PODCAST: You Don’t Need to Gaslight Yourself About Your Marriage

by | Aug 16, 2023 | Podcasts | 25 comments

Podcast on the Jesus Way is telling the truth about marriage
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What does a biblical marriage look like?

We’re back for another season of the Bare Marriage podcast! And this year we want to look at what it means to live out the Jesus Way of marriage–how it’s about letting go of the chain-of-command mode of marriage, which means that we can tell the Truth about our marriage and honestly address things.

When you’re trying to live out the chain of command marriage, then the emphasis is making sure he’s in charge and making sure you’re doing what he wants. But when you live out the Jesus Way of doing marriage, then it’s about seeking intimacy and wholeness–which allows you to tell the truth and address things!

Today Rebecca and I go through two different ideas of a “biblical marriage” (the chain-of-command and the Jesus way), and then we look at some really bad chain-of-command advice, to see why it can go off track.

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:


Timeline of the Podcast

1:20 Setting the stage for our upcoming season!
3:30 What does a Biblical Marriage look like?
11:20 How should we live a Christian life?
27:15 Theology thoughts from Sheila’s reading
38:20 Discussing the article on how we should ‘love our flawed husbands’
1:06:00 What’s coming up in the next few weeks!

Why we need to see the “household codes” as revolutionary

In today’s podcast we basically walked through this week’s posts–first on looking at two ways of seeing biblical marriage, including a close-up of the purpose of the book of Esther, and then we looked at some really bad advice from Desiring God.

As we walk through different Bible stories, and look at different ways to see the household codes, I hope what you all realize is how revolutionary Paul’s words were in his time. Rebecca did a great job of explaining this! We don’t have to see a human being as our authority anymore, and the emphasis is on service.

And when you get away from an authority-based marriage, you’re finally able to tell the truth and work on issues! 

We’re focusing especially on two books. The N.T. Wright book was one of the first I read when I started to wonder if there was another way of seeing Jesus (and it was amazing), and the Rachel Held Evans book spoke specifically about the household codes in such an illuminating way. 

Things Mentioned in the Podcast

Don't Gaslight Yourself about Your Marriage

What do you think? What strikes you the most about the way that the evangelical church has clung to the chain-of-command marriage? Have we seen the gospels the wrong way (as N.T. Wright says? How can we bring the Jesus Way to our marriages? Let’s talk in the comments!


Sheila: Welcome to The Bare Marriage podcast.  I am Sheila Wray Gregoire from baremarriage.com where we like to talk about biblical, evidence-based—ha.  I haven’t done this in a month, and I said it wrong.  We’ll try that again.  Where we like to talk about healthy, evidence-based, biblical advice for your marriage and your sex life.  And we are back after a month long vacation.  I am joined today by my daughter, Rebecca Lindenbach.

Rebecca: Hello.  Hello.

Sheila: And this is the first podcast in our new season.  And I already messed up the intro.  

Rebecca: Yes.  It is.  

Sheila: So we are on episode 201, and we are so glad to be back with you.  Normally for those of you watching on YouTube, we would be sitting side by side.  But I took a month long vacation, and we ended that vacation with COVID.  

Rebecca: Yep.  I feel like this is just how things go now.

Sheila: Yes.  So I had a very mild case.  My husband is actually quite ill.  And Rebecca just doesn’t want to get it from my husband.

Rebecca: Absolutely not.  No.

Sheila: So we are staying in separate houses while he recovers, and I am recording downstairs because he’s coughing so much upstairs.  So he is okay though.  I don’t mean to make light of it.  He’s just kind of feeling miserable.  Yeah.  So what we want to talk about today is to set the stage for the Bare Marriage podcast this season.

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.  Season 3, right?

Sheila: I don’t even know what season we’re on.

Rebecca: Season 4?   

Sheila: I think it might even be Season 4.  It depends how you count seasons.

Rebecca: I have no clue.  

Sheila: Yeah.  We hit two and a half million downloads while we were on vacation, so that’s exciting.  A lot of people are listening in.  And during this month that we had off and even in the months leading up to that, we’ve been doing a lot of thinking, a lot of strategizing, a lot of praying, and just asking the question, “Where do we want to go now,” because we’ve spent several years really tackling toxic books and toxic teachings and calling things out.  And I think where we want to go now is to ask the question, “What would it look like if we actually just had healthy marriages?”  If you want to put the toxic stuff behind you and walk forward in health, how do you actually do that?  And what does that look like?  What does it look like to have the Jesus way of doing marriage?  So that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to talk—that we’re not going to explain toxic stuff because often the easiest way to explain what health looks like is to show you what it doesn’t look it.

Rebecca: Yeah.  To contrast it with what we know that’s not healthy.

Sheila: Yeah.  And that is often being taught.  But we just really want to focus this year on—I love this because you said this on a walk, and I hate to take your thunder.  Maybe I should let you quote it.

Rebecca: It’s fine.  I say so many smart things on walks, so I don’t know what you’re going to quote.

Sheila: You really do, and then I take them.  And then people think I say these smart things.  But you said, “What if we stop focusing on having a Christian marriage and started focusing on just what it looks like to be a Christian in your marriage?”

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.  

Sheila: And I think that’s so good.  I think we’re going to keep coming back to that in the next couple of weeks for some of the interesting things we’re going to be talking about.  But today I want to take kind of a romp through the Bible and look at two different ways that we have often approached the idea of a biblical marriage and then talk about what it actually looks like to have a Jesus way marriage where we’re not just gas lighting ourselves and telling ourselves that, “My marriage is great.”  How do we tell the truth about our marriage?  So let’s start with what it looks like to have a biblical marriage because that is such a loaded term, isn’t it? 

Rebecca: Yeah.  It really is.  I mean there are a lot of examples of biblical marriages that are very biblical, very much a marriage, not sure they are great candidates for a biblical marriage.   

Sheila: Yeah.  Because when we hear biblical marriage, what do we mean?  Do we mean polygamy?  I mean that was marriage in the Bible.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Do we mean Rebekah tricking her husband to give the son she actually likes the birth right instead of the one he planned to give the birth right to?

Sheila: Yeah.  Because that’s in the Bible.  Do we think it means marrying someone that you raped? Because that’s in the Bible.  Or do we think it mean something else?  And my problem is that often we take lessons from the marriages in the Bible or from examples in the Bible and think that this is the way things are going to be, and we’re missing that the Bible is supposed to point us to God and that all of Scripture needs to be interpreted through Jesus and through the person of Jesus.  And we’re missing the whole character of Jesus.  So let me give you an example.  And we’ll do this from the book of Esther.  I actually have a post on this that I ran on Monday this week which I will link to in the podcast notes because it summarizes this really well.  But when you look at the biblical story of Esther, it’s so interesting because it opens with something—I’m going to read this to you.  And I’m going to ask you what this sounds like.  Okay, Rebecca?  Here’s a quote from Esther chapter 1 verses 16 to 20.

Rebecca: Okay.    

Sheila: So Becca, why don’t you set the stage for us?  How does Esther begin?  

Rebecca: Esther starts with a marriage that would rival a lot of the ones in your typical, kind of fiction books where you have the bad dude marriage, right?  So he’s sitting there.  He’s a king.  He’s married to Vashti.  He’s a bad dude.  He’s like, “I’m going to have a party.  All my friends are going to be there.  And you’re going to be the entertainment.”  And she’s like, “Absolutely not.  Your friends are gross.  You’re gross.  All of this is gross.  Absolutely not.”  So anyway, so he’s like, “Hey, you, dance.  Clothing optional except it’s not optional.  There should be none.”  And, of course, she says no. 

