Earlier this week, I wrote a post about a very personal internal struggle. (You can read the original post here, if you'd like.) By writing my thoughts and feelings out, as well as the scripture God laid on my heart, I came to peace with my decision.
However, the post caused a ripple effect that I neither expected or intended.
You see, the post had to do with whether Josiah (my beloved husband) and I would attempt to have any more children after our newest is born in October (our 5th). Josiah is completely on board with having another baby because he feels like children are a blessing from God, as it says in the Bible. I would totally agree...I just wasn't (at the time) sure that's what God was calling me to do.
Thus, my internal struggle.
I also spoke about being convicted because the Bible says, as a wife, I'm called to submit to my husband and our bodies no longer belong to us, but to one another. (Side note here: other than being 35 and chunky, there's no reason, medically, why I shouldn't bear more children. I've never had a miscarriage or any other trouble carrying or delivering babies. That's pretty important. My husband loves me more than life itself, and if it presented any probability of danger, he would insist we not try to have more children.)
When I put the link on facebook, I tagged a few people whose input I thought would be very interesting. I had NO idea.
A few wives commented on the post saying that they didn't necessarily feel led to have more children (it is a very personal thing), but that they very much struggle in the area of submission.
Despite the fact that they feel otherwise, they aren't alone, right ladies? We are sinful, fearful, prideful, controlling creatures, and therefore, as wives, it is contrary to our very nature to submit to these also remarkably imperfect creatures, our husbands.
That's why we need Jesus! If it wasn't hard, we could do it on our own.
So, these ladies remarked that they had a hard time submitting and we encouraged one another. And then...
I tagged someone else in the post: a very old friend who is a pastor. He commented on various aspects of it, one of which was submission. He said, I take a very different view on submission - I believe in mutual submission with Ephesians 5:21 being the umbrella verse - "submit to one another."
That was my general reaction. I've got women posting on here about how hard they feel it is to submit, and this pastor is posting random, non-biblical things like "mutual submission"?! I felt like I caused a train wreck...and now...now I'm working damage control.
I asked him about this obscure teaching, and he gave me some links. The main one was a sermon by Pastor Andy Stanley. At first I didn't want to even listen to it. I really don't like reading or listening to things I know will make me angry or upset.
BUT, in this case, I felt I had a responsibility to look into it. After all...what if I'm wrong? I'm no biblical scholar. What if I've been thinking of submission in the wrong light?
But no...I wasn't wrong...and, after watching the video, that was blatantly obvious. As is often true when Satan tries to mislead God's faithful, there was some truth in the teaching, just enough to give it authenticity, but the end result is just a lie.
So...let's have a little talk about this mutual submission concept, shall we?
First, let's take a look at the verse Mr. Stanley quotes as the overarching principle that should rule our homes:
submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.
Ephesians 5:21 (HCSB)
Well, dang! Looks like I was wrong! Looks like we are supposed to submit to one another. After all, wouldn't that be easier? Wouldn't it just be easier if Doctor "Feel Good" was right, and Josiah has to submit to me, too? Off...the...hook, right?
But what about the next verse? The one that reads:
Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord,
for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.
He is the Savior of the body.
Now as the church submits to Christ,
so wives are to submit to their husbands in everything.
Ephesians 5:22-23 (HCSB)
That seems pretty clear, too. Hmmmm...
Here's the thing: Mr. Stanley quotes Ephesians 5:21 and calls it the ideal (which he's correct about), but says that it's the overarching principle that should rule our homes. Then, he says that the instructions to wives, husbands, and children that follow represent what it looks like in the home.
Once again, sounds pretty plausible, right? So maybe I AM wrong?!
Maybe we should take a look at Ephesians 5:21 in context. Good exegesis (exactly what it meant at the time and to the audience to whom it was written) and the subsequent hermeneutics (how it applies to our lives) always means looking at the scripture in context.
So, here it is:
Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk - not as unwise people but as wise - making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don't be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. And don't get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit:
speaking to one anotherThese are instructions on what the Christian life should look like: indeed, the ideal. It is the picture of the fully mature Christian, who has grown all the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,
singing and making music
from your heart to the Lord,
giving thanks always for everything
to God the father
in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,
submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.
Ephesians 5:18-21 (HCSB)
Is that you? Is that me? Nope. Net yet. Paul knew that when he was writing it, so you know what he gave us? Instructions on how to get there. Thus...instructions to wives, husbands, and children.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, you'll note that all of these verses were taken from my Bible, the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). This translation is very similar to the New International Version (NIV). Both are very committed to accuracy and the original intent of the writers. At times, I use them almost interchangeably.
However, there are times when they differ slightly, and this is one of those times. The NIV shows Ephesians 5:21 as being a separate sentence, all by itself, within the context of how to relate in a family, instead of as part of consistency in the Christian's life.
Why, then, did I choose the HCSB version over the NIV? Because in situations like this, the NIV (like many other versions) have often chosen to translate terms within a more socially acceptable light, as opposed to sticking with the author's initial intent. (One example of this is the Greek word for "slave," which the NIV translates a lot of the time as "servant," but historically and linguistically, the word means nothing other than "slave." A lot of translations made the change because of the negative connotation of the word in Western society, but unfortunately, it changes the meaning of a lot of passages significantly. The HCSB, on the other hand, translates it accurately. For more information on this, you should read Slave by John MacArthur.)
