"Should I submit to my boyfriend?"
That’s the question that one of the smart readers of this blog submitted recently. To be honest, it’s a bit of a stumper. Since a boyfriend is not the same as a husband, isn’t submission in that relationship a bit misplaced? Part of me thinks yes! But since I see dating as preparation for marriage (as opposed to just having fun), is it reasonable to think a girl could disregard what the Bible teaches about submission while dating then suddenly flip a switch after saying "I do"? Hmmm … that’s a little trickier.
Those same questions may be swirling in your mind as you consider how to act in your own dating relationship (now or in the future). If so, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Your boyfriend is not your husband.
You may really, really like your boyfriend. He may have everything you are looking for in a future husband. The two of you may have even talked about getting married. But none of that is the same as actually being married.
The reality is that break-ups happen. They happen to couples who love each other very much. They happen to couples who were sure they would be together forever. Break-ups can even happen after a couple becomes engaged. (Here are two stories where that’s exactly what happened: "Lessons Learned From a Cancelled Wedding" and "Hope for Broken Hearts."
As you consider your relationship with your boyfriend, it is critical to keep in mind that he is not your husband. There is no place in Scripture that places a boyfriend as an authority over a girlfriend—likely because there is no guarantee that this is a permanent relationship.
This doesn’t mean that you can disregard everything your boyfriend says or treat him with disrespect. Ephesians 5:21 urges all Christians to submit to each other because of our loyalty to Christ. (By the way, if your boyfriend is not a Christian, please take time to read this post. It is always a good idea to treat others with love, respect, and consideration. However, don’t fall for the temptation to "play house" with your boyfriend and pretend that you are already husband and wife. The guidelines the Bible offers for married couples are just that—for married couples.
God has given you arenas to learn submission.
How’s a girl supposed to learn submission if she doesn’t submit to her boyfriend? God’s Word has that answer covered.
Ephesians 6:2 says, "‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise)."
Hebrews 13:17 says, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you."
Another way to think of submission is to respect, defer to, or honor. Marriage is not the only relationship where we are called to submit. You are clearly called to honor and submit to your parents. In fact, this is really the classroom where God intends for you to learn biblical submission. He also calls you to honor and obey your spiritual authorities. This could include your pastor, youth pastor, or mentor.
Do you find it difficult to submit to your parents? Do you tend to disregard it when your youth pastor calls out your sin or challenges you to live more Christ-like? Don’t be fooled into thinking that submission will be easier when you’re married. It will not. Make a habit of respecting others and deferring to those whom God has placed in authority over you now instead of assuming it will come more naturally later.
Remember what submission is all about.
The Bible clearly calls wives to submit to their husbands in Ephesians 5:22–24:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
This passage gives us a hint about why submission really matters. Marriage is to be a picture of Christ and the church. Paul really hammers this point home a few verses later.
This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Eph. 5:32).
Submission isn’t about power trips. It’s about putting the mystery of the gospel on display. When you submit to your husband someday in marriage, you’ll be showing the world what it means for the Church to willingly surrender to the Lordship of Christ. That’s big stuff!
But you don’t have to be married to determine to let your relationships put Jesus on display. Look for ways to honor and glorify God in all of your relationships, including your dating relationships. Speak with kindness. Forgive freely. Run away from sexual sin. These are ways you can showcase Christ without treating your boyfriend like a husband.
"Should I submit to my boyfriend" is a good question. Perhaps an even better question is, "How can I use my relationship with my boyfriend to most honor God?" I’ll let you answer that one. Leave us a comment, and tell us what you think.