Sheila: Right.  So this causes a huge—

Rebecca: That’s my summary of it.  

Sheila: Yes.  That’s pretty much it.  So he says, “Come dance before all these drunken nobles.”  And the Hebrew—it says wearing her crown.  But if you look at the Hebrew, a lot of people think it says wearing only her crown.  

Rebecca: It’s clearly putting her in a suggestive situation.

Sheila: Yeah.  And she says no.  And so this causes a big thing because the queen said no to her husband.  And so this is what—this is the commentary on this from Esther 1:16-20.  “Memucan answered the king and his nobles, “Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king but also every noble and citizen throughout your empire.  Women everywhere will begin to despise their husbands when they learn that Queen Vashti has refused to appear before the king.  Before this day is out, the wives of all the king’s nobles throughout Persia and Media will hear what the queen did and will start treating their husbands the same way. There will be no end to their contempt and anger.  So if it pleases the king, we suggest that you issue a written decree, a law of the Persians and Medes that cannot be revoked. It should order that Queen Vashti be forever banished from the presence of King Xerxes, and that the king should choose another queen more worthy than she.  When this decree is published throughout the king’s vast empire, husbands everywhere, whatever their rank, will receive proper respect from their wives!”

Rebecca: Yeah.  It’s time someone stands up for the men.    

Sheila: Okay.  So the main concern here is that we would hate to be in a situation where wives are told that they don’t have to obey their husband’s authority and what we need is for wives to respect their husbands.    

Rebecca: Yeah.  And by respect their husbands, it means do literally anything their husband asks even if it’s demeaning, degrading, or damaging, or harmful to them.

Sheila: Right.  Who does this sound like to you, Rebecca?

Rebecca: A lot of people.  A lot of people I’m going to be honest.  Read The Great Sex Rescue to find out more.

Sheila: Yeah.  But this whole idea that the big concern is that wives are supposed to respect their husbands.  It sounds a lot like the book Love and Respect.  And interestingly, in Love and Respect, Emerson Eggerichs quotes the words of this pagan advisor positively.    

Rebecca: Of Memucan?  Yeah.  No.  That does not surprise me at all.  It’s like, “Yeah.  Yeah.  No.  The women should obey.  She should have stripped down in front of his—yeah.  This is a good thing.  This would be better.  The world should have more stripped down wives dancing in front of their husbands’ friends.  That’s how the world will be better.”  This doesn’t surprise because I don’t think he actually put any thought into his biblical scholarship.  I think he just literally did Google search for respect husbands and just pulled all the verses and didn’t look at the context because I think this was so much more about an agenda than it was actual truth.  So I’m not saying Emerson Eggerichs actually thinks that wives should strip down and parade in front of their husbands’ friends.  I do think that he accidentally made that argument because he didn’t do even an ounce of actual scholarly research for this book.

Sheila: Yeah.  And we do have a podcast too on how he misuses Scripture including this, and I will link to that.  But he says this—and it’s in a pullout quote where he says, “Wives virtually ask to be unloved when they look down on their husbands.  Esther 1:17.”

Rebecca: Yeah.  That’s Eggerichs, right?  That’s Eggerichs.

Sheila: Eggerichs says that.    

Rebecca: That’s Love and Respect, everyone.

Sheila: And then he talks about how this story in the book of Esther shows how men react when they aren’t respected.  So he’s saying that Christian men—  

Rebecca: It sure does.  I’m just going to say.  It sure does.  

Sheila: Yeah.  That Christian men react to their wives setting clear boundaries that are reasonable in the same way as men who are actively going against God react.  What does that say?

Rebecca: I have no commentary that I think I’m allowed to say on the podcast, so I’m just going to say, “Yes.  They did say that.  They did say that.  He said it.”

Sheila: I mean imagine taking this story of a pagan king—and I’m not saying all pagans are bad.  We’ve learned—there’s been some amazing research and insights of the world and proof done by people who don’t know Christ.

Rebecca: When we’re talking about Xerxes as a pagan king, we’re talking about a king who literally then hosted a rape marathon to find a good wife.

Sheila: He is the baddy.    

Rebecca: He’s the bad guy.

Sheila: He’s the bad guy in this story.  You know the question are we the baddies?  That’s a good question.

Rebecca: He’s the baddy.

Sheila: He’s the baddy.  Okay?  In this story.  And Emerson Eggerichs is saying, “Yes.  This is the way Christian men think too.”

Rebecca: It’s disgusting.

Sheila: And that’s a real problem when you are identifying with that.

Rebecca: I’m going to be honest.  I have good reason based on how much writing of Emerson Eggerichs I have read and Focus on the Family and all their friends I think that the Christian men around Emerson Eggerichs do feel like that.  Personally.  

Sheila: And so I want to backup, and I want to ask a bigger question.  Now just about marriage but about how we interpret how we’re supposed to live the Christian life which is, “What is the book of Esther actually trying to tell us about power?”  Because if you look at it and if you look at everything—the king and Haman and his advisors—Haman is one of the king’s main advisors.  And he ends up being an even worse bad guy in this book than the king.  The king is kind of hapless whereas Haman is strategizing.  So they’re all bad guys, right?  And the only thing they are concerned about is being treated as someone in power and getting the benefits of power and having other people look up to them.  They’re trying to earn power without actually—and having the benefits of power without doing anything worthy of it.    

Rebecca: Yep.  Exactly.  

Sheila: Everything they do is despicable, or it’s just me focused and selfish.  And I think what the book of Esther does is it shows us the real emptiness of this quest for power because you see that the king is so insecure that he needs everyone to think he’s the greatest.  So he invites all these nobles for a huge party to say, “Look how amazing I am that I can throw this party.  And then look at my amazing, smoking hot wife.”  And Haman is plotting to see how he can get other people to bow down to him.  But they’re not actually doing anything worthy of respect or worthy of power.  And into this story comes two people, Mordecai and Esther.  And Mordecai is an interesting guy because he actually saves the king from assassination at one point.  And he doesn’t even get a lot of thanks for that initially.  And the king isn’t even a good person, but Mordecai just does what’s right.  And then Esther does what’s right in an absolutely impossible situation where she is basically being sex trafficked.  And she has no choice, but she still tries to live this righteous life.  And then we get this amazing question, which reverberates throughout the centuries.  “What if you were put into this place for such a time as this?”

Rebecca: Exactly.  

Sheila: And that’s a question that we all need to ask.  What if I am here for such a time as this?  What if there is something that God wants me to do?  Esther and Mordecai show us, “Hey, here is what good character looks like.”  And through their good character, they make the king and Haman look stupid.     

Rebecca: Yes.  They really do.  Especially Haman.

Sheila: Yeah.  They make them look really, really stupid.  And what if that is kind of a picture in some ways of the Gospels?  I’m not saying that Jesus is trying to make people look stupid.  But I mean what if the picture of Jesus in the Gospels is a bigger one?  That it’s not just that He died on the cross for our sins so that we can live forever in heaven.  Okay?  Which is what we normally think of as the Gospel.  What if Jesus is showing us through His life the emptiness and the pettiness of the way the world is set up where things are all about power and status and money and rank and Jesus is knocking down all of those walls and saying, “That doesn’t matter.  What matters is how we treat one another and how we love one another in community”?  I’ve read some really interesting books that got me start to think on this way.  One of the ones that really started my journey on this was N. T. Wright’s, The Day God Became King, about—which really looks at the empty way that we see Jesus.  And do you remember in 2012 we went to Italy?  