Furthermore, it makes more sense. Does it really make sense to you that parents are to submit to their children? Not so much. We ABSOLUTELY serve our children, completely sacrificially, but we don't submit to them. That's a formula for disaster.
There's another way I know Mr. Stanley didn't do his due diligence when creating this familial concept of mutual submission. He says:
“This principle has nothing to do with authority….It has everything to do with what we do with our authority. This has nothing to do with who makes the decisions. It has everything to do with how we approach the decision making process" (emphasis added).
Once again, there's some truth in that. Jesus came to serve us, and in turn, we should serve one another. Yes. Many verses back that up.
BUT...he says it has nothing to do with authority, and that...that's malarkey.
Josiah and I hosted The Art of Marriage at our church just a couple weeks ago (FANTASTIC, by the way. We plan to host another in November), and there's an interesting little tidbit I noticed on page 58 of the participant book. It's entitled, The Meaning of Kephale ("head"), and it reads as follows:
Dr. Wayne Grudem, in his effort to defend a biblical view of the roles in marriage, sought to inspect every use of the Greek word kephale, which is translated "head" in Ephesians 5:23. He found 2,336 occurrences of the word in ancient Greek literature, and in every instance, it was used to mean "authority over/ruler." He went on to assert that "no examples have ever been found where person A is called the 'head' of person B and person A is not in a position of authority over person B."Huh. You don't say? 2,336 occurrences, and every single one has to do with authority? Very interesting. It would seem, then, that Ephesians 5:23 has everything to do with authority. Everything.
This also negates something said in the other article my pastor friend gave me to reinforce his idea of mutual submission. That one claimed that Ephesians 5:23 has nothing to do with God's words to Eve after the fall of man in Genesis: He said to the woman: I will intensify your labor pains; you will bear children in anguish. Your desire will be for your husband, yet he will rule over you. (Genesis 3:16).
I don't know about y'all, but, particularly in the light of Dr. Grudem's research, those seem totally related.
Now, should a husband love (agape), his wife as Christ loved the church? Completely sacrificially, putting her well-being over his own? Well, absolutely, but it's like we say in our house...you need to worry about yourself.
As wives, we have to be concerned about our responsibility in the marital relationship because that's what God calls us to do, and it's our submission to HIM, and our relationship with HIM, that compels our obedience to scripture, and therefore, our submission to our husbands.
Can I get an AMEN?! (Apparently, Mr. Stanley doesn't believe in saying Amen in his church either, he says in the video. So, I say it out of complete defiance. AMEN.)
The final nail in the coffin for me, regarding Mr. Stanley's presentation, was his little blurb to non-Christians in the audience at the very end. He thanks them for being there and says he's glad to have them (Awesome! I'm on board with that), and then he tells them that they don't have to be Christians for this to work in their families. He says, You can be a better family if you use this without being a Christian family.
And that was it. He made no mention of why they need Christ in their lives. None. No mention of being lost or brokenness. No mention of needing the Spirit of Christ in you in order to attain the ideal he talks about in Ephesians 5:21. None.
In that one little bit, he reduces Jesus from the Savior of mankind, whom we all need because we're all hopelessly lost without him, despite how great of a life we THINK we might live according to earthly standards, to a new age self-help guru.
You don't need to be saved. Just apply this principle, and you, too, can have a really groovy family dynamic!
Those weren't his exact words, but that's the end result.
Here's a good measuring stick. If your family exhibits all the other signs that you're completely spiritually mature - speaking to one another all the time in psalms and hymns, singing and making music from your heart to the Lord, and constantly giving thanks to God - then you've attained full Christ-likeness. Congratulations!!
However, if your family is like mine - you love, but you still struggle with being sinful and prideful and controlling and fearful - then please, follow your portion of the instructions Paul gives at the end of Ephesians.
Submission isn't easy ladies, I know. Some of you have husbands whom, you feel, are not fit leaders or have no interest in leading. Some of your husbands are talking the talk, but they're walking over in left field. Some of you aren't even married to believers. It's hard. That's why we need Jesus.
I plan on writing another post later about biblical submission, in general, but I will say this: it is not being a doormat, but making a conscious decision obey God and trust in His word, to abandon fear and take up the breastplate of righteousness, covering our hearts in the safety of our Lord.
In fact, we are not weak, but warriors for God, taking up His full armor, fighting against Satan's influence in our lives and in the lives of our families.
Biblical submission is powerful, ladies. It is not weakness in the family, but strength in our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Wives, in the same way, submit to your own husbands so that,
even if some disobey the Christian message,
they may be won over without a message
by the way their wives live when they observe your pure, reverent lives.
Your beauty should not consist of outward things
like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes.
Instead, it should consist of what's inside the heart
with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit,
which is very valuable in God's eyes.
For in the past, the holy women who put their hope in God
also beautified themselves in this way,
submitting to their own husbands,
just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.
You have become her children when you do what is good
and are not frightened by anything alarming.
1 Peter 3:1-6 (HCSB, emphasis added)