Submission. That is probably the singular most difficult word for a strong-willed woman like myself to read in the Bible. I have ignored it, loathed it, and questioned it. But it’s still there. I’m strong, independent, outspoken, tom-boyish, and blunt. How do I get around that “S” word? Simple. I don’t. There is no God-honoring way to overlook or ignore the gender roles set forth in regards to marriage between a man and a woman.
This is a tough subject for me to write on, as it’s a personal struggle and there are so many contrary opinions out there, and female empowerment mentality pervades our culture. As a Christian, I have to go back to the Bible as the only authoritative source of truth on the matter. First, there have to be a few clarifications made.
1.) I believe that the Bible is God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible Word. Period. I take it all, or nothing. There is no “buffet of palatable scriptures” from which I can load up on the parts I like and forget the parts I don’t. The Bible doesn’t work that way; Jesus doesn’t work that way. (John 14:6)
2.) Marriage as defined in the Bible, as initially designed by God is that occurring between a man and a woman and God…yes, God is an integral part of marriage, (Ecclesiastes 3:9-12) and I’ll elaborate on that later.
3.) The Bible is a continuous story of God and his redemption of mankind. It begins with his perfect creation walking in harmony with Him in Eden, and then chronicles the fall of humanity into sinfulness and depravity, goes into the restoration and redemption made possible only by the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and concludes with the promise from God to restore all things and reign with his people forever. That said, the Bible contains stories and history of mankind, things and concepts including slavery, polygamy, rape, murder, adultery, oppression, etc. That in no way means those things are God’s will. What it does mean is that we are shown as in a mirror our own proclivity to sin when left to our own devices, and the enduring grace extended to sinners like us, in spite of ourselves.
So back to submission. God set forth in His word a system of relationships that is intended to be enacted in our lives as believers. Part of being sanctified is living according to God’s word.
To understand gender roles, we have to look at the whole picture. Jump back to Genesis 2:18-24. In verse 18, we see God giving Adam a command; something God never did with Eve. There was a burden of choosing obedience placed on Adam by God. It goes on in verse 20 to tell us that in spite of all the animals paraded in front of Adam, there was no one comparable to himself. Then God made Eve. He made her from Adam’s rib. The location of this bone bears significance in that it is close to the heart, at his side, and under his arm. Man was intended to love, exist in harmony with, and protect woman. Women were not made to be inferior, or superior, but equal in value. Equal means sameness. We have equality in that we were created in God’s image. There is not equality as society defines it now, but rather equality in value and diversity in gender. In every way, Eve was complimentary to Adam. Woman was God’s gift to the man. They were equally valued by God, their Creator, but meant to fill different roles (Genesis 2:20)
Understanding this is crucial to understanding the Biblical model of marriage and gender roles within that relationship. Once we see Adam and Eve as they were created by God and validated by their Creator as “good” we see the beauty of the relationship they had. Adam loved, provided for, and protected his wife; Eve supported, respected and encouraged her husband; and both of them walked in perfect relationship with God.
We don’t know how much time passed before the fall of man, but what we do know from Scripture is that marriage as it was originally laid out by God provided these things:
1.) Unity between husband and wife (one man, one woman)
2.) Harmony and unity and peace between God and mankind
3.) Spiritual harmony
4.) Sexuality(gender), reproduction, marriage and sex were created by God to be acts of worship to the God who created them; the pleasure derived from these things was meant to result in praise to the God who made them possible.
They had physical unity, spiritual unity, and emotional unity not only with each other, but with God.
Then the Lord God made the rib he had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man.  And the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called woman, for she was taken from man.”  This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.  Both the man and his wife were naked, yet felt no shame.
This was the intended perfection of marriage.