A large part of the Christian church’s teaching on women is seriously slanted.
I see it all the time: I’ll write a thoughtful, long post on how a woman should deal with sin in her family, and a commenter will say nothing except to quote 1 Peter 3:1-6 on how a woman should win her husband “without words”.
Or, to paraphrase, “Ladies, please shut up.”
We’ll do a long, thought out post or podcast showing that God values women, and I’ll have someone reply with 1 Timothy 2:11-12–that I’m not to teach and I should be silent.
Oh, friends, my heart hurts when I read things like these. My heart grieves that so much of the church is missing the transformational message of the gospel: that God loves ALL of us, and wants ALL of us to look more and more like Him. That God wants a close, intimate relationship with everybody–and that that relationship matters more than form or gender or church. God wants holiness and righteousness and transformed lives, not an empty, legalistic shell.
Why is the church so often dismissing women?
I think we have a very flawed view of what the relationship between the genders should be, and many Christian teachers focus on keeping power for men because, quite frankly, it’s nice for them.
Two weeks ago on the podcast we showed you how Emerson Eggerichs misused Scripture to paint a terrible picture of God in Love & Respect–a God who thinks women are easily deceived, can’t be trusted, and shouldn’t speak up. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Tomorrow we’re going to bring on the podcast a Greek scholar and theologian to show us what the Bible says about women.
And next week, on Wednesday, my Fixed It for You book is launching, showing you how God’s heart for women has been so distorted.
Even though this blog, and my books, are mostly about sex, I hope that you also feel set free by these messages.
Friends: God so loves you. He cares for you as an individual. And His desire is for transformation and redemption.
A few years ago I wrote a manifesto of sorts of 10 truths which I pledge as a woman, created fully to reflect Christ, and created with the intent purpose of being transformed to look more and more like Him. I’d like to rerun that today, the day before another awesome podcast drops.
1. My primary identity is in Christ.
He is my Saviour. I am made in the image of God; I am not made in the image of my husband.
2. I will not encourage young women to take their primary identities as being wives.
We are first made in Christ’s image; if a young woman does not marry, she is no less of a person. If a woman has an unfaithful or abusive husband, and her marriage blows up, she is no less of a person. Our value is in our Redeemer.
3. I want to see everyone around me look more and more like Christ (Romans 8:29).
This is also God’s plan for their lives. Therefore, I will not listen to messages which tell me that because I’m a woman, I should not speak up about sin. Jesus graciously forgave, but He always dealt with the sin. This is meant to be my model as well. I want to be a spouse, not an enabler.
I understand that this means that I am to act in such a way that brings people closer to Christ, not that pushes them away from God by encouraging unChristlike behaviour. Therefore, if my husband wants something that would go against what Jesus wants for us, I will say no.
4. I will always be good. I will not always be nice.
Jesus was not always nice; but He was always good. He always acted in such a way as to point people to God, even if it made people uncomfortable. And He is our model. I will be good, even if it occasionally means going against my husband (1 Samuel 25; Acts 5).
At the same time, being good also means reflecting Christ, which means that I must do all of this with the same mind and attitude that Christ had: humility (Philippians 2). I recognize that I am also a sinner saved by grace, and I may not be right either. So I will strive to always go before God first, to always deal with my own issues first, and to invite wise women around me to hold me accountable. I will not presume that I always know what’s right, nor will I try to control or manipulate. I will simply, in the spirit of gentleness, stand up for truth as I ask God to reveal it to me.
5. Loving my husband means wanting what is best for him.
I will shower him with encouragement and praise and admiration. I will think of his needs first. I will pray for him daily. I will be his biggest cheerleader!
But my prayer for him is for his best; it is not that he have an easy life. My goal is to encourage him as he pursues Christ, not placate him or cover for him if he moves away from Christ. If I prop him up as he becomes an alcoholic, or a porn addict, or a gambler (or other such things), I’m not really loving him.
6. I will be a peaceMAKER, not a peaceKEEPER.
Peacekeepers value lack of conflict over truth; peacemakers know there is no real peace absent truth. And Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
7. I believe that I am responsible before God to work out my own salvation and my own relationship with Him.
God gave me a brain and an individual conscience, and that means that I can’t rely on others to make my faith (Philippians 2:12-13). I am allowed to question my husband’s interpretation of Scripture. I am allowed to question my pastor’s interpretation of Scripture. God wants me to be like the Bereans: to take everything I hear and compare it to what I know from Scripture to see if it is true (Acts 17:11).
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8. I fully accept my responsibility to build a strong marriage–as far as it depends on me.
A strong community is built on strong families. But that also means that the Christian community has a stake in our marriages. Therefore, I will find godly mentors. I will join together with other Christians. When needed, I will seek out help and advice about my marriage BEFORE it gets to a crisis point. I will seek out Jesus’ strength and guidance for how to build my marriage up and how to love my husband the best I can.
9. However, if my church tells me that I am to follow my husband into ungodly behaviour, I will not listen.
If my church says that I am to do nothing about something which is seriously jeopardizing our family and his soul (such as porn use, gambling, refusal to work, abuse of our children, abuse of me, etc.), I will seek out a new body of believers that has a complete picture of the gospel’s transformational power in our lives. I will contact civil authorities where appropriate, especially to protect children.
10. I believe that God cares more about the people in a marriage than He does about that marriage.
I will not believe it is God’s will that I am abused, or that He wills for my spirit be broken, by a marriage to a man who treats me with abuse and contempt. I know that God has things on this earth for me to do, and I will not be held back by an abusive marriage that was never God’s will for me. I will protect my children and others from a marriage that is toxic.
Here’s what it comes down to: Jesus wants people transformed. When we hold to a rigid view of gender roles and marriage, we prevent transformation; we don’t encourage it. Instead of asking people to look Christlike, we simply ask them to follow rigid rules. We’ve replaced the heart of the gospel with a new kind of legalism that traps people in an immature faith.
Let’s all get back to the heart of God.
What do you think? Would you add a #11? What would it be? Let’s talk in the comments!
Note: This post was originally run in 2015, and we actually left the comments here on the post from back then! It’s interesting to see how the conversation has shifted, how careful we had to be back then, versus now when more and more people are seeing the truth about God’s heart for women. But when commenting, just create a new thread rather than replying to the 8 year old comments!
Thank you, thank you, thank you! So very well said. Love your work, Sheila! xx
Well-said! I love that you included point #2 in particular. During my single days, I often felt like a second-class Christian of sorts–whether it’s intentional or not, a lot of churches and ministries seem to take the view that marriage is the be-all end-all of the Christian life, and while I’m very happy that God chose to bless me with a husband who loves Him too, that perspective is pretty damaging when you’re on the other side of it. I know several Godly women, including my best friend and a dear cousin, who are single (and not by choice). I don’t ever want them to feel like they’re less of a woman, or less loved by God, because of that.
I know! That’s the problem with ideas like “Created to Be His Helpmeet” (Well, that book has TONS wrong with it, but let’s just consider the title for now). If that is all that a woman is for, then what happens if she’s single? And considering that Paul encouraged single women to stay single, obviously our primary identity is NOT in being a Helpmeet. It is in being a child of the King.
This is a tough topic, but you handled it well. Spot on!
Proverbs 31 is a woman teaching a King, her son, what to look for in a wife. To claim that no woman may teach a man, ever, is to contradict Biblical example.
I think this is my favourite post of yours. I have struggled reading bòoks and studies on what a Christian woman should be (perverted theology of Proverbs 31) instead of the believer I should be. We are ALL God’s children and we ALL have important roles to play.
Thanks, Michelle! I struggle with a lot of that, too.
Yes! Thank you!! I would print this post on a t-shirt if I could.
That’s not a bad idea… 🙂
You go, Girl!! Well thought out, well presented!! Appreciate all you do for the cause of Christ!
No reason to be nervous about this topic. You killed it! Wholeheartedly agree with you! Great job
Thanks for posting this, Sheila. Very timely.
Hi Sheila from Wyoming. Thank you for your heart for Christ and honoring Him! I loved this post because you found the balance that is sorely missing in how a wife can honor God and respectfully address sin to her husband. Too many times there is a swing from male-bashing and control to being a doormat and allowing inexcusable sin to continue. I love that you found the heart of it; not a competition between genders, but a loving submission to Christ. And we all need each other in that! God bless you Sheila!
Amen and amen! Keep being you Sheila. This post is so great and so important! Well said.
It is so sad to me that this is considered controversial! I guess I got lucky and was raised up to believe all of these things. 🙂 I love that my church teaches that a wife is to hearken unto her husband, only as he hearkens unto God. I wish more people understood this.
Thanks for this thought-provoking and necessary post. It’s interesting because you promoted this as controversial, but for true, Bible-believing Christians, there isn’t a word of controversy in here. I particularly liked the point to be a peace-MAKER as opposed to a peace-KEEPER.