Rebecca: Yes. 

Sheila: As a family.  And we kept going into all of these cathedrals and all of these art galleries and saw so many pictures of Jesus.  But they only ever showed three instances from His life.  Do you remember this?  

Rebecca: Yes.  It was the birth, the death, and the baptism.

Sheila: Yep.  Yeah.  Birth, death, baptism.  There really was nothing else about Jesus.  Now the apostles were shown doing all kinds of different things.  The apostles were shown—yeah.  Preaching and—

Rebecca: Feeding the poor.

Sheila: Yeah.  But Jesus was—Jesus—He was almost emotionless.  He was either dead or baby or He was being—His whole life was kind of condensed to that.  And one of the points that N. T. Wright makes is that we can run into problems with this as Christians because we think that Christianity can be conveyed by our creeds.

Rebecca: Yeah.  I have a quote from him about that.  

Sheila: Okay.  Yeah.  Go for it.

Rebecca: Here’s what he says.  Okay?  “It is possible it seems to affirm everything the creed says especially Jesus’s divine status and His bodily resurrection but to know nothing of what the Gospel writers were trying to say.  Something is seriously wrong here.”  That’s what he says.

Sheila: Yes.  Because what does the creed say?  We’ve started to go to an Anglican church, and we went to one when you were a baby actually.  And we’ve gone back to the Anglican Church recently and—because one of the things I absolutely love is how much Scripture is in the service.  And we do say the creed every week, and I love the Apostle’s Creed.  But here is how it summarizes Jesus.  Or here is how it starts, right?  “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the—

Rebecca: “Born of the Virgin Mary.  Conceived by the Spirit.”

Sheila: “Born of the Virgin Mary.”

Rebecca: “Conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Born of the Virgin Mary.  Was crucified under Pontius Pilate.”  

Sheila: “Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and buried.”  

Rebecca: Crucified, dead, and buried.  Yeah.  

Sheila: Yes.  Yeah.

Rebecca: It’s like born, died.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And that’s all it says.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  For His life on earth.  Yeah.  

Sheila: Right.  He was conceived and born.  And then He suffered and died.  And there is nothing in between.  That doesn’t mean the creed is bad.  It’s just what N. T. Wright is asking us to do is to rethink what it means to believe in Jesus and what are the main tenants of our faith and to realize what the creeds were for.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Because what I love is in studying church history, you realize how many incredibly feisty but—we would now consider very silly fights happened in the church over theological differences.  Pretty much everything that you could fight about they split a church over.  The same way that we do with denominations now, right?  Whether Easter should be based on this calendar or this calendar.  Whether Christmas should be celebrated at this time or this time.  And they did.  All the things in the creeds they were very famous and very common disagreements among churches and congregations.  People didn’t really disagree on the actual Gospels themselves.  

Sheila: Right.  

Rebecca: The idea that Jesus did these things, the things that were written in the Gospels—those—the actual example of Christ’s life on earth.  Those weren’t necessarily as disagreed on.  And so why would they be in the creed?  Because the creeds are meant to be—

Sheila: Right.  Because the creeds are only—

Rebecca: Literally, they got all the bigwigs together.  Like, “Listen.  We’re going to settle this.  This is what Christianity is.  Anything other than this we don’t claim that.”  And that’s what it was about.  And so the heretics were agreeing that yeah.  He fed the people the loaves and the fishes.  And yeah.  He served people.  And yeah.  He washed feet.  But they were just like, “We just don’t believe that He was actually the Son of God,” or, “But we believe that He wasn’t fully God,” or, “We just don’t believe that He was raised from the dead.”  And so that’s what the creeds are about.  They’re about the things where they diverged.

Sheila: Right.  And so Wright’s point is that we are often missing in our story of Jesus—we focus so much on the meaning of salvation in terms of the cross and what it means for us personally—that I—so that I am saved from my sins so that I can now go to heaven.  Like it’s sort of like a get out of jail free card.  As opposed to seeing the message of the Gospels as being far more than that where Jesus tore down all the ways that we think power should be—and that we think life should be organized.  And He showed the emptiness of it.      

Rebecca: And that’s really the example of His life.  And what I find so funny is Wright’s concern about the emphasis on a creedal faith is so—I mean I likely got to this place from N. T. Wright.  Just not realizing it, to be honest.  Noticing again and again the idea that when Paul was writing His letters—because anyone who has grown up evangelical knows that you actually mostly read Paul in church.  Paul and the Old Testament actually are read quite a lot.

Sheila: Except in the Anglican Church where you stand for the Gospel and the sermon tends to be the Gospel reading.

Rebecca: Yeah.  No.  That’s what I mean.  The evangelical churches.  In the evangelical churches, right?  That I grew up in our Bible studies were often on non Gospel books.  And our focus was often on non Gospel books to the extent that when I went to university and was in a Gospel focused Bible study I was really uncomfortable because I was like, “But I have to talk about Corinthians and Ephesians and Philippians,” and got into tiffs with the leadership about that.  Because I was like, “But what about the rest of the Bible?”  And they were like, “Yeah.  We’re only going to talk about the Gospels here.”  And now I’m like, “Oh, okay.  Yeah.  That’s why my husband has an amazing that’s very Jesus centered because that’s where he came to Christianity.  And that’s why he didn’t get super power hungry.  Ah.  Got it.”  So yeah.  Alaina, if you’re listening.  Way to go.  But this idea that when Paul was writing his letter to the Corinthian church he was writing to a church that knew the Gospel.  He doesn’t really cover much of the basics.  He’s talking about the specific issues that that church has with the understanding that they do know the Gospel.  That’s what their faith is based on.  And so when we base our faith on someone else’s kind of tertiary, let’s fix the stuff on the outside now, kind of writings, we are missing the meat, right?  Like I was saying before we started recording.  Parenting my kids.  The vast, vast, vast majority of my time is not spent on discipline.  The vast.  We have a lot of fun.  We go.  We play.  I also anticipate a lot of problem areas, and we just skip them entirely because—instead of saying, “Okay.  We have to go now,” it’s like, “Hey, Alex.  Do you want to wear a blue hat or a red hat?  Oh, do you want to put your sunscreen on, or do you want Mommy to?  By the way, we’re leaving.”  Just that kind of difference.  The vast majority of my time is not spent on discipline.  But whenever my friends are having problems with discipline and they’re like, “Hey, how did you get Alex to stop drop kicking the dog,” or whatever.  He didn’t.  I’m being facetious.  Anyway, then I would send them these super long messages with different ideas and different things that we did and why it’s important to hold your boundaries as a parent as well because kids need strong boundaries.  And so if you only read those messages, you’d think that most of my parenting is based on discipline and boundaries with my kids.  And that’s not most of our experience.  Most of our experience is just playing and talking and doing arts and crafts and going to the nature trails in our area.  And I think that’s what we’ve done with faith is we’ve made it so much about the conflict resolutions, about things that were happening with the assumption of the Gospel being the center that we’ve actually stopped having the Gospel be the center.  And we’ve started having all of these, “Okay.  But what—how do we fix this problem,” as the center when maybe the problem shouldn’t have ever been the center.  It’s like, “Oh, okay.”  Say someone really liked how I parented, and so they just did every single thing they ever did was giving warnings to their kids.  It’s like well then you’re not parenting how I parented.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  Exactly.  Because we’re missing the forest for the trees, I think, because we’re focusing so much on—often on the letters.  And we’re not saying the letters aren’t important.  Not at all.  It’s just that we—Jesus is the Word.  Right?  Jesus is the Word.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.  And the Word was God.”  And I think we have often put the Bible on the throne rather than Jesus on the throne because the Bible’s purpose is to point us to Jesus.  And we interpret Scripture through the lens of Christ.

