Thank you to Marliss Bombardier once again for providing us with the recap of the final chapter of our book study of The True Woman by Susan Hunt.
Submission, as Susan Hunt says, is “the defining virtue of the defining virtues” of the true woman. I would say that it is the defining virtue of any woman, whether a true woman who seeks to develop the virtues of piety, purity, domesticity, and submission, or a new woman who is primarily interested in making sure her rights and desires are respected and fulfilled.
What is Submission?
“Submission, whether it is to God, to one another, to husbands, or to male leadership in the Church, is a grace-empowered virtue of humility and reverence for God. It has nothing to do with superior/inferior status or equality. It has to do with attitude and function. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in being and in power, but each has a different function.” pg. 206
Biblical submission is not subjection, nor passive subservience, but neither is it an evangelical feminist ideal of muddled gender roles that ejects men from their unique leadership roles in marriage and the church. It cannot be put in a neat, legalistic little box of specific behaviors or lifestyles. It can and will be different depending on the situation and relationship involved. It boils down to a matter of attitude-joyful and willing submission to the God-ordained authorities in one’s life; and of character-piety and humility.
“Headship and submission are two sides of one coin. They go together. But neither is exempt if the other forfeits.” pg. 205 This means that even if the husband is not taking headship responsibly, the wife still must obey God and submit willingly and joyfully, unless her husband is asking her to sin. Marriage may be the institution that God uses the most in our lives (at least for those of us who are married) to conform us to the character of Christ.
Susan Hunt gives some points of clarification about submission on pg. 206:
1) Every woman is not to submit to every man, but every married woman is to submit to her husband.
2) Women are not to submit to sin.
3) Biblical commands not to usurp authority apply to the home and church, not society in general.
4) All believers are to submit to the ordained leadership of the church.
5) We are to submit to one another, regardless of gender.
Rebekah – Lessons in Submission
The Biblical example that Susan Hunt uses in this chapter is Rebekah. We all know the story – Abraham sent his chief servant on a mission to find a wife for Isaac to fulfill the covenant promise God had given him. Susan Hunt does a wonderful job showing us what may have gone through the mind of the servant as he traveled. He knew that it wasn’t Sarah’s beauty that knit Abraham’s heart to her, but her character: her submission, purity, and reverence, her gentle and quiet spirit. (I Peter 3:1-6). He also knew that a God-fearing woman of noble character “opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” (Prov. 31:20)
Perhaps this is why he prayed that the woman God had chosen for Isaac would not only serve him water, but have compassion on his camels also, without being asked. And Rebekah was the one. She also showed her character when she chose to immediately leave with the servant to return to Isaac. “Rebekah knew that this was a costly decision, and that it was for keeps. I [Susan Hunt] believe this was an act of faith in the covenant promise and in the God who made the promise.” pg. 210
Rebekah brought community and compassion into Isaac’s tent, and comforted him after his mother’s death. They became one. “A man and a woman who individually live in God’s presence are able to live in one another’s presence in a profound way… When there is a growing, deepening oneness, submission is almost a non issue, because these marriage partners seldom have to consciously think about it.” pg. 211
But what happened? Many years later, we find Rebekah, no longer living in oneness with her husband, but conniving with her younger son, Jacob, to steal the blessing Isaac wanted to give to the older son, Esau. There are many reasons why this could have happened. We are all fallible, and Isaac and Rebekah are no different. Perhaps the children came between them. Perhaps Rebekah never truly forgave Isaac for lying to the Philistines by saying she was his sister instead of his wife and thereby removing his protection from her. “The reality is that every woman who submits herself to the authority and protection of her husband and/or the elders of her church will be disappointed to some degree.” pg. 214
This does not excuse us from our responsibility to submit. But we cannot be automatons, submitting on the outside and a hotbed of resentment on the inside. We are required to truly forgive, and that takes strength, self-discipline and humility. Above all, we must remember that we have no excuse not to forgive, because we have been forgiven so much. By God’s grace, we can reflect our redemption in our marriage, especially when it is not easy, and most especially when our husband does not deserve it.
“If we waver on submission, every other virtue crumbles.” pg. 217 Rebekah no longer cultivated community, nor was she a channel of compassion. The Bible is silent as to why, but many questions are raised. Was there bitterness? Pride? Self-interest? A lack of a godly mentor? All of these? Whatever the reasons, we can discern that it comes down to one thing: Rebekah focused on her experiences rather than her theology. She became a new woman.
Submission = Obedience to God
“Submission is not about logic, it is about love.” pg. 218 Submission is about love of God, a desire to honor and obey Him, living in repentance, and going continually to the cross. That is the only way we can fulfill our amazing and beautiful design as our husband’s helper, to continue to forgive, to have compassion, and to build community, first in our families, then in the church, then in the world.
Submission is a high calling. It means that not only do we submit to our husbands whether they deserve our respect or not, but our true submission can influence and elevate our husband’s character as we pray for wisdom to understand his maleness and appreciate him. Sarah’s submission elevated the character of Abraham, and we “are her daughters if [we] do what is right and do not give way to fear.” I Peter 3:6
Susan Hunt summarizes this succinctly: “God said that man needs a helper. The true woman celebrates this calling and becomes affirming rather than adversarial, compassionate rather than controlling, a partner rather than a protagonist. She becomes substantively rather than superficially submissive… Submission is simply a demonstration of her confidence in the sovereign power of the Lord God. Submission is a reflection of her redemption.” pg. 223
1) Has this chapter on submission changed your understanding of biblical submission? If so, how?
2) What have you learned in this chapter that you want to put into effect in your life?