Monday, October 1, 2012

Another Elephant in the Room – “Wives, obey your husbands”

“Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.” 1 Timothy 2:11-12

“the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.” 1 Corinthians 14:34
“Women, obey your husbands.” Ephesians 5: 22

I struggle with these passages, especially if I view them in isolation. These statements were made when societies were run by men and when women depended on men for their sustenance; when the alternative to being married was slavery or prostitution for women at that time. So much has changed. Are we to still take these verses literally because we sure don’t live in a culture anywhere at all like the barbaric culture of Biblical times.
To press the point further, consider these common examples found in society today. Is every woman that teaches a Sunday school class sinning? If you take the above statements as true then the answer is yes.  Is every woman that ever taught men while on the mission field is some far away land sinning? Is every woman that has or now serves in an administrative (leadership) role in Christian College and Universities disobeying God? (I mention Christian institutions since their roles are intricately united with Biblical teaching – even if they aren’t directly ‘teaching’ the Bible.) Is every female professor of Bible or Religion in Christian and Secular Universities alike disobeying God by teaching young ‘men’ (and women) Biblical knowledge? What about religious teaching by nuns?

Is it wrong for a woman to serve as a Pastor? Many very conservative denominations advocate women having pastoral positions. If you take the above verses in isolation then what is going on here? Very smart and well educated people (and probably all men) made the decision to allow women to serve as pastors in the denominations they formally didn’t allow them in years past.
I state the above as prerequisite scriptures for the elephant in the room passage that tells ‘women to obey your husbands’. The Apostle Paul states women are to obey and husbands are to love. But let’s muddy the water further with some life application scenarios. Who should lead in each of the following?

Steven is married but is now mentally impaired due to an automobile accident. His brain is now like that of a 10 year old. Should Kathy still obey all of Steven’s decisions or should she assume a more decision making role since he is obviously not the same man he was several months ago? The Bible didn’t mention ‘exceptions’ so if you take the above verses as absolutes then you’d have to answer ‘yes’.  Really?  Do you really think that is wise?
Jeffrey fell in Love with Debbie. Jeff is 24 and Debbie is 42. Yes she is a cougar but she is quite mature, especially compared to Jeff who is only two years out of school. Debbie has lived almost twice as long as her husband and has much more life experiences than he. Who should be the primary decision maker here, the immature Jeff or the older Debbie?

Bill married Alison, an incredibly wise woman from whom many seek her counsel. Bill has told her many times just how much he admires her God-given gift of wisdom as he realizes it is a true strength of hers. Given this situation, who should be the household decision maker?

John is now 82 and suffering from significant dementia. Should his wife Sara still defer to her husband of 60 years even though he can barely remember who his wife is anymore?
The picture can be made even grayer by considering the story of Deborah and Barak as recorded in Judges 4-5. Deborah became a leader and lead men to battle to free themselves from the oppression of the Canaanites. Why did she lead hundreds of men, because the supposed leader Barak refused to do so. He was afraid. Did Deborah disobey God by taking leadership of the Israelite army in this situation? Did she sin by doing so? Her guidance of the Israelites saved her people from the Canaanite’s. Would God bless his chosen ones if female leadership was wrong?

I pose the above examples because the Bible is not always black and white. It’s easy to just say all women should keep their mouths’ shut in church, never teach, never venture off as missionaries, never teach religion in higher education and always obey their husbands despite obvious extenuating circumstances. One needs to reconcile those situations before they render the Ephesians passage an absolute. I have struggled with that passage at length. I do believe that the Bible is filled with examples of order and believe that this is one such passage. There needs to be a leader in every home and by default there needs to be followers. Somebody needs to be held accountable. I can’t speak for you but I can share why I chose to submit to Katie’s leadership and why I believe the decision is Biblical.

Leadership creates structure and structure makes for an effective and efficiently run home or organization (company, government, etc). There needs to be leadership by someone. Having a leader allows all to know who will handle decisions; who others can rely on; who will make the tough choices when those choices need to be made. Some of my earliest posts stated my reasons for wanting to submit to a woman’s authority. Simply stated, submission allows me to love more deeply. I screwed up in a previous marriage. Selfishness, insecurity and self-defensiveness were all characteristics that raised their ugly heads at time in that marriage. No, it wasn’t my entire fault but I was partially to blame and I didn’t want to repeat those same mistakes. Submission removed the possibilities of me stumbling back into bad habits. Submission forced me to consider her views ahead of my own. Submission caused me to think of ways that I could make her smile and feel loved more often than not. Submission permitted me to channel my energies outward to her rather than inward to me. Submission made me make her my first priority in life.
I don’t believe for a second that I am sinning by submitting to Katie. I’m not sinning. I’m expressing my love to her a hundred times a day with every act of service I offer. After all, Ephesians 5:25 implores me as a man to love – as Christ loved the church. Christ loved the church by serving, by setting an example for others to follow. He chose to not use his power when he could have easily done so.

