My Name’s Mollie And I’m A Submissive Wife

I’ve seen links to this all over facebook and google plus, and thought it might generate some interesting discussion here. One link to it was posted Aug 11th on I’ve posted it here under Mollie’s name — Norm


Instead of watching the debate tonight, I had dinner with friends in Littleton. The restaurant had approximately 34 televisions going and all were tuned into the Denver Broncos preseason game. I love Colorado.

So I missed the little brouhaha over Byron York’s question to Michele Bachmann, embedded above. When I think of the top, say, 1,000 questions I’d like to hear Fox News ask GOP presidential contenders, asking Michele Bachmann about her views on submissive wives wouldn’t rank on my list. And you could tell the audience thought it an unconscionably rude or idiotic question.

What I find surprising, though, is how little the culture understands about what the New Testament teaches Christians about marriage. So as a wife in a Christian marriage, allow me to explain. Marriage is my most important vocation. It is the means by which God blesses me and my husband. Ephesians tells us that marriage is an image of Christ and the church.

St. Paul tells spouses to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives are told to submit to their husbands as to the Lord. Husbands are told to lay down their lives for their wives, sacrificing everything for them out of love.

We serve God by serving our spouses and denying ourselves for their good. As Gene Veith has written:

The husband loves and serves his wife, and the wife loves and serves her husband. The unpopular command for the wife to “submit” and the forgotten command for the husband to “give himself up” for his wife are examples of the self-denial required in every vocation. The husband, emulating Christ, sacrifices himself for his wife, who, emulating the church, receives that sacrifice in submission to him.

Today’s culture gets marriage wrong, in large part, because of our obsession with the self. People assume that marriage is supposed to be about self-fulfillment. Christianity, in contrast, teaches self-denial. The irony is that in a Christian view of marriage, both spouses are fulfilled, not by each of them making selfcentered demands, but through the selfless actions of the other.

I fail at this daily but this is what I aim for in my relationship with my husband. Likewise, he aims for this with me. When we sin, which happens all too often, we confess our sins and receive absolution. This is what our daily life is like and I’m thankful to have this teaching about marriage.

The fact is that the husband’s given role — that of complete sacrifice for his wife — is much more difficult than the wife’s role of submission. But something tells me we won’t be seeing anybody ask the Catholic or Evangelical male candidates whether they can be president while holding a Biblical view of marriage that requires this complete sacrifice for their spouse. On the one hand, that’s a good thing. On the other, it shows just how much that vital role — the one that sustains a Christian marriage — has been neglected and forgotten.


My Name’s Mollie And I’m A Submissive Wife — 23 Comments

  1. The Lord describes a full giving of ourselves to each other. There is no usurping of one over the other. That the “world” ever came to such a bizarre understanding is evidence of how out of touch many Christians are with God’s Word.

  2. What I find surprising, though, is how little the culture understands about what the New Testament teaches Christians about marriage.
    Why is this surprising? The New Testament does not inform our culture. It’s not part of the public education curriculum, nor is its study a prerequisite for being granted citizenship or the right to vote. On the contrary, it would indeed be surprising if a 21st century couple showed the slightest interested at all in anything a first century Palestinian religious text had to say on marriage.

  3. “What I find surprising, though, is how little the culture understands about what the New Testament teaches Christians about marriage.”

    More surprising is how little Christians understand about it.

    I have tried to discuss this with my 20 something daughters, lifelong Lutherans, who are appalled at the idea of submitting to “some self-centered, clueless jerk”. When I suggest that they might be looking for potential mates in the wrong places or applying improper criteria for selection they just get angry.

  4. Yikes, James!
    Do they include you among the “self centered clueless jerks”!?
    Do they have brothers?

    Their reaction is probably due to the fact that most sermons treat it as “man’s foot on wife’s neck” instead of as described above… and “sermonize” women 4+ times for every time a man’s proper role is mentioned (although Paul’s treatment has the number of verses reversed).

