All posts by Marlena Graves

About Marlena Graves

Marlena is a bylined contributor for Christianity Today's Her.meneutics and Gifted for Leadership blogs. She also writes for other venues. She is married to her favorite person in existence, Shawn Graves. He’s a philosopher. Together they have three little girls. They enjoy their life together and always desire to welcome others into it. She’s on staff at her church offering and coordinating pastoral care for their beloved seniors. Her first book, A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness released in June 2014. She blogs at http://marlenagraves.com and her Twitter handle is @MarlenaGraves.

What does it mean for a wife to submit to her husband?

The answer you receive will depend on who you ask. Evangelical Christians living in the United States generally fall into two camps when it comes to biblical gender roles: Egalitarians and complementarians.

Both egalitarians and complementarians believe in submission; however, each group defines submission differently. Egalitarians believe that biblical submission means mutual submission. Husband and wife are to lovingly and respectfully defer to one another. They cite Ephesians 5:21 (nlt) as the key verse: “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) is an organization that represents the main tenets of Christian egalitarianism.

Complementarians believe that biblical submission means that a woman should have the disposition and inclination to yield to her husband’s leadership and guidance.  They disagree with the egalitarians’ reading of Ephesians 5:21–33. The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) represents the basic beliefs of complementarians.

Within these two camps, there is no consensus on the specifics of gender and gender roles. Subtleties, differences, and even sharp disagreements exist even among those within the same camp. Again, the answer to your question depends on who you ask within these groups.

If you’re married, a good first step is to have a conversation with your spouse. What do each of you think about submission within a marriage relationship? Have you both studied Scripture and the primary resources written by both egalitarians and complementarians? We cannot make a well-informed decision if we haven’t studied the grounds for each view ourselves.

My personal belief is that husbands and wives ought to submit to one another with the utmost love and respect. Each of us is to ask God for the ability to selflessly love the other with a 1 Corinthians 13 type of love. If a wife has gifts in an area that a husband does not have, he should intelligently submit to her gifting and expertise, and vice versa. For example, some husbands who have gifts of hospitality are married to women who have gifts of teaching Scripture. Each should freely practice his or her gift as unto the Lord.

When there is a disagreement, I do not think a wife must automatically acquiesce to her husband just because he is a man. They need to work through it, and if they cannot, they should seek outside counseling that takes both of their views into consideration.

There are equally lovely, intelligent, orthodox, and committed Christ-followers who have the highest view of Scripture who disagree on this issue. Both complementarians and egalitarians make ample use of Scripture to support their positions. Consequently, we cannot demonize our brothers and sisters who hold different views.

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Why doesn’t God just forgive everyone?

I’ve often wondered something similar myself. “Why doesn’t God save everyone?” After all, he has the power to do so.

Did you know that some Christians do believe that God saves everyone … eventually?

Saving everyone would entail forgiving everyone. But not everyone is truly sorry for their sins. Some people show no remorse for their sins or even acknowledge that they have sinned against others and God. How can God forgive the unrepentant? Some people talk as though forgiveness doesn’t require repentance, like when we speak of forgiving unrepentant abusive parents or violent terrorists. But it seems best to me to keep those concepts—forgiveness and repentance—connected while acknowledging that something else is going on in the cases just mentioned.

My husband (a philosophy professor) and I have often discussed this question. He offers this example. Suppose a parent offers to forgive a child for a particular misdeed, yet the child keeps sinning against the parent with no remorse. The relationship between the parent and the child is still fractured even though the parent extended forgiveness to the child. The parent desires an intimate, joy-filled relationship exemplifying reconciliation. God is like that parent.

God is good, beautiful, and full of compassion (Psalm 136:1). Forgiveness through Jesus Christ is for all (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9), but not all of us have it. Some of us continue to arrogantly resist God because we think we know better than God. Like Satan, we desire to be God (see Isaiah 14:12–15; Matthew 4).

But some say that in the end, even if people experience hell, they’ll have a chance to escape hell. Furthermore, they claim God’s love is irresistible and unconditional, so the unrepentant in this life cannot help but be wooed and so repent even after death. As for me, I’m inclined to think that some will stubbornly resist God in this life and in the next.

This question leads to many other theological questions about the nature of hell, the problem of evil, and the salvation of people such as babies, the intellectually disabled, and others who cannot understand the propositions of the gospel. There is quite a bit I don’t know about this topic. But I do know God is loving, compassionate, and just. And I truly trust him to judge rightly.

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