I do concede, however, with the mixed messages that women (and men) receive from the church on marriage, there are so many misguided, guilt-ridden, poor-decision making wives. There needs to be a shift in the paradigm and I appreciate your effort in this endeavor.
I’m interested to know what Lindon thinks about this and I definitely plan to run it by him when he gets home from work.
As always, thank for your heart, perseverance, and motivation to love and support women and marriages everywhere!
God bless you!
It makes me sad that such a post is even necessary.
I would add to #2 – I will not encourage young women to take their identity as mothers, either. When I had my first baby, I more or less stopped doing anything other than being a mom and a wife. All the hobbies, all the “ways I restore and refresh myself” (which you wrote about earlier this month as being so important) got dropped in favour of picture books and building blocks.
Now, I have more children and also a much better balance. I love my kids. I home school my kids. I spend hours and hours each day with them – but I also take time each day to do something that will refresh and restore me. I am a better mother and a better wife and a better friend when I take my “time alone with God” and when I find my identity in Him.
Ooohhhh, good point. Thanks!
Thanks for this Sheila! Like others have said, the fact that you labeled this view as controversial is so sad. I was raised with this kind of view point and married a wonderful man that believes the same way. I think our fallen sin nature is so drawn to self salvation that we begin to believe that formulas and legalism and the “shell” that you talked about will guarantee a good marriage much like we often act like our good works or right theology is what gets us into heaven. Nothing can be further from the truth. Our salvation is based on the act of sacrifice that Christ made. The transformation that takes place in our lives as we seek him and the imitating of his sacrifice in putting others (including our spouse) ahead of ourselves are the key ingredient to a good marriage. I love this quote by Timothy Keller “If two spouses each say, ‘I’m going to treat my self-centeredness as the main problem in the marriage,’ you have the prospect of a truly great marriage.” Isn’t that the truth. Keep up the good work Sheila!
Right on! When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well he put the onus on her to “go and sin no more”. he didn’t ask her to bring her fifth husband to him to sort out. We are daughters of the king. We need to act like it with dignity and and a deep sense of self worth Thank you again for your faithfulness to God and the gifts he has given you
This is wonderful truth! I wish I had known this in the beginning of my marriage. I thought it was most important for my husband to be happy, even if he was sinning. If I had never spoken God’s truth in my marriage, my husband would still be living in sin. He would never have healed from pornography addiction if it wasn’t formy persistence through God!
Sheila! If you haven’t read ‘Fashioned to Reign’ by Kris Vallotton, it is absolutely INCREDIBLE. Its all about how Jesus was the first person to empower women and their role in the world. And restoring the biblical perspective of women in ministry, women in general. I think it would absolutely bless you! Its one of the best books I have ever read. Thanks for all the things you write, they bless me all the time! <3
Thank you for that, Kelly! I’ll look into it.
Here’s one thing I was thinking this morning while in the shower (hope that’s not TMI; that’s where I do my best thinking). Jesus was a RADICAL when it came to women. He spoke to them. He employed them as the first evangelists (women told of the resurrection). They were his most loyal followers.
In a world where women weren’t educated and weren’t to speak to men, Jesus turned it all on its head.
Yet the Jesus we have today is not radical. The Jesus most churches teach is stuck in the 1950s. And that really concerns me.
Ha, thats exactly what the book talks about! Its so true. He pretty much started women’s rights. I think God is going to move across America profoundly here soon though! I am encouraged! Revival is so easy for Him.
By the way, thank you so much for writing these and for all the time you take to just write and respond to people’s comments. You really are anointed for this 🙂
Thanks, Kelly Ann! And I’m excited to see what God is going to do, too. There’s been a real shaking going on recently. Many in large churches or with powerful voices have fallen. Christians keep saying, “It’s Satan!” I’m not so sure. I think it’s a weeding that’s going on so that the church gets back to what’s important and becomes stronger, less susceptible to cults of personality or false teaching, and more ready to spread the gospel.
This is something you save, share, and print off for your daughters and granddaughters. This is also something you print off for your sons and grandsons. Women need to know that much of the views on women that are portrayed as belonging to the Christian faith are the result of the churches, past and present, and not necessarily the Bible. Most of the wisdom about womanhood I have received in the past few weeks has been from trusted sources who quote directly from the Bible (so, I can go, read, interpret, and discuss with them). Over the course of our discussions I have drastically changed my views on what a Christian woman is supposed to be. I used to take my cues on what a good Christian woman was from historical references, authors like Kassian and DeMoss, and Michelle Duggar. I referenced extremes. Coupled with a church that seemed to condemn people all the time, and personal issues I fell away from God and my faith in Him. I mean, why would I want to be a part of a religion that had so little regard for women?
Teachings like that pulled me away. Thankfully I found you, a few very trusted friends and the Bible to start me on my journey relearning what God really wants from me. The one thing that I keep hearing repeated to me is that God wants us to treat our spouses like Jesus treated his church. In what I have read so far, and my newbie interpretation, to me, that means God wants us to treat our spouses with love, dignity, compassion, passion, reverence, and respect. Looking back on both my present self and past self, I can really see how authors like Kassian and DeMoss can disenchant women from the Christian religion.
Your comments recently have so encouraged me! I’m so glad I’ve been part of your spiritual journey.
And yes, I do believe that some of the hyper-conservative movement can turn women away from Christ, and it does scare me.
Sheila, I love this. So many truths shared in so many ways. The points you’ve shared all go together and i think the problem sometimes is, someone will take issue with one, not realizing (or ignoring) there’s balance in another. Wonderful article. I also hope it gets people thinking and talking.
How do I email you with a personal and private question? You can blog it anonymously after you read if you like. Send me the info please. Thank you and have a blessed day
Mallory, you can contact me through this link! Thanks! https://tolovestaging.wpengine.com/keep-in-touch/
I think there are many good points in this post that I can heartily endorse, but #9 and #10 don’t sit real well with me as a pastor. While there are instances of churches using heavy handed authority in ways that God never intended and church leaders being overbearing in their roles, God has established the institution of the church (and its leaders) as a means of protective authority for husbands, wives, families and Christians everywhere. I think for Sheila to suggest “not listening” to the church is giving license for hurting women to come out from under that protective umbrella in ways that could be decidedly unhealthy. In other words if her church and her church leaders might suggest something she disagrees with, she is then permitted to leave and find another church? Really?
Related to this, there is a bit of a contradiction in her statement and her explanation in #9. In her statement she says that if a church encourages a wife “to follow” her husband into ungodly behavior. I think the number of churches that would actually encourage a wife to directly follow her husband in ungodly behavior is minuscule, if non-existent. But there are churches (like ours) that would encourage wives in difficult marriage to remain committed to the covenant despite the difficulty, stay within her role, and pray earnestly for their husbands change. That fact is that sometimes God sometimes calls us to “suffer” in difficult relationships (do a Bible study on the theology of suffering). Suffering is part of the Christian life and one of the lies that the Enemy brings is if you are unhappy or suffering in your marriage- get out as fast as you can. I think Sheila needs to do a little reworking on #9 to reflect a more respectful role of the church and church leaders in the lives of women who have husbands caught in addictions. Obviously choosing to suffer in a difficult marriage doesn’t mean exposing herself or her children to harm (physical or spiritual), but I do think it means to “remain under” the trial and let God determine the outcome. I also think that often church leaders can be a very helpful resource in providing biblically centered and redemptive counseling to a woman who finds herself in a difficult marriage. Let’s not castigate women from their churches or the leaders in the church.
Also #10 is theologically imprecise. Marriage is to be an earthly reflection of God’s covenant relationship with his people. Yes absolutely, God is concerned about the people in the marriage, but the union itself is designed by him to be more than just for the enrichment of the individuals involved. Marriage is to be a testimony to the world of how He loves His own people. This is why he hates divorce. It not only wounds lives, but it damages and destroys the picture of God’s love for his people. I don’t think this is an “either/or” proposition – God loves the people in the marriage more than the marriage itself. God loves both and wants to protect both people and marriage. It is an institution He created for our good and His glory.
Could not agree with you more – especially your last paragraph! Well said!
I don’t think its an either/or, but a both/and. Christian marriages speak too loudly to the world of God’s covenant and His grace to have this be an either the marriage/or His children situation.
