Russ Moore, Dean of Theology, Southern Seminary - 12/5/11
of us who hold to so-called “traditional gender roles” are often
assumed to believe that women should submit to men. This isn’t true.
Indeed, a primary problem in our culture and in our churches isn’t
that women aren’t submissive enough to men, but instead that they are
far too submissive.
First of all, it just isn’t so that women are called to submit while
men are not. In Scripture, every creature is called to submit, often in
different ways and at different times. Children are to submit to their
parents, although this is certainly a different sort of submission than
that envisioned for marriage. Church members are to submit to faithful
pastors (Heb. 13:17). All of us are to submit to the governing
authorities (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). Of course, we are all to
submit, as creatures, to our God (Jas. 4:7).
And, yes, wives are called to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22; 1
Pet. 3:1-6). But that’s just the point. In the Bible, it is not that
women, generally, are to submit to men, generally. Instead, “wives” are
to submit “to your own husbands” (1 Pet. 3:1).
Too often in our culture, women and girls are pressured to submit to
men, as a category. This is the reason so many women, even feminist
women, are consumed with what men, in general, think of them. This is
the reason a woman’s value in our society, too often, is defined in
terms of sexual attractiveness and availability. Is it any wonder that
so many of our girls and women are destroyed by a predatory patriarchy
that demeans the dignity and glory of what it means to be a woman?
Submitting to men in general renders it impossible to submit to one’s
“own husband.” Submission to one’s husband means faithfulness to him,
and to him alone, which means saying “no” to other suitors.
Submission to a right authority always means a corresponding refusal
to submit to a false authority. Eve’s submission to the Serpent’s word
meant she refused to submit to God’s. On the other hand, Mary’s
submission to God’s word about the child within her meant she refused to
submit to Herod’s. God repeatedly charges his Bride, the people of
Israel, with a refusal to submit to him because they have submitted to
the advances of other lovers. The freedom of the gospel means, the
apostle tells us, that we “do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”
Despite the promise of female empowerment in the present age, the
sexual revolution has given us the reverse. Is it really an advance for
women that the average high-school male has seen images of women
sexually exploited and humiliated on the Internet? Is it really
empowerment to have more and more women economically at the mercy of men
who freely abandon them and their children, often with little legal
Is this really a “pro-woman” culture when restaurant chains enable
men to pay to ogle women in tight T-shirts while they gobble down
chicken wings? How likely is it that a woman with the attractiveness of
Henry Kissinger will obtain power or celebrity status in American
culture? What about the girl in your community pressured to perform oral
sex on a boyfriend, what is this but a patriarchy brutal enough for a
Bronze Age warlord?
In the church it is little better. Too many of our girls and young
women are tyrannized by the expectation to look a certain way, to weigh a
certain amount, in order to gain the attention of “guys.”
Additionally, too many predatory men have crept in among us, all too
willing to exploit young women by pretending to be “spiritual leaders”
(2 Tim. 3:1-9; 2 Pet. 2). Do not be deceived: a man who will use
spiritual categories for carnal purposes is a man who cannot be trusted
with fidelity, with provision, with protection, with the fatherhood of
children. The same is true for a man who will not guard the moral
sanctity of a woman not, or not yet, his wife.
We have empowered this pagan patriarchy. Fathers assume their
responsibility to daughters in this regard starts and stops in walking a
bride down an aisle at the end of the process. Pastors refuse to
identify and call out spiritually impostors before it’s too late. And
through it all we expect our girls and women to be submissive to men in
general, rather than to one man in particular.
Women, sexual and emotional purity means a refusal to submit to
“men,” in order to submit to your own husband, even one whose name and
face you do not yet know. Your closeness with your husband, present or
future, means a distance from every man who isn’t, or who possibly might
not be, him.
Your beauty is found not in external (and fleeting) youth and
“attractiveness” but in the “hidden person of the heart” which “in God’s
sight is very precious” (1 Pet. 3:3-4). And it will be beautiful in the
sight of a man who is propelled by the Spirit of this God.
Sisters, you owe no submission to Hollywood or to Madison Avenue, or
to those who listen to them. Your worth and dignity cannot be defined by
them. Stop comparing yourselves to supermodels and porn stars. Stop
loathing your body, or your age. Stop feeling inferior to vaporous
glamor. You are beautiful.
Sisters, there is no biblical category for “boyfriend” or “lover,”
and you owe such designation no submission. In fact, to be submissive to
your future husband you must stand back and evaluate, with rigid
scrutiny, “Is this the one who is to come, or is there another?” That
requires an emotional and physical distance until there is a lifelong
covenant made, until you stand before one who is your “own husband.”
Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as unto the Lord. Yes and Amen. But, women, stop submitting to men.