Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Submission: An expose

*Long post alert!!!!!

Femostic challenged me to address this topic as an off-shoot from the previous post. I don't think I really did your line of questioning justice but when I begin to write, the writing takes on a life of its own and despite my best efforts I am unable to rein it in and be on-topic. I just allow myself to be led by the Spirit.

Let me start by saying that as a Christian woman, I believe in submission...I do. It may seem that I don't from my previous posts on this blog but I actually do. But, my view on submission is slightly different from that touted by society. When we hear people talk about submission, it is usually to buttress a point that they can't be challenged, questioned, reasoned with simply because they are men. Their word is law and you better not sin against God by not being seen to submit to the men in your lives particularly your husband. But is this what the bible was saying when it talked about submission?
Illustration by Jeff Larson
Ladies and gentlemen, this is my take on the oft quoted Ephesians 5: 22 - wives submit yourself to your husband.

In fact, let's take it to church y'all.

*Pipe organ slowly plays in the corner, while I adjust my humongous hat and cream suit*

Open you bibles with me to Ephesians 5: 22 which says:
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
This is from the authorized King James' version. I do not purport to understand the King James Bible as a study version because of the evolution of language. So I would often consult the Amplified and/or Message versions. I would issue the regular disclaimer issued in my church: the Amplified version is not a different bible, it just does what it says on the tin; amplifies the context for ease of understanding. Likewise the Message version, which essentially simplifies for easier understanding and relate-ability.

So the Amplified version says:
Wives, be subject (be submissive and adapt yourselves) to your own husbands as [a service] to the Lord 
While the Message version says: 
Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ
In law, it is oft said that whatever is clear and unambiguous needs no further interpretation and should be given effect as is. I would say the foregoing text is clear enough to be given its natural interpretation, non? What I've found is we often attempt to make clear and succinct things complex, to suit our agendas. Further, people read the bible haphazardly to find portions that suit them. In law, we also do not take things in isolation because a decision/legislation that seems favourable in the first line, would put a kibosh on your victory in the next line. I think the same thing  applies to the bible.

So, what is my assessment of this verse?

First and foremost is the fact that my submission is to my husband not to every man. Your penis does not garner automatic female submission from the world at large. So, a colleague at work has no right to expect my submission. Look to your own wives for that. In fact, let me make this highly controversial statement:

I don't think your submission is to your boyfriend either.

There! I said it!!!

I truly don't. I think submission is a fruit of marriage. Your boyfriend gets your respect as a person and potential husband but not your submission. But in the bid to appear as 10 yards of wife material, we women are rushing to donate fruits of marriage into the courtship coffers. I am of course not advocating rudeness and haughtiness in the course of a relationship in the bid not to jump the gun on your submission but I see it more as a spiritual endeavour made easier by the bonds of love and marriage. That being said, I do not think it is within your boyfriend's right to demand your submission. Period.

Oh it gets more controversial. Let's carry on.

Secondly, my submission is not necessarily for my husband.

Yup!! I said it!!!

It is a service to the Lord. My submission is for me as a service to my God. This verse was imploring wives to do a service to God that would endear their husbands to them. Her submission is held in trust by you for God. But the way some men go about strong-arming women into submission these days, I'm not sure God wants a part of that mess cos God sure don't like ugly.  If you have a Christian wife, she is submissive to you out of love but  most importantly because God requires it of her. You just saying 'the bible says you must submit yourself to me' is quoting the bible entirely out of context.The submission is not yours to is hers to give as a service to God and because she loves and respects you.

Let me expatiate on submission as I understand it from the preceding verse and texts on the subject. I read an article on submission, which likened submission to a management position. Let's roll with this analogy and put it in some context.

 The husband is the Chairman, the wife is the MD/CEO of Marriage Inc. Without going into too much detail on the election process, one is elected Chairman and would preside over meetings and related matters and would be regarded as the highest authority in the company. The MD/CEO is appointed based on experience and versatility and is charged with overseeing the day-to-day running of the organisation. In essence, they are both Directors in this company.

In a work environment, the MD/CEO is not the chairman's lackey.  When a decision has to be made, the Chairman consults with the MD/CEO as one who is most knowledgeable about the daily affairs of the company and would base decisions or take actions on the back of such advice. So there is deferment out of respect on both sides. One might be highest officer in an organisation but it doesn't make the position of the other less valuable. In fact, the MD/CEO position is one of immense value to any organisation and the Chairman sustains his seat and enjoys his role by having an amiable working relationship with the MD/CEO.