    I call it “the German attitude” because my Danish born father, and his brothers were quite protective/supportive of their women all their lives. (My mother’s relatives were German.) ;(

  5. Submit is such a “snarl” word in our culture, to use one of S. I. Hyakawa’s terms. Thanks Mollie for pointing out what we all intuitively get, as displayed by the audience reaction… that almost no one, even fellow, catechized Christians, can’t get past their cultural bias to understand the real Christian context. I can’t help but wonder how the actual Greek reads, and if there might be a less culturally offensive translation, or if this is one of those tenants of our faith that the world will simply not accept regardless of how you say it? After all, who really wants to put someone else first? RevFisk, if you’re tuning in, how about an AskdaPastor2.0 on the Greek text for this one?

  6. Girls should pay attention to how a young man speaks of/treats his mother. If he is not respectful of her, he will probably sooner than later, be disrespectful of you. (It’s sometimes instructive to observe how the boy’s father treats his mother, too.)

    Mothers of sons should strive to be allies, not “competition” (and usually will be, if they are not treated like “the enemy”.)

    But as far as advising “20 something” daughters, you are probably 20 years late.

  7. @helen #4

    I am sorry if that has been your experience – but It certainly does not match my experience. How do you come to the conclusion that “most sermons” treat it as you described? Sounds like you are projecting a bad personal experience in the corpus of Lutheranism.

    I would surmise that the most likely reason that James’ 20 something daughters reacted how they did is because they have grown up in a world that constantly tells them that women should not submit and has created and perpetuated two kinds of men (neither of whom are all that worthy of submission): 1. the fictional “sit-com dad” (i.e. the lovable moron who can’t tie his own shoe without his wife’s intervention) and 2. the all too real perpetually child-like male who is never required to actually become a man.

  8. The reason the world doesn’t get Christian marriage is because the Christian marriage is about the Gospel. Let’s face it the world doesn’t get the Gospel, but it does understand the “man’s foot on woman’s neck” lordship.

  9. @Joe Olson #7
    How do you come to the conclusion that “most sermons” treat it as you described?

    Joe, would it help if I qualified the remark to, “Most sermons I have heard in 3 states, 4 synods, over 5+ decades of active Lutheran membership in 9 congregations treated that text in that fashion”?
    I will say also that I have heard a balanced sermon on the subject in my present congregation and have complimented the Pastor responsible. (Perhaps times are changing!) 🙂

    YMMV! [Your 1. and 2. sound like variations on the same theme to me, and you omitted 3. The bully who rejoices in the sort of sermon I described.] I see revaggie knows that kind!

    James’ daughters have grown up in a world where the callers on “Car Talk” can confidently say that they are entitled to “sleep over” with any woman they take out to a nice dinner, if not the first time, then the second or third. If she says no, there will be no fourth occasion. I actually heard this discussion when I was on the road one afternoon!
    I’d say those callers fit your 2., there are too many of them and they may well be what James’ daughters are thinking of when they “get angry”.

  10. @Joe Olson #7

    Do not forget the third type of man, as seen on the Lifetime Channel: The abusive man, who will attack her every step physically and emotionally and will restrict her progress so she, as chattel, could serve him.


    A close look at the Trinity – 3 in 1 and yet 1 is 3 – could offer a clear reference for the
    function of submission, which illustrates humility in the absence of a power struggle. Php 2:6-11 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant . . .

    Grasp is another word for take. He did not take equality with God, but he did take the nature of a servant.

    In verse 9 we read that “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


    We can appreciate the Trinity for ALL its attributes, when the symbol no longer looks like a

    Eph 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

    Php 2:8 And being found in appearance as a man . . .

    In the covenant of marriage where 2 become 1 yet the 1 is two, we have the wedding band.

    Our politicians in Washington could all stand to get a real understanding of what it means to submit.

  12. Just a few meandering thoughts onMolly’s post, a great article from a first-person perspective. As Molly illustrated, “submit” is a vocation word. It cannot be foisted on someone. Rather, it’s a response in trust, from the military imagery of falling in line by hind someone. The thing to keep in mind is not to pit Eph. 5:21 and 22 against each other. 5:22 takes up the vocation of marriage from a role standpoint.