My mother left my father just after I married – I had come back from honeymoon all glowing and happy, and she took one look at me (literally) and moved out my father’s house. And two high profile Christian leaders told her it as okay, God was on her side. Here’s the thing though: my mother wanted to leave the day she got married. All that had happened is that someone finally gave her permission to go based on their view of the Word of God. My Dad was never abusive, not addicted to anything, a bit distant because of his work and not too involved in family life but he was a good provider and father for us and these people who advised her didn’t even have the decency to talk to my Dad (in fact, it is my understanding they didn’t even know who he was). She wanted out, because she was unhappy and wanted more. More that my Dad could not possibly give her. And when she saw how happy I was after my honeymoon, she just left. Not a burden I would wish anyone to carry. It has taken me years to finally understand that my mom’s leaving was not God’s desire. If my mom had been patient, God would’ve redeemed my dad and their marriage (my Dad has since become a Christian and is heavily involved in the church – just what she always wanted). But, she didn’t wait. Now, she is married to a Jewish man, who does not share her faith, and they are battling financially and at the age of 63, she will still need to work the next 20 years to pay off their mortgage. My dad is fully retired and enjoying life at home.
Being unhappy in a marriage is not reason enough to leave. Battling in marriage is not reason enough to leave. Having a distant husband, an overweight wife, a workaholic spouse, etc, etc, etc are not reasons to leave; they are not reasons to break a marriage covenant before God.
However, being abused – whether spiritually, emotionally or physically – only the people IN the marriage can truly decide what to do (preferably after receiving counselling). And then know that we are absolutely the most important people to God (as we all are), because He hurts when we hurt. He weeps when we weep. He is with us, He is loving us, He is always on our side. But, whatever the situation, and whatever our circumstances, know that God is always on our side. And He loves us so deeply that I often don’t think we’ll be able to comprehend His love in this world – not completely, anyway.
And I think that is the most important thing. Love!
1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
So, both of your parents endured decades of an unhappy marriage and you’re upset that your mom finally left?
Your mom’s financial decisions aren’t really relevant. Taking out a new mortgage in your 60s is unwise but has nothing to do with being divorced (plenty of divorced people make sound financial decisions and plenty of married people are in financial straits). If your dad is retired and enjoying his life, what’s the problem? Clearly the divorce moved him deeply and now he’s involved in church, which seems to be a good thing for him. It sounds to me like the divorce was a sanctifying event in your dad’s life, not the miserable marriage.
I totally agree. God DOES care about the actual marriage because it is a reflection of Christ and his bride, the church. Much sanctification has occurred by STAYING in a difficult marriage. That said, we must come alongside those who struggle and not just assume they are “struggling well.”
Kristin, I totally hear what you’re saying–but the point isn’t that God DOESN’T care about marriage; it’s that God cares about people more. The number of people who have stayed in abusive marriages where they are being brutalized because “God hates divorce” is just so sad.
I disagree with you emphatically, Glen. My pastor, when I happen to have one, is not any kind of authority in my life. A pastor is someone who went to seminary (hopefully) and has been trained in pastoral duties and hopefully vetted to have upstanding character. That doesn’t make that person an authority. Neither is the church an authority. The church is the community of those who follow Jesus.
“In other words if her church and her church leaders might suggest something she disagrees with, she is then permitted to leave and find another church? Really?”
Yes, really. People are free to leave a church. They are also free not to go to church. That this is a radical statement to you leads me to believe that you have a bizarre idea of what a pastor and a church are.
You have no evidence that God “hates divorce,” that is a mis-translation. Divorce does not not wound lives, nor does it damage or destroy the picture of God’s love for people. The earthly reflection of God’s love for people is the life of Jesus. Full stop. Your post raises marriage to that same level and that is blasphemous.
“I think the number of churches that would actually encourage a wife to directly follow her husband in ungodly behavior is minuscule, if non-existent.”
Clearly, you live in your own world and are not listening to people who have experienced this. There are MANY churches who teach this, including one in my own town. The pastor’s wife openly says, “If my husband asks me to do something that is wrong, I will be blameless before God for obeying my husband. He alone will answer to God.” Mountain Springs Church in Idaho. Very normal looking, conservative non-denominational Evangelical church.
“do a Bible study on the theology of suffering” An arrogant assumption that Sheila hasn’t done this already, and clearly you want her to do one with a theology of suffering that agrees with you. You can find theologies all over the place. Theology is created by people, remember? God is. Theologies are the human attempts to systemize God and put God into our own language and understanding. You do not have all the answers, yet you assume you are correct and Sheila needs to agree with you, and the answers you do have hurt people.
I mean dang, when you go after it, you go after it! I opened this can of worms a few years ago when it occurred to me “Wait…so I am automatically disqualified from all of these things simply because I’m a woman. Not everything is okay for me to do, because I was created a female. But men, they can do anything. There are no limits for them. Why would God do that? Why would he limit women but not men? Aren’t we both created in the image of God? Don’t we both have the Holy Spirit in us? I’ve been taught this all my life but it’s starting to not make sense.” I’m not asking to be dominant over men. I’m simply asking for equal respect and consideration. My desire is not to put anyone down. My desire is to see the limitations lifted and for men and women to work side by side as brothers and sisters in Christ, each one being empowered to use his and her strengths that God put inside them for the advancement of His kingdom.
You mean you actually believe Galatians 3:28? ( 🙂 ). I just wish we could walk forward all together and actually get this world changed for the kingdom instead of spending so much energy trying to keep a particular cultural form. That’s what the early church did, after all!
Thank you Sheila and Rachel for writing such clear critiques and reviews of these ideas. I haven’t read the book in question, but one thing that struck me in a passage Rachel quoted was these words: “The discussion about creating man and woman took place among members of the Godhead. It may have been among all three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But at the very least, it involved the Father and His Son, as Scripture draws parallels between that relationship and the relationship of the man and the woman (see 1 Cor. 11:13).” I’m very concerned by the seeming implication that the Holy Spirit may not have been involved in these creation discussions. This is not ok!
I know! It’s just so plain ODD. I just don’t get it.
You’ve said a lot of good things here, and I have generally enjoyed your approach to issues of sex and marriage. I find your blog refreshing.
I’ve seen exactly what you are saying in this post, where many pastors, and, believe it or not many counselors that I’ve worked with, barely grant women enough personhood to be responsible for their own sin. Saying things like, “All the problems in the home are the husbands fault.” If a woman strays, “The husband needs to confront what he did to cause her to stray.” Women are human beings and as such have all the natural rights of any other human being… including the right to pay the price for their own failings.
I was in one church that was on a wives submit to your husbands kick… meaning that for some time that was the message in every sermon, home group meeting, and men’s and women’s book study group. I challenged the pastors to counter with an equal time dedicated to calling the men to be what God called them to be as fathers and husbands. I gave them a book that was popular at the time, which was very strong on male responsibility to be godly, to love, to serve, to labor for the meeting of his family’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs. The Pastor gave the book back a week later telling me that “the men weren’t ready for a message like that yet” then preached on wifely submission again.
So… I agree, women are Christians first, christian wives afterward and anyone that has to pay a price for decisions that get made should have some input in the making of those decisions.
But… (There’s always a but, isn’t there) given that one of the greatest failings that I see in women generally is the propensity to take on the responsibility for “re-shaping her man” from the minute she actually deems him to be her man, some negative reactions could be understandable. Nobody should sit and submit to sinful desires whether they come from a president, pastor, husband or parent, but, still, we have this other tendency for women to regard every imperfection as a personal calling, a marital mission statement, her raison d’être. I minister to a lot of men and their two biggest complaints are sexual frustration and feeling like they are being constantly harassed, scolded like a child, trained like a puppy, remolded like some indecent thing that needs to be cleaned up. Nothing they do is right; everything they want is wrong; and everything that goes imperfectly is their fault.
I know you’ve written to address things like this before, but I did want to mention it again here. Sometimes we inadvertently entrench a weakness when seeking to empower something good.
This was my fear when I first started reading that, just maybe, we were getting the submission thing wrong. I am well-acquainted with churches, pastors, counsellors, and husbands who abuse their power and the misinterpretations of scripture. “But,” I fearfully thought, “What about the women who will take any imperfection, any lack of growth or maturity, a as an excuse to nag, micromanage, forge ahead in disunity, or leave their husbands? If we’ve been teaching submission wrong, maybe we shouldn’t tell just everybody!” But as I continue to read, I realize that correct, balanced teaching is desperately needed, and will be a good thing. It is like the wedge issue or the double-fence issue, that is, fear that if something that could lead to error is allowed, then we must avoid any semblance of it at all costs, rather than teaching how to differentiate and still avoid the error itself. In other words, if some movies are bad, don’t even go to the good ones. (I refused to see “The Hiding Place” in the ’60’s because I was taught that going to a movie could lead to going to a bad movie. Decades later I heard that this was called the “wedge ” principle or “putting a fence,” no movies at all, around a “fence, ” ungodly movies. So, just as we need correct teaching and we need to follow the Holy Spirit in areas like movies, we also need correct teaching regarding finding unity in marriage and questioning holding accountable those who are husbands and pastors. To think we must not question is to treat them like they are God, and that they are the mediator between man and God, which, of course, is only Jesus.
