A Former Feminist Looks at the Concept of Biblical Submission Part 2 of a 2 Part Series

For the First part of this series check out: https://debdebbarak.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/a-former-feminist-looks-at-the-concept-of-biblical-submission-part-1-of-a-2-part-series/

WHAT ABOUT WHEN MY SPOUSE DOESN’T BELIEVE?

Key Verse: 1 Corinthians 7:14  For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+7%3A14&version=ESVUK)

Occasionally a man (or woman) may be married to a spouse who does not share their spiritual or theological convictions.  Oftentimes this becomes the case when a partner accepts Christ after their wedding.  To be clear, the Bible states that if this is the case, we are not to seek a divorce from our spouse just because we are now on unequal footing, but rather we should continue to love him or her and to seek harmonious marital relationships with one another.[1]

I have no doubt that being married to an unbeliever would make a marriage quite tricky, especially if the husband or wife does not approve of raising the children in the church or of you attending religious services.  In this case, as a personal opinion, I would say that if a husband requests his wife not to attend to her religious or spiritual needs that she seriously needs to consider the outcome if she were to submit to him in this way.  Although submission is a God given decree, a woman’s first allegiance must be to Christ and she must choose Him even over her spouse.[2]  If a spouse is not even willing to dialogue on this point and to come to a mutual agreement, it may be important to get a third party involved.  Likewise, if a husband is asking a woman to submit in a way that is inappropriate, that does not regard her feelings, or that violates or humiliates her I would say that the command to submit to him does not apply in her case.  He is misusing his authority and a third party may need to become involved.

DISCUSS, DISCUSS, DISCUSS

Key Verse: Ephesians 5:21  Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.    (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+5%3A21&version=ESVUK)

The key to any healthy relationship is to continually discuss matters of importance with one another.  Any decision that is made should be addressed with both partners before a final decision is reached.  A woman should not feel that her voice is not heard just because the Bible tells her to submit to her man.

You see, oftentimes proponents of male dominated theology are quick to skip over the Biblical verse which says that submission is mutual and to jump right into the idea that the man gets to be the boss and run the show.  But that’s simply not what God intended!  Yes, one person will always be stronger than the other and have the final word in a marriage (and God intended this person to be the husband), BUT both the husband AND the wife are called to mutually lead one another deeper into Christ.  Sometimes submission is seen as a result of sin, and it is certainly true that if sin had not entered the world we wouldn’t have misrepresentations of God’s plan for a man to lead.[3]  There are arguments that since submission is a result of sin that as Christians we should have no involvement in this and simply make men and women equal.  However, for a man to lead a family does NOT imply that a woman’s value or worth is lessened or that she now becomes second place, her opinions seen as just a back-up idea.  If a man truly is a GOOD leader he will consult his wife and take both their viewpoints into consideration before making the decision that he deems right for the entire family and that will benefit them both.

When a man truly LOVES his wife in the way God intended he will make submitting to him a joy and a blessing rather than simply an obligation.  When this happens, you can be sure that he is LOVING his wife just like Christ loves the church and that she is RESPECTING him in the way that he needs to feel validated.

WHEN SUBMISSION IS TAKEN TOO FAR

Key Verse: Matthew 23:11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+23%3A11&version=ESVUK)

If it were not for the unique contributions that men and women could bring into a marriage, there would be no point to the marriage.  Instead, the covenant between two people is an incredibly delightful one that brings many blessings into both of their lives in a way that they could not have imagined when they were still single.  As Christians, we are called to delight in these differences and to value our individuality and uniqueness.

When we love one another for our differences rather than become exasperated and frustrated with each other, we will begin to take responsibility for our mistakes and faults.  We will admit that sometimes we are right and other times we are wrong.  Occasionally, whether male or female we may be called to let go of a certain sense of being right or trying to prove a point in order to maintain the unity and stability of the family.

Unfortunately because of the sin in our world, there have been many instances where men have abused their right to rule over a family.  When submission leads to unrealistic demands or expectations it is easy for both husband and wife to become bitter and resentful.  Instead, we need to model an example for our kids to look up to.  We should not shame or dishonor our spouse in their presence.  When children witness harassing, violence, or intimidation tactics they unconsciously absorb these behaviours which may then lead them to fear commitment or to have unhealthy marriage resolution tactics themselves.

It’s very important that husbands and wives do not triangle their kids.  This is a term from family systems where a mother may say something to her kid like “your father is so annoying” or a dad may say something like “I hate when your mother does ___”.  When dads and moms triangle their kids they have unknowingly forced their kids to be active participants in the problem rather than passive bystanders.  They are forcing their kids to take sides and beginning to form an unhealthy image in their young child’s mind about how to properly treat their spouse in the future.  Kids are then forced with the decision to choose mom over dad (or vice versa).  They may begin to feel that in order to gain their father’s approval they must agree with him about their mother’s behavior or vice versa.  That’s why I would say as much as possible KEEP YOUR KIDS OUT OF IT!  It’s not their problem.  It’s a problem between you and your spouse.  You are adults.  Act like adults and solve your problems without bringing a child into the mix.

If you’re a Dad, teach your son how to properly treat a woman with dignity and respect.  Teach your daughter what qualities to look for in a man by exemplifying your hard work, diligence, and desire to lead.  If you’re a Mom, show your daughter that submission is not painful and a burden and help her to develop the delicateness she needs to one day find a man who will lead her.  Teach your son to fight for what’s right and give him the opportunities he needs to learn how to lead.

Submission should always be for the betterment of the family, not simply as an excuse to take advantage of one another.  Unfortunately, the term AUTHORITY has kind of gotten a bad rap over the years.  People view authority to mean AUTHORITARIAN (that is mean, strict, rigid, discipline, even abusive).  However, what God intended when He said that a man has AUTHORITY over a woman is simply this: that a husband should be AUTHORITATIVE (that is showing loving leadership, warmth, acceptance, and caring). 

CONCLUSION

We have all heard variations of the following quote, “The husband can be the head, but the woman is the neck.  She can turn the head whichever way she wants him to go.”

The Western society has often corroded the values of Godly male leadership.  Television shows and movies portray men as wimps, dummies, or people who are allowed to lack responsibility.  Meanwhile, women are increasingly rising to positions of influence and power.  There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING wrong with a woman gaining prestige and status in her field of study.  YET, we cannot neglect the woman’s important role of showing leadership through nurturing her children, a man’s responsibility of leading a household, and a couple’s commitment to fostering intimacy between each other.

Who leads what is individual and depends on the family.  In one family a husband may be better at handling the finances, a wife at overseeing homework, and both equally good at completing household chores.  In another family it may be quite the opposite.  BUT submission ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT IMPLY that the wife become the maid or a slave and that the husband simply be a taskmaster with a whip (metaphorically, hopefully not literally) in his hand.  BOTH have the responsibility of discipiling their children, encouraging one another to foster spiritual disciplines, and of mutually dividing and carrying out mundane housekeeping tasks.

Even if a spouse becomes ill, injured, or has a disability, they can still contribute in very positive ways to the lifecycle of the family and can still lead courageously the way that God intended them to.  As we fix our eyes on Jesus, earthly concerns of looking good and being right will vanish away and we will begin to LOVE and RESPSECT our spouses in the exact way that God intended marriage to look.

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