There is a great deal of misunderstanding surrounding the Bible’s instruction about submission. It is NOT God’s intention that some people are to be doormats. Through submission, He has provided a system for peaceful order in the home, in the workplace, and in society. It is the opposite of chaos. Submission is to be a voluntary decision, not something a person is forced or intimidated to do. Many domestic disputes are rooted in one or both spouses vying to exert power over the other.
Jesus Christ is the greatest example of submission, and He is to be our role model. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5–8)
Many people are familiar with Ephesians 5:22, which instructs, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” But fewer people are familiar with the previous verse, “Submit to ONE ANOTHER out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21) In a loving home, when both spouses are filled with the Holy Spirit, there will be mutual submission, in which both partners treat each other with equal worth and seek each other’s success and well-being. Never is a husband to coerce or dominate his wife.
A patriarchal view of submission is recorded in the first chapter of Esther, 500 years before Christ. At the end of a week-long party the king of Persia was inebriated. Wanting to show off his “trophy wife,” he ordered the queen to come to the party. She refused, which enraged the king.
The king’s advisors suggested that the queen should be deposed. They were afraid “the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.” (Esther 1:17–18) These advisors did not want their wives to expect to be treated as equals. Their idea of submission was “the man is in charge, and that’s that.”
When you look around the world, wherever Christianity has taken hold within a society, the value and treatment of women has improved. Far from submission being a call to subjection and being a doormat, submission is the way to equality, peace, and love within the home and society.