The New Testament uses the language of “submission” in several ways, including of the relationship of wives to husbands, most famously in Ephesians 5.22-24.  But this passage (and others like it; Col 3.18, 1Pet 3.1) does not in any way condone a husband domineering or abusing his wife. The overarching idea is a “mutual submission” (submitting to one another) shaped by reverence for Christ (Eph 5.21). While a different word is used for the husband’s relationship to the wife, that word is “love,” in the sense of divine sacrificial love. This is what a husband is called to, specifically in Eph 5.25; and what all believers are called to, in Eph 4.32-5.2. In such a relationship, submission is never the experience of a harsh and domineering imbalance of power, but the embrace of a self-giving love that works for the flourishing of the partner. If the model of submission is the church submitting to Christ (Eph 5.24), think of the disciples in the upper room, submitting to Christ as he chooses to wash their feet in an act of total servanthood (Jn 13). This is the Bible’s picture of submission. It is beautiful and life-giving, and never obligates women to endure violent or harmful behaviour.

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