In an ariticle by The Telegraph dated 3 September 2012, the title read “ Sydney’s Anglican Church introduces a wedding vow by the bride to ‘submit’ to her husband. Critics claim it is sexist.
I am reminded of my own ROM (Registry of Marriages) party when my husband and I got married.
We had engaged a Justice of Peace (JP) to preside over our wedding. She was a pleasant and respected lady who had held a high management post in a very respectable firm before she retired.
When I showed the Justice of Peace my wedding vows, she quickly called me over. “Are you sure you want to say this?” She asked with concern, pointing to my part of the vow that read that I would “submit” to my husband.
“Yes, I’m sure,” I replied, (much to my husband’s relief I suppose). “This is the 20th century, men and women are equal,” she said respectfully. “No I want to keep the vow,” I said.
The JP (discreetly) shook her head in disbelief.
Does being submissive to my husband make me a subservient person?
“To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Genesis 3:16 NIV
I think many Christians have struggled with how God had made Adam “rule over” Eve. How did the loving God make women subject to men in this way? Would wives be forever at the mercy and possible abuse at the hands of their husbands?
Here I’d like to introduce the concept of God’s Order of Creation and God’s View of Souls. Let’s look at the latter first.
God’s View of Souls –
When God created Adam and Eve, He created them in His “image and likeness”. Therefore, each soul needs to be accorded equal esteem.
“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”” Genesis 1:26 NIV
Therefore, every soul is to be treated with the respect, honour and dignity that should be accorded to one created in the image and likeness of God. It does not matter whether you are rich or poor, man or woman, young or old.
To put it simply, “God does not show favoritism.” Romans 2:11 NIV
“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”
James 2:1-4 NIV
Anyone who sees a woman as less honourable as a man, a poor man as less honourable as a rich one, an old man as less honourable as a young man, are all guilty of showing favoritism – condescending God Who had created this soul in His image and likeness.
So if both man and woman (mankind) were created equal with respect to the dignity they receive as the children of God, why then must the woman submit to man? Did God make women weaker or less wise? Is God being sexist?
This brings us to the next point – God’s Order of Creation –
“The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”” Genesis 2:18 NIV
Note that the Lord made Eve (the woman) as a helper to Adam (the man). Not the other way around.
“But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”1 Corinthians 11:3 NIV
Note the Order of Creation here – it is firstly God, Christ, Man, then Woman.
Today, many women feel we need to be the head, because sometimes the men doesn’t seem to be doing his job of being the head.
But God has clearly made known His Order of Creation in the Bible. In other words, when God created Adam and Eve, each gender was to have his or her own role to play. Instead of taking over the other person’s role, as a man or woman, one needs to understand what one’s role is supposed to be.
Adam’s Role –
Adam needs to take up his role in learning how to manage his work matters and his household; in essence to “rule over” the “fish…,the birds… and over all creatures that move along the ground”. In other words, men are to make decisions and lead his family.
Adams, remember that God gave his command of not eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil to Adam only. He did not instruct Eve directly. Therefore, it is important that Adam (men) need to listen to God and instruct his family accordingly.
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”” Genesis 2:15-17 NIV
When God took the rib from Adam and made Eve, He did not give the command to Eve Himself regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; but it was Adam who had to tell her. (This is implied in the Bible. In Genesis 3, we read that Eve knew about the command when the serpent spoke to her.)
In doing so, God wanted to show both Adam and Eve that Adam was the head of the two, and that God would give his commands through Adam only. As the head, it is the job of Adam to listen to God and to teach Eve.
Eve should realise that there is no way you can usurp the role of your husband as the head of the family and still make wise decisions (in the eyes of God), because God only gives commands for the family through Adam.
Eve’s Role –
Eve should return to her role as the helper. She needs to let Adam learn to take up his role as the head of the household; to allow room for him to make mistakes and to learn from them.
So then, both men and women need to return to their roles – Adam as the head and Eve as the helper. Both are subject to Christ and God.
Otherwise, both are going against God’s order of creation. And when that happens, it is a disruption of harmony that God had intended for families. Chaos result.
It is no wonder that quarrels and divorce are much more common nowadays.
Now you may not agree that Eve’s usurpation of Adam’s role is the main cause of disharmony and divorce in families today. Why not try going back to fulfilling your respective roles as Adam and Eve today and see if this helps create harmony and love in your family?
For wives whose husbands do not yet know nor accept God- take heart. The head of every man is Christ and the head of Christ is God. (1 Cor 11:3) Therefore, God Himself will become your spiritual Head.
Wives, irrespective of whether your husbands are believers, you need to submit to your husbands out of obedience to God’s Order of Creation.
“Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” Colossians 3:18-19 NIV
“And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” 1 Corinthians 7:13-14 NIV
In doing so, we are obeying God’s Order of Creation. It is important to do so to maintain order and harmony in the family.
God is orderly; and in the Bible He keeps showing us that maintaining order is essential for us to live peaceful lives.
In Genesis, we see that God completed Creation in an orderly manner. One thing done each day. And the seventh day was a rest day.
God made Adam first, and then Eve as his helper.
Eve, when she disobeyed God, and took over the decision making (to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), and persuaded Adam to do so, ending up causing both herself and her husband to be chased out of the Garden of Eden.
Adam, in listening to Eve, became the follower and not the head.
Look at the chaos that resulted. All mankind is stained with Original Sin.
Both Colossians 3:18-25 and Ephesians 5:21-33, as well as 1 Peter 3:1-7, all speak of God’s Order of Creation in which wives are to submit to their husbands, husbands loving wives, children obeying parents and slaves obeying masters.
And all must submit to Christ.
Even Christ Himself submitted to God in obedience to die on the cross.
“(Christ) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:6-8
Like Christ, let us submit to God’s Order of Creation. Not forgetting to accord the honour and love that each soul should receive as one made in the image and likeness of God. Amen.