Submission is one of those nasty little biblical words that we hate to hear. It offends our pride. It offends our sense of centeredness. This simple word brings a reality that is so very hard to accept…we are not god and we are not the center of the world. As a preacher when I come across this word in the bible, yes, it makes the hairs on my neck stand straight-up because I am about to be humbled.
Biblical submission however is a beautiful word with a meaning that is uplifting rather than demeaning as we would take it in our modern culture. In the Greek, the term is called hupotasso, and it originated from a military context. A soldier would arrange himself under the authority of his commander. There are three key concepts here: a soldier would; 1) arrange his affairs 2) of his own volition 3) under his commander’s authority. Arrange-from your free will under your authority...sounds different than a modern take on this word submit (to subject to some kind of treatment or influence).
For years this concept was abused to subdue and manipulate a man’s position in his home, something I would call false authority, which is not biblical. You see the word submission is frequently used to describe several biblical relationships (citizens to their government, workers to their bosses and yes the relationship a wife should have to her husband). We read about the husband and wife relationship in Ephesians chapter 5 and 1 Peter 3. What is most important to understand about biblical submission is that it is something the one called to submit does of their own choice to their authority. God calls a wife to free submit to her husband, but it is a choice SHE makes. It is a gift she gives her husband, willingly and freely. If a husband demands a wife’s submission it is not biblical and it is not hupotasso.
If a husband is leading according to his biblical authority, then he has arranged himself under the authority of Christ (that is right...a man is called to submit too) and he will lead with love and service, not authority and abuse. It is beautiful to see a marriage where a husband and wife are fulfilling their God ordained roles in the family. God is honored by it and society is so much better for it.