Rebecca: And if anyone gets mad—and I know people are going to get mad at that, so I’m just going to say something.  People get mad saying, “Yeah.  But, but, but the Bible is how we know Jesus.”  Is that true?  Scripturally speaking, is that true?  Scripturally speaking.  I’m not talking about, well, your experience.  I’m talking about if you actually look at the Bible is it true that Scripture is the only way that we know Christ.  Because remember that up until the last very, very recent history the vast majority of believers have been completely illiterate.  And so they go to mass, or they go to church once a week.  And that would be all their Scripture reading that they got.  And the rest of their life was in meditation and prayer and, oh, the Holy Spirit.  Oh.  This idea.  And Scripturally speaking, if you actually look at the Scripture that people say is the reason why we can’t say that we follow Jesus and Jesus helps us interpret the Bible, that very Bible says I am sending you a messenger.  It is the Holy Spirit who shows us and gives us the ability to understand who Jesus is.  And so this idea that you can understand the Bible through the lens of Christ is not saying we don’t love the Bible.  It’s saying that we love it enough to trust what it says to us.  And we love it enough to put it in the place that Christ wants us to put it which is in the lens of the example of His life.  So I just wanted to get ahead—because I know some people are going to get—it’s a hard thing because when I started hearing that at first, I was like, “Oh, that’s so bad.”  When you actually read the Bible, it’s like, “Oh.  Oh dear.  The Bible itself says that we’re supposed to (cross talk).”

Sheila: Yes.  And remember that the Bible wasn’t even written—it wasn’t—the Bible wasn’t even finished until like what?  50 years after Christ died.  

Rebecca: Oh.  Something—yeah.  A long time after.

Sheila: At least.  And most of the new Christians didn’t even have—

Rebecca: Well, the Bible, as we know it, was put together in 300 and something C.  So when we say, “Well, it was finished,” well, it wasn’t finished until life times after—we’ll put it this way.  From now to when it was completed would have been in the late 1600s.  That’s how much time passed between Christ—

Sheila: But the individual books and letters were written—

Rebecca: Were written quite a bit closer, yeah.

Sheila: Yeah.  But often decades after Jesus died but people still knew Christ because they had the stories.  They had prayer.  They had the Holy Spirit.  And so anyway, I always do a lot of reading when I’m on vacation.  So I’ve been reading a lot of theology books, a lot of different books.  And one of the concepts that I keep coming back to—and I find this so key is that we often think that Jesus shows us who God is because Jesus is like God.  So when we look at Jesus, we understand God.  “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”  And that’s our emphasis is how we can know God, the Father.  But what if we put a slightly different twist on it and say it’s not just that Jesus is like God and Jesus is God but it’s actually that God is like Jesus?  

Rebecca: Yep.  He came to show us God in human form.

Sheila: He came to show us God.  So when we’re trying to figure out who God is and what God is like, we just need to look at Jesus because that is who God is like.  And when people say things like, “Well, God wants you to,” whatever it might—God wants you to stay in this abusive marriage.  God wants you to forgive, forgive, forgive no matter what the person says even if it’s hurting you.  That’s an easy thing to say when you put God at the front of that sentence.  When you put Jesus at the front of that sentence, is that as easy?  And so that’s the invitation that I want to give to us this year is to actually put Jesus back at the front of those sentences.  And so I want to switch gears a little bit.  And one of the books that I read was inspired by Rachel Held Evans, who kind of deals with a lot of these concepts, like we had in the book of Esther, where the point of that book was to show the emptiness of the pursuit of power.  And N. T. Wright said that about the Gospels is to show the emptiness of the way that we do power and to turn the world upside down.  And he calls it an upside down Gospel, an upside down revolution.  And that’s what it is.  It’s like yeah.  We’re not supposed to be vying for power.  And so Rachel asks us to take another look at the household codes by which she means the most famous ones are in Ephesians where it looks at wives, husbands, children, parents, slaves, masters.  There’s other ones in Colossians, but they can be summarized as the household codes.  And I want to read just a couple of quotes that she says about these because they’re so good.  Okay?  “Many modern readers assume teachings about wives submitting to their husbands appear exclusively in the pages of Scripture and thus reflect uniquely biblical views about women’s role in the home.  But to the people who first heard these letters read aloud in their churches, the words of Peter and Paul would have struck them as both familiar and strange.  A sort of Christian remix on familiar Greco-Roman philosophy.  The position the male of the house as the rightful ruler over his subordinate wives, children, and slaves.  By instructing men to love their wives and respect their slaves and by telling everyone to submit to one another with Jesus as the ultimate head of the house, the apostles offer correctives to cultural norms without upending them.”

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.  

Sheila: And I just found this—so you got to picture.  What she’s saying is, “Look.  Paul is writing to the Ephesians.  And the Ephesians are trying to figure out how to live as Christians in a Roman world.”  And Paul and the apostles—they needed the Gospel to be something that could spread.  And so they didn’t want to overly antagonize the Romans.  They weren’t in a position to overthrow Rome.  And so they—

Rebecca: Well, they also didn’t want—the people—you had slaves and women in these churches.  And you had more slaves and women than you did Roman men.  And to tell them to just—there was also safety concerns too for the congregants that I’m sure they didn’t take lightly.

Sheila: Right.  Yeah.  Because to tell slaves that you don’t need to listen to your masters would just simply result in the slaves being killed.  And so Paul is saying, “Okay.  Look.  In this way, here’s how we can bring Jesus into it.”  And she goes on to say this, “The question for modern readers is whether the point of the New Testament household codes is to reinforce the Greco-Roman household structure as God’s ideal for all people in all places for all time, or whether the point is to encourage Christians to imitate Jesus in their relationships regardless of the culture or their status in it.”

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.  And I know that that seems so obvious when you’re reading it.  But to some people, it’s not.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Because we think that when the words, “Women submit—wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord,” we think, “Wow.  That is a harsh thing to say.”  But that wouldn’t have fazed anyone hearing that.    

Rebecca: No.  It was more like the idea that it was like, “Hey, you’re owned as property.  Okay?  He can do whatever he wants to you.  You are literally property of him.  And so you’re going to reclaim that by subverting that power.  And you’re submitting to him, but you’re not really.  You’re submitting to God.”

Sheila: Yeah.  You’re submitting to him as to the Lord.  

Rebecca: It’s actually kind of a way to give a bit cheeky like, “Hey, you might think I’m being your lovely submissive wife.  But really I’m not doing this for you.  I’m not doing this for you.”  It’s actually really not meek or gentle.  When I read that, I’m like—I’m reading it as like, “Women, I know this sucks.  Do what you have to do.  But take solace in the fact that you’re not doing it for him.  You’re not doing it for that man.”

