For most of my life, I grew up hearing people in church talk about how wives should be submissive to their husbands. This always puzzled me because it was a very stark contrast from the household I grew up in and what I was taught.
Colossians 3:18 says, “Wives must submit to their husbands as is fitting in the Lord.” Ephesians 5:22 coincides with Colossians 3:18 by saying, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.”
Upon hearing and reading these verses, my first reaction is always disgust. The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of submitting to someone is “willing to obey someone else, willing to give in to others, and characterized by tendencies to yield to the will or authority of others.” Who would ever want to be that way? I would never want to submit to any person and be willing to do whatever they tell me.
I have heard these verses described in a variety of ways. The argument I hear the most is that wives are supposed to serve their husbands, be at their every beck and call and do what they say.
This point of view astounds me because it means that the wife is seen as inferior to the husband. God created man and woman as equals and loves them both the same. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” This clearly outlines that God created all people equally. Deuteronomy 10:17 says, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality.” This verse means that God does not pick favorites, and he has no prejudice against one sex or the other.
I was raised in the church and I’m a believer, but I was also taught to speak up and stand up for what’s right and for myself. I was taught to serve the Lord, to help and love his people, but I was also taught to be independent and never to let anyone push me around. Never once did I see my dad order my mom around or vice versa. They have always been a team.
The second argument that I have heard is that the word submit does not have the same meaning in Greek and Latin. The Bible was first written in Hebrew and then translated into Greek. The word “submit in” Greek is “hupotasso” which means to lift up or put in order.
Other languages have a murky translation of the word as well. German is one of these languages. The word used in place of “submit” in the German Bible is “sich unterstellen” which means to place oneself at a disposition of another or to equally share tasks and to support one another.
The Bible was written 3,500 years ago and has been translated numerous times. Who is to say there was not a mistranslation or a word or phrase that did not translate correctly? Ultimately, the Bible has been left up to humankind to interpret. So I take the core values, such as loving your neighbor and helping the poor and innocent, that God and Jesus teach in the Bible to interpret all the little stories and passages that might not quite make enough sense. The bottom line is we are all God’s children, and he loves each and every one of us equally. One of us is not meant to be subservient the other, we are only meant to serve one another humbly and to love the Lord.