? Nothing, He gave His life for her...

When black people were treated with disdain by white Christians in the past and denied the chance to join a church, the white people would have been justifying it with passages from the Bible as well at the time - this just sounds like a replay.

Speaking as an African American, I am all to familiar with how my ignorant Caucasian brothers and sisters in Christ, have mistreated African Americans throughout history...

You also have to consider women who never marry and lead themselves in all things in life perfectly well.

I am not even sure where this is coming from. I never said anything about the unmarried. If God has called someone to be celibate for His Glory...then I am all for it.

You are biased because you just happened to have been born with an XY combination and have never experienced suppression, or grown up hearing about men being oppressed in other parts of the world as I have heard about with women.

Hmmmm...You really don't know the first thing about me or what I have experienced in my life, so why would you even comment on it? We have all had our trials and challenges in our life, and hopefully, we have overcome them (or are in the process of overcoming them).

My apologies to you if my post has struck a nerve. That was not my intent. Instead, I am trying to show how much Christ loved His Church. So much that He would die for it. Out of that, we are called to submit to Him. That is very comparable to the marriage covenant. Wives should submit to their husbands. I think it is interesting that you find this duty to be more challenging for the wife rather than for the husband. In other words, husbands duty (from God) should be to find themselves worthy to be submitted to, which means that the husband, in my opinion, faces the bigger challenge.

God bless...

kenyamoo said...

This entire argument that this particular verse is a challenge for men to provide for their wives and isn't about a master/servant, teacher/student, parent/child relationship is bogus. It doesn't matter how you rearrange the words the verse is pretty clear. One plays the dominant role and the other is submissive. To say it is about a man fulfilling his wifes wishes or providing for her but isn't sexist is a total contradiction. That isn't equality. If the intent of the verse wasn't to say that the man is dominant then why are the roles of either man or woman mentioned? The only duty of either should be to care for and love one another. But I guess none of this discussion really matters since the bible isn't exactly a valued resource among women for equality. However I do hope that when women encounter such verses they are confident enough to challenge them and those who still stand up for such outdated ideas.

Carlus Henry said...

kenyamoo,

Glad you stopped by.

To say it is about a man fulfilling his wifes wishes or providing for her but isn't sexist is a total contradiction. That isn't equality.

From one perspective, I understand this comment. This post is an attempt to contradict the more popular misconception that these verses imply that women are subordinate to their husbands. Because of that, I am strongly presenting the idea that it is husbands that should submit and serve their wives.

The correct perspective on these verses is that marriage is about complete equality. Mutual submission of one to the other. So in that sense, I may have represented unfairly that men are to submit to their wives alone, but understand that it is to dispel the inaccurate understanding of a male chauvinistic view of these scripture verses.

God bless...