    5:21 is general.
    5:22 marriage
    6:1-3 Children
    6:4 Fathers (parents)
    6:5-8 Slaves (or, today employees)
    6:9 Masters (employers)
    I think Rep. Bachmann was quite tactful in her response to the question of submission and gave, perhaps, the best answer she could during the debate on the fly. But, submission goes beyond mere respect to a trust-filled reception of the roles our Lord gives us in the vocations where He puts us. Please, step in with a nudge of correction if I’ve misspoken here.

  13. Helen @ #4,

    “Do they include you among the “self centered clueless jerks”!?
    Do they have brothers?”

    I think they would be ‘kind’ and limit it simply to clueless.

    They have a step-brother in the same age group (I didn’t raise him) that fits well in the ‘boy with adult privileges’ category that Joe Olson described. I have attempted to talk to him about tuning in to the concerns of the girls he dates but he freely admits that he doesn’t really care what they want.

    I think the main problem is our culture. The U.S. pretty much consists of 311 million islands with a population of one. The scriptural message about order and submission in marriage is only understood properly in the context of order and submission in the church. My experience has been that few Christians are able to actually grasp the idea of unity in Christ. It’s just about “me and Jesus, my peronal Lord and Savior” and it ends there.

  14. #4 Kitty :
    What I find surprising, though, is how little the culture understands about what the New Testament teaches Christians about marriage.
    Why is this surprising? The New Testament does not inform our culture.

    Meow #4, yes it does.

  15. First century Christians had brains. It has taken 20 more centuries to dumb us down to the place where we cannot discern rhetoric or worse yet the many nuances of our own words. Only someone totally ignorant would take the word “submit” out of context in the scripture and build a church doctrine around it like some pentecostals and some Baptists have done. Good grief. The Mormon community has built a whole cult around submission, having used scripture to support what men want to use women for.

    And for women who stand on the “I will not submit to anyone” theme ad nauseum, you might want to take that up with God. He seems to think it was a good idea when He put it in His word.

    And finally, if the New Testament does not inform our culture as Christians, we are most to be pitied because we are left with nothing to inform us but our own sin sick natures. Ask Planned Parenthood who they are trying to inform for example.

  16. @Our God Reigns #17

    You have certainly nailed the issue here. I would like to add that it has become fodder for the world because of church stupidity. This should be a call to repent and educate in light of Holy Scripture. The concept of submission, in its true meaning, should never be an issue. It’s a way of life that produces a Christ-like environment.

  17. Why is everyone here completely ignoring the cultural context of Saint Paul’s words? That consistent cultural/societal context existed from the dawn of time right up till the victorian age that introduce the novelty of romantic marriage.

    up till around 1830 or so, men 1) selected their wives 2) bought and paid for them 3) and the women had NO volition whatsoever in this.

    To illustrate the practical application of this to fully underline this reality: The biblical definition of rape is that it is a property violation. The definition is utterly devoid of the modern idea that rape is a violation of the woman. This can be further seen by the Biblically mandated solution for rape: The rapist is to marry his victim.

    The biblical metaphor of Christ as Groom and Church as Bride loses, nearly completely , it’s original force by ignoring this. It destroys the Baptistic idea that we chose Jesus for one thing. The Church is his property. He has bought and paid for her with his blood. St Paul says even that the church is Jesus’ slave. How is that for teasing out the meaning of that word submission? The church did not choose Jesus.

    Now should we ‘reverse engineer” this metaphor as a New Testament law for marriage? Is that what St Paul was up to with this metaphor. I don’t think so. We would be wrong to take this metaphor as though St Paul is teaching about what marriage should be like, in a way that takes the focus away from what it says about our relationship to Christ. That would be to turn a Gospel passage into a Law one. And I am really not sure that we should feel compelled to insist that ourselves or others follow these cultural norms, no matter how ancient, as biblical mandate. That would arguably dictate that our christian culture should look remarkably similar to conservative muslim culture. Ahem.