I further think if the idea of a couple finding unity was taught as an essential in marriage there would be fewer ungodly men deceiving godly women and entering into such marriages, and fewer women being deceived and entering into marriages with ungodly, deceitful men.
Very well put, Abbijoy!
Love this post! I never comment but just had to today it was so good! Can I ask a couple questions? Hope that is okay.
I’m not sure what to do with the scripture you referenced in 1 Peter. I don’t want to disobey scripture, but what you say makes a lot of sense! I guess what I am saying is when do we know if it is okay to disregard what the bible says?
I also wonder (I guess hope) that someday my husband will love me like Christ loves the church even when I am unlovable or in sin (I hope that never happens to me but I know we are all sinners and there may come a time when that is the case). I guess what I am saying is that I don’t want my husband (if that day comes, hope not!) to not do what the bible tells him to do, so I’m struggling with not doing what it tells me to do. Does that make sense?
Lastly, I’ve been in the church my whole life and this makes so much sense but it runs so counter to what I’ve been told so I’ve got to ask, sorry! If Jesus was so controversial to eat with sinners and tax collectors, heck, he even said he was the son of god. I mean he never told things just for what they were in the times he lived, he knew the past and the future, right? So if Jesus meant those things that Gary Thomas says why didn’t he just say them? If he was truly setting humans right and human relationships right why didn’t he just say that men and women were equal in all things and that marriage was like Mr. Thomas says. I’ve always believed that Jesus taught us to sacrifice and loose ourselves in our life here including wives for their husbands. I want my husband to treat me like Jesus treats us but if I’m supposed to treat my husband like I’m suppose to treat Christ, well doesn’t Jesus ask us to do really hard, sometimes I think unfair things?
I don’t know. I love this but it’s so different from what I’ve been taught and even what I read in my bible. How do I know when not to obey what it says to wives? Sorry I’m confused! Thanks for your help!
Of course it’s okay to ask! I think I may have started to answer some of your questions in my follow-up in today’s post, looking at just what you said. I think it comes down to this: We’re interpreting these Scriptures wrong. Peter definitely did NOT mean that wives should obey their husbands when they’re sinning, because it was Peter who told Sapphira in Acts 5 that she should not have gone along with her husband, and it was Peter who said in Acts 5:29 “We must obey God rather than men.” Scripture is always consistent; therefore, the traditional interpretation of 1 Peter 3 is simply inconsistent not just with other Scripture but with the words of the letter writer himself. Those who interpret these scriptures that way have a lot of explaining to do, because it simply makes no sense.
Larry Crabb deals with this really well in his book Fully Alive, but I think that we’re looking at these verses as being about submitting to someone else’s decisions, when scripturally we’re told the opposite. Scripturally we’re only to follow someone if they’re doing right, so why in the world would God tell us otherwise in marriage? Yet one thing that we are always to do is to put someone else’s welfare above our own; to consider their needs first. And that’s what I think submission comes down to. We always pursue his best. Hope that makes sense!
I agree with most of what you said – anyone who believes that a wife is somehow less in dignity than a husband is completely off-base. We are all created in the image and likeness of our Creator and are equal in dignity. We’re not the same, though, and our male-ness and female-ness is a big part of how image God in many of the same ways, but also in ways unique to our sex.
With regard to the question “what should a Christian wife identify with – Christ or the Church,” I think this is very much a ‘both/and’ situation rather than an ‘either/or’. Scripture is quite clear in identifying husbands with Christ and wives with his Church. At the same time, it also clearly states that the Church is the body of Christ and we are her members. So in identifying wives with the Church, Scripture is not calling them to a lesser role, and certainly not to one that is not Christ-centric. Christ’s head is no more Christ than his body is, but it does have a different role. Christian wives in this way show us all – males and females – what it means to be members of the body of Christ. This is such a crucially important role, and one that is needed in a society that sees power as being the most important thing to attain.
Any view of marriage roles in terms of power is missing the boat. If a husband thinks that being Christ for his wife gives him some kind of power over her, he’s completely off-base. His role is to lead as Christ led – through self-sacrificing love that puts the needs of the wife and children ahead of his own. It’s a role of total, self-giving service. Anyone who thinks that a wife’s submission to her husband means being denigrated or makes her somehow less important is similarly completely off-base. That submission is a proper response to self-sacrificing love – it’s the response we should all have to Christ’s love for us. Like the role of the husband, it’s also one based on self-giving sacrifice.
It’s very easy to mis-use or mis-read Scripture. It’s far too common that we look at one statement or concept in Scripture – like “wives be submissive to your husbands” or the idea of wives identifying with the Church – and then to go off in completely wrong directions. It’s only when we integrate all Scripture, and look at it in totality, that we can begin to see the truth.
I totally agree with you about servanthood–Philippians 2 should be everyone’s model of how we relate to one another. And John 13 very clearly shows that Jesus was demonstrating a new kind of servant leadership.
In fact, I’d pretty much agree with all of your comment.
But I do think that there is a big theological problem with saying that men reflect Christ and women reflect the church, because in other passages in Scripture, the church is the bride and Jesus is the bridegroom. They are very distinct. It isn’t just a head-body thing; it is two distinct persons.
And to say that men reflect God while women do not is simply not in line with the creation story, and is really very dangerous. It essentially defines women entirely in their relationship to men, while men are defined in their relationship to God. And that’s just not theologically right.
There is something important about the initiative-responder dynamic that God made as men and women, and so much of creation shows that dynamic. But we are both still created in the image of God, and I think to say otherwise is theologically dangerous and also is a huge stumbling block to the gospel.
I hope that makes sense.
Thanks Sheila! I’ve been thinking about this all night but with your answer I have a few more questions. If we are interpreting it wrong why is it that we are told to submit (using the same word) to authorities, to Christ, and children to parents? As much as I want to make your definition fit I can seem to wrestle it into place with all the other times the words is used in context. Does that make sense?
I also wonder about the 1 Peter passage you talked about because I looked it up last night and it says for the wife to be subject to her husband even unto calling him lord like Sarah did to Abraham. I haven’t read up on Sarah much lately I’ll admit but from what I remember their lives were as messy as some of ours and I just got the feeling when reading it that it was implying obedience not looking out for their best interest. Can you help me understand why everything seems to be talking about obedience (subjection). I want to believe what you are saying but I looked the word up in the dictionary and even tried the translators on the computer and it all seems to be saying the opposite of how you are saying it is.
I really want to believe what you are saying here but I just don’t see women or wives except in helpmate roles in the bible. Jesus had male disciples, Paul did not say women could be elders but said it was for men of certain qualifications, the bible although being God’s word (from God right?) is very male centric etc. Certainly I see women being important, Mary for example. But it seems no matter how hard I want to believe it the Bible tells me Jesus died for my sins and I’m as important to him as any man but that he does have different roles and responsiblities for each gender.
I guess what I keep struggling with is kind of what I said in the first message and I read your post today and it hinted at it to- the Bible is either true or it’s not. It’s either from God or it’s not, right? So if God is so politically incorrect as to tell us how in the old testament they were to slaughter people in the nations they were taking over, if he says that homosexuality is a sin, if talks about hell (alot it seems like), I mean he just seems to say it like it is both the good and the bad.
I’m sorry I am on a business trip from Seattle to Kansas and thought about this the whole plane flight. I do a lot of reading in the business world and the bible really doesn’t seem that hard to understand when I read it. I want to believe what you are saying Sheila but it just doesn’t seem to line up with what I am reading straight from the bible. I’m sorry for the long comment.
There’s so much to say to your comment, and I don’t have time to do it justice, so let me point you to one really good resource and then try to raise some questions.
Fully Alive by Larry Crabb pretty much addresses everything you’ve brought up, and you’d likely find it helpful. He also explains how “helpmeet” is a warrior term, not a lesser term. We help out of our strength; and we have something very important to offer. The fact that we are made a “suitable” helper means that we are suitable to actually help him–so our minds and our gifts are necessary.
If you look at the role of women in Acts and the epistles you’d likely be surprised by how many were leaders in their churches (Mark’s mother; Lydia; Priscilla; Tabitha; Phoebe; Syntyche; Euodia), and how many taught (especially Priscilla, who was the primary teacher in her duo).
But more importantly, I think the onus is really on those who teach that women are to obey men to justify it.
Let’s start with this:
Are we to submit to authorities?
Even if they ask us to go against Christ? Obviously not. (All the disciples defied the authorities).
Are to submit to parents?
Even if they ask us to go against God’s will? Obviously not. See the story of Jonathan, for instance.
So are we to submit to husbands?
Even if they ask us to do something wrong? Obviously not. See the story of Abigail or the story of Ananias and Sapphira, for example.
