'tis the Bearded One

The Bible & Wifely Submission

30 posts in this topic

This thread was created to mitigate the derailing of another thread [http://forums.waitingtillmarriage.org/topic/5057-nyc-pastors-list-of-menwomen-to-avoid-marrying/] and continue discussion concerning any possible moral commands in scripture (particularly Ephesians 5) for wives to submit to their husbands. 


While I plan to explore this in greater detail once I have the time and energy *cough* exams *cough* for now I'd like to know more about the understanding of those who believe scripture creates an absolute moral command for all wives to submit to their respective husbands in everything.


What if:

1) A husband commands his wife to do something which violates her conscience?

2) A husband commands his wife to do something which violates God's law or any rights she has according to scripture?


Is your definition of husband "the male she is married to" being devoid of any standards of conduct or fulfillment of role "obligations"?


I believe the answer is pretty easy in concept but rather harder in practice. Ephesians 5:21-25, clearly answers your questions from the start. As it says: 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. So from the start a marriage relationship should be Christ-centered and focused. That means that the true head of a marriage is neither the husband nor the wife, but Christ himself. Then it says: 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.  All Christians choose to submit faithfully to Christ, as we know He only has the best for us in mind. So, as long as the husband is letting his character to be molded by Christ, that means his wife will feel safe to submit to him. Also the wife should be the helper of the husband. As we all know, we are only human and we make mistakes. That means both the husband and the wife will certainly make at least one during marriage. But that's ok, because the wife can help the husband in need and the husband can in return lead the woman in need. And I believe a marriage is build upon this kind of dynamic. Ephesians then continues from 23-25 to beautifully present the marriage as the relationship between Christ and the Church. As a relationship based on mutual love and respect that is compared with the care and love we have for our own bodies. So, I believe that a husband who cannot be compared to Christ and the Church in his pursuit and his relationship with his wife should not be submitted to. What can the wife do is to step into her "helping" role and remind the husband who he should be following first; that being Christ and not his selfish desires. After all, everyone is called to follow Christ first and love Him above all.


p.s. I also found a nice and pretty helpful graphic of a possible dynamic between a husband and her wife and thought to share it here too.



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Yes, but who's argued that wives should obey husbands regardless of merit or conflict God's moral law? 


By the way, you're the only one who's used the word "absolute."


If you were of the view from the beginning that women are not required to obey their husband's immoral (according to scripture) commands then I am genuinely puzzled why you even started this debate! That was precisely the issue I was elaborating on. But nevermind. It’s nice to have that settled and the discussion was certainly worth it in my view anyway. 


So let’s progress.....  


And this is where I would say my views are still developing as I learn more about the marriage institution and psychology etc. 


Consider that sin encompasses more than keeping the letter of the 10 commandments. James 4:17: Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

THAT is a heavy reproof that sadly I have failed too many times. From this text could we say that if a husband "knows" on some level that his command is not for the good of his wife, would it not make it immoral and hence the wife would not be under a moral burden to obey it? [Assuming the wife has mind reading capabilities ] That broadens the issue out tremendously.


I recently finished reading the book "Boundaries in Marriage" by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I wanted to see if it would be a suitable gift for someone and was greatly blessed by it myself. I highly recommend anybody interested in marriage to read it. It basically explores the benefit, nay necessity, of proper boundaries in relationships particularly marriage. Its about letting someone feel the natural consequences of their actions and prevent enabling so as to improve the relationship in a genuine sense. [Note: Letting a spouse feel the consequences should not be done in a controlling way or as a means to punish. That destroys the whole purpose behind it. Drawing boundaries and letting the spouse feel consequences is to be done in love and for healing in the marriage.] It struck me that when it came to a wife drawing boundaries some could easily see it as not being submissive. And yet drawing and maintaining the boundaries are in the best interests of both parties and the marriage. 


For instance:

Husband misappropriates/"steals" money from the marriage by gambling or maybe he simply spends more money on nonessentials than mutually agreed upon. As a result, wife may have to cancel a trip she was planning or forgo buying that something she had been saving for in order to make the mortgage payments. If a pattern develops of husband overspending and wife "submissively" bailing him out it is recommended that wife stop enabling his incorrect behaviour and let him feel the consequences of his actions e.g. he can get a second job or work extra hours in his spare time to make up for his overspending. Letting him "reap what he sowed" will hopefully motivate personal growth. Would you say this wife is acting not according to the requirements of submission?


A wife who, in “submissionâ€, enables the inappropriate/incorrect/harmful/immoral actions of her husband could hardly be said to be a genuine helpmeet to her husband. Not only would her enabling undermine his growth but also her fulfilment and her growth. This does not conform to God’s model of what marriage can and should be.


So, would a wife be duty-bound only to submit to a husband who fulfils his part of Ephesians 5? I am beginning to think that the degree and quality of the wifely submission promoted would not be to the husband’s genuine benefit in the long-run if he is not fulfilling (or at least growing in that direction) his part. It would not be fulfilling the intent behind the doctrine.


Certainly, a wife’s “submission†to an irresponsible and immature husband, though painful for a while, may very well help him to realise and grow into his responsibilities – if he is a loving husband and not a narcissistic controller who will abuse his wife’s submission. However, if this “classical submission†is insufficient to motivate growth then I think she should elicit other strategies (ie stop enabling) to help him grow.


Yet isn’t promoting the growth of one’s spouse in a general sense a duty on both parties? So how does wifely submission play out when to submit would not be enabling destructive behaviours or impeding growth?


This is where it could get tricky – it may be hard to practically differentiate (particularly in a strained marriage) between situations of submitting to the husband’s decision because he is head of the house etc and choosing not to “submit†because his decision-making process excludes the valuable input of his life-partner and over time is grooming egoistic tendencies.


P.s. sorry for taking so long to continue the discussion.


I'm a seminary professor. This is an article on this topic that I regularly assign my students on this topic. Blessings!




Thank you. Haven't read it yet, but will get around to doing so. Since I wrote out the above response already I thought I might aswell post it now.

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I believe we as believers are to submit to God first and foremost. 

If my future husband asks me to do something I have convictions about, I'm allowed to say no.


I do know however there will be times where he decides something I may not be sure about, but I'll just have to trust him and pray for our family.

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I'm late to this discussion but glad to have read such an interesting debate from both sides of the figurative and literal interpretation of the scripture from Ephesians, 2 Peter, Colossians Etc.


As follower of Christ my position is of course unequivocally stated alongside the scriptures!

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