Does Submission in Marriage Equate to Slavery?

One of the occasional criticisms of complementarians (those who believe that God created men to be the servant-leaders of their homes) is that it is akin to slavery.I think it's time to put this idea to the test.


This is what the Encyclopedia Britannica says about slavery (numerical listing is mine):

...Most of the following characteristics should be present in order to term a person a slave. (1) The slave was a species of property; thus, he belonged to someone else. In some societies slaves were considered movable property, in others immovable property, like real estate. (2) They were objects of the law, not its subjects. Thus, like an ox or an ax, the slave was not ordinarily held responsible for what he did. He was not personally liable for torts or contracts. (3) The slave usually had few rights and always fewer than his owner, but there were not many societies in which he had absolutely none. As there are limits in most societies on the extent to which animals may be abused, so there were limits in most societies on how much a slave could be abused. (4) The slave was removed from lines of natal descent. Legally, and often socially, he had no kin. No relatives could stand up for his rights or get vengeance for him. (5) As an “outsider,” “marginal individual,” or “socially dead person” in the society where he was enslaved, his rights to participate in political decision making and other social activities were fewer than those enjoyed by his owner. (6) The product of a slave’s labour could be claimed by someone else, who also frequently had the right to control his physical reproduction.

Does a Wife's Submission to Her Husband Make Her a Slave?

Corresponding to the six points delineated above, let's test whether slavery is an honest and valid analogy/criticism for complementarian marriage:

  1. Complementarian husbands do not consider their wives to be property. They are equals, created in the image of God.

  2. As persons made in the image of God, complementarian wives are responsible for their actions.

  3. Complementarian wives have many rights, not few. No man should abuse his wife.

  4. Complementarian wives have kin. Their families of origin should be respected and honored.

  5. Complementarian wives are not "outsiders," "marginal," or "socially dead." They have the right to engage in political and social activities.

  6. Complementarian wives have control of the works of their hands (cf. Prov. 31:16). They have the right to reproduce physically.

I would add that slavery is usually involuntary. Submission in marriage is always voluntary because that is the nature of submission. There is no such thing as involuntary submission. Why? Because submission involves a willing attitude.

Submission is something that is hard to do. It becomes much easier, though, when the authority in our lives seeks our best and loves us. 

How To Deal with Conflict

No area of our lives is immune from conflict. We can encounter conflict in our marriages, with our children, at church, in school, and at work.


Some people are “conflict magnets.” They seem to attract friction and disputes wherever they go.

Others are immune to conflict. No matter what is going on around them, they are unaffected. They’re like the guy with high metabolism who can eat as much as he wants and never gain weight. (I hate that guy!).

It’s not necessarily a good thing to be unaffected by conflict. That might be a sign of severe narcissism. Hopefully you care enough about people to want peace.

And it’s certainly detrimental to be paralyzed by conflict. Your goal needs to be to deal with it and move forward.

If we’re going to deal with conflict the right way, we need to identify and avoid the pitfalls.

Wrong Ways We Deal With Conflict:

Gossip is discussing anything negative with someone who can’t help solve the problem.
— Dave Ramsey
  1. Ignore it. This is the most popular way to deal with conflict. But sticking your head in the sand doesn’t make the problem go away. Pouring your troubles into your favorite escape mechanism just leaves the issues for another day.Conflict is like cancer in one respect: if left alone, it will likely grow worse.Some people refuse to deal with conflict because they didn’t start it. But why would you rather live in a state of disharmony with others than go through the brief pain of dealing with the problem? Healing comes through the application of the proper medicine, and the medicine for conflict is healthy communication.

  2. Gossip. If there is a problem between you and Johnny, griping about your frustrations to Suzie doesn’t solve the problem, especially if Suzie has a big mouth. It won’t take long for word to get back to Johnny that you’ve been griping about him, and then you have conflict about the conflict. That’s not to say you can’t get advice from a third party. Seeking counsel from a wise person is not gossip, but the person you turn to for help needs to be trustworthy, discreet, and willing to love you enough tell you the truth (even if you’re wrong.)