So this means that God is asking us to use our brains–to actively follow God, and to, IN THAT SUBMISSION TO GOD, submit to our husbands, our parents, or our authorities. Everything is done first and foremost in our submission to God. Which means that everything is done out of our relationship with God, with the express purpose of glorifying God on this earth and being part of making His kingdom more real here. And thus we have to make decisions about whether we follow our husbands when we know that they are doing something that is not in God’s will–going far into debt; gambling; addictions; etc. That does nothing to further the kingdom of God, and is not in His will.
To submit blindly–which is how many people interpret the Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3 passages–is never modeled in Scripture. And we have no problem saying that children should not submit blindly, nor do we seem to have a problem saying that we should not submit blindly to authorities (see how much Christians are pushing back against the U.S. government right now). Yet somehow we balk at saying that the marriage passages do not require us to submit blindly. It is only in the marriage relationship that many people get upset and say, “no, women absolutely have to submit regardless.” I guess I would ask–what is your scriptural basis for this, given Acts 5, 1 Samuel 25? And what is your scriptural basis for saying that this submission is somehow more rigid than other forms of submission which the apostles regularly flaunted? Paul says to submit to authorities, and then does not. Why is this different?
The only Scriptural interpretation that works looking across all the different areas of submission is that submission is first and foremost to God (“as to the Lord”), and only then to others. So ultimately we must have a relationship with God and must go to Him to discern His will too. We are never to do things blindly.
When I was a teenager I went through a real crisis of faith. I thought that God really only loved men, and I was cast aside because I was a woman. My gifts didn’t matter. That started me reading a ton of books and exploring more of women in Scripture, and understanding how truly radical Jesus was about women. It was such a faith building experience–to understand how precious I was to Jesus, and to understand why He made me a woman, and to understand how much He loves women as women.
If God is keeping you awake and you’re really struggling with this, don’t be afraid of it. God does not mind struggles and doubts; He welcomes our questions. Just seek Him out in your questions and start a journey of discovery about how God does see you, and I pray that your faith will be immeasurably strengthened in that, as mine was.
Jesus does love you, you are valuable, and He has a unique role for you, as a woman. And that’s honestly okay.
thanks for taking so much time to write me. i’m on my phone in between meeting so please forgive me lack of grammar and punctuation.
So in your reply you seem to be indicating that submission is about will (obeying/following) and not about looking for their best interest.
I ate up as much of your website as I could last night and I heard you say that the vast majority of marriages are good and that you have been writing about the minority of marriages where the husband is in sin. So does that mean that you think the majority of wives should be submitting to their husbands (obeying them)?
I know that many women were involved in the church, but it has always been my understanding that they were involved in teaching women and children. I did some quick research (I had an earlier break between meetings) on the women you mentioned and it seemed that there as very little evidence that women were leading churches or teaching men. I understand that there is no longer no Jew or Greek, man or woman but Paul also wrote that women should not teach men and that wives should be subject to their own husbands so I always understood that to mean that we are not different in salvation or importance but that we are very much different in our roles. I have never doubted that Jesus loved me or died for me, just that I was not to lead my marriage or my church. I guess we all have things that we cannot do. Many men are not to get married, most men will never lead the church, many are born poor or lacking intelligence or good looks. I never really thought that what we were born with or how we were born effected our importance to god but that he does indeed call us to live out the position and person he made us to be.
thank you for your time and wisdom.
I’m sorry that I wasn’t more clear. No, I think that what submission means is that we always submit to God’s will and what God wants for bringing the kingdom of God to this earth–and that means that we will want to bless those around us and work for their good and for what God is doing in their lives. I think as women that generally means supporting our husbands in where they feel God is leading them; thinking of their needs; encouraging them; admiring them; etc.
So EVERYBODY should submit, whether they’re in a good marriage or not. Because submission is ultimately about submitting to God’s work in their lives and in this world. And sometimes submission will mean confronting them on porn or telling them they need to join AA, because that is part of pursuing God’s blessing in their lives, just like Gary Thomas wrote.
Also–be careful about saying that Paul said that women can’t teach men. 🙂 That was a very specific thing to Ephesus about a specific situation Paul wrote about. In reality, one of his “fellow workers” was Priscilla, whom Paul praised for teaching Apollos. 🙂
Did that not take place in their home with her husband and not in a church setting? More like an explenation over dinner of what they had seen and heard about Jesus? Not standing up in the temple or in the house church and teaching? I think that is a big difference, no?
Well, Paul also gives instructions on what women should do when they prophesy in church and give a word from the Lord, so I don’t think the distinction is really there! And Miriam certainly taught the Israelites. 🙂
And look at it this way: First person that God revealed that Jesus would be born: Mary. First person that Jesus explicitly revealed that He was the Messiah: the woman at the well. First person to see Him resurrected, and was instructed to go and tell the men: Mary Magdalene. That’s pretty radical! God was radical about using women to spread His message!
And there’s the deacon Phoebe that Paul mentions in Romans.
Wow! The back and forth between Sheila and Roberta has been so interesting to read. You two have done such a lovely job of discussing this topic graciously. It was a pleasure to read! Roberta, you are asking some of the same questions I had!
Shelia, I have been reading your blog for a couple of years now, and I love your heart and your ministry! Thank you so much for all your work on this blog!
My question for you is this, do you believe submitting to our husbands includes following their will when it’s different from our own when it’s NOT a sin issue. For example, a man who wants his wife to homeschool the kids and she wants them to go to public school (or vice versa). When a husband and wife are in disagreement about something, do you believe the wife should submit to her husband and obey his choice?
In the other examples of submission (children submitting to authority, citizens submitting to the government) there is an expecation of obedience UNLESS it goes against the will of God. It seems to me, the same is true in a marriage.
Megan, that’s a great question! I guess what I’d say is this: If you’re in disagreement, then there are only two options: either one of you is not hearing from God or both of you are not hearing from God. And the biblical model is that we seek out God’s direction, and we seek agreement as believers.
So I think a far better approach would be to seriously pray and fast together, seek outside counsel together, and take some time to really work it out. If you just go along without doing the hard work, then how do you really know that you’re following God? If, after all that, you still disagree, then by all means go ahead and follow him. But I think that would be a last resort, made in sadness, because you can’t ascertain God’s will together.
But I explained that more in this post. Thanks for asking!
Thanks for that response, Sheila!
I hope this okay, but this has raised some serious questions for me. I’m not trying to doubt you or be mean but I’m wondering why you think submitting is the last resort and sad? Would you say the same to children submitting to their parents (another example from one of the submission passages)? I don’t find that sad at all, especially to godly parents. Nor do I find it sad to submit to godly authorities over us in the lord at church. So why is it sad when it is our husbands?
Or to put it another way, and again I’m not trying to ruffle feathers, simply get to the bottom of this. You say the onus is on the ones that disagree with this theology but when I open up my bible and it says “wives submit to your husbands in all things” or “I do not allow women to teach men”, those seem to be very black and white statements. At least as black and white as there is no longer no greek or jew, man nor woman, etc. I’m sorry that I’m struggling but it seems like the onus should be on the one who is not agreeing with what the bible says. I understand you can say God revealed himself to Mary, but Mary wasn’t teaching in church. And I can understand Jesus revealed himself to women first at the tomb, but again they weren’t teaching. It seems to me like you are trying to make all these passages say something they don’t. God never says he doesn’t love, treasure, save or use women and their gifts. Certianly he does! (I am so glad for that!) But that doesn’t mean he lets us into every position either. Just because God loves and uses women doesn’t mean that wives are only to submit to their husbands as a last resort or that women are to teach in church, right? That just seems to me to go far beyond what the bible says.
It’s hard teaching I know, but I would feel devastated if my husband thought loving me as Christ loves the church was sad and the last resort, so why would I feel like that about submitting to him?
thank you for your patience with me. Roberta
Roberta, I think the question about black and white things in the Bible is a little erroneous, because the Bible can’t contradict itself. So if the Bible says “women can’t teach men”–but then gives examples of women teaching men, then it obviously cannot mean that in every situation for all time. We use Scripture to interpret Scripture. So you can’t just take a verse without any context and say, “that’s what God obviously believes!” It has to fit in with the rest of what God says.
And I don’t think submission is a last resort. I think submission is what we should be doing all the time! We submit to God, and then we willingly choose to put our husband’s needs above our own, dedicating ourselves to serving him. Absolutely. We always do that.
So I’m not saying submission is a last resort. I’m saying that agreeing to do something his way BEFORE you’ve prayed and fasted, BEFORE you’ve talked to God about it, BEFORE you’ve tried to work it out with wise counsel, is simply unwise. God wants us to be unified. God wants us to seek His direction and His will. If you disagree then, like I said, at least one of you is not hearing from God. So the proper response should be to humble yourselves together and try to hear from God. When you disagree, that should be a warning sign that something is wrong.
