This series focuses on a woman’s worth, and a woman’s role in marriage. The Bible is proof positive that God has an active role for women in society, the church, and in marriage.
Abusers join many Christians in the belief that a woman is scripturally mandated to obey and submit to her husband, and church leadership, in all things. They teach he is the head; as in the leader and final decision maker. Abusers take this belief and magnify it.
I advocate for abused women because they are people made in the image of God. I am a voice speaking against abuse and suffering because God asks us to stand for the weak and defenseless.
Speaking of weak; women who are living in, or are survivors of, domestic abuse are not weak as some would call weakness. They are the strongest people I know. They are tired. They are lonely…yes, married women can be lonely. There isn’t much worse than being an unloved woman living with the man who promised to love, cherish, and honor her. It’s painful to remember what the future was meant to be. And, many women are ‘weak’ because disease brought on by marital stress and trauma racks their body.
Many of the women I minister to, whose husbands are angry and controlling men; of which many have character/personality disorders; all have one thing in common ̶ their husbands like to wield scripture over them as a means to control them. For most women, this began at a young age when they married around college age. For others it happened after carefully and prayerfully screening the relationship; only to find out after saying ‘I do’ that they were conned by a master deceiver. These women have heard the same statements for years and many believe what they’ve repetitively been told; the marital problems are entirely their fault and if they would stop complaining everything would be fine. Many have been told they have little to no rights: the house is his, the money is his, the vehicles are his, the kids are his, and possessions are his. They often have to ask permission for what they want and need; as well as, where they want to go, who they want to see, or with whom they want to talk. These men typically elevate men over women in the family, in marriage, in the work environment and in the church. But…you’ll never know it because he’s so charming with others.
I Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 5:23 and I Peter 3:1-6 are frequently used as ammunition to keep a wife quiet and restrained. So is the fall in Genesis.
The curse and the resulting power struggle between Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 doesn’t describe the way it should be, but the way it will be. Adam would now desire to control his wife and Eve would find it easy to enable him out of guilt for what had happened, or possibly wanting him to make the decisions out of fear she would mess up…again. Why? Because sin damaged the relationship that God created.
In this series I want to weave our way through God’s words where women can find hope and healing, and the church perhaps can read scripture anew. I know theologians disagree on this topic, but I’m trying to take into account individual verses, stories found in scripture, and pair them with Jesus’ ministry on earth and His heart for healthy relationships. I think it paints a different picture than what the church often teaches regarding a woman’s role in marriage. We may disagree but hopefully we can agree that when we all get to heaven and stand before God, there likely will be no one person, church, or organization to which God says, “Well done, you understood and applied every verse of scripture perfectly.”
To me, if verses are going to be cherry picked (singled out and applied according to how one wants to view them) then the same standard/precedence should be applied to all verses:
Let’s compare what Paul said with what these same husbands would ascribe scripture as meaning according to their opinion: (I use a bit of hyperbole in some of the explanations). I’m using Paul’s writings since he highly esteemed women who worked alongside him in ministry.
- “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” Romans 16:16 is usually interpreted as cultural…but a handshake works better and is used instead of a kiss.
- “…the head of the woman is man…” I Corinthians 11:3 is quite clear…period! This means the man does the thinking and speaking in the marriage.
- “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.” I Timothy 2:8 is also taught as…yes, you guessed it; cultural and that it means: worship God. Don’t fist fight in church.
- “I also want the women to dress modestly… not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes.” I Timothy 2:9 is most obviously cultural and means women shouldn’t flaunt their wealth and shouldn’t attempt to be beautiful only on the outside since God looks at the heart.
- I Timothy 6:1 – “All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect.” Once more; cultural. God was not and is not sanctioning slavery or human trafficking. This verse was specific to that time period.
- I Timothy 2:12 “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” The Bible says it plainly. Stop using ‘culture’ to push a feminist agenda.
- Ephesian 5:23 says, “The husband is the head of the wife.” God means what He says and says what He means.
- 2 Timothy 2:15, “But women will be saved through child-bearing – if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety.” Well…that can’t be accurate or literal. It sets conditions on receiving free grace. Women do not receive salvation when they give birth to their first child. We need to take a look at the situation/setting and not take one verse out of context.
And a popular verse on the subject written by Peter:
- “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands.” I Peter 3:1. The Bible says it. That settles it. (Don’t blame us. It wasn’t our idea!) Of course, angry and controlling men completely ignore verse 7 of the same chapter. Submission is a two-way street.
Angry and controlling husbands usually believe the thoughts and opinions of women are not important, are unqualified, silly, or wrong and that the man’s responsibilities are to be leaders and decision makers. Some even believe and practice disciplining their wives (verbally and/or physically).
God’s word is not for controlling His children, suppressing us, or making us miserable. It’s for achieving freedom, abounding blessings, correction, wisdom and protection.
We will not find anywhere in scripture where marital love is controlling; it’s mutually submitting and looking out for the best interest of the other; it’s about serving. Man is never to take the place of the Holy Spirit in anyone’s life; and by requiring a woman to obey and submit to a man/husband in all things removes room for the relational work of the Holy Spirit in her life.
Next time we will look at part 2: What the Bible teaches a healthy wife/marriage/woman looks like.