In Galatians 5, Paul states “For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Katie is my neighbor. She is my best friend. Rather than getting caught up into all of the ‘extra stuff’ that Scripture spells out in an attempt to capture this one command, it seems so freeing to know that whenever I serve I express love. Whenever I consider her needs, her ways, and her thoughts first, I express my love to her in tangible ways.
I took the initiative to ask Katie to lead us. I did so because I felt that it was an act of love – a continual gift that I could give her by submitting. I wondered if I was disobeying the Bible but feel that I am obeying by following both the Galatians’ statement that puts all of the Biblical commands into perspective – to love my neighbor as myself - as well as the Ephesians command given to men – to love their wives as Christ loved the Church  That’s the choice that I made. I don’t know if you agree with it but would love to hear the thoughts of others on this topic.

I’m Hers


  1. What a pity someone always has to drag religion into things! The Bible is a collection of very old stories, translated into and out of dozens of languages. Religion is a belief instilled into you at an early age to control you and make you do what the control-freaks want.

    You have only one life. Just reject all this silly superstition! If you want to be submissive to your woman, get on and do it. It's YOUR life. It is not for priests, pastors, long-dead authors or anyone else to tell you how to live your life. They have no shred of evidence for their illogical beliefs. Just forget them and enjoy your life in your own way. I do!

  2. I am happy that you are doing these articles.
    Many couples live a Christian life where She is the boss, and I am alway fascinated by other persectives on these passages.
    I am a firm believer that men are to love their wives via service and that is how we live.
    You know 'Men have sight, women have insight'.
    Please do continue.

    Surrendered hubby

  3. You obviously have a need for religion in your life, however, it's time to eliminate your need to look to the bible for guidance, and look to your heart instead.

    While some of the views expressed by biblical writers are still valid today, most are not. The bible is nothing more than the opinions of those who wrote it all those years ago. Life has changed and those opinions are not necessarily valid. The other difficulty with the bible is that it offers conflicting views from its various authors. If you consider the bible as a document to live by, whose opinion do you follow and whose do you reject.

    My advice would be to set your bible aside and live by the so called golden rule, an ethics directive that has been around for millennia: "Treat others as you want to be treated". It's that simple...

  4. We are as we are becasue that is the way the good Lord made us. If the Lord did not want men to be submissve to their wives, he would not have made them with that instinct. The submissve husband who both loves and obeys a wife is truly a gift from God. The world would be a better place if more women were willing to accept this most generous of gifts. Love, Kathy

  5. Hi,
    I think it is great that you are looking at this subject. It is the elephant in the room and it is great to talk about it.
    Religion is a part of my life and a part of many other peoples lives.

    I think that Kathy makes a good point regarding the sumbissive instinct of men and Surrendered Husband is oh so right when he says men have sight and women have insight.

    However I believe Mr Harry Haversackers has it wrong when he says "Treat others as you want to be treated". I believe that I want my wife to whip me and order me around but she does not want to be whipped and I do not what to whip her. And I do not want others to whip me.

    To me, the overarching message I get from the bible is one of love & respect & tolerance and not to be driven by rules for the sake of rules.

    So keep on posting as I think it is interesting.

  6. Thanks to all that have expressed thoughts. I do appreciate your candid views. To anonymous and Harry, I will respectfully decline your offer to blow off Biblical teaching and do it my way. Kathy, submission is indeed a gift that a woman should enjoy if she is married, or has found a man, that has those traits. Submanhub and submissive husband, I've written about the two 'elephants' that I know of. Are there others that you know of? For me, this is the big one that I've had to wrestle with. Do you struggle with others?

    Would love to hear the thoughts of others.

  7. What is the 'other' elephant?
    I see "Wives Obey your Husbands".
    I agree that this was written for a specific audience in order that they not seem so radical to their neighbors as to seem a threat.
    I follow "Husbands Serve Your Wives As Christ Served The Church"!
    Die for her if necessary, but sacrifice all that you are and have for her in the mean time...

    Surrendered hubby

  8. Paul also tells slaves to obey their masters.

    The abolitionist of the 19th century countered this quite well. I think you will see that the abolitionist arguments concerning the verses where slaves are told to obey their masters apply directly to where women are told to obey their husbands.

    IMHO, it is societal context which need be taken into consideration.