Hope that makes sense!
You’ve been such a gracious host! Thank you! I do want to say though that I’m sorry but it doesn’t make sense. You seem to be using the word submission one way in every other relationship, but differently in the marriage relationship it seems to me. You’ve been so good to me that i’m not sure how to say this except to say that it seems like you are asking husbands to do their part of the teaching I read about in the bible all the time and readily, but that we are not to follow our husbands lead except in the last resort. I really don’t want to battle my husband. he’s a good husband and he does love me, care for me and wants what is best for me. If I’m not following his lead, yes, even doing what he asks of me, I guess it just seems to me that I’m fighting him and not trusting him nor God. i guess through all of this as much as i’m thankful for your time and graciousness I guess I disagree. I don’t think the bible says what you are saying it says. I have to stretch everything to the absolute limit of each of few small passages out of thousands in the bible for my mind and heart to come to the conclusions you are coming to and i just can’t do that i’m sorry.
I will continue to read and thank you again for your time. In Jesus love.
I’m a little flabbergasted right now.
As a reader of Shelia’s blog, I’ve never read 1 single post where Shelia encouraged wives to NOT submit to their husbands. Perhaps, I missed something, but I’ve never read that on Shelia’s blog. I have read posts where Shelia discusses what wives should do if their husbands commit sins that are detrimental to the health and welfare of the family like porn use, gambling, sexually abusing children, alcohol addiction. In those cases, Shelia recommends RESPECTFULLY speaking up and seeking counsel according to Mt 18:15. She quotes Mt 18:15 often, and I say RESPECTFULLY because I’ve never read a post where Shelia encouraged wives to be rude or bad mouth their husbands.
With that being said, I have to ask Roberta some questions.
Roberta: Are you saying that wives married to husbands who use porn, gamble, sexually abuse children and/or abuse alcohol should keep quiet and submit (obey) them while they use porn or gamble or sexually abuse children or abuse alcohol because of 1 Peter 3:1-6 ? I’m asking specifically about these sins because these are the ones that Shelia addressed in the post that you admittedly disagree with.
All of these sins (using porn, gambling, sexually abusing children, abusing alcohol) are devastating and can contribute to the breakdown of the family unit. On a personal note, one of my male family members was recently killed in an alcohol related car accident. Unfortunately, some years prior to his death, his marriage ended in divorce because of his ongoing and unrepented alcohol addiction. It got to a point where living with him was no longer a safe option for his wife and kids.
With that being said, are you saying that wives married to alcohol addicted husbands should just keep quiet about their husband’s alcohol use because of 1 Pe 3:1-6? Should the wife obey and ride in the car with him while he drives drunk, if that’s what he decides to do because of 1 Pe 3:1-6? I’m just trying to understand what you are saying as it relates to 1 Peter 3:1-6 and a husband using porn or gambling or sexually abusing children or abusing alcohol.
I am not sure how to better answer the question then I already have done, but I will try (quickly because I feel I have already monopolized too much of the comment section). I am disagreeing with Sheila on a few things. First, she seems to be saying that submitting is not about obeying. I don’t agree with that, I think it is about obeying. Second, that to a good husband (not perfect, but good) that we should only submit when there is a disagreement after praying about it, fasting about it, giving it time to work it out and only then in saddeness and as a last resort submit (you have to read the comments, not the post in which this was flushed out). I believe our first response should be to submit, obviously telling our husband our thoughts (even if they differ) so that he has our input which is so valuable as his closest friend and adviser. Lastly, I am not agreeing on the roles of women in the church. I agree on the value of women being equal in worth but not the function (just as men are not equal to women in function). There are very few passages that point to women teaching as even a possiblity- but then it is only a possiblity and not a fact. And in order for that to happen it has to contradict other scripture. Phoebe was a deacon, but a deacon over men or a deacon overseeing women? Priscilla might have helped Apollos, but it wasn’t in church and she was with her husband as a team. Nobody argues that God does not use women or reveal himself to them (at the well, after the resurrrection) but that does not mean they were teaching in the church over men. Our god is a god of order. We are told why Paul does not allow women to have authority over men in church and it has nothing to do with the culture but with God’s creation and the order of his creation. In the end, I agree with Sheila that women are not second class citizens (praise God!) and we are of the same worth and also made in God’s image! But that we are to submit/obey our husbands and that we have a role to play in the order of God’s creation that is every bit as important as men, just different. That is the best I can explain it. I hope that helps explain where I was coming from!
You’re on the right track here, Roberta. Titus 2 specifically uses the word “obey”, and while I get that Sheila feels the need to push back against what she views as “dangerous teaching”, here she basically tells women to disregard numerous verses of Scripture because of feelings. That is not the Christian way. We are called to ignore our feelings all the time. To obey civil authorities even though the current governmental structure in most of the West is hostile to Christian beliefs. To obey bosses at jobs, to obey those in spiritual leadership over us. And yes, for wives to obey their husbands*.
*The vast, vast majority of Christians husbands are loving, hard working men not abusers and we shouldn’t treat these discussions as if abusive husbands are the norm. But rather we should treat those cases as the special cases they are and set those cases aside when speaking in general.
Thank you so much for this thoughtful post. I have spent my entire life in very conservative Baptist churches, and the idea that women just aren’t quite the spiritual equals of men, although never expressed overtly, was definitely in the air. If you’re a woman, the implication went, all you’re really good for is childcare, playing the piano in church, Sunday school or nursery work, and learning about submission and home life with other women. You’re not really someone who we can discuss meaty , important stuff with, you were born female, after all. There were times growing up when I really questioned, and resented, the fact that I was stuck being a second-class citizen and hadn’t been born a man.
I don’t think women should preach or anything like that, but it’s so refreshing to hear that a woman’s place in Christianity is more than just submission. I may be a woman, but I’m just as capable of thinking and learning as a man is . My opinions and experiences aren’t worth less because I’m female!
Hello! I adore this article! I’m a woman who LOVES theology and the things of God – I read the Puritans, I study Scripture, & I devour anything by Charles Spurgeon… but it seems as if theological men look down upon women like me. Perhaps not deliberately, but I frequently get Titus 2 quoted to me (a nice way to tell me to shut up), or angry men who say I’m trying to exert “authority” over them, when that’s not the case at all. I am simply a (Berean) woman who has no inclination on the pulpit, but find the ins and outs of preaching and Bible study fascinating.
All that to say I believe men do a great disservice to women by not teaching them meaty doctrine and theology. It is okay to have women’s ministry of teaching children and younger women in the faith, however, that foundation cannot be laid for the glory of the Lord Jesus unless and until WOMEN know their God. If we are the great influencers of the next generation, this is KEY. As you say, we are CHRISTIANS first, not merely mothers and wives. The only way to become Titus 2 mothers and wives is to know sound doctrine.
Mary of Bethany was NOT told by Christ to “go back into the kitchen” with Martha, rather, Martha was told that Mary had “chosen what is better”, which He would not take away from her. She had chosen THEOLOGY over being a “biblical woman” in that moment. Jesus Himself says learning of Him is better than worrying about traditional female roles, as Martha was worried about a “great many things”. Even the disciples were floored by Mary sitting at His feet. Christ is our Role Model, and He highly respected His daughters and did not hinder any to learn of Him.
Jesus is better. Jesus is first. Always. This must be modeled in our churches for women. Thank you so much for this article.
You’ve made me a little teary. For a while now I’ve been feeling that the expectations for women in my church have been lowered. I don’t think that my primary goal in life should be to bear kids and follow my husband’s lead without any thought. I don’t want to be a Stepford Wife. Reading this (especially #4 and #6) is really freeing. I’m tired of having Proverbs 33 thrown in my face (where are my serving girls??) and being given trite responses to my difficulties. I love my husband, but I do not think that he is a great leader simply because he has different genitalia than I do. That’s insane. Fortunately for me, neither does he.
I’m hoping to share this a start a conversation.
There’s so much more I could and would like to say about all this but I’m still processing it.
I’m glad that this post could help you, Chara! And I do hope it starts discussion for you. That’s what my goal was! Blessings!
Thank you! I have been a Christian woman for over 20 years…married to an unbeliever that had an abusive domineering earthly father. I thought my husband was a Christian when we married, only to find out later that I did not know him well at all. Fast-forward to 2 years ago, my husband accepted Christ. At first, I saw a new creation before my eyes. This man was learning and growing in the Lord. I was amazed and our relationship was getting better. We began attending a church of my husband’s choice (I was just so stinkin excited to see him go to church at all) that began teaching these “TrueWoman” type ways. John Piper and Nancy Lee Demoss seem to be the true leadership by way of our pastor jumping on to their points of views. My husband quickly started domineering in our home. He wanted submission from his wife and children. He wanted us to sit at his feet and learn from him. He wanted support and adoration from everyone. He wanted service and loyalty. Everything became HIS way. He knew BEST in EVERYTHING. He began to want more and more sex. He frequently criticized our sexual encounters. I wasn’t “into enough”. I didn’t seem like I adored him enough. I wasn’t loving him enough.
