Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 2:1-22; 1 Peter 1:13-25
“For in this way, in former times, the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear." (1 Peter 3:5-6)
Being submissive… Perhaps there is no other concept in all of scripture so misunderstood. When I have a couple in marital counseling, the notion of a wife submitting to her husband is usually seen as how Edith Bunker had to run and fetch a beer for her husband Archie when he bellowed at her in the old “All in the Family” TV show. But that’s not at all what submitting is all about.
Wives are to submit to their husbands as they are to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22) But what does this mean? We know the ”sub” part of submit. It means ”under” like a submarine travels under the water, or a subject is beneath the rule of the king. The ”mit” part is less well understood. It means ”put” or ”place.” So a wife who submits is one who knows her place – under her husband.
But like Inigo Montoya says in the Princess Bride, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.” For a wife who knows her place under her husband also knows its not important where he thinks she should be, but rather where God says she is to be placed. He says her place is not as a subservient slave to her husband. It is her place to be under his care and protection.
This was the place that Sarah found herself when she wandered about with her husband Abraham. Once in Egypt, he even asked her to deceive the king by not revealing that she was Abraham’s wife. She obeyed, and is commended for it. (Not for the deception, of course, but for her willingness to follow her husband’s directives, since it was his God-given responsibility to care for and to protect her.)
So, for a wife to submit to her husband is to know her place under him as the one highly-valued by God. She is to accept the role of God’s prized possession and cherished vessel of life. She allows for her husband to be the one who is expendable, willingly risking his life to care for and to protect her. She receives her husband’s desire to give up everything for her, if need be.
In this way, the submissive wife is subject to her husband as she is subject to the Lord, just like Sarah called Abraham “lord” as a reflection of the LORD to her. The small sacrifice an earthly husband may be called to make on behalf of His wife is a tiny reflection of the sacrifice that the Bridegroom Jesus already made for His church, giving up His life in sacrifice for her, that she become His everlasting bride. A wife submits to her earthly husband until death parts them, but Jesus remains the church’s Bridegroom forever!
Questions or comments regarding the Reflections may be sent to the Rev. Mark Buetow, Reflections Editor, email@example.com.