The Beauty of Headship and Submission in Marriage


October 17, 2012 by A Girl Like Me

I don’t blog.  I mean as of last night I don’t think I actually knew what it meant to blog.  When I was asked to write this blog I started to get flashbacks of when I was asked to write a 25 page paper in college and so that is what I started to do.  I got this wierd feeling in my stomach and started to sweat.  You see I was a Bible major in college.  Everything we discussed was supported by Scripture and then backed by what seems like 40 sources.  So 2 weeks ago I started in on this blog and I had references and sources and scripture and it was going to be massive.  I showed what I had to my wife last night and she said, “Just seems a little heady” (2003 college slang for overly intellectual).  After being slightly offended and annoyed I understood her point.  This is a blog – it’s supposed to be informative but more personal and less collegiate.  So this is my best attempt “to blog.”


Now that you now know that I am slightly crazy and sort of old fashion let’s jump in to this topic of submission.  I guess there has been a lot of questions about this topic from you ladies and so I will do my best to try and cover this massive topic in a few words.  There are many areas in which submission is discussed in the Bible but I believe the area that needs to be covered in this case is submission in marriage.  I want to be careful here because I know that I am sure I have already offended someone by just mentioning the idea that submission exists in marriage.  And I also want to be clear that where there is submission there is also headship.


I would like to propose to you that marriage is intended to be a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the church.  Paul actually talks about this in Ephesians.  He tells us that the mystery of marriage is this union of two into one and how this refers to Christ and the church. So I guess the first point I want to make is that just as Christ is head of the church so also is the husband head of the wife. (Ephesians 5:22)  This is not a bad thing.  I know that there are several cases in which people have screwed up these roles and I argue that is a result of sin.  There are husbands who instead of leading with love and humility lead as if they were dictators and are way too harsh.  Or there are husbands that do not lead and are lazy and indifferent.  Then there are wives that instead of being intelligent and willing in their submissiveness turn to manipulation or just plain disobedience.  I believe that these distortions are an effect of sin and are often used to taint our view of submissiveness.


You know it’s interesting to me that we pull this one verse out of Ephesians and get really upset about it with out looking at the whole chapter.  When I read through this chapter I came to realize that Paul is really describing a life that is being controlled and lead by the Holy Spirit.  I mean of course he is right?  How difficult would it be to a loving, humble husband and an intelligent, willing, submissive wife without the help of the Spirit.  Ever since the fall we battle against our sinful desires.  Even in Genesis God says to Eve, “And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.” Genesis 3:16 NLT


So what does this look like?  I mean does this mean that a wife is to just be void of any opinion or say in descisions?  And what about a wife that is married to an unbeliever?  All great questions.  Thanks for asking.  Being submissive does not mean that you lay down your God given intellect and abilities.  I think there are a lot of great things that have surfaced in women rights.  Women are fully capable of rational thought, decision making, and leadership.  In fact, in a lot of ways women are equal to men.  But I believe that within the boundaries of marriage there are definite God given roles that exist and the wife is to submit to the authority of her husband.  So say there is a large decision that is being made.  The wife is trying to be submissive but she can tell that her husband is about to make a bad call. Trust me – this happens a lot!  What then?  It’s interesting that the Bible says that the husband is to be like Christ.  It does not say that he is Christ.  There is fundamental difference between the two.  You see Christ is perfect and your husband is not.  Can I get an AMEN!  What this means is that there must be a way to approach your husband and raise concern about something you see that he may not.  And this is often very necessary.  I believe that as a submissive wife there should be a sense of respect, love and affirmation in that conversation.  A husband wants to be recognized for their leadership.  For example, what if the conversation started with something like this: “Honey, I really appreciate all the effort and thought you have put into this, and I love that you are taking initiative to lead our family.  I think that there may be some things that we have overlooked and before we move forward I would love to discuss this further with you.  I mean I love the 25′ snowman just as much as you, but I think we might be able to use that money wiser somewhere else.”  Haha – I mean who doesn’t love a 25′ snowman?  Obviously a ridiculous subject matter but do you see my point?  The wife was loving and affirming.  She clearly shared her concern but also showed that she supported her husbands leadership while still being submissive.


So what about an unbelieving husband?  Check these verses out:

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3 Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3 NASB


Let me start by saying that I do not find it a good idea to marry an unbeliever. Why? Well in 2 Corinthians it tells us that we should not be unevenly yoked.  What is a yoke you say?  Well a yoke is a piece of equipment they used to use to tie two working animals together.  Maybe it is two oxen that are plowing a field.  If they are uneven in strength then the plow may pull in one direction more than another.  You might have a round field instead of a square one.  So we are being warned to not tie ourselves together with someone who is an unbeliever.  The scripture continues by asking what fellowship does light have with darkness.  There are so many differences between the way a believer and a non believer live that it will only make things confused, messy, and difficult.  So my plea to you would be to try and tie yourself to somebody with the same belief in God that you hold.  Now I understand that there are cases when believers and unbelievers are married.  This can happen for many reasons.  One example would be that both the husband and wife were unbelievers when they married and later in life the wife came to know Jesus as her Savior. So now what?