I sank into a deep depression. I began to see God differently than ever before. I felt like God was ONLY for my husband and not for me unless I was more obedient…more submissive…more adoring. I began to see myself as only a person in regards to my husband. Not an individual loved my Christ. I didn’t even feel like a human being anymore. Only a servant…and a terrible one at that. I don’t go to church anymore. I can’t pray. I don’t trust God. I struggle so hard to believe He loves me anymore. I don’t know what the future holds and I am scared for my salvation.
This message NEEDS to get out there. Something is happening in the church and I don’t think it is good. There has been such a HUGE counter response to feminism that the pendulum has swung back the other way and it is LEADING TO ABUSE!!! They don’t see it. But it is happening in homes everywhere. Women are being told to be quiet and submit and men think THEIR WAY is God ordained. The signals are getting crossed and this may just ruin more marriages than it hopes to fix. I CAN NOT send a BIGGER warning to the church that they are silently killing their women and promoting their men to idol status. Please…someone with a voice…speak out for us little women with no voice. I pray God removes this veil from my eyes. I pray He sticks up for his daughters with this toxic message.
Beautiful comment! That’s exactly why I wrote this post. Things have gotten far too lopsided and we are trying to make husbands “Christ” in the marriage. Women have a saviour–it’s Jesus. Men have one, too, and it’s the same one. Men are not women’s saviours or women’s mediators. We are to walk side by side on earth before our God, together.
Oh wow, I love, love, LOVE this manifesto!!! Especially #2. For decades, I felt that I had no right to exist within church because, as a single woman, I didn’t fulfil the ‘godly wife and mother’ role that seemed like the ONLY option available for Christian women. For years, I felt like a lone voice, trying to point out how I felt this attitude contradicted the Bible, only to be told that I was being ‘bitter’ because I was ‘unfulfilled’! And it still bugs me that so many people only started to view me as a ‘real Christian woman’ when I got married in my mid 40s!!!
I never understood why marriage seemed to be the ideal/assumption when Paul talked about how it was better to be single and serve God more fully. But people would say it was to, “go forth and multiply” in a godly way and that made some sense … but then those who were entirely or mostly infertile (such as myself) were then failing in that way, too… just felt like everything was a set-up for my failures. I’ve finally learned otherwise.
FWIW, I think there is so much married and single people can learn from one another. I usually see singles being mentored by a married person, and I think of Jeremiah and how God told him not to be discouraged by those saying he was too young. If a person has a good relationship with God, then they likely have a lot of wisdom to offer, married or single! And singles often have a beautiful perspective that married people may have lost of.
I keep saying that you can’t have a healthy marriage if you do not have a healthy view of the single life.
If you are a devout Christian and unmarried (ie you aren’t screwing everything that moves and some things that don’t), it’s because God wants you to be single right now. Or maybe it’s because we live in a fallen world and there is not, in fact, a lid for every pot. Maybe your future spouse is now an atheist and his/her conversion has to come before you two meet. (Gonna say, I know several people for whom this ended up being true.)
If you have a warped view of singleness, it will warp marriage. If you aren’t a real adult if unmarried, can you leave a bad marriage? Do you need to grow and change in marriage, or is it enough to be Not Divorced? Do you have obligations to your spouse, knowing that they can build a meaningful and Christ-centered life outside of marriage, or do you believe that she’s not entitled to a fulfilling marriage because being Married should be enough?
Yep! And it goes way deeper than that.
People who say that a woman (and let’s face it, it always IS a woman – churches allow men to be both single and fulfilled!) can’t be fulfilled unless she is married with kids are committing blasphemy. Because they are saying that God is not enough. He can’t make a woman’s life be what it is meant to be without the help of a man.
Also, if marriage and child-bearing is the only ‘Godly’ life for a woman, where does that leave those who are unable to have kids or who have never found anyone to marry? The only logical conclusion is that they have rebelled against God and refused to obey his ‘perfect plan’ – either that, or that God has somehow got it wrong – which again, is blasphemy.
Agree. I know infertile couples who already hurt enough without this additional hurt being placed on them. Women who feel useless and without value because they believe that their worth is tied up in childbearing.
I think it’s great you left the old comments from the original post in 2015. I just read through a few of them and that Glen guy sounds so creepy now.
I had the same thought about Glen’s comment. It is one thing for a church to be a resource, but then he goes on to make it sound more like a cage where the woman has no right to leave.
Under #10, I am confused by this sentence… did you mean to have a “not” somewhere in there?
“I will believe it is God’s will that I am abused, or that He wills for my spirit be broken, by a marriage to a man who treats me with abuse and contempt. ”
Love the “I submit myself to my husband’s welfare, not necessarily to my husband’s will.” Yes! I don’t mind helping him in his weak places! He shouldn’t mind helping me in my weak places! Sometimes that looks sweet, other times that looks sour, but if it is truly for his(her) welfare, in the end it is nourishing.
Yes that is definitely the worst typo that I have ever accidentally created. I slightly re-worded the sentence so it was more parallel with the others and I forgot to double-check that the negative was still there. CRINGE.
I was wondering about that too. Glad it was a typo.
Under #8 “When needed, I will seek out help and advice about my marriage BEFORE it gets to a crisis point.”
Back in the day, when I sent my feelers out about concerns in my marriage, people just were not equip or informed on how to deal with mental health issues in the church, or really anywhere in small communities. We’ve come a long way baby. And I’m glad.
There were no tools or resources for dealing with difficult husbands (or wives) in the Christian sphere (except a book called Irregular People, or something like that). I had to look outside the church and found a group for partners of people with ADHD that started me on my healing journey. Oh, and it was on the internet in the early days of internet activity for all.
I feel for women who dealt with this before access to other information was available. Beside their church there was Focus on the Family radio and books that promised solutions. Yes, I listened to them and thought they had the answers. But they did not. Except maybe the Boundaries series by Cloud and Townsend. I actually can’t remember where I heard about them. But it was after I spent a lot of time on that ADHD board and read “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: New Help for the Family” which was also very helpful even though I don’t think OCD or ADHD were the big issues in my ex’s cluster of issues.
Just linking the OCD book to prove it’s existence. It really was a good one for me because it explored the concept of the Wounded Healer in a healthy, not martyr-y way.
Glad you bumped this post up. I don’t remember seeing it. It must have been before I started hanging out around here. Now to read the old comments.
Okay, found it. “Irregular People” first published in 1982. I only know of it because one of my mom’s friends loaned it to her, saying that it really helped her deal with a difficult mother.
I only read parts of it. So I don’t know the overall message. I don’t know what it tells people in abusive marriages to do. And I don’t know what it would score on the rubric. But it did exist back in the day.
I’d be curious if anyone here ever heard of it. Yes, I know, 1982 is a long time ago so I’m thinking not.
Great post from before I joined the site! Some small responses to Glen’s post from way above…
> > God has established the institution of the church (and its leaders) as a means of protective authority
> > for husbands, wives, families and Christians everywhere.
Granted, but that doesn’t meant that every church and every pastor is always correct about everything.
> > In other words if her church and her church leaders might suggest something she disagrees with,
> > she is then permitted to leave and find another church? Really?
Yes. She (or he) really is allowed to leave one church and find another. I don’t recall anything in the bible that comes anywhere near saying “Once you (or your husband) picks a church, you can never leave, ever, no matter what”.
I get very squeamish about real, authentic Christianity for men and then “Christianity for women” for women. Men get the true and Biblical version and we get the “for women” version.
> > But there are churches (like ours) that would encourage wives in difficult marriage to remain committed
> > to the covenant despite the difficulty, stay within her role, and pray earnestly for their husbands change
> > God sometimes calls us to “suffer” in difficult relationships (do a Bible study on the theology of suffering).
I would say that there is a HUGE difference between a “difficult” marriage, and an abusive marriage. I don’t think this site has ever told people “the first time something in your marriage isn’t perfect, leave”.
> > Suffering is part of the Christian life
This has come up before, and it seems that we should not have to suffer or be abused by loved ones in our own homes.
> > Marriage is to be a testimony to the world of how He loves His own people. This is why he hates divorce.
True enough. A married person who abuses or mistreats their spouse, however, is insulting and mocking the institution of marriage.
You our last point is another example of reversed causation.
