Saturday, December 23, 2006

We’ve been dealing with the issues relating to the family. This entire matter got on my radar when a wonderful, born again, young Christian lady confided in me that she not only struggles with this traditional understanding of the roles of the family…she rejects it. That surprised me, honestly, because she was raised in the same conservative church I spent most of my adolescence in.

After a great, insightful exchange of opinions I learned of the situation with her home life growing up. “Submission” was a very real concept in her home; her dad was the tyrant, the dictator…the king. His rule was never questioned, after all, the man is the head of the home and his wife is to submit to him…end of discussion. He ruled the money, the agenda, the bedroom…he ruled. His wife, my friends mother, had little to no “rights”…she was given an allowance, was not on any financial records and had no idea how much money the family had. The extended family supported this understanding of the headship of the husband and so did many elders.

So, my friend hits college… and in short order rejected the concept of “submission”. She’s a very quick young lady and could see how anemic that situation was and so she rejected the idea of submitting to her husband. Now, that does not mean that she is the bully, from all indicators she has a healthy marriage. I simply mean that she feels no obligation to submit to her husband in any kind of systematic, cookie cutter or cut and dry way. She has even prayed about it and doesn’t feel bad for taking this position.

My challenge to her…and my challenge to you if this is something you find unreasonable, is this: make sure that you understand what the Bible actually teaches on the subject before you disallow it.

The way my friends father treated her mother, herself and her siblings was sinful. It was sin justified by the word, a perversion of the word, submission.

Remember our three questions when dealing with a concept in the Bible:

+What does the Bible say?
+What does the Bible mean by what it says?
+How does it apply?

We’ve dealt with the first two questions already. The Bible says, in many ways and in various places, “wives submit to your own husbands” and “a husband is the head of the wife”. That is what it says, those are not my words or any man’s words…God said those words in the New Testament (Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:4-5; 1 Peter 3:1). So what does the Bible mean? Unless we live in a reality in which words have no meaning, the Bible says what it means and means what it says. Keeping context in mind (…is this command in the Old or New Testament…who is the intended audience…), we can trust that God means what He says, in context. When God commands that wives are to submit to their own husbands He means that wives are to submit to their own husbands, in the context in which it is written (several Apostles of Christ instructing how families living in the New Testament Church are to relate. We still live in the New Testament, therefore, it applies to us. When this age is completed and we live in the New Heaven/New Earth wives will not be submitting to their earthly husbands any longer...)

So how does this apply? This is where the rubber hits the road and where abuse can manifest. How does this concept of submission apply to a wife? How does God expect a husband’s role as “head” to exhibit itself…what is that supposed to look like?

I think that it would be helpful to take a step back and simply look at the concept of submission in general. Wives are not the only ones called to submit, men and women are both also called to submit to…Government: Romans 13:1; Business: Colossians 3:22, 4:1; Church: 1 Peter 5:5. I could take time here to show that even though the Bible teaches we are to submit to these authorities it does not make anyone filling the roles of these authorities any greater or have greater personal dignity than anyone else…likewise husbands have no more worth, giftedness, abilities or value than their wives. That is a very valid point. Also consider that Christ willingly submitted to the will of the Father, yet they are co-equal in power, dignity, majesty and worth.

If wives can rightly dismiss the concept that they are to actually submit themselves to their husbands then by the same line of thinking we can all rightly dismiss the “traditional” understanding of submitting to the government, to our employers and to our local church. If submit doesn’t mean submit, or if it no longer is binding upon wives in our day, then that is also the case with all other authority as well.

There is one principle that applies to each situation, wives to husbands, people to the government or the local church and that is this: we submit to the authorities that God has placed upon us UNTIL that authority commands us to do something that God forbids, or forbids us to do something that God commands. That concept can be found in a nutshell when Peter and the other Apostles said to the authorities of their day, “We must obey God rather than men.”

So you see, a husband can not demand that his wife sin. I’ve known of and have rebuked more than one man for insisting that his wife watch pornography with him in order to keep things “hot” in the bedroom. Each time these guys actually pulled the “submit” card out on their wives! Wives, you are under no obligation to go along with sin in order to please your husband…in fact…you are under obligation to “disobey” your husband and “obey” God in that type of situation.

God commands, not suggests, commands that husbands “in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life.” 1 Peter 3:7. This verse is well-heeled with implications. Husbands are commanded to be considerate, ouch! They are to treat their wives with respect “as the weaker partner”, referring to not only how a husband is to speak to his wife, but how he is to physically treat her. The description of the wife as “weaker” simply refers to her physical make up…don’t read the 2007, western, understanding of how the word “weaker” can now be taken. We use that word to speak of weak minded or weak willed as well as physically weak. That word weak was not used in such ways 2,000 years ago in the Middle East. It simply refers to the distinction between their physical make up. Men are to treat the bodies of their wives with respect…a husband is forbidden from disrespecting his wife’s body through abuse, rape or physical intimidation. The word respect also deals with how a husband is to speak with his wife and how he is to treat her. How much respect or how considerate is it if a husband refuses to allow her access to THEIR money? How much respect does a husband show his wife if he dominates her, controls her, manipulates her, treats her as inferior or as a child? Again, it is not suggested by the Sovereign for husbands to consider not disrespecting her…it is a command as serious as any other command of the Almighty. Ladies, just because pastors and teachers have not taught this throughout the centuries of the Church does not mean that God has not intended you be respected as equals, as “heirs with (your husbands) of the gracious gift of life” and all that implies. Despite later extremes, God has used the women’s liberation movement to bring this sin to the attention of the Church and for that we owe a debt of gratitude for those women who fought for the basic rights of respect and dignity in the home and society.

A wife does not have to submit to abuse, physical or emotional. Why? Because husbands are forbidden by God to do either and a wife submitting to it is actually assisting the husband’s sin. Do you see? A wife does not have to submit to abuse or true disrespect of her dignity, physically or emotionally.

I’ll stop for today. I've now dealt with how the concept of the husband being the head and his wife submitting to him does NOT apply. Next time I’ll try to wrap this up by dealing with how it does apply.


Anonymous said...

I hope someone is reading, other than me. Young women of the world... do not take what someone tells you as Gospel. Read, pray, research and interpret what you are receiving as God put in your heart.
Gary, I hope this encourages further studying and questions about this topic.

irreverend fox said...



Anonymous said...

Given what you have said about families, and I feel that you are correct, what does a wife who is married to an unsaved individual deal with that situation. The husband is not being led spiritually by God.

irreverend fox said...

anonymous #2 (I presume)...

Saint Peter has already spoken on that issue, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:

"Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives," 1 Peter 3:1

Of course, the same principle applies to believing and unbelieving husbands...wives are called to submit to their headship until he askes them to submit to something that God forbids or forbids them to do something God commands.

Mark Jones said...

Looking forward to the next installment of the family... This is awesome devotional book material (hint! hint!)