Sheila: Yeah.  You’re doing it to the Lord.  And interestingly, the verb, “Wives, submit to your husbands,” is not in the command form in Greek.  There actually are no words in the entire household codes, which are direct commands to women, whereas there are multiple words that are commands to men.  And we don’t—we lose that in the English translation.  But it’s more like a description.  It’s more like a description.  Wives, keep doing what you’re already doing.  Wives, submitting to your husbands.  You’re already doing this.  Keep doing this, but this time do it as to the Lord.

Rebecca: A mindset shift.  Mindset shift is like when it’s really—I know your life is really—this is hard.  But just—God will—you’re in an impossible situation.  God will reward your faithfulness in an impossible situation.  Now, remember, that actually was an impossible situation.  And we’re going to talk about this in a little bit, but women are not in an impossible situation anymore.  

Sheila: That’s right.    

Rebecca: And so we’re going to talk about that later, so that’s why.  But I just wanted to say.  Whereas for men, it’s was like, “Hey, men.  Hey, love them.  Actually love them.  Love them like Christ loves them.  Don’t just be like they are nice.  Love them sacrificially like how Christ does with your body.  Like her body is your body.”  It was, in essence, “Women—yeah.  I’m sorry.  Things suck.  Men, stop making things suck for women.”  It’s like, “Slaves, things are rough.  We’re sorry.  Men, you’re the problem here.  Be like Christ.”  When you actually look at how the verbs work in that whole section, that’s what it’s like.  It’s like, “Everyone, just submit to one another.  Women, slaves, you don’t have a choice.  You’re already doing this.  Men, start using the choice.”

Sheila: Yeah.  Exactly.  And if you count the number of words that Paul gives to husbands versus wives, it’s quite amazing.  And so that’s what would have made this—this would have been actually quite a revolutionary thing to read.  And yet, we are using this same passage to keep women today from following Jesus telling women instead, “You need to silence the voice of Jesus in your heart and in your mind because you need to do what your husband says, not what God says.”  We’ve got it all backwards.

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.  Yep.  The same Jesus who rewarded Mary for sitting at His feet.  The same Jesus who rewarded women for doing traditionally male learning tasks when it came to religious studies.

Sheila: Right.  And so let me go on and read—so in her book, Inspired, Rachel also told—she had a story in this section of what it might have looked like in the early church first hearing this letter written in Ephesus.  And I just want to read you a couple of paragraphs from that story.  So one of the characters is saying, “’What I understand the apostle to be saying,’ Nympha says, ‘is that the crucifixion of Jesus exposed the empire and all forms of unjust authority for what they are.  Cruel and empty.  Desperate and weak.  Rome executed an innocent man for what?  Healing the sick, telling stories, writing a donkey into Jerusalem.  The Messiah’s obedience in humbling Himself, loving His enemies, caring for the poor and suffering, and turning away from violence made a mockery of this opulent and oppressive empire.  It made a mockery of religious hypocrisy and exclusion.  And His resurrection proves He is, in fact, Lord and Master of all for even Rome could not bury Him.  Even Caesar could not keep Him dead for long.  Maybe we are not called to overthrow the empire’s social order but to disarm it, to reveal its emptiness compared to gatherings like these where slave, master, husband, and wife are equals in service to Jesus.’  ‘And if husbands and wives love each other,’ another pipes in, ‘and slaves and masters respect one another, and if all submit to Jesus as the head of the Christian house, the chain of command begins to break down.’  Drusilla wonders aloud if there will come a day when the world doesn’t need household codes, when Jesus really is Lord and Master of every home.  And that’s when Aelia has a dangerous thought.  ‘They say Pax Romana begins in the home,’ she says.  ‘Maybe revolution does too.’”

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.

Sheila: Yeah.  And, again, that’s from Rachel Held Evans’s book, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again.  And I think that is really key is Jesus came to show us that this quest for power and the whole way that humans are doing life were putting people over others.  Vying for status, vying for more and more resources is not what we’re supposed to be doing.  We’re supposed to be loving one another in community.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.  And just made to look really petty.

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  Exactly.  And I love that thought.  I love that.  So I encourage you to think—to look more at some of these things.  And that’s what we want to look at to is what does it mean if we’re going to live a Jesus way of doing marriage where we’re going to let Jesus upend this idea of power and authority and work on just serving one another.  And as the Lord’s Prayer says bring God’s will to earth as it is in heaven.  That we want God’s will done.  And yet, so often in church we’re so focused on a husband’s will, and we’re getting stuff really mixed up because we’re not putting Jesus on the throne.  And I want to look at an example of that too.  So I pulled an article that while I was on vacation a bunch of people sent me.  Yes.  And I just thought it was such a good corrective of where we want to go.  Because if we’re going to put Jesus on the throne of our marriage, who is Jesus?  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  So Jesus shows us how we should walk.  Jesus says that the truth should be what guides us, and we should not shy away from truth.  And Jesus shows us that in Him we will have life and have it abundantly.  Right?  So the way, the truth, the life.  Now let me ask you, as I’m going to read this, is any of this about the way, the truth, and the life.  So this is an article from the Desiring God website.  It came out earlier this month.  It’s only a few weeks old.  August 1 called Your Husband—    

Rebecca: They’re nothing if not consistent.  We’ll put it that way.

Sheila: Your Husband Will be Perfect: How to Love a Flawed Man.  And it’s written by a guest contributor.  I’m not going to name her.  I don’t think she has a huge platform, and I’m not trying to shame her individually.  I just want to show how this article is problematic.  I will link to it however, though, so you can go check it out for yourself.  Okay.  So her point is—she opens with the point about how the Gospel can raise the dead.  And here’s how she talks about how to love a flawed man.  “If the gospel can accomplish these feats, it can surely transform ordinary men into husbands who love their wives as Christ loved the church, and it can surely transform ordinary women into wives who respect and submit to their husbands’ leadership. But this transformation is not automatic, and it does not happen overnight. That’s why Paul offers this apostolic marriage advice.  Stay in the light.  While his advice applies to husbands and wives alike, this article addresses wives. Wives who want to see their marriages transformed must stay in the light, where Christ himself shines on them, revealing truths and exposing lies that shape their expectations for marriage. In particular, light-seeking wives embrace two foundational truths and reject two persistent lies.”  Okay?  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Let’s go.  

Sheila: Let’s go.  All right.  So truth number one that you need to embrace if you’re going to be a good wife married to a flawed man is that he is still a sinner.  All right?  So you need to remember he is still a sinner.  And here is how she encapsulates this.  “At times, your husband may be proud, harsh, or impatient.  Ephesians 4:2.  His unique cocktail of deceitful desires will afflict him.  Ephesians 4:22.  He will stumble by not actively guarding his mind.  Ephesians 4:25- 32; 5:18.  He may be tempted toward dishonesty, theft, laziness, destructive speech, resentment, selfishness, sexual immorality of various stripes, jealousies, greed, or substance abuse. In a word, he will falter in his charge to love you self-sacrificially.  The light protects us from surprise over our husband’s failures because our expectations are built on this foundational truth.  He is still a sinner.”  Holy cow.

Rebecca: Can I just read you something really funny?  I want to actually read you the verses that she quotes.  Are you ready?  Because they say something very differently than what she does.  

Sheila: And as you’re doing that, I just want to point out that, again, she is quoting from the epistles and not from the Gospels, which she does again and again as we have already said.  Yeah.