  3. Blame others. You might be thinking, “But it’s their fault!” And you may be right! But before you run off and accuse someone of being in the wrong, you need to be willing to listen.Remember: You probably don’t know all the circumstances the other person is dealing with, and you don’t know their heart. Only God has all knowledge.

The Right Way To Resolve Conflict

  1. Examine yourself. Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3).Sometimes we have blind spots which hinder us from seeing our own problems. But if we take a little time to examine our own motivations, words, and actions, we may find that we contributed to the conflict.

  2. Deal with facts. Not everything you’ve heard from the rumor mill is true. Jesus said, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault…” (Matthew 18:15). He might as well have said, “If you know for a fact that your brother sins…” This means that you are certain of the offending party’s words or actions. Rumor and innuendo are not facts.

  3. Take the first step. If you have hurt someone else, you need to make it right. Own it. Tell him you messed up and that you’re sorry he was hurt. As Jesus put it, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Matthew 5:23-24).But you need to say more than, “I’m sorry.” Ask the offended person if he will forgive you. Saying “I’m sorry” simply expresses your emotions. But asking, “Will you forgive me?” requests a response and provides an opportunity for the relationship to heal.”But what if I’m the one harmed? Shouldn’t the other person come to me?” It would be nice if everyone who harmed us tried to make it right. But that doesn’t alleviate your responsibility. You still must go to them. “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault.”

    According to Jesus, conflict resolution always begins with you.

  4. Address conflict in private, if possible. Unless the conflict has escalated to the point that it involves other people, the conflict resolution needs to be attempted privately. Occasionally conflict resolution is embarrassing or it doesn’t go well, and it’s better to have those difficult discussions away from other people.

  5. Involve other people, if necessary. It’s been my experience that most conflicts can be resolved one-on-one. But sometimes a mediator or a larger circle of people are needed. They can give a third-person perspective that both of the people in conflict need to hear.

  6. If no resolution can be found, go your way in peace. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). Sometimes, however, there will be a lasting disagreement. But that doesn’t mean you have to be disagreeable. Remember: Be kind to people!

Be kind to people. Everyone is having a hard time with something.
— David Rhoades

Conflict is inevitable in this life, but the path to peace just takes some wisdom and a little effort on your part. If you are willing to deal with conflict the right way, not only will your life be better, but you can improve someone else’s life. And there’s nothing better than being a blessing!

What are some other wrong and right ways we deal with conflict? Leave your comment below!

The Primary Things in Marriage

John Piper's "Desiring God" ministry shares a great video that can give us some much needed perspective in marriage.

He writes, "The most meaningful testimonies I receive are when people tell me that it was a vision of the sovereignty and goodness of God that got them through the most difficult times of their life. Here is one of those testimonies. I tremble with the glad responsibility of introducing you to Ian & Larissa Murphy in this video. Tremble, because it is their story and so personal. So delicate. So easily abused. So unfinished. Glad, because Christ is exalted over all things."

A Wife's Encouragement

In the movie Rocky II, boxer Rocky Balboa is scheduled to fight a rematch against world champion Apollo Creed. But Rocky's wife Adrian had a difficult delivery that caused her to go into a coma. As a result, Rocky lost his desire to train for the fight. He spent his time crying, reading to Adrian, and praying. He wouldn't even look at or hold his newborn son until Adrian woke up from the coma.

When she finally did awaken, Rocky was by her side. Shortly thereafter, a nurse brought in the newborn baby for Adrian to hold. Rocky told her that he didn't have to fight Apollo Creed--that they would make money some other way. But Adrian knew Rocky's heart. Rocky was a boxer, and one little word would make all the difference in the world.

The video below is for every man who has a wife like mine: a true friend who encourages you and inspires you to be the champion God created you to be.

Why July 6 Matters to Me

On July 6, 1991, I called up my friend Amy to ask her if I could come over to her house. Fifteen minutes later I was there with two red roses in hand. I told her how much I appreciated her friendship for the past three years and how attracted I was to her. I asked her if she felt the same, and she did. We talked for a while and ended up kissing (twice). Now, eighteen years later, she's still my best friend. I'm still attracted to her. And I still like to remember how it all began.