The Meaning of Mutual Submission in Marriage


            Before defining mutual submission, a definition of submission is in order. The word submit possesses strong emotional overtones in today’s society – overtones such as groveling, losing one’s identity, servility, blind obedience, and passivity. But it does not have to mean that. Instead, submission is a willingness on the part of one to adapt his or her own rights to those of the other. According to the New Testament, submission is the core of every Christian relationship. It is modeled after Christ’s willing submission to His Father. He was never compelled to obey, but rather He voluntarily complied.

            The term “mutual submission,” then, implies that the marriage relationship is not as one-sided as many have imagined it through the centuries. It does not mean that the husband always commands and that centuries. It does not mean that the husband always commands and that the wife always submits, for such an interpretation of the Scriptures leaves the mutuality described in Ephesians 5:12, which applies just as much to the marriage relationship as it does to brothers and sisters in the faith. Mutual submission means that there are times when each partner defers to the other. Mutual submission recognizes individual competencies. Each partner also operates with a willingness to adapt during times of conflict. Obviously mutual submission can function only when both partners consider each other as equals. Domination, not submission, occurs when an inferior surrenders to a superior person. I see the supreme example of mutual submission in the relationship of God the Father and Jesus. Jesus was perfectly submissive to the will of His Father, but the fact that He submitted did not alter His status of equality. Couples should aim for this type of relationship.

            Marriage requires a good deal of mutual submission, or in other words, give and take. Harry and I have certainly learned it. He prefers classical music, and I am strictly a semiclassical fan. Therefore he plays his heavy favorites when I’m not around. I’m an early-to-bed, early-to-rise person. He’s a night owl. He’s a pessimist. I’m the eternal optimist. He’s a spender. I’m a saver. He’s relaxed and easygoing. I’m an efficiency expert. Without mutual submission these differences in personality would be nearly impossible to work out.

            Each of the four previous role patterns listed leaves something to be desired for today’s Christian society. The heavy-handed, commanding, dictatorial, head-of-house system is outmoded in these times of equality and liberation. It can leave the wife feeling like something less than a person, and the accompanying results are destructive for both husband and wife as individuals as well as for the marriage itself.

            The matriarchal system sometimes sets the stage for many social problems, not the least of which may be homosexuality. “The rise of homosexuality among our youth is one of the major failures of American home life…. There was a time when people tended to believe the homosexual was born that way…. Now it is generally agreed that…. [it] is a result of a disinterested or negligent father” (David Wilkerson, Parents on Trial, pp.115,116). Now, the causes of homosexuality are complex, and the possibility that we have not yet identified all the causes, but certainly a strong mother figure and a weak father figure can be contributing factors.

            Even the most progressive couple who attempt to function as coleaders encounter a multitude of frustrations in the area of problem-solving. Harry and I are bicycle enthusiasts. Particularly during warm spring evenings before the Fresno heat descends upon us, we enjoy nightly rides together. One night as we were pedaling merrily along we approached a T intersection. Neither of us called out a preference in direction, and we collided. Even in such a simple matter as bike riding someone must take charge. Coleadership has gained out a popular acceptance today, but actually it is difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish, because a leader always emerges in a group situation.

            The competition that results from the power struggle ends in bitter and resentful partners and confused children. Competition is known as one of the vicious enemies of a successful relationship. In marriage a couple desires intimacy, understanding, and reinforcement of self-worth, not competition.

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Source by Dina Gajetes