When I heard that Rachel Held Evans, as part of her biblical womanhood project, was going to call her husband “Master,” I unsuccessfully tried to repress the hot flash of childhood memories of “I Dream of Jeannie” re-runs and the strange new feelings Barbara Eden evoked in me. But once I was able to shake that off, I started to empathize with how hard the “master” thing would be, not just for Rachel but for her husband Dan. Sure, there is part of the male primate psyche that gets off on being submitted to. But the idea of that submission being rigidly one-way–rather than dynamic, free-flowing, and mutual–it’s just not sexy.
What I find in the Bible is a God who is the being-together and submitting-to-one-another of Jesus, his Father, and their Spirit. And I find a humanity in which that divine life is being earthed in human relationships. The Shack seems to see it similarly:
“That’s the beauty you see in my relationship with Abba and Sarayu. We are indeed submitted to one another and have always been so and always will be. Papa is as much submitted to me as I to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.”
Mack was surprised. “How can that be? Why would the God of the universe want to be submitted to me?”
“Because we want you to join us in our circle of relationship. I don’t want slaves to my will; I want brothers and sisters who will share life with me… When I am your life, submission is the most natural expression of my character and nature, and it will be the most natural expression of your new nature within relationships.”
Submission as an aspect of healthy human relationships comes straight out of the nature of God. But as the apostle Paul so rightly observed, proper submission is always mutual (Ephesians 5.21).
Even Barbara Eden likes to be called “master” sometimes.