As we saw in Colossians 3:18, wives are called to the sacred duty of submission. I defined submission as the recognition of and glad yielding to legitimate authority. But an important question to consider is the difference between godly submission and ungodly passivity. What’s the difference between a godly Christian wife submitting to her husband, and a Muslim woman submitting to her husband? We instantly see in our minds the obvious distinctions, but to an outsider, the rhetoric of submission is the same. The difference is that Christians are just bad at it. When a woman wearing a burka submits, she really submits, no ifs, ands, or buts about it! Allah’s will is supreme and unchallengeable, and like all worshipers, Muslims take on the image of their god.
The crucial distinction comes at the point of approachability. While the husband has real authority over his wife, his authority is not absolute, and this means that at any point, the husband needs to be approachable: he might need to submit to his authority on the issue. The Christian view of submission is based on the doctrine that men and women are of equal worth and value in the sight of God, because both were made in the image of the three-personed God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory. So when Christ submits to the Father’s will, it doesn’t say anything about who is more important, or who the only person that matters is. Instead, it shows that even in the Divine relationship, we find submission and authority.
But most important for us to notice here, it shows us that Biblical authority, godly authority, is approachable. Submission does not mean unquestioning acceptance and unthinking obedience. When Christ came before the Father in the garden of Gethsemane, God the Father did not brush Him off in a display of raw power. The Christian God is a personal God, a God we can know, and talk to, and reason with. God the Father wasn’t peeved with Jesus for questioning a decision that had been made before the foundation of the world. God the Father listened carefully to His Son, valued His desires, His opinion, and His will, and made His ultimate decision in light of those factors. Jesus gladly yielded, because He knew that His Father would do what was best. Real authority entertains questions and challenges without becoming defensive or crumbling into apologetic dust.
Husbands, because you serve an approachable God, make yourselves approachable leaders. If you aren’t being approached, it isn’t because you never make ill-informed decisions. It’s because you’ve made yourself unapproachable. But if God doesn’t mind having His decisions questioned, it would be silly for you to think that your decisions should be treated like the decrees of the Medes and Persians.
Wives, this means that in order to be truly submissive, you need to be frequently approaching your husband, telling him your opinions, thoughts, needs, and desires. Just by coming to him, you bless him by forcing him to be a leader of real people, made in the image of God, and not just a herder of mindless sheep. Anybody can lead water downhill. It takes a humble, approachable man to lead a godly woman.