Rebecca: So she’s using Ephesians 4 quite a bit to make this point.  Okay?  This is a long section, but let me just read it.  “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.  That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.”  That’s the verse she quotes to say that he currently has a deceitful desire as a Christian.  Next verse.  “To be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.  ‘In your anger do not sin.’  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.   Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.”  And then it goes on.  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.   Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Does that freaking sound like, “He’s just going to want to do all the sexy things and all the idolatrous things and all the things.  That’s just how he is.  He just has deceitful desires”?  What on the freaking earth?  This is what bothers me with these guys.  Okay.  So they write these articles.  “He may be tempted toward dishonesty, theft, laziness, destructive speech, resentment.”  She literally is quoting the same things that I just read where he’s talking about who you were like this until you met Christ, and now you should not do these things.  

Sheila: Mm-hmm.    

Rebecca: And so the idea that we’re going to screw up every now and then is one thing.  But he says that his unique cocktail of deceitful desires is specifically what Paul says was supposed to die.  What about, “f anyone is in Christ he is a new creation.   Behold, the old has gone.  The new has come”?

Sheila: Yep.  Paul said that too.

Rebecca: Paul said that too.  I’m only using Paul, buddy.  I was raised Baptist okay.  I am only using Paul here.  The same Paul who says, “And such were some of you,” about thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers, idolaters, adulterers, all those things.  So were some of you.  But you were washed.  You were sanctified.  You were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  All things are lawful for me but not all things are helpful.  All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.  That’s what the Paul, who this lady is quoting, says the Christian life is about.  You are no longer dominated.  No.  I do want to say.  Can I say one more thing?

Sheila: Yeah.  Mm-hmm.

Rebecca: Paul also is the one who says, “So why is it the things I want to do I do not do but the things that I hate I do?”  Totally.  We all are going to sin and screw up.  But this idea that you are still by foundation, identity—you are still a sinner is profoundly anti Gospel.  The whole point of Jesus is that it’s a rebirth.  That His death on the cross was to liberate us from sin.   “And so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  That’s a Gospel quote.  These are things where the whole point of being Christian is that our identity changes from sinner into reborn, saved, whatever you want to call it.  But our identity is different.  We’re human.  Yes.  But we shouldn’t be living as sinners in the same way.

Sheila: Right.  And the point of this part of her article is to tell people that you should not expect your husband to not be a sinner.  And listen to some of the things that she mentions.  Laziness.  So not helping around the house, not doing anything with the kids, not being an engaged partner.  You’re not allowed to expect him to be an engaged partner.  Sexual immorality of various stripes.  You’re not allowed to expect him not to watch porn.  You’re not allowed to expect him not to have an affair.  You’re not allowed—

Rebecca: Sexual immorality of various stripes too.  That means that there is a lot of different things.  

Sheila: Yeah.  That you’re not allowed to not expect him not—in fact, you’re supposed to expect that he will because she actually says this.  “Our expectations should not be that he won’t do these things.  Our expectations should be that he will.”  That is the point of her article.  And substance abuse.  So our expectations are that substance abuse is probably something or could be something that our husbands will be involved in, and that should not be something that bothers us.    

Rebecca: And I think that there is a level where—yes.  We have to understand that we are married to human beings.  Absolutely.  I can be really lazy because I’m just exhausted and burnt out.  And even when I wasn’t exhausted and burnt out, I live—I was—we’re millennials.  We have so much technology and entertainment, right?  Of course, we can all do that.  Of course, we can all be selfish sometimes.  The difference is I hate this mentality that it’s like, “Well, I’m just a sinner, so I guess I’m selfish sometimes.”  Absolutely not.  We are constantly working at sanctification.  We are constantly trying to allow the Holy Spirit to continue to morph us more and more into the image of Christ.  This idea that, “Well, I’m a sinner,”—that’s why I hate it so much because Christ says, “Be holy as I am holy.”  Christ doesn’t say, “Try to be holy, but you’re still wretched.”  That’s not what Christ says, right?  That’s not what Paul says.  Paul says, “That was your past.  Stop acting like your past.  Act like your future.”  

Sheila: But the reason—but think about how much marriage advice is aimed at women telling women, “The whole problem with your marriage is that you expect him to be good.”  When we used to speak at marriage conferences when we started with the oldest curriculum at Family Life back in like 2005, 2006, there was a whole bunch—a whole emphasis on how expectations are bad.  How we shouldn’t have expectations, how the reason we’re disappointed in marriage is because we have these expectations.  It’s not wrong to have some expectations.  It’s totally good to expect that your spouse will not engage in sexual immorality, will not have substance abuse, that they will be an engaged partner.  And if they’re not, it’s okay to make an issue out of these things.  It is totally okay to make an issue out of these things.

Rebecca: But not only that, we’re supposed to as Christians.  If there is someone in your church who is out getting lap dances every Thursday night, we’re not like, “Well, Brad is a sinner.”  No one says there.  They’re like, “Brad, stop freaking getting lap dances.”  

Sheila: Yeah.  But in your marriage—yeah.  But in your marriage—yeah.  We keep telling women to forgive and forgive and forgive.  Okay.  Point number two that she has—this is the other truth that we’re supposed to believe is that he is growing.  Okay.  He’s growing.     

Rebecca: Is he?

Sheila: “So if your husband is awake and alive, then Christ shines on him. He will increasingly see his sin, and he will know what to do about it.”


Rebecca: Will he?


Sheila: Yeah.  Okay.  “These two foundational truths—your husband is a sinner, but he is growing—should shape your expectations about marriage, tempering your idealism with reality and your pessimism with hope.”  


Rebecca: Tempering your idealism with reality.  What’s the idealism here that—this is idealism.  This isn’t reality.  She’s saying, “You’re just being idealistic that your husband isn’t growing and that your husband isn’t improving.  That’s idealism.”  No.  This is ideal.  Trevor might spend all of his time drinking beer until he gets drunk, just burping and playing video games.  And he may have lost four jobs because of his inability to not watch porn at work.  And he might not be an engaged father.  And also you might have to do all of his laundry and constantly find that there are skid marks on his underwear because he can’t be bothered to wipe his own butt after he poops.  But he’s growing.  Who is being idealistic here?  Where are we allowed to just say—or we just say, “Trevor, get your stuff together because you’re better than this.”


Sheila: But to say this as a fact that your husband is growing—  

Rebecca: No.  Some people aren’t.

Sheila: No.  No.  Some people are not growing in Christ.  Some people are actively moving away from Christ.

Rebecca: Yeah.  It’s called regression.

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  And some people are constantly hardening their hearts towards God.  So no.  He is not necessarily growing.  And we should not be just believing that.  Okay.  Let’s turn to the lies that you—here’s—

Rebecca: Wait.  Can I just say something first?  Can I just say something first?  

Sheila: Yep.  Mm-hmm.