I believe that even if a wife has an unbelieving husband that she is still called to submit to him.  Yup I said it.  As said in 1 Peter there are ways that a wife can act towards her husband that may lead him to repentance.  Which hopefully is the ultimate goal.  But let me say this, I also believe if that husband is leading her into sin that she must not follow.  The reason I say that is because God is the ultimate authority.  There are commands that have been placed by God that we should always try to obey.  Wives must recognize that yes their husband is an authority, but that God is the ultimate authority.  If the two conflict God’s authority must always prevail.  So when I think about how God calls wives to submit to her husband I can’t help but think about how important it is for the husbands to have Godly character.  So ladies when you are looking at a man and wondering if he could be “the one” ask yourself if he is living a life led by the spirit.  Would you trust him with directing you and your family through tough decisions?


Hope this helps.  I tried not to be too “heady” or boring.  I really do believe that true and pure headship and submission is beautiful.  I take it as a great privilege and responsibility to reflect Christ in our marriages and I hope that when people look upon my marriage they see Christ.


17 thoughts on “The Beauty of Headship and Submission in Marriage

  1. Jessica says:

    Very nicely done, Jason! It was straight forward and complimentarily backed by Scripture without the “headyness”. Thanks for the reminder and encouragement that I’m not crazy when I choose not to date nonbelievers. Coming from a college girl, it’s unheard of and a little stuck up, to most other people. But I hold my standards with God and He alone will be my judge and not the society of this world. God bless.

  2. Liza Kittle says:

    Another great blogpost about a very delicate subject.  Who was the writer this week…you usually say.   Anyway, just wanted to again say what a blessing to see people of your age group living godly lives before so many young adults, teens, and adolescents that admire and respect TAN so much.  Being a former radical feminist in my college years (late 1970s)….Gloria Steinem was my hero…. the thought of submission in marriage was repugnant to me.  When I came to know Christ in my early 30s and my worldview changed, I finally grasped the beauty of this issue.  God created us all of equal worth, but the design for marriage is reflective of the triune God…one in three….husband, wife, Lord…..and it is beautifully designed to work.  It took me awhile to learn how to “submit” as my father died when I was young and I was raised with 4 siblings by a very outspoken mother.  But once I did and started modeling my life with a biblical worldview, the Lord restored my marriage that had been plagued by alcohol abuse, anger, and disunity.   He is the Great Physician and is in the business of transformation. My husband and I quit drinking, raised our 4 children with biblical principles…we even renewed our wedding vows to symbolize that we had accepted Christ as head of our family.

    Keep writing and encouraging.  You are all beautiful people.

    In Christ,

    Liza Kittle

    • Jessica says:

      It was Mr. Jason Manlove Jamison this week. :) I agree – great post and wonderfully put. Jason, you may not have known what blogging was until now, but you are certainly pretty awesome at it. And Liza, your testimony is beautiful – thanks for sharing! I love this blog more and more as time goes on and it’s always a highlight of my day when I get an “new post” e-mail. :) God bless!

  3. Holli says:

    Wow! This was awesome! I remember you sharing at the MPLS concert how you were apprehensive (or something along that line), and now that you are done do you still feel that way?
    See, you spoke Truth (big T). I agree with you 100%. I liked how you made it seem black and white, when there is a lot of gray in this particular subject. You made it seem plain (which is a good thing, in my opinion). I enjoyed hearing it from a male’s perspective.
    I appreciated your comments on the role distortions and how they are a result of sin. I also believe that Satan loves to pervert things that God intended for so much good. He is a “mastermind,” but if we separate ourselves from the ways of this world and seek holiness Satan will not have his way.
    Good stuff! Blessings.

  4. Would you encourage someone who is in an abusive relationship (whether physical or mental) to ride it out? I think this is a very good post, but no one seems to address this particular topic. BTW I think you did an excellent job for someone who does not blog!

  5. Greta says:

    Jason, you made some very good points. Being a teenager I have definitely questioned relationship “guidelines” that the bible has mentioned. Especially seeing christian friends dating non-believers, it is sometimes hard to see what is so wrong with this. It is also very nice to be reminded that there are christian married couples that display this relationship very well, and show that godly submission can be a very beautiful thing! Thanks for blogging your thoughts :)

  6. Cc says:

    Thanks Jason :) wise words

  7. Lisa says:

    wow Jason..totally LOVED this blog!!!! Some of my friends take submissive as meaning you have to be a doormat…totally NOT what God intended! Love how you mention being respectful toward your husband..I once heard a survey say that if men had the choice of having someone say they loved them or respected them, they would choose respect every time. Thanks so much for writing this!!!

    • hanniep says:

      You are right on Lisa. In the bible it states for women to submit (respect) to our husbands and for husbands to love their wives. This is another validation of Christ and his living word appearing in our lives!

  8. Madison Foster says:

    Wow this was awesome Jason! It’s amazing how God works, you know. Last night in the young adult bible study that I go to we were literally talking about just this and the leaders brought up many of the points that you did! Thank you for blessing us with this!

  9. Jackie says:

    Hi there Jason, thanks for the post!