If God made marriage to reflect His great love for His people, then your #1 goal should be for marriages to glorify God. If she’s miserable and broken down, with no dreams of her own, and hates her life, that marriage sucks and makes a mockery of God. (Truth be told, my own crap marriage makes me doubt the goodness of Heaven on a regular basis.)
Staying in the marriage is a surface symbol. It’s exactly like having one-sided sex: check the box that it’s happening, it’s great for one person and not the other, and you get to browbeat the wronged party for being ungodly if she protests.
Oh the comments from 2015!! Yikes, so much push back, so much wives should submit, women should suffer in bad marriages because christians suffer. I really hope that I have not read things wrong here and that you Shelia have changed your opinion because in this comment you wrote, you gave the husband the tiebreaker role!
“If you’re in disagreement, then there are only two options: either one of you is not hearing from God or both of you are not hearing from God. And the biblical model is that we seek out God’s direction, and we seek agreement as believers.
So I think a far better approach would be to seriously pray and fast together, seek outside counsel together, and take some time to really work it out. If you just go along without doing the hard work, then how do you really know that you’re following God? IF, AFTER ALL THAT, YOU STILL DISAGREE, THE BY ALL MEANS GO AHEAD AND FOLLOW HIM. But I think that would be a last resort, made in sadness, because you can’t ascertain God’s will together.”
I will never agree that wives are to submit and husbands are to lead, that is nonsense. Men don’t get to be the tiebreaker just because they are men, especially in the example where she, the wife, didn’t want to be the homeschool teacher and her husband wanted that for her, he doesn’t get to plan her life like that. Marriage is a partnership and partnerships are not hierarchies.
The article itself was really good, a little to meek for my taste but good.
OH we are in absolute agreement, Suzanne. The point is that IF you agree with the husband as tiebreaker role, you STILL should not do it until you have exhausted every last possible option, and then if you follow his lead, it should be a sign something went wrong, and you are resigning yourself to the fact that as a couple, you failed to come together. It should not be rejoiced as “biblical” marriage but rather as a failure to be able to discern together.
So it’s not that husbands deserve the tie-breaker. It’s that even if you believe that, if you have to resort to that, that should feel like a failure and be grieved. The actual choice is to just ditch the husband-first mentality all together, like you said, but if a couple won’t, they should at least be honest about how it points to a communication failure rather than giving themselves badges of honor for being unable to do what the vast majority of marriages are capable of doing.
Yes, I was meeker then. 🙂
PREACH! I love this and I needed to hear it today. Especially about “be good, not always nice” and “be a peacemaker, not a peacekeeper.” I struggle with feeling guilty for overstepping or hurting people’s feelings, even when all I’m doing is telling the truth of my own experience as honestly and fairly as I can.
And you are so right that so many voices in the church don’t want women doing this! I heard a sermon on marriage and Ephesians 5 this past Sunday. I cringed as soon as the pastor introduced the topic, but I tried really hard to suspend judgement. But, when he said Genesis 3:16 means women are cursed to want control over men in their relationships, I had had it. I got up and walked out of the service. I’ve had enough of being gaslit in church!
Whoa. My pastor said the exact same thing. That has been the theme at my church this entire year. I went a couple of weeks and discussed it with my husband who is a believer but unable to go to church because of his work schedule and he and I were in agreement that it was not right. It makes me wonder where both pastors got the idea for their sermons. Are they using the same source? I’ve never heard such nonsense. I haven’t been back since he said to the women that our husbands could love us more if we were easier to love. I shook my head no and he saw, but I don’t think he understood why. It felt to me like he doesn’t believe in Christ’s unconditional love. There must be some big players that I don’t read or listen to that are putting out this misinformation. Although Satan is the ultimate deceiver and rather crafty.
Good for you for walking out! That’s amazing. I’m so glad.
I feel like I need to print this out and hang it on my wall!!
I feel like I so easily loose sight if these truths, in my fight to relearn some of the things taught to me. Thank you for writing it out so clearly!
Thanks for all the homework Becca 😂. I particularly found Elspeth comment interesting. I could wacka mole the old comments. Its kind of funny how the fighters are all wrapped up in what the bible says and not what Jesus says.
Excellent, Sheila! Thanks for reposting.
This was an encouragement to me, thank you! Yes, there is an imbalance, our family has attended many (probably 8) churches over the years and we are finally attending one now where women are not treated like second class citizens but daughters of the King.
This post is excellent, I hope to share it with my daughters when they get a bit older. ❤
First off, I notice you’re censoring those on Instagram who disagree with you, that’s concerning especially given what I’m about to say, but here goes.
I suggest you listen to Mike Winger’s “Women in Ministry” series. You can find him on YouTube or wherever you get your podcasts. He’s under the name BibleThinker. That is, assuming you’re open to the idea that your conclusion may be wrong, which I think we should all be open to when it comes to our views on any topic, even Christianity. For example, if someone were to present the bones of Jesus to you, I assume you’d give up your faith on the spot. So too, if someone presents a thorough, cited, scholarly argument for complementarianism, one should give up their egalitarian views.
I understand for someone like yourself this holds more weight as your livelihood is grounded in this principle and this has financial repercussions for you so I empathasize with the situation you’d be in if you changed your views. However, I think we as humans, Christians especially, should be on a constant search for truth, even if that truth grinds against our current held views. If someone like Mike, who has done the most thorough presentation of this issue with months and months of research with all arguments cited by people who hold legitimate credentials, you should absolutely be open to indulging it, that is if you’re on a true search for truth and not stuck in your present conclusions.
Keep in mind, Mike held no side before he did the research for this series. In fact, even in his ministry he refused to address the topic for fear of saying the wrong thing. He wanted to be egalitarian, but the evidence lead him the other way. I say this because people will often judge him before knowing the background.
I think holding a view so tightly is the view we should be most open to changing when presented with a good, researched, cited, and thought out argument of the opposite view. Having our views challenged either strengthens your current held view or opens you up to finding the real truth on the issue.
My question to you is, would you be open to watching/listening to his arguments? If no, why not? And what would it take for you to become a complementarian (ie. What evidence/research would you need to be presented with to say to humble yourself and say “wow, I think I might be wrong”)?
Again, I empathize with your situation because changing your view would mean losing money, followers, influence, etc but I also think the Truth is more important than all of those. I hope you take this in love and to heart and truly consider the fact that it is healthy to have your conclusions challenged and you may in fact be wrong.
Steve, I cannot promote Mike’s work. He was someone who grew up steeped in complementarianism. He went to a heavily complementarian Bible college. And, quite frankly, he is not an academic. He makes serious mistakes with Greek, and with context, and his work is severely flawed. Academics are pointing this out, but because Winger is so engaging, people who don’t realize that Winger is not the most qualified to teach on this are getting sucked in.
For an actual academic critique of Winger’s work, I suggest starting here, and then looking at these videos.
And again, as I have said many times, we need to go back to what Jesus said and judge things by the fruit. We looked at the actual fruit of complementarianism and egalitarianism. We didn’t just treat it like an academic argument. And acting out complementarianism resulted in a 7.4 times higher divorce rate. Much worse marital satisfaction. Much worse sexual satisfaction. On the other hand, acting out mutuality resulted in much better fruit. Multiple, multiple studies have shown this, including John Gottman’s.
This isn’t an academic argument. This has real world consequences. And Jesus said judge by the fruit. So there you go: academics disagree with Winger. The fruit disagrees with Winger.
I cannot leave links in Instagram, so I did delete those posts. I can leave links here, so I’ve let it through. But I am very concerned about the harm that Winger’s videos are doing because he is painting himself as impartial, even though all of his upbringing and training has been in extremely conservative, hyper complementarian circles.
Or, to put it another way, Steve, Mike Winger is not the final arbiter. On the podcast this week and last week I had Philip Payne, who started off exactly as Mike Winger did, except Philip wanted to prove complementarianism. Instead he ended up being an egalitarian.
The difference? Philip is a Greek scholar who is the leading expert on biblical textual analysis. He has influenced the NIV to change their translation of several verses. He has taught at many different leading seminaries.
Yes, Mike did a lot of work. But I think I’ll go with the academics who have done even more work, who are actually experts in the field, and whose conclusions line up with the fruit that Jesus talks about.
I know this comment isn’t directed toward me, but I think it’s telling that you assume Sheila didn’t do enough research on her own to come to her conclusions when in fact she already knew all about Mike Winger’s work-not to mention all the research she did to come up with the stuff on her blog. Most egalitarians didn’t become egalitarian overnight and most started out complementarian. I was sucked into complementarianism, but the “fruits” as Sheila puts it, instinctively told me this wasn’t right. I didn’t even know there was an egalitarian movement, and even when I found out, I didn’t just jump on the egalitarian bandwagon. I researched this topic for years before I fully accepted anything about egalitarianism. Maybe you should take another look.