  9. I’m Hers. One thing you did to derive fatality of your post was to deliberately isolate Ephesians 5:22 from it’s context. It’s as though you WANTED it to mean that it opposed your very self as a submissive man. In Judaism, the Second Temple Period was a time of women’s participation. This was also the time that the Apostle Paul wrote his letters, such as the verse quoted earlier in Ephesian 5:22. It disturbs me when people say that important documents, such as the Bible, or the Constitution is outdated. Usually such statements are made without regarding what is truly being said, or why. The word “obey” does not appear here like it does in Ephesians 6:1, where children are commanded to obey parents. What responsible parent does not know how crucial this is for the child, who simply cannot know what the parent knows? Ephesians 5:22 is an entirely different message and the word “obey” is not there. The word is “submit.” And the context is spiritual. It’s about power and construct. An honest friend of mine who is a single mom admitted to me that as strong and independent as she is, she still cannot do certain things for her girls simply because she is not dad. Dad cannot be replaced. Readers can dismiss my statement at will. But a child will dismiss your opinion based on his or her need to be affirmed by the man who conceived them. It’s a God given position and responsibility. When there is a dad deficit, it can be compensated for, but never replaced. This is spiritual.   When Apostle Paul admonished wives to “Submit yourselves as unto your own husbands”, look at who else he refers to in the paragraph; The Messiah Himself! Was Jesus physically present with them at that moment? No. So here’s the twist. How can a man be the spiritual head of the marriage and yet relinquish authority in the relationship and household? Lay down his life! So often this is misunderstood that men should sacrifice his emotions, or ignores his insecurities in order to “man up.” Let’s be reasonable here. What successful marriage have you ever witnessed in a church where the wife wasn’t actually in charge? It’s cyclic. When the husband is doing what he is supposed to on a spiritual level, the woman is spared from the character defects inherent in males and is free to grow and flourish. What actually empowers him to have the strength to be such a protectorate? He relinquishes control of the household, and the relationship. No, it doesn’t get expounded on theologically much. Instead, it comes out in tension relieving jokes during sermons. Did Paul REALLY render women to be quiet and obedient across the board? Really? Here are just a few things to look at from the New Testament:  In Acts, Priscilla mentioned before husband Aquilla indicating her lead in actions such as teaching Apollos. Also, in Acts 16, Lydia led a synagogue in her home. In Romans 16, Judeus was chief among  Apostles. In Romans, Phoebe was a deacon, not deaconess. In 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, the Spirit doles out gifts in accordance with His will- not gender specific. And here is from an Orthodox Jewish prayer book (as you read the quote, bear in mind that is the context in which the New Testament was written): Women, both historically and because of their nature, are the guardians of tradition, and the molders of character, children and family. Furthermore, women have often been the protectors of Judaism when the impetuosity and aggressiveness of the male led the men astray. The classic precedent was in the wilderness when the men -not the women- worshipped the golden calf. Thus, though women were not given the privilege of the challenge assigned to men, they are created closer to God’s ideal of satisfaction. They express their gratitude in the blessing “For having made me according to His will.”    – Artscroll Transliterated Linear Siddur.

  10. Also from the Artscroll Siddur: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, for not having made me a woman.” This is a perfect one to be taken out of context. The meaning of the prayer, often misused and abused by men, actually expresses their gratitude for separate but equal roles: Men acknowledge daily that they need more rules, as reminders, to serve God. Let me add one final thought. The very last thing that God created: Eve. Woman. The finest, most complex, most wonderful being, on earth was His crown creation. Consider John 2:10…and said to him, “Everyone else serves the good wine first and the poorer wine after people have drunk freely. But you have kept the good wine until now!”  The curse still happened; Womankind is still locked in enmity with Satan. So I believe that the real essence of this gender struggle lies somewhere in the balance of all these opposing forces of nature and spirit. But as far as whether it is Biblical for a man to submit to his woman, I think it is biblical and wise, given that he doesn’t shirk his responsibilities.

  11. Anon,

    Respectfully, you come across a prechy and as the sole authority on the matter. If you are open to a counter view….

    Col 3:22 was used as a spiritual axiom for the justification of slave owners. The abolitionist movement in the United States provided what I consider to be the same counter to Col 3:22 that I am now using to counter the view that Paul is telling men they need be the head of the house and this is their god given spiritual obligation.

    This is taking the verse out of context.

    The verse is Paul speaking to his church in Ephesus. They need not put their lives at risk by practicing the equality of Christianity. Instead he is telling them it is okay to conform to the society in which they find themselves in and have the wives submit to their husbands.

    If the Ephesus was a matriarchal society, Paul would of instructed “Men, obey your wives for as eve was given to adam as a spiritual chaperone, so you too should submit to your wives’ god given authority over you.

    Note- eve was told in the creation myth to be Adam’s “Helper” This is the same Hebrew word used to describe godde’s role of spiritual authority over the nation of Israel as their “Helper”.

    Food for thought.



    P.S. – To add to your list, Zipporah the wife of moses was a women of authority. She was the first born daughter of Jethro and led his flocks. The biblical account is rather stark as to who ran the marriage. She was no passive wife. We are speaking of the wife of the author of the first five books of the bible.

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  13. Some other fun versus:

    There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Gal 3:28

    This is my personal favorite

    Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. Romans 16:7
    Refers to Junia, a woman, as a fellow apostle. Reference to the Apostle Junia can be found readily on the internet.

  14. S-H. Being preachy duly noted. I like your take on Ephesus and Zipphorah. Thank you.

  15. I would like to emphasize apology again for anyone who may take my posts as preaching. I note the irony of talking Biblical on a blog about make submission and female headship. I salute I'm Hers not only for addressing elephants, but am ecstatic to find this blog, like a breath of fresh air...

    When I was in the military, we used "overlays" for top-down mapviews in order to peel away various things like manmade structures, roads and natural obstacles. What made me think of this was the spiritual and relational considerations I suggested about submission and headship while S-H talked about the cultural possibilities.

    Thank you again, I'm Hers for being here.

  16. it is my honor. Take care.