Wives, be submissive to your husbands


In dull language of sociology, submissiveness is defined as “readiness of an individual for submission to a stronger, more dominant, higher in hierarchy”, (Ivan Vidanović, Dictionary of Social Work), and in the sense of God’s will submissiveness is love.

However, this term is very unpopular, vulgar and rough to ears of a contemporary man. Today, there is rarely someone who wants to be submissive to anyone.

And Holy Apostle Paul in his Epistle to Christians of Ephesus says this: “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the Church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the Church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the Church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as if they were of their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the Church, because we are members of His body. (Eph. 5, 22-33)

The translators of The New Testament, depending on their “political correctness”, have differently approached the term of wife’s submissiveness to her husband; some of them having intention to avoid and alleviate it. Vuk Karadžić says: ’’Wives! Obey your husbands as you obey God.’’ In his translation of this term, Stefanović followed him. Lujo Bakotić and Čarnić are in accordance with the official translation of The Holy bishops’ synod where, as you have seen, we read: submissiveness. Bakotić alleviated the ending of this chapter by using the term respect, where as in all other translations except his it is said that a wife should ’’be afraid of her husband.’’ ’’And let a wife respect her husband.’’

The submissiveness demand is something normal and usual in The Holy Scripture. By the help of this Christian virtue, we oppose the worst sin: the pride.The Apostle Peter invites us to be submissive to every human genus for the sake of Lord (1. Pt. 2, 13). “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake. Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” (1. Pet. 5, 5)

Before ordering wives to submit to their husbands the Apostle Paul orders everybody in the Christian congregation to submit to each other in God`s fear. (Eph. 5, 21)

Throughout my clergyman`s practice I have noticed that during the holy Sacrament of marriage – the wedding ceremony – whenever the chapter of Epistle to Ephesians was read, where the Holy Apostle Paul regulates the marriage relationships, the women would smile forcefully; some of them would really and truly laugh at the Apostle`s words, questioning them; and this would be a medicine to the men`s ears and they would not hide their triumph and satisfaction. After I made some deeper insight into the problem, I came to the conclusion that neither women should complain nor men should rejoice, because The Apostle allots the duties equally and coordinates mutual relationships of spouses.

The Saint Paul brings the Resurrected Lord in the center of the whole life, even marital, of Ephesus Christians, and instructs them that their excitment should be in the Lord. If the Lord is in the center of their life, if he is always present and the measure of all things and relationships, then there is a deeper meaning in the Apostle`s words about submissiveness of a wife and obligation of a husband. “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1. Cor. 11, 3). If he measures steps and acts by God, and if he knows that he will make payment to the Lord for his deeds, a husband cannot be an unrestrained tyrant, above every authority. The protection of a wife is insured by Christ.

Submissiveness of a wife to her husband is an absolute demand. It cannot be avoided, alleviated, diluted or “somehow differently” interpreted. It is the postulate of our faith. A wife must submit to her husband “as to the Lord”. “There are many wives who believe that they are submitted to Christ, but the lack of submissiveness to husbands proves that they are not submitted to Christ, too.” (John MacArthur) In the Message to his disciple Titus, the Apostle Paul instructs old women “to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” (Titus, 2, 4). And Holy Apostle Paul instructs the Christian women of the city of Colossus to submit to their husbands “as it is proper in the Lord”. (Col. 3, 19)

All this means a healthy relationship, based on the foundations of faith. A husband cannot ask his wife to do something abnormal, immoral or something against God`s Law. Holy Apostle Peter said: “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1. Pet. 3, 7). In other words: You pray in vain if you have a tyrant-like relationship towards your wife.

Submissiveness of a woman does not mean that a husband is above his wife. “In the eyes of Christ we are all equal. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3, 28) In fact, a marriage is the bond of equals. Let it not be confusion – warns us father Alexander Young – there is no place for disdain of any kind in Orthodoxy. Being the head does not mean that the husband has got any kind of dictator, tyranny based, self-willed or absolute power over his wife and children”. “Submissiveness of a wife was God`s plan, but in love and harmony and in full delight for one another. By pointing out the principle of submissiveness, Paul secures it from tyranny, selfishness and cruelty in the way that he points to the relation of Father and Son, which is a complete relation of love.” (John MacArthur)

When our salvation is in question, the star sky, shiny with countless stars, lanterns, proves it in the best way. The Holy mother of God is “more holy than a cherubim and incomparably more glorious than a seraphim.”

Why should the wife be submissive to her husband?

Because it is God`s will.

“For man is not from woman, but woman from man, nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol ofauthority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. (1. Cor. 11, 8-11)

St. John Chrysostomos compares a discordant matrimony with a ship “on which, in the middle of a storm, the captain and the helmsman cannot come to an agreement.” “If the leaders of an army are in agreement, everything goes well; but if they are not, there is a chaos.” The matrimony state, established by God, is important on a wider plan as well. “When in a house peace and harmony prevail, children are brought up well, the household is well kept, then relatives, friends and neighbors highly rate such success. In this way great benefit is made both for the family and for the country.“ (The same)

The woman is created from the man and because of the man. “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression”. (1. Tim. 2, 13-14)

To this, the Apostle adds the way of redemption, salvation of the woman: “Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” (1. Tim. 2, 15)

What is Eve`s sin about?

At the bottom of Eve`s sin is her rebellion against her husband`s authority; because she took over the leading role. Tempted by devil to cancel her love and devotion to the Creator, she did not go to her husband to ask for any advice but, being the first one, she tasted the forbidden fruit and made Adam do the crime as well. Direct consequence of her crime is punishment by God, to bear children in troubles, and her will to be under the power of her husband. “He will be your master”, (1. Moses 3, 16) orders the Lord.

An apparent sign of submissiveness of the wife to her husband is a compulsory cover on her head. Some cultures have preserved the custom ever since.