“Did You Really Say the ‘S-‘ Word?”

imagesYep, sure did. Read it and said it. I just let those syllables flow right out of the mouth and over the lips last Sunday as we worked through Colossians 3:18. Sub-mis-sion. Now I’ve even written it.

Humor aside, it was a week of “skating on thin ice,” at least from the perspective of current culture. There’s just no way to tackle that subject without that inherent risk. Thats precisely why we went to great lengths to define the word well (i.e., voluntary alignment) and took extra time for Q & A in the service. (In retrospect, I wish I would have handled a couple of the questions differently, but you don’t get a do-over when it’s live.)

For the ones I wasn’t able to address on the spot, let me take a moment and comment on them.

 1. Isn’t submission directly related to a husband loving his wife as Christ loved the Church? Without part two, isn’t part one a bad voluntary choice? It is related to, but not dependent on. And no, I don’t think alignment is a bad choice even if a husband isn’t loving well. Otherwise, 1 Peter 3:1-6 seems unnecessary.

2. Submission, or alignment, seems to be a key brick in the foundation of marriage. However, it doesn’t appear very often in marriage vows. Why? I don’t know why other pastors do or do not include the concept in the vows. I do know that in the weddings I conduct, both alignment and sacrifice are key areas I talk about, even if not explicitly in the vows. I think that’s the key—both concepts embraced beforehand in premarital mentoring and addressed publicly in the ceremony.

Of course, it wouldn’t be too difficult to figure out a possible answer to your question from a secular, even theologically liberal, angle. Here’s one: Simply say it doesn’t apply anymore. Then you can avoid it altogether.

3. In the home, what about the husband aligning with certain ways the house is run by the wife? Great idea, and an ideal way for a husband to show true love for his wife. After all, the wife is the “despot of the oikos,” and as the home manager, it is entirely appropriate and biblical for the husband to line up with how she knows the home needs to work.  This in no way usurps the husband’s headship, but actually extends it and shows trust and interdependence between him and his wife.

The remaining questions all dealt with a similar theme—what to do when alignment seems impossible. For instance…

  • What is a Christian wife to do with a functionally non-Christian husband?
  • Does “as is fitting in the Lord” mean that wives should always submit to husbands or only at times when it is appropriate to the Lord (not necessarily always)?
  • If the husband is making wrong decisions (i.e., allowing children to skip worship to go to birthday parties, games, etc.), should the wife still align with him?

Because each of these scenarios contains lots of variables and unknowns, providing a detailed “answer” is not only unwise on this platform, but impossible. So let me give a couple of overriding and biblical markers that I think must guide implementation, with the admonition to find some trusted, loving people to act as a sounding board for you as you follow Christ in these specific circumstances.

Marker #1: Alignment is an attitude first; it is a set of actions second. The willful decision by the wife to seek a submissive posture towards her husband is fundamental to seeing situations from a gospel-centered perspective. Without that mindset, it will be hard to know what to “do.” Why? The tendency will be to forget the long-term goal—maximizing the gospel’s influence. So just as Jesus had the right “mind” (Phil. 2) about his role underneath the Father, so should a wife have the right attitude before figuring out the best “next step” of action.

Marker #2: Alignment is a principle, followed by a process of putting it into practice. This requires people to walk with us, helping us think through how to best showcase the gospel in very difficult situations. Categorical answers and quick-fixes are rarely, if ever, profitable. So commit to the principle, willingly embracing this fact: God’s Word doesn’t give “escape clauses” if what he asks of us doesn’t set well with us. But he does give us his Word, his Spirit, and his people (i.e., the Church). And for exactly these kinds of times! So be vulnerable, allowing God’s people into your life to guide you with his Word and by his Spirit, and you may discover you’ll soon be victorious.

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