This is such a serious issue. How I pray that God’s Spirit will be very much involved to help me write and to help each of us understand things clearly. I have had many women read a bit about biblical submission and conclude that submitting to our husbands means things like:
- My husband is my absolute authority.
- I have to do whatever he says no matter what.
- I can’t voice any disagreement with my husband, that’s disrespectful.
- I have to follow him into sin.
- I have to treat his words as if they are always the very words of God no matter what.
I don’t believe this is what Scripture teaches at all.
With almost every biblical principle, there is balance. If we veer to the right or the left of what the Bible teaches, we will end up with a destructive false teaching. So let’s always “test the spirits” as Scripture says. Let’s not just believe anything that any human teaches. Let’s compare everything to the Bible and pray for God’s Spirit to give us His wisdom and discernment that we might handle His Word rightly.
If you are single, you are not commanded to submit to your boyfriend.
There was no such relationship as dating in the Bible times. But, you will want to be moving in a direction toward being willing to follow your guy’s leadership if you are moving toward a godly marriage in your relationship. It is wise to think about these things WAY before marriage. If you see these kinds of things that I talk about in this post BEFORE marriage, please stop and seek wise, godly counsel before getting married. If you are seeing this kind of behavior before marriage, you can probably expect that things will escalate after marriage unless there is serious intervention and a major heart-change brought about by God.
TIMES THAT I PERSONALLY WOULD NOT SUBMIT TO MY HUSBAND
I am posting this with my husband’s full support and knowledge. Greg wants me to be sure to emphasize, “A wife will need godly discernment and the power of the Holy Spirit in some of these situations. Sometimes things are gray, not clearly black or white.” We all need God’s Spirit to give us His wisdom as we seek first of all to submit to Christ as Lord. Ultimately, we will each answer to Him. I want us to handle His Word and our decisions rightly in His eyes.
I Would Not Voluntarily Yield to My Husband’s Leadership If:
- He was mentally ill and not in his right mind (psychotic, manic, extremely depressed, suicidal, schizophrenic, hallucinating, etc…)
- He was on medication that was causing him not to be able to think properly or he was drunk or high.
- He had an illness like dementia that caused him not to be in touch with reality.
- He was truly endangering himself, me, or others. (He was doing something very foolish or reckless like asking me to get on the roof when I was 9 months pregnant or saying we shouldn’t put the babies in carseats.)
- He was asking me to condone clear sin according to God’s Word.
- He demanded that he had absolute authority over me and was to be my primary “lord.”
- He was threatening to hurt me or our children or he had rage so out of control that I did not believe my children or I were safe.
- He was asking me to commit clear sin according to God’s Word – (idolatry, immorality, stealing, lying, hatred, greed, criminal activity, lust, unforgiveness, gossip, slander, drunkenness, using illegal drugs, having an abortion, participating in pornography, etc…)
- He was obviously demon possessed.
- He was involved in a major drug/alcohol/gambling/sex addiction and the addiction was in control of his life.
- He was abusing me or our children.
- He was leading me into a false teaching or a cult.
- He wanted me to do or condone something illegal (unless it was to smuggle Bibles into a restricted country or something similar where the law was against sharing Christ).
- He was involved in unrepentant adultery or other major unrepentant sin like habitual lying, a major porn addiction, etc…
Note – I haven’t been in such a situation with Greg so far, but if I did face something like this, I would not be able to just blindly follow him. God requires intelligent submission of wives – or we will face consequences like Sapphira did when she followed her husband into lying to the Holy Spirit in Acts 5. Abigail is a great example of a wife who honored God and went against her husband in order to keep the entire household from being killed in 1 Samuel 25.
Before I could honor my husband’s leadership in cases like this, I would need to see that he was back in his right mind. I would need to see clear repentance and fruit of repentance if he had been involved in major sin. If wives are dealing with issues like this, I believe they may need godly, appropriate outside help to help them navigate these kinds of issues and find the help for their husbands that they need spiritually and medically – depending on the situation.
We also need to be sure that we are not endangering our men, abusing them, sinning against them, trying to lead them into sin, or continuing on in unrepentant sin ourselves, as well.
WE ANSWER TO CHRIST ABOVE ALL
Ultimately, we must each study to “show ourselves approved workmen” before God. We will answer to Him alone for all of our motives, thoughts, words, and actions. So will our husbands. I want us to obey His Word above all else.
There are some who teach that submission/authority in marriage is about a husband lording power over his wife. That is not how Jesus describes authority in His kingdom to His disciples in Matthew 20:25-28. There are some who teach that husbands have no authority or that husbands and wives have “equal authority” to lead. I also don’t see how that is biblical when we read passages that clearly teach that husbands do have authority in ways that wives do not (Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 3:18-19, I Peter 3:1-7). We do have equal value in Christ and yet we have different roles. But there is to be mutual unconditional love, and unconditional respect flowing both directions in marriage. We are to treat all others with honor, dignity, gentleness, 1 Corinthians 13 love, and respect if we love and know Christ.
Even though husbands have a God-given position of authority, it is not a position of absolute authority. God doesn’t ever give a human a position of absolute authority. All authorities on earth answer to Him and He has put all authority in heaven and on earth under Christ’s feet. Human authorities often answer to other earthly God-given authorities, as well. Husbands answer to the church, the government, and the police, for example. If there is abuse going on, these other authorities are there to help stop that. Any human authority must have limits. We know that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” for sinful humans. Thankfully, God’s Word has answers for us – I share some resources below that may help, as well.
I pray you will take the time to really study this issue and seek to understand God’s teaching rightly. Misunderstandings on this issue lead to great dysfunction and harm to husbands, wives, children, and the Body of Christ.
WE CAN BE GODLY WOMEN NO MATTER WHAT OUR MEN DO
If our husbands are involved in unrepentant sin or are not in their right minds, that does not mean we get to sin against them. It doesn’t mean we get to treat them with contempt or disrespect. But it does mean that we may have to spend much time wrestling in prayer to discern God’s wisdom and direction for us and how to best handle these very difficult situations. There is not always a one-size-fits-all formula for what a wife should do. If things are VERY bad, she may need to separate. Other times, it may be more of a gray area. She may need to lay down boundaries, “I want to honor your leadership, but X needs to be taken care of so that we can rebuild trust.” I would encourage women with extreme situations like this to seek one-on-one, experienced, godly counsel.
For resources about biblical submission and authority in marriage that may be very helpful to consider way ahead of time, please check out the links on this post.