nonSpeed Dating For Dummies: are you embracing submission?

nonSpeed Dating

Take a breath. Slow down. Dating doesn’t have to be so rushed. It does have to be right.

[Bonus material from Get Lost.] 

Rachel Held Evans
Rachel Held Evans


Last year Rachel Held Evans completed a year of “Biblical womanhood” that captured the attention of the press, perhaps because what she did was so creative and bizarre. She sought to literally live out everything the Bible talks about for women. This included:

•Sewing a grape-colored dress (pictured at left) to conform to Proverbs 31:22 which reads, “She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple.”

•Standing by the roadside of her city’s “Welcome to Dayton” sign with her own sign that read “Dan is awesome” to conform to Proverbs 31: 23 which reads, “Her husband is respected at the city gates…”

•Spending Easter weekend carrying around a stadium cushion to sit on and not letting her husband touch her because she was having her period. (To support the belief that women were untouchable during their periods as espoused in Leviticus chapters 15 and 18.)

As you can see, there’s an obvious sarcasm to her year of Biblical womanhood, but that didn’t keep her from capturing the attention of 4-5,000 readers a day on her blog. Rachel is a brilliant writer and a good thinker. Some of what she writes, I can support. But not all of it.

Evans is not a Biblical literalist and I think the overall purpose of her project was to ask if we really embrace the word of God entirely or if we all kind of pick and choose what we will conform to. It’s a worthy question and certainly illuminated in my own heart how strong-willed I can be when I decide what parts of God’s Word I obey. Armed with her wit and courage, she has made a lot of people think hard.

I have thought hard and here are a few concerns I have with Rachel’s work. First, several things she lived out literally—such as the two examples from Proverbs 31 above—were not commands but qualities to be respected in a woman. When we wrestle with what should be taken literally, we should probably stick to those things that are commands not commendations. The fact is, the freedom from the law of the Old Testament is kind of the point of the New Testament, isn’t it? I feel like Rachel forgot that.

The other thing that concerned me is much more critical. Rachel masks her liberation within marriage behind what she calls “submission that is a) mutual and b)characterized by humility rather than hierarchy.” [i] Of course, she hasn’t ever really tried on a true biblical form of what she calls hierarchal submission as far as I can tell. Her best attempt was calling her husband “master” for a week. She and her husband find submission uncomfortable. She writes:

“As I’ve tried to apply passages like Ephesians 5:22 and I Peter 3:6 hyper-literally, we’ve both noticed how awkward it is to try and institute hierarchal gender roles into our daily routine when, really, we’ve never found such roles to be practical. For us, it’s just always worked better to let the person most suited for a specific task or venture take the lead.” [ii]

Interpreting the Bible sure is difficult and Rachel is certainly allowed to have her point of view on submission. But while she attempts to excuse Ephesians 5:22, I choose to embrace it. “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just 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.”

The Greek word for submit in this passage is hypotasso. It means “to put in subjection; to arrange in military fashion.” Imagine if those in our armed services decided, “I’m not going to do submission in the traditional manner where there is hierarchy. I’ll follow when I think my General is better suited to make a decision than myself.” Our soldiers would be blown to bits. Our country would be at the mercy of militaries more disciplined than one like that.

Let me be clear about this: the kingdom of God is a kingdom. It is not a democracy. There is a hierarchy of authority. In that kingdom, Jesus is in authority over the Church. If marriage is to be a picture of the relationship of Christ and the Church, his Bride, we must maintain the integrity of the portrait. We can’t throw out passages like Ephesians 5:22 or the hierarchy of Christ and the Church.

Are you bristling at what I’m writing? Does it seem unsafe to submit?

Here are a few things that I have considered on my way to this point of view. They may help you grapple with your opinion on submission.

  • 1.) A husband is called to lay his life down for his wife. His life is a daily act of lifting her up. Without this heart of submission in a husband, submission from a wife becomes distorted and unhealthy. It takes two for this picture to be accurately painted.
  • 2.) Some Christian circles do overemphasize a wive’s submission and never talk about a husband’s role to submit to her needs to the point of laying his life down.  They are usually the same sub-cultures of Christianity that abuse teachings on modesty to the point of hyper-sexualizing women by overly emphasizing their physical beauty. I find these mini-cultures to be unbiblical and harmful to women. I’m sorry if you’ve experienced pain in that kind of setting.
  • 3.) My dear friend and late Pastor Paul Grabill was once helping me grapple with the question: Why does God call men to love to the point of laying their lives down and women to submit? His answer: “Men don’t love naturally. Women are always laying their lives down for those around them. This is an act of love. Women don’t submit naturally. Men have no problem submitting to leadership in almost any setting.” That made a lot of sense to me.
  • 4.) All of our relationships require submission. I submit to a girlfriend as we talk through our preferences for where to eat lunch or how to manage a team project. In talking through things with her, I am kind and submissive to her preferences. (This is a good example of where submission based on humility should reign supreme.) Often women who disregard submission in marriage end up treating their husband’s with such unkindness. They treat their husband’s in ways that they would never, ever imagine treating a girlfriend. That makes me sad.

 The fact is that Rachel and I both believe in submission. She defines hers within marriage as situational. I define mine as a hierarchy. From her candid writing, it seems that we both struggle to live out what we’ve chosen to believe, but both of us value submission. I hope you do, too. That means that being able to define it is important, so take some time to think it through.

Are you embracing submission?


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  • I am married to an unbeliever. I believe my efforts to live out Biblical submission have greatly improved our marriage. I’ve not experienced nor expected my husband to understand the concept of “laying down his life” for me, as he cannot submit to a Savior that he has not received.
    I felt God leading me, years ago, to trust Him to protect me and that I was to submit to my husband in faith. It hasn’t always been easy, but God has honored my efforts, strengthened my marriage, and grown my faith.
    Side-note… I’m a very strong-willed, opinionated, out-spoken gal. It is only by God’s grace that submission is possible for me – and probably for you, too! 🙂

  • We need to look ALL the way back to the begining, BEFORE sin(seperation from God); submission was directly to God. The hierarchy was to established order after Gods’ order was tragicly turned away from. Jesus said ‘FOLLOW ME’..not a Priest, Pastor,Saint, OR husband. If we are IN Christ, we have been translated into Gods’
    Kingdom, restored to that Heavenly connection by the Holy Spirit. Thank you Jesus!

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