There is a phrase which is pervasive in complementarian circles which needs to be reconsidered. Namely, “Submission enters the picture when there is disagreement.”
Is this a biblical way of thinking about the issue? I don’t believe it is.
First, I think the phrase contains the perfect word for this whole discussion, “picture.” A picture or icon is a representation of another thing. This is precisely what we are told the husbands and wives are. We are a picture of Christ Jesus and his bride, the church. So now, does submission enter the picture when there is disagreement? No, submission was drawn in at the beginning. It is not a late comer, a thing that comes into play when conflict arises. This is not to be confused with some who say, “Submission only enters the picture when there is disagreement.” Such men have likely crossed over into egalitarian circles, but I am only addressing complementarians.
But there is another reason why the word picture is helpful here. Who is watching this motion picture show? Ephesians again tells us that we are displaying the manifold wisdom of God to the principalities. All of heaven, angels and demons, are watching the epic drama. I find very interesting the reason that Paul gives to the Corinthian church for his command that women should wear head coverings. Why Paul? Because the angles are watching this picture show.
Submission is a way of life that demonstrates that all of life is one of using authority for the good of others, and living in submission for the good of others. God wants this to be demonstrated visibly, even in times when there is no conflict.
By the way, to say that submission enters when there is conflict is also contra-biblical when we think of the Son’s submission to the Father. Yes he learned obedience (dare I say how hard obedience can be) when he suffered (conflict), but no, I don’t believe that he was not submitting before then.