New Lenses for Viewing Submission -- By: J. Martha Compleman-Blair

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 21:3 (Summer 2007)
Article: New Lenses for Viewing Submission
Author: J. Martha Compleman-Blair

New Lenses for Viewing Submission

J. Martha Compleman-Blair

J. MARTHA COMPLEMAN-BLAIR reared four sons and maintained a household for six people through many moves before returning to school to complete her B.A. At the encouragement of her Presbyterian church, she later earned an M.Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary at the age of 55. God’s word to her as she was completing seminary was Hebrews 13:13: “Come to Jesus outside the camp.” Martha and husband Phillip Blair presently teach at The Church on the Street in Prescott, Arizona, a rescue mission with a discipleship program, using a Bible course that she developed.


Jesus said, “If your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light” (Matt. 6:22, Luke 11:34 RSV). Jesus also starkly commanded, “If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out” (Matt. 18:9, Mark 9:47 KJV).

Jesus recognized that perception is governed by the lenses used. If the lens of our eye—our way of seeing—is pure, righteous, of the kingdom of God, we will have a pure, righteous, kingdom perspective. The “eye that offends”—causes sin—is a way of seeing that is neither pure nor righteous. The eye that offends has many lenses, multiple filters. The Christian church has used many of these flawed perspectives in looking at submission. Submission is a relationship issue, and righteousness is a matter of right relationships.

For the first forty years of my life and church experience, submission did not emerge as an issue in relationships between women and men. The churches of my experience were governed by elders chosen through a representative process. They led, the congregation followed, and individuals served where needed according to ability and interest. When I ventured into other parts of the body of Christ, the tension over submission was both a novelty and a puzzle to me. I had no “lens” at all for viewing submission. Only then did I realize that the Bible, and Paul’s letters in particular, speaks about submission. Only then did I begin to realize that this controversy over the translation and interpretation of Bible passages concerning submission was beginning to generate increasing amounts of valuable Bible scholarship. Much reading, study, and reflection has followed.

Even when we determine to examine and interpret Bible texts in the original languages, we often review the results with the eye that offends. Today, we have many Bible translations and paraphrases, but few Bible readers have the time or resources to research Bible texts in the original Hebrew or Greek. For th...

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