Rebecca: I’m reading this quote that we pulled.  “These two foundational truths,” which questionable.  “Your husband is a sinner, but he is growing should shape your expectations about marriage tempering your idealism with reality and your pessimism with hope.”  That quote there.  I will say I was someone who is married to a baby Christian.  I’m just going to say because I always want to give the most benefit whenever we can, right?  For me, when Connor and I were dating and marriage, it was so incredibly clear what trajectory he was on.  He was someone who came from very much not being a Christian to very much being Christian very quickly.  And we were married.  And so this idea that yeah.  Connor is still sorting it out, but he was growing.  I didn’t really have to think too much about because I had so much faith that he was growing.  My question is if you’re someone who has to be reminded that they’re growing, are they growing?  Because I had the—I had that right in front of me.  I was like, “But look at who you were four months ago.  Look at who you were a year ago.  Look at who you were three years ago.”  It was no question what trajectory he was on.  My question is if your husband is actually growing do you need this reminder as strongly as she’s giving it.  Because I maybe every now and then need to be like, “Okay.  Let’s just take a second here, Miss Perfectionist,” because I am.  And be like, “Okay.  So the man has a couple small things we’re dealing with, but we’re currently dealing with them.”  Any time that I have had to have a reality check in my marriage it’s to remind myself that, “Oh, but we are dealing with it.  It’s just that these things don’t happen overnight,” right?  We’ve been really open with mental load stuff, right?  Okay.  I just know how to make a white sauce, and I just know how to roast a chicken.  And I just know how to do all these things.  When he was learning how to do it, yeah.  Dinner took longer, or sometimes it wasn’t done right.  Those are the kinds of things where it’s like, “Yeah.  But he’s learning how to do it.  Give him time.”  Not, “But he spent 80 years playing League of Legends instead of doing it.”  

Sheila: Right.

Rebecca: See what I mean?  So I’m saying I understand that this stuff can be true because I’ve lived that.  But it was never stressful because it was so clear what trajectory he was on, and he was already pretty good.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And if you have to tell women that your husband is growing, he likely isn’t.  And also, again, the idea that this is a universal truth that your husband is growing is simply untrue.

Rebecca: It’s so untrue.  

Sheila: Because we can totally be walking away from Christ.  Okay.  Here is the first lie that we might believe, and it’s I am more righteous than he is.  “Besides revealing two foundational truths for marriage, the light of Christ exposes two persistent lies in marriage. The first is the lie of superior righteousness. All of us indulge in pride from time to time, supposing ourselves better than our husbands. But if we stay in the light, we cannot escape the equalizing effect of the cross.”  Oh dear Lord, save me.  


Rebecca: This is so common, and it’s so toxic.  

Sheila: The equalizing effect of the cross.  Yes.  We are all sinners.  And yes.  Our sin has separated us from God.  No.  Our sin is not equal.  

Rebecca: No.  And also this idea that some people are not more righteous than others is just—that’s a stupid idea.  If you’re thinking about who you want your kids to look up to, you have people.  Okay?  

Sheila: Well, even she says, “Unless your righteousness surpasses those,” think of—those are the Pharisees.  Unless your righteousness the—over and over again in the Gospels, Jesus talks about how some people are more righteous than others.

Rebecca: And also I think the issues come with this.  First of all, we misunderstand what righteousness is a lot of the time.  And I think this author misunderstands what righteousness is a lot of the time because I think righteousness is just acknowledging that you’re a sinner in the eyes of desiring God.  That’s not righteousness.  That’s just—even the demons know and shake.  But I think that this is a situation where we have to—I said that—I believe—I don’t remember if this is a Patreon podcast or a live one.  But the idea of common sense faith where you’re allowed to just use your brain.  You know what?  If you’re someone who struggles with comparison and pride and there is someone who struggles with pedophilia and related things, it’s not about how you don’t need Jesus.  But there is a level where it’s like, “Okay.  Maybe we don’t let our kids try to be like that person.  Maybe,”—I’m like, “Hey, this person struggles with comparison and pride, but they’re doing a really great job with generosity.  And you can follow them because yeah.  They’re working on it.  They’re a good person.”  Do you see what I mean?  The idea that we can’t use common sense is something that is so commonly used to specifically make women doubt their experience of reality that it’s a problem.  Because here—I have not actually really met people who are saying things like, “Hey, my husband is destroying my life, but I’m perfect.  And I don’t need Jesus.”  They often know they need Jesus.  And what we’ve had to deal with more often is teaching these women to have even a semblance of a self esteem.  They actually often think they are just as bad as their husbands, who are physically and emotionally abusing them and actively engaging in substance abuse that’s harming their children.  A lot of this stuff.  And it’s like no.  You’re allowed to speak plainly.  You’re allowed to speak plainly what’s happening, and he’s choosing to be a bad person.  And you might have flaws and faults, but you’re not choosing to be a bad person.  And that matters, and that counts.    

Sheila: Yeah.  Because, again, there is a huge difference between—yes.  Our sin has separated us from God.  All of us.  Even the smallest sin has separated us from God.  Yes.  That does not mean that all sins are equal.  And the Bible is so clear that sins are judged—over and over again it gives examples of people who are judged more harshly.  So yes.  There is superior righteousness.  There is.  There is not a myth of superior righteousness.    There are—

Rebecca: Yeah.  All righteousness cannot happen separate from Christ.  That’s the thing.  All righteousness is through Jesus and God.  And all sin separates us from Jesus and God.  But there are clearly differences.  And, again, God gave you a brain.  You are allowed to use it.  God gave you a brain.  Do not bury the brain.  Use the brain.  The brain is a talent.  Okay?  Don’t bury the brain.  Don’t bury the talent.  Use the brain.  God gives you things so that you can use them.  Please use them.  Don’t let someone convince you that stuff in front of your face isn’t true.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Exactly.  Okay.  Lie number two, I know what’s best for him.  “Be wary also of a second persistent lie lurking in the shadows.  The lie of superior wisdom. Doubtless, if you were God, you would choose a different path for your husband’s transformation than the one he is currently on. But the light of Christ breaks into our blind spots, challenging even our expectations about how our husbands should grow.”


Rebecca: This is, again, assuming the man is on a growth trajectory which, again—and I’m not saying—I should actually say a really big caveat for why I’m reacting so strongly.  Women in marriages with good men where they’re having a small little bump in the road or things aren’t great—I just haven’t personally experienced through our hundreds of thousands of readers at this point and the thousands and thousands of stories that we’ve read that marriages that are 87% or even 75% are having to be convinced not to get divorced and are having to be convinced that he’s still an okay human being.  It’s the women who are at 40%.  And you have to ask who is reading these websites, right?  Who is reading the idea that your husband isn’t perfect, but it will be okay?  Are they the people—first of all, if it is someone where it’s like you’re fundamentally good people, you’ve just got a problem.  Let’s take mental load because it’s just a super easy one.  Okay?  And it’s so freaking common.  If you’re someone where your marriage is pretty good but you’re carrying all the mental load and you’re getting burnt out and exhausted, that can destroy a marriage.  Then is the answer to tell her, “He’s a sinner, but you’re a sinner.  And he’s growing, and you’re no better than him.  And you don’t know what’s best either.  You don’t.”  Or is the answer to be like, “Oh, have you guys heard of the fair play work?  Have you heard of mental load?  Have you figured this out?”  What purpose does an article like this have other than to tell women, “Sweetie, oh sweetie, you’re making so many problems for everyone else because remember.  You don’t matter.  You don’t matter.  Just keep married because you don’t matter.”  And they’re not giving her any practical tools to change anything.  They’re not saying, “He’s a Christian.  He should want to be better.  Have you thought of an accountability group for this?  Think about the problem that you have.  Can you identify four or five other couples who may have gone through this and who have gotten through the other side?  Can you talk to them?  Can you make a support group?”  Nothing like that.


Sheila: Do you know what boundaries are?  Can you set boundaries?  Yeah.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Is it something that has research based on it?  Have you considered looking at the research?  Nothing like that.  It’s just, “He’s growing, sweet pumpkin.  He’s growing.  Just keep praying, my sweet pumpkin.”

Sheila: Yeah.  And this is where the Jesus way comes in.  And this is the big takeaway that I want.  I know that we’ve analyzed this article a lot, and we’ve spent a lot of time on it.      