    One more point: Up until around 1930 and the 14th amendment to the constitution permitting womens’ sufferage, Lutheran say NO difference in the place of women in the order of creation in any of the 3 “ordo’s or estates or governments of family and church vs civil society. So Luther and the reformers up till franz pieper would have frowned upon women being politicians, captains of industry, judges, police officers . They would also have frowned upon women being high school teachers or university professors except at all women schools. Why? the would have opposed ANY role for women in any context, secular , family or church, that places women in any position of authority over men who were past the age of puberty.

    Today we make a very artificial distinction between family and church on the one hand, and society at large on the other hand. The Lutherans prior to 1930 knew of no such distinction . It is a very very artificial one that is not supportable by Holy Scriptures.

  18. Mollie, I agree with you that contemporary culture teaches that marriage is supposed to be about self-fulfillment. A similar problem exists with the reasons why people have children and how they raise them. Christianity, in contrast, does indeed teach living sacrificially. St. Paul brilliantly teaches in Ephesians 5 about the relationship between Christ and the church by comparison to marriage and so teaches about marriage by teaching about Christ and the church. The first thing that should jump out at men is not that the Bible tells their wives to ‘submit’ but that we as husbands are to love our wives the way Christ loves the church. It is not unusual to find a young man who would say that he’d die for his beloved wife, but that is thought of in a romantic/heroic way rather than the sort of death our Lord suffered. A reading of Jeremiah’s object lessons or St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is a good reminder of what God endured from his beloved bride; which is to say God showed love for us in this, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Showing love and patience to our wives and children when they’re not being particularly loving in return is an everyday fact of life. When a wife sees from her husband sacrificial love, ‘submission’ to him becomes far less of an issue. Of course, a young lady should take care to marry a man of good character, rather than a self centered clueless jerk. Yet far too many hook up with boys, grant them privileges they should not have, and then wonder why these boy’s don’t grow up, won’t take responsibilities, won’t support them.

  19. @helen #6
    I agree completely. A young man who is disrespectful of his mother will not be respectful of his wife/girlfriend. I propose that the same ought to be true for a young lady and the way she shows respect to her father.

  20. Ironically, the world’s love songs are replete with words like “you _belong_ to me,” speaking possessively as in “Baby, you’re _mine_.” Romantic ballads are chock full of possessive pronouns.

    That’s nothing new. When was the last time you sang the Song of Solomon (6:3)? “I am my beloved’s, And my beloved is mine. He feeds his flock among the lilies.”

    I don’t know if it’s humanly possible to sanctify the term “to possess,” but if it could be done, I think that “possession” would describe a very close and endearing relationship and association. In a righteous world, if something were my possession, that would mean that I care for it deeply, look after it, protect it, provide for it — not abusing it or holding it in low regard.

    Sin has thoroughly corrupted what it means to _be_ a possession and to _have_ possessions — just as it has with the understanding of what it means to be submissive and sacrificial.

    The problem is not that I would treat my wife as a “thing,” but that I sinfully treat “things” as being something far less than the wonderful gifts which the Lord has provided. My wife is the _object_ of my affection. She is mine.

    Particularly so with regard to my spouse. Is there anything more unique about the possession of one spouse to another, i.e. the blessed communion they have as one flesh? Is that not the ultimate possession? Could I possess anything more completely than to be in such a communion? I’ve seen some men show more care toward their trucks than their wives, but try as they might, they could never possess their Dodges and GMCs to the point of being “one flesh.” (If you didn’t blush at the mention of the Song of Solomon, you shouldn’t be blushing now either.)

    And yet, as just one more example of confessionally-sound Lutheran paradoxes, I am not even my own, but I myself have been bought at a price: 1 Cor. 6:19-20 and 7:23.

    But getting back to Bachmann, should she have responded to the panelist’s question with a lecture on “the two kingdoms,” submissive to husband in one realm but not in the other? Then they probably would have castigated her for speaking of kingdoms . . . but a doctrine of “two democracies” just hasn’t taken shape yet.

    Should she have mentioned Biblical references like Acts 17:3 and 12; Acts 13:50 which speak of leading, prominent women?

  21. I was glad to hear positive about this from another woman and other things you said helped me to better understand the what is meant by this passage in the bible. Thank you.

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