So, just what does it mean? Is being submissive really the "becoming a doormat" that so many of us think of when we hear the word? The husband/wife relationship can only be understood, and that only in part, by viewing it through the lens of what it was meant to be a picture: the relationship of God and His Son, Jesus. John chapter 5 gave me some insights into submission as I read the relationship between Christ and His Father. As wives, let's put ourselves in Jesus' place and see how He lived out submission.
1. "Jesus was submissive to the Father, but He was not subordinate to Him." (emphasis mine) That is the statement my study Bible makes about this passage. So what is the difference? Dictionary.com defines submission as "inclined or ready to submit; unresistingly or humbly obedient". Subordinate is defined as "placed in or belonging to a lower order or rank; of less importance; secondary; subject to or under the authority of a superior; subservient or inferior; subject, dependent." In submission, Jesus is voluntary placing Himself under the Father's authority. If he were to be subordinate, the Father would be making Jesus do His bidding. I've seen Christian men interpret submission as subordination. One I know actually snaps his fingers to get his wife to do something, and she rushes off to do it. I've heard Christian men say, "It's my duty to make my wife submit to my authority." No, no, no! That goes against the very definition of submission. The Bible always addresses submission as something the wife does. No one can make another person submit; it must be voluntary.
2. Jesus wanted to please the Father, not Himself. I can feel all the women bristling again as they think of the implications of this statement on their lives! There are a myriad of excuses why we just cannot please our husbands. You've heard them all (and probably said them, as I have), so I won't go into them. This is where being a follower of Jesus separates from following the religion of Christianity. Following Jesus means to lay down our lives, to give ourselves totally to Him and to do His will. Anything else is pseudo-Christianity. God calls us to live a picture of this in our marriages. The good news is husbands are to lay down their lives for us, their wives. You know, the stuff fairy tales are made of: handsome prince risks his life to save the princess! The equally good news (though Satan causes us to view it as bad) is that we have to be willing to be "rescued" by our husbands through submission. Can you see Sleeping Beauty opening her eyes to see the Prince that had just braved the thick hedge and evil dragon for her and saying, "I think it would have been better to do it this way"? Or Cinderella to try on the glass slipper and say, "Yeah, it fits, but I don't want to marry the Prince. I have better plans for my life." ?
3. Jesus and the Father were one. This is perhaps the most beautiful part of submission. In the end, if husband and wife are both doing their part, there is no power struggle. Jesus was God and so was the Father. They were both equal in power and authority. However, Someone had to die for our sins. Someone had to be willing to come to earth and be the tangible sacrifice for humanity. Jesus willingly submitted to this, not because He was lower in rank than God, but because they could not work out their purpose (to restore us back to God) without this. As wives, we can be "one flesh" with our husbands in such a way that it is no longer "him and me" but it is "us". Do we lose our individuality or our personalities? No. Jesus didn't. We can see that He had His own thoughts, His own actions and His own personality. He managed His daily life and habits according to the way He wanted things done. Yet, He and the Father had the same purpose. Jesus knew Who He was and what His purpose was, and it always aligned with that of His Father. As women, our purpose cannot be wrapped up in our own selfish goals. Our husbands cannot be consumed with their own selfish goals, either. We have to both align our purpose with that of God's and "be one" to accomplish that purpose---with eternity in view.
What are some practical differences between submission and subordination? How do you live out submission in your relationship with your husband? Or, if you're not married, in your relationship with God?