By Candice Gage
The topic of submission is always tricky at best. There are so many definitions of the term, so many ways of interpreting the pertinent scriptural passages, and so many possible applications of the relevant teachings. And then, on top of interpretive difficulties, we have social and cultural sensibilities to contend with.
It’s not an easy topic.
Still, many conservative evangelicals acknowledge some sort of role distinction between men and women in the marriage relationship. Women are supposed to respect their husbands. Men are supposed to love their wives.
Most of these conservative Christians acknowledge that men are given special authority in the marriage relationship. But what is this authority? And why should women respond to it?
A couple weeks ago, Christianity Today published Mark Galli’s “So, You Want Some Respect? The Difference Between the Love of Authority and the Authority of Love.” While Gallie is mainly discussing pastoral authority, I couldn’t help but think of the marriage relationship as I read his article. Consider this excerpt:
In this story (Mark 9:2–9), Jesus takes his closest disciples up a mountain, where they watch as he becomes arrayed in glory. At the climax of this story, the voice of the Father says to the astonished disciples, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” A story this wondrous has many points, but one certainly seems to be this: Jesus is someone the disciples should listen to. “Listen to him!” says the Father about his Son.
What’s less clear is why the disciples should listen to him.
Certainly, there is all this glory, the blinding light that wraps Jesus in a mantle of divinity. After a moment like that, and the Father’s command to listen, you almost expect Peter to say sarcastically, “Ya think?”
But apparently, it’s not about the glory. The display of glory is not intended to overwhelm the disciples with wonder, though I suspect they did experience wonder. The glory seems designed to get their attention so that the Father can make three things clear: that Jesus is his Father’s son; that Jesus is loved by his Father; and therefore, the disciples should listen to Jesus.
It’s the second and third parts that interest me—that the disciples should listen to Jesus because Jesus is loved by the Father. That’s a connection that doesn’t make sense at first blush. What does love have to do with authority?
Visit Christianity Today’s website to read Galli’s answer.
What sort of authority do you believe Christians are called to?
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