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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

"I will make you submit!"--Domestic Abuse in the Christian Sphere


I can’t tell you all their stories. I can’t reveal their names. But, you’d be surprised how many Christian women tell the story ... of abuse. Most are married, and their husbands claim to be Christians.

Let me stop right here. The word Christian means “follower of Christ.” Just keep that in mind while I continue.

Wifely submission is taught in the Bible. You can find it in: Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:5; and 1 Peter 3:1-6. The Greek word for submission is a military term which means “to arrange or rank under.”* This means that a woman voluntarily and joyfully agrees that she’s a different rank from her husband, because he's the designated head of the home. In other words, he’s the General, and she’s the Lieutenant General. “The buck stops here” applies to her husband. God holds him responsible for everything that goes on in his home.

According to the Bible, how is a man supposed to love his wife?
  • Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it (Ephesians 5:25).
  • With what attitude? Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them (Colossians 3:19).
  • Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered (1 Peter 3:7).
How does Christ love the church? He sacrificed heaven for it. He gave His lifeblood for it. He eternally cares for it.

What does love mean? Charity (love) suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).

We'll go to a too-common scenario: the husband isn’t pleased with his wife for some reason. He’s angry. He starts shouting, “You must submit to me! I will make you submit!”

What’s wrong with these statements? The first is a distortion—twisted use—of biblical truth, and the second is totally inappropriate and reprehensible. Yes, a wife is supposed to gladly submit the ultimate decision to her husband. The Bible doesn’t say she can’t disagree, state her opinion, or have her own ideas. The Bible doesn’t strip her of personhood and thinking for herself! Instead of yelling, a husband and wife can have an amicable discussion about any subject. Then, the husband has the last say, in the case of a difference of opinion. The wife gladly yields to his decision, because he will pay the consequences, good or bad. Does this make sense to you?

Let me share a true example: A man comes to the door of a house with a sad story. (By the way, he’s driving a luxury car with a garment bag hung in the back of it.) The husband answers the door. This man tells the husband that he has fallen into bad times. His wife is sick, and he needs money to get to a certain city. The husband immediately feels sorry for the man and promises him money, but he doesn’t have it on him; will the man follow him to the bank? As the husband puts on his jacket, the wife asks what is going on. She has a gut feeling that the man at the door is less than honest, but the husband is insistent; he wants to help the “poor” man. The wife agrees to disagree. Later, the husband does not get his money back—as the “poor” guy at the door promised—and he learns a lesson. The wife doesn’t say, “I told you so.” She doesn’t have to! Her husband has learned a life lesson. She submitted to her husband's wrong decision. It wasn’t forced. She expressed her gut feeling and opinion to him, and then she yielded the reins. 

When wives do this, men learn. When men learn, they trust their wives for wise advice. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her (Proverbs 31:11a).

Let’s go back to the husband who screams, “I will make you submit to me!” First, his angry tirade shows he's lost control. That is not walking in the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). It’s also not showing his wife love and honor. Yelling—even nose-to-nose “quiet yelling”—is an ugly way to interact. This is totally unacceptable behavior in God’s sight. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity (2 Peter 1:5-7).

The home is designed to reflect the order in the Godhead. There’s a beautiful three-way parallel between the way God expresses submission in the Godhead, the church and the Lord, and husband and wife. Read these two passages:
          Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband (Ephesians 5:22-33).
          But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God (1 Corinthians 11:3).

Wow!

Let’s review God’s order. Look at 1 Corinthians 11:3, above: God—Christ—husband—wife. What did you notice here? Is Christ less than God the Father? No, but repeatedly, He submitted Himself to His Father. Is the woman less than the man? No. When God created Adam and Eve, He said they were “good.” Neither had more value than the other. This is about order.

What should you do if your husband demands submission, if he misuses and twists the Bible to cover up his own sins toward you? If your husband (or fiancé or partner) abuses you emotionally, verbally, and/or physically, you need to do two things:
  1. Report him. I recommend you confide in a trusted woman friend or close relative. If there’s physical abuse (which is a crime against your person), report it to the authorities. Call the police. Make a statement. Ask for a restraining order and protection. If you have children, get them out of the home while you do this.
  2. Do not accept his “I’m sorry” if you’ve left the home, gone back to give him another chance, and you’re beaten again. Get out! Yes, you probably love him and forgive him, but you are enabling his sins against you if you become his punching bag. 
If the abuse is “only” verbal and emotional, refuse to take it. It might mean sitting down with him and in a rational way explaining how you feel. Tell him, “It hurts me when you say ____________.” Give him a chance to repent. (Repentance means saying he’s sorry and not repeating the fault.) A man who is truly sorry will quit saying nasty things to his wife. If he continues to demean and put you down, it might mean you need to leave the home. If your husband is manipulating you to do things against your will, you may have to leave the home. Manipulation is abuse, too.

Submission is not about being made to do something against your will. Elizabeth George says, “Submission is a gift we give our husband.”

The statement, “I will make you submit to me” is not Christ-like, loving, or kind. It is not biblical. It’s just plain wrong.

If you are being abused, please get help. Reach out to someone you can trust. Report crimes against you, and leave a dangerous or abusive situation. Here’s the U.S.A. National Domestic Violence Hotline number, should you need it: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). If you live in another country, look for domestic abuse or violence phone numbers for your country.

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* The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Ephesians. John MacArthur, Jr.
  

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