    I came across this blog post and I really, REEEAAALY felt that I had to comment, as a Christian woman who submits to her husband BUT who is NOT in a hierarchical marriage.

    I wanted to first touch on the idea that the husband in a marriage is ALWAYS the God-ordained “Head of the Household”. This is not to say that for many couples, a complimentarian relationship works; folks, if having an official “leader” in your marriage helps you to live your lives with harmony and peace, by all means carry on! However, I don’t think that “headship and submission” are Biblically mandated, and I was hoping you could share your thoughts:

    The bible verses that complimentarians usually point to (Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 2, and 1 Peter 3) I find are a bit problematic. You tell us, Jason, that Paul is “describing a life that is lead by the Holy Spirit”. BUT, Jason, did you realize that in nearly all of these passages that the instruction for wives to submit to their husbands is either preceded or followed with the instructions for slaves to obey their masters?

    Is a life that is “lead by the holy spirit” meant to condone slavery? I would guess that you, an intelligent, educated person, would think absolutely NOT! But, this raises some questions as to how much weight we should put on Peter and Paul’s letters. Peter and Paul were human and were not perfect, after all!

    I was also hoping, Jason, that you could help me to understand a “Headship/submission” relationship a bit more? What does it exactly mean for me, a wife, in everyday life, to be submissive? Does it mean that I need permission to spend any money? Does it mean that I cannot initiate sex? Does it mean that I cannot work outside the home?

    Here’s where I think we differ, Jason. I believe that “submission” speaks to a heartfelt humility, not an ordained hierarchy.

    Yes, I do submit to my husband, but not because he is a man and I am a woman. I submit to my husband because I LOVE him, honor him, and respect him deeply. And you know what? My husband also submits to me, for the same reasons!

    John (husband) and I submit to EACH OTHER! We are equals, but from time to time, we each let the other take the lead for a while. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not. But for us, it works and helps us to both grow as people.

    Thanks for the post! Hope you hear from you soon!

    • Emily says:

      Hi Jackie,
      I have my own opinions on your questions, but I’ve never been married so I’ll leave your questions to someone with more experience. However, I did want to clarify something which may help. You mentioned that these passages are surrounded by ones about slaves obeying their masters. You are right, Paul tells “slaves” to obey their “masters.”

      But the idea of what “slavery” is today and what “slavery” was when Paul wrote this letter are very different. Today when we think “slaves” we think of America’s history. We think about our country before (and some after) the Emancipation Proclamation. We think about segregation and race. Or if you’re like me you think about modern day slavery. But none of these were what Paul was talking about when he told slaves to obey their masters. Slaves in the 1st century Greco-Roman world were not segregated from society or looked down upon. They lived and worked in a very similar way to free laborers, and usually made the same amount of money. It was more like indentured servant-hood. Also, very few people in the 1st century were slaves for life. Most of them were free laborers by the time they were in their early to mid 30s.

      I’m not saying Paul’s words are out dated or that they no longer apply to us today. I believe that they do. I see it more like the relationship of a boss and employee for today’s world. If you’re an employee, should you not “work as if working for the Lord and not for men” (Ephesians)? I believe you should, and in my opinion that is what Paul was talking about.

      I cannot speak for Jason or his opinions on the subject. But I can tell you that there is a striking difference in Paul’s idea of slavery and the average person living today.

      So, should you put stock into what Peter and Paul say? I think 2 Timothy 3:16 says you should. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”
      Historical context is important and should be taken into account, but I don’t believe the Bible will ever be out-dated. Hebrews 4:12 tells us it is “living and active,” which to me says, it’s not dead.

      I hope this helps.

  10. Tammy says:

    Great blog. I am married to an unbeliever. I repented and accepted Christ about three years ago, my husband did not. I am glad you approached this subject. Made me think of a lot of things. I wont be filing for divorce anytime soon just because my husband is an unbeliever. He has many great qualities. He is beautiful inside and out. So it really does puzzle me that he doesn’t believe. But that, I have come to accept, is not in my hands. I have given that to God. For a long time I tried to figure out how I could make him a Christian. Big mistake. That is not my job. I can show him Christ, but the Holy Spirit will do the work in his heart. Took me a long time to accept that. Thanks for the subject matter. God Bless!

  11. Caitlin Ann says:

    Great blog, especially considering that this can be a very touchy subject. I’ve heard Ephesians 5 many times from several different pastors. What stuck with me the most was how the pastor at my best friend’s wedding explained these verses. He explained that Ben is the head of their marriage just as Christ is the head of the church. If Ben is willing to die for Lindsay (just as Christ died for the church), then Lindsay should have no problem submitting to Ben.

  12. tina says:

    Very good Jason. Thank u for starting a good conversation between me and my spouse. :-)

  13. ria says:

    that was great writing! really loved this:

    So ladies when you are looking at a man and wondering if he could be “the one” ask yourself if he is living a life led by the spirit. Would you trust him with directing you and your family through tough decisions?

  14. Lydia says:

    Great thing to talk about! We are talking about this in Sunday school. Great thing to learn and can make a life so much easier. :)

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