What is the essence of my long jibber-jabber? I look at a good marriage from the point of view of a well oiled organisation. The husband as the Chair and the wife as the MD/CEO. She is by no means his slave. Her submission to him is to enable the organisation; Marriage Inc., function like a well-oiled machine. Some husbands and potential husbands think submission is tantamount to slavery. Sorry gentlemen, as CEO, I'm nobody's slave. We are at liberty to employ other staff for the menial jobs in Marriage Inc. So use the proceeds from Marriage Inc., to employ a servant but it is not your wife.

Anyway, continuing from verse 22, verses 23-24 of Ephesians 5 in the Amplified version states that:
For the husband is head of the wife as Christ is the Head of the church, Himself the Savior of [His] body. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.
While the Message version states that:
The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.
You know why Christ is the Head of the Church? He laid down His life for the Church. Everything we do as Christians, we do in the name of Christ because he is the very essence of our salvation. Submission is not a result of battery, violence or coercion. You know what is funny about submission? It is the fact that men feel that have no role to play at all in being submitted to. They have never stopped to consider why their headship and leadership over their wives is likened to that of  Christ over the church.

Christ didn't just appear out of nowhere and demand that we submit to Him. He gave us His life, gave us the keys to life, salvation, healing, prosperity, peace, joy and love. He gives us an avenue to lay our burdens down and to approach the Most High Himself. You want submission but you are unable to provide a nurturing environment for your wife to grow, to exhibit her potentials. Instead, you feel threatened when she's even marginally successful. You are harsh, unkind, selfish, unyielding, self absorbed and you think the marriage is entirely about you.

Submission is automatic where the conditions permit it.

Submission is often seen as a state of having no say, of being seen and not/rarely heard. Honey, I think you are confusing "a submissive" with "submission". This is not an alternative lifestyle where you are my Dom and I am your sub. Naw boo-bear. This is a regular, vanilla marriage where we are partners. We converse and agree. Sometimes, my opinion may be more valid, sometimes, yours may be. We agree on the best decision/course of action. How does submission come in? Submission in this regard is not going ahead to make a decision without letting you in on the details. A lot of guys feel submission is like licking the horn of a cow tied with red cloth where they speak and you move trance-like. Let us not write our own bibles. Submission does not mean you married a mute or that it is your way or the highway. Submission arises out of my trust for you and it makes me value your opinion.

Even further, men go ahead to obliterate an entire portion of the bible and harp on the submission verse, completely ignoring their biblical charge as husbands.

The Authorised King James Version puts it like this:
 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. [...] Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
Amplified version states as follows:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word,That He might present the church to Himself in glorious splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such things [that she might be holy and faultless].Even so husbands should love their wives as [being in a sense] their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. For no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and carefully protects and cherishes it, as Christ does the church,Because we are members (parts) of His body. [...] However, let each man of you [without exception] love his wife as [being in a sense] his very own self; and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [[a]that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and [b]that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly].
And the Message version states: 
Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. [...] And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband.
Men are not left without a role in this whole thing. Men want veneration, preference, honour, respect, deferment and praises but how many men can say they have loved their wives as Christ loves the Church? How many men can attest to loving their wives as an extension of themselves, unreservedly, without constraint, whether she knows how to make 2 soups or 5, whether she gave birth to a football team of girls, whether she gains 1000kg in the first year of marriage? If we are being honest, not a lot of men can love their wives in the unconditional manner that is required to foster conditions of submission as they would always demand. The truth is, you loving her unreservedly is for your own selfish reasons too, it enables her submit herself. 

In addressing submission as a theme, I think we should go back to the beginning to adjust the warped understanding of men/female dynamics and perhaps we should have started with this.

Authorised King James Version:
And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him
Amplified Version:
Now the Lord God said, It is not good (sufficient, satisfactory) that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him
The Message Version:
God said, “It’s not good for the Man to be alone; I’ll make him a helper, a companion.
 I am one of those who doesn't believe that God JUST HAD TO create woman. She was not created because God was bored or was showing off. For all intents and purposes, man was not alone. He communed with God daily, he had every imaginable animal at his beck and call for his sport and amusement. Matter of fact, man must have not known that he was alone. Adam didn't know he was missing anything. He's never had a girlfriend before. His life was perfect. So God didn't really have to make woman if it wasn't for a purpose. He could have made a number of things happen; He could have permitted monkeys to talk and be serviceable to man in every way.  But God wanted man to have a creature who looked like him, whose reasoning matched with his, whose intellect was at par with his, who was able to help him troubleshoot situations, be a friend, a wife, mother, companion. The versions quoted above used help meet, suitable, adaptable, complementary, companion in describing the reason for the innovation that is woman. Till date, I have not read 'Slave" in any interpretation.

