The topic of “The Submissive Wife” came up recently and I planned on writing an article about it. Shortly thereafter I got an email from a reader about the very topic. My answer to her is what I planned to write about so I thought I’d just share the whole message for continuity sake. I also give some strong advice that I thought would be helpful for others who are in similar situations to read.
A concerned reader asked:
“Hello and thank you for reading my comment. I have a huge problem and hope you can help. I am a new Christian and married my Marine next door neighbor who is also a Christian. When we were getting serious and he was teaching me about the Bible more and more, he asked me to go to this “church” he had just started going to. Knowing we were probably to be married soon I agreed. This is a IFB “church” and at first I was shocked at all the things (sin hell condemnation seperation etc) that I never learned. We were married and he was deployed for a month while I stayed behind left with this IFB “church” that consisted of the pastor, his wife, his daughter and me…..that’s it. All the things you spoke of in your article about the cultish and cult like are exactly these people. My husband now has returned and after going for a few weeks longer, they start telling me I can’t see my mother or friends and how to dress and act. At that point I told my husband I am not going back there. My feelings and alerts after praying for weeks had been confirmed. Now, this pastor is making me out to be “evil” and “probably not saved at all” and “I only want to sin” is why I’ve started going to another church. My husband and I fight terribly and he’s been verbally abusive and telling me to submit and obey him. I’ve only skimmed the surface of this issue and there is so much more. My husband won’t listen to me about this place and refuses to seek other counsel. This church is called Fundamentalist Baptist Church in *****. [The Pastor] is on the phone with my husband constantly now brain washing him further. What do I do? Thank you so much for your time. Michelle”
Thanks for contacting me. I’m sorry for your struggles… I’d like to offer some thoughts with the following disclaimer. You agree that this is for informational purposes only… [not counseling or therapy].
Now, having said that, here are some thoughts.
First of all, yes, according to Ephesians 5: 21-24 wives are to submit to their husbands. The problem is that this is one of the most misinterpreted passage among the IFB. Ephesians 5:22 tells us that wives are to submit to their husbands, however, the verse doesn’t begin or end there. The IFB would like to pretend that it does, but it doesn’t. It begins with verse 21 which tells us that husbands and wives are to submit to each other. This isn’t a one way transaction, but a mutual submission to each other.
Also, it goes on to read “…as you (the wife) do the Lord.” This is a respectful submission to authority and an acknowledgment that he is the head of the house and responsible for the spiritual wellbeing of the family. This “submission” does NOT mean a blind disregard for your convictions and relationship with Christ. Verse 22 does NOT mean that you are to simply follow his leadership regardless of whether it’s right or not ignoring your own intuition and personal guidance from the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, the IFB conveniently ignores the remainder of the passage. Ephesians 5:21-24 is an incomplete thought. The passage goes on to tell what husbands are to do – love their wives as Christ loved the church. So how did Christ love the church? He was a servant leader. He lead others by SERVING the Church NOT by using power and manipulation forcing them to “submit” to him. Eventually Christ died for the church. In the same way a husband is to SERVE his wife and die (give up himself) for her not lord over her like some dictator expecting her to fall down and “submit” to his every command.
So what should you do? Set some strong, firm boundaries. Let him know that you’re willing to submit, but ONLY if he is willing to read the rest of that passage and apply what it says. If he will listen to reason and demonstrate that he is willing to find out what it means for him to love you as Christ loved the church and then implement those things in your marriage then you will WANT to submit, it will come naturally as a byproduct of his desire to do what’s right. If he doesn’t accept those boundaries then tell him what the consequences will be if he continues to abuse you. If the abuse continues then leave. Get away as quickly as you can. Tell him that you will file for a divorce on the grounds of abuse if he doesn’t change. Do not return to him unless he has demonstrated that he is willing to restore trust and mutual commitment to the relationship. No one should remain in an abusive relationship, whether it’s physical, sexual, emotional or spiritual abuse!!!