Abuse and Submission
… What’s Biblical and what’s intolerable?
Eighth of four part series.
One of the most common questions we receive by letter, e-mail and from callers on New Life Radio has to do with the tolerance of verbal and physical abuse within a home as well as with hostile people who persecute Christians.
Should we take a path of passivity or should we resist?
How do we reconcile victimization and abuse with submission within marriage?
What exactly does abuse mean?
When do we turn the other cheek?
Let’s hear from another reader:
What about Ephesians 5:22-33 where the wife is told to be submissive (be subject) to her husband? Doesn’t this mean that she has to remain in an intolerable situation? In addition, I have heard you refer to situations where marital separation is warranted to protect from physical / emotional /financial harm etc. Can you explain your Biblical reasoning for this?
There are a lot of good questions and thoughts here.
Let me begin with the first part on submission.
In the original Greek language in which the New Testament was first penned, the word for submission is “hupotasso”.
It simply means to yield under the authority of someone such as church officials, government authorities, civil legislators, judges etc.
God is a Lord who believes in authority structure.
Not everyone can be in control at the same time, so instead of chaos and confusion God has established leadership principles that allow a group to operate with clarity and decisiveness.
As a military unit would be very inefficient if all the members of the group could issue commands at the same time, so too, churches, homes and governments would be chaotic without leaders to guide the unit.
Therefore, in the home, the husband is the leader and the family is to follow his leadership (I Corinthians 11:2-3).
The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:21 summarizes teaching on community and unity by saying that all believers, male and female alike, are to be in submission to one another.
To put it simply, that amongst Christians, we are to demonstrate mutual deference and service to one another.
In verse 22, it continues by saying “wives, be subject to your husbands”.
That is, they should yield to his leadership in the home.
While there are many loving husbands who lead well and take into account the thoughts and feelings of their wife and children, there are some, who are not.
Many husbands are mean spirited, unkind and in some cases are verbally, emotionally and physically abusive.
There appears to be room for a temporary separation in I Corinthians 7:10-11.
While it does not say what the rationale is for a separation, it does say that the choices are to remain single or be reconciled to the husband.
Therefore, Bible scholars take that to mean that the Bible recognizes that separations do occur.
Also, “wisdom” which the Bible talks about in James 1:5, which God says He will give to those who are perplexed by a trial, indicates that there is a subjective or common sense aspect to making decisions in a broken world.
Abuse, financial irresponsibility, rage, child endangerment etc., are all things that if viewed through the lens of “wisdom” we would conclude that they are unhealthy and damaging to the victims, so they need to get away from it until the reactivity of the perpetrator is abated.
In summary, Ephesians 5:21-33 is teaching that yielding under the authority of the husband is necessary for there to be unity within the home.
Simply stated, not everyone can be leading at the same time.
It is not instructing a woman to remain in a dangerous and perilous place for either herself or her children.
The church and the government are to help protect her from the hurtful husband.
Love and blessings,
Milan & Kay