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We should not be surprised when a fire starts from a bed of coals.  And in our culture, a firestorm erupts whenever a Bible-believing Christian talks about roles in marriage.

The most recent firestorm concerns Candace Cameron Bure, known best for her role years ago in the television sitcom Full House.  In her new book, Balancing It All: My Story of Juggling Priorities and Purpose, she writes:

“My husband is a natural-born leader. I quickly learned that I had to find a way of honoring his take-charge personality and not get frustrated about his desire to have the final decision on just about everything. I am not a passive person, but I chose to fall into a more submissive role in our relationship because I wanted to do everything in my power to make my marriage and family work.”

Words like these are not popular in our culture.  In fact, Candace seems to anticipate the controversy in her very next paragraph:

“Before the hair on your neck stands up straight, don’t think for a second that I get walked all over.  I don’t.  I have always firmly voiced my opinion, but when it comes down to us ultimately not agreeing on something, I submit to his leadership.  That decision to submit originally had nothing to do with my Christian faith, because it wasn’t strong at the time.  But once I started understanding marriage from a biblical perspective it all made sense.  I now recognize that I do all things in my marriage for the Lord.  He is my ultimate priority, and I honor God when I honor my husband, whether or not Val deserves my honor and respect at the time.”

The outrage expressed by some people troubles me.  Candace simply stated that she was making a decision for her marriage—to “do everything in my power to make my marriage and family work.”  Because she wears the cloak of celebrity, she is attacked—signifying how strongly our culture looks to those who are famous for its cues.  We Americans who valiantly defend freedom of speech often find divergent opinions not only uncomfortable but frightening—and so we attack. The same volume of outrage isn’t heard against women who must wear burquas, a much more repressive interpretation of the term “submission” than what Candace is choosing of her own free will.

Defining biblical submission cannot be done in a single post.  What makes any discussion more difficult today is our sound-bite culture, which has conditioned us to snippets of information, when this topic is a mystery only God Himself fully understands. Hopefully those of us women who “make a claim of godliness” can agree with Paul when, after addressing the topic of submission in Ephesians 5, he summarizes his inspired letter with, “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”

Do I believe in the concept of submission?  Yes, in the context of the entire Bible.  We humans long for clear black-and-white rules and definitions because they are so much easier to follow than the mysterious nuances of God’s eternal and living Word.

Do I submit to my husband and follow him?  Yes.  I respect him and his responsibility before God Almighty for our marriage and my wellbeing.  I do it “as unto the Lord,” for that is the greater context for my life.  And I do it knowing that the Spirit gives me the power to do what I can’t do on my own and what I can’t understand on my own.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Proverbs 3:5-8

Only rarely have we disagreed on decisions or directions.  In those times I have chosen to trust the Spirit of God who lives within my husband—that it is He who is leading, not my husband the man.  Trusting God’s sovereignty over all is liberating.  God is fully capable of correcting a man whose heart seeks to please his Creator.

Ultimately I believe we must be careful about speaking our mind in public debates like this. We do not live with an awareness of One who hears every spoken word, who understands the motives of our hearts, who will ask us to answer to Him one day.  I do not want to be rebuked as God rebuked Job when He said, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?”

Those who do not know Christ cannot be faulted for being appalled by Candace’s worldview or her practical choices.  But those who do follow Christ should not be quick to lash out with criticism.  We do not know Candace nor do we know her husband.  It is theirs to decide.  They do not answer to any of us, but to God alone.