When Adam was presented with the magnificence that was woman, he said:

Authorized King James:
This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh (emphasis not mine)
This [creature] is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh
The Man said,“Finally! Bone of my bone,flesh of my flesh!
In modern parlance, I fancy that were Adam be asked to repeat this today, he would say: "Wow!!! For me???? Awesome!!!!"

If the earliest man's reaction to his woman was wonder and appreciation, I think modern men need to re-examine their lives. In fact, I think men do a great disservice to God by reducing such a magnificent gift given out of His goodwill and consideration for their well-being, to a slave, a drone, a robot who shouldn't have a say out of misguided egos and misquotations of His word. I don't think that was God's plan at all and this is evident in how He encouraged Abraham to take Sarah's suggestion of putting her servant in the family way. That's not a God who set out to repress His creation, so where did you guys get this doctrine from???

I will close service on this note: submission is something to be enjoyed by both parties; it should not be a burden neither should it be the carte blanche for terrorism and intimidation. It is not for one party to feel put upon while the other lauds their dominance over them.

 Let's not convolute the bible to massage our egos or to curry favour.


  1. *A cresendo clap with standing ovation* I love this post, I truly do....You should host a bible study session....sincerely! as an off shot of your comment on my tithing post, I love your interpretation of the Bible. Human beings are inherently selfish..and to a very large extent, the Bible has made provisions for that.....
    Keep making sense, my cherrieKoko. And may God cause you to continue growing in His light.
    "Alhamdullilahi, Love you!"

  2. WOW! Just like HD, I am giving you a standing ovation.. Word!! On so many levels!!
    Cherry! This is 'rightly dividing the word of truth'.. You certainly did this justice! Bravo! Well done!

  3. Cherry I was hoping to see one key verse in this epistle...but I think my eyes must have missed it...?
    ."Ephesians 5v 21-Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." ....that should pretty much end the matter (in my opinion anyway)

    1. Naijawife, you took the words right outta my mouth! Figuratively speaking of course.

  4. And just in case anyone is confused about where this talent of Madam Cherry came from, let me just remind you all that she is an OMO PASTOR.

    I give you an uncountable round of applause for this.

  5. Submission is a topic that will forever be argued. I wrote about it as well in 2011, here's a link : I think the word submission in that part of the bible will always be abused. Welldone Cherry!

  6. Very well written...however, this article brings up the existing controversy regarding these modern interpretations of the bible. In fact, in a bid to expand on these original texts; these texts have taken on a new meaning. Does that mean people who acted on it prior to this time were not doing exactly as God would have them do (sinning maybe??) lol.... back to the point; I only began to disagree with this article when it began to talk about equal partnership...Sometimes Christ (who is God and also the word of God) dictates things to the church (you and I) which we must do; whether we want to or not. So, although I think it may be impossible to achieve the level of love described by that scripture by husbands hence wives' submission....I guess we are all trying to become better Christians daily so its a journey. #myopinion


    Cherry, words can't EVEN explain what this post has done to me! Thank you SO MUCH for replying to my inquiry/musing so thoroughly and thoughtfully....that was magnificent and I WILL be sharing this post with as many people as possible.

    Topics like these really warrant the nuanced analysis you've presented...contextual readings help us grow spiritually and that is SO important. What's even more amazing is that not everyone may agree with what you've written, but you've created space for discussion where (many times) there isn't one, and that is how real learning takes place. This made my morning.

  8. Well done cherry. Love this so much its going on my fb wall.
    I think Submission is also about being faithful.
    @Anonymous above, lets not forget that the bible was not originally written in English and so KJV is just another translation of the Bible. Its interpretation should not be taken as superior to the Amplified or the Message translations.
    Truth be told God is Love and his Word is all about Love. So I don't think the twisted translation of Eph. 5:22 is what God intends it to be. Infact, as Naija Wife states Eph 5:21 sums it all up.

  9. "I will close service on this note: submission is something to be enjoyed by both parties; it should not be a burden neither should it be the carte blanche for terrorism and intimidation. It is not for one party to feel put upon while the other lauds their dominance over them."

    Preach it sister! Bravo.

    Submission is to be enjoyed by both parties. Yes! A relationship does not exist without both giving to each other. We need more female pastors to preach this message.

  10. Oh...and I love:

    "My husband wears the pants in our house but I choose which ones." lol.


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