Rebecca: Sorry.

Sheila: But this is the big take away that I want us all to take is this.  Jesus is the truth which means we’re allowed to tell the truth about our marriage.  And any advice that tells you to ignore the truth, to ignore your common sense, to ignore what is in front of your eyes is not of Jesus.  What this advice is doing is it’s gas lighting women.  It’s telling you what you’re seeing isn’t actually happening, and you’re misunderstanding everything.  And that’s not the way it actually is.  Jesus doesn’t gas light us.  Jesus says it’s okay to tell the truth because we can’t solve anything until we can name it.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And, again, if this article was talking about how to figure out if what you’re looking at is a good thing to be stressed about or an overreaction and it were actual steps, let’s talk about it.  Let’s figure this out.  That would be something different too because sometimes we are perfectionists for ourselves and others.  Sometimes we’re burnt out, and so we have unrealistic expectations.  Right?  Sometimes you’re in a couple where both of you are giving 100%, but life is just asking for 130 from each of you.  And so you’re going to let 60% drop.  And that’s not fair.  And sometimes that happens.  But this isn’t addressing that.  It’s not offering any hope.  It’s not offering any help.  And it’s not teaching you how to acknowledge truth.  It’s saying just shut down that still, quiet voice.  Bury your talents because God is a harsh God.  That’s what it says.  And remember?  In the parable of the talents, the servant, who buried his talent, comes humbly towards God saying, “I know that you are a harsh master, and so I buried the talent to make sure it was not stolen and here.”  And God is like, “You know I’m so harsh?”  How is this not teaching women—you’re not more righteous than him.  You’re still a despicable, horrible worm.  He’s growing.  You don’t know anything.  How is that saying God is a harsh master?  Bury that talent, or He’s going to burn you.  How is this not giving that impression to women?  How is this not encouraging them to live a life of fear of God?  If you’re a woman who is going to Desiring God because you are married to a man who is sucking the life out of you, who is just absolutely—again, we know that women in bad marriages—they have worse health outcomes.  They die earlier.  We saw a study about that come out in the last two years.  Their mental health rates are through the roof.  It’s not good for women to be in bad marriages.  So you have one of these women coming here.  And what are they told about God?  They’re told God is looking at her who is being just, again, used and—

Sheila: No.  God is looking at this woman, whose husband is an alcoholic.

Rebecca: Yeah.  This is the example she gives.

Sheila: Or a drug abuser.  Or is a chronic porn user.  Or is having one night stands and affairs.  Or—  

Rebecca: Is proud, harsh, impatient.

Sheila: Yeah.  Is not doing any work around the house and saying, “You are not more righteous than he is.”

Rebecca: You’re no better than him.

Sheila: You’re no better than him even though he’s cheating on you, even though he’s an alcoholic, or a drug addict.  You’re no better than him.  And you don’t know what’s best for him.

Rebecca: Yeah.  You don’t have a right to have a voice here.  You don’t have a right to have a thought.  That just to me—that is the master that—that is the God that the servant with one talent believes he was serving.  But he wasn’t.  And women, you are not serving a harsh and cruel God.  You are serving a God, who wants you to have the freedom to go forth and use what He has given you to make more, to experience life and life abundant.  And this?  This is utter crap.

Sheila: Yeah.  It is.  And so what would it look like going forward if instead of focusing on chain of command marriage and maintaining the right power, we focused on a revolutionary idea from Jesus which is what does it look like to live sacrificially in community.  And what does it look like to turn the world on its head and knock down the walls that are dividing us and say, “Hey, I want to live with humility and service.  But at the same time, I’m not going to shy away from truth”?    

Rebecca: Yeah.  Humility.  Not false humility.  No.  Service, not whatever this is.

Sheila: Because we don’t fix anything.  Jesus wants wholeness and health.  And we do not achieve wholeness and healthy by telling lies.  We achieve wholeness and health by living in Christ, who is the truth.  And it is okay to tell the truth to yourself, to others, about your marriage.  It is okay to admit to yourself where things are going right and where things are going wrong.  Because when we do tell the truth, we open up the door for Jesus to do His work.  When we tell the truth and, at the same time, we are submitting to Jesus.  We are walking in humility.  We are walking in love with truth.  We open the door to healing.  And so we need both of those pieces.  And that’s what we’re going to be looking at.  Next week we’re going to be looking at telling the truth in how we talk about marriage.  And we’re going to be answering the question do complementarians really have better marriages.  There’s been a lot of stuff on this while we’ve been on vacation because of a new book that’s out.  And we’re going to get super data driven, and we’re going to have some fun with that one.  We’re going to be telling the truth about the Barbie movie.  I haven’t seen it yet because we were on vacation.  And now we have COVID.  But I really want to go so that we can talk about the Barbie movie and so many other fun things coming up.  But we’re so glad that you have joined us for this new season of the Bare Marriage podcast.  I invite you to go on to baremarriage.com where the two things that we talked about today are actually up in posts that went up this week.  So I’ll put links to those in the podcast notes.  And, again, we just would love you to join our more exclusive community, our patron group, where you can support our research and support what we do for as little as $5 a month and get access to our exclusive Facebook group and some amazing unfiltered podcasts.  And that’s often where I just vent, and I also share my thinking often before I write posts to see what other people say.  And we just have a great time there.  So you can check us out at patreon.com/baremarriage.  And thanks so much.  And we will see you again next week.  Bye-bye.

Rebecca: See ya.  

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Jo R

    So, once again, men are completely excused from living out all the “one another” verses and the “this is how Christians ought to be, think, and act” passages when the other person in the interaction is their wives.

    I’m waiting for the article addressed to men about how THEY are wrong to have expectations in marriage. When will DG be putting out that teaching?

  2. Nathan

    When will that happen? At the same time that certain singers, who constantly sing about the need for a loyal, faithful and true wife, will also sing about husbands ought to be faithful, too.

    This happens most often in country and gospel, but it shows up in other genres, too.

  3. Nessie

    ‘What if we stop focusing on a Christian marriage and started focusing on just what it looks like to be a Christian in your marriage.” -Rebecca
    Yes, please! That would simplify and improve pretty much everything!
    I wonder if most of the situations in the Bible are the “How not to” versions because, as Jesus said, He did not come for the well but the unwell. Healthier-looking marriages like Aquila and Priscilla’s seem to get a passing glance compared to the other marriages you see highlighted. And if Jesus came for the unwell, shouldn’t most of our resources address the unwell also? Giving caveats for the bad parts with no further explanation is the opposite of how Jesus did things.

    And I’m totally tracking with Rebecca’s reasoning that her parenting looks much different “on paper” than in real life.

  4. Wild Honey

    GREAT podcast to start off the new season, and excited at the direction you’ve chosen!

    You know, something that I simply don’t understand with Desiring God (and others) is HOW MUCH they emphasize the everyday believer’s need to be in the Bible regularly and well-versed in scripture, but then they go and take things WILDLY out of context. Like the Ephesians bit that Rebecca read. You’d think that they’d have higher standards for themselves if they thought people were actually reading their Bibles.

    Hope Keith starts feeling better soon!

  5. Laura

    Welcome back, Sheila and Rebecca!

    I enjoyed the podcast. Biblical marriage? “That’s a loaded question!” Love it! “Biblical” does not mean the same thing to everyone. When I hear the term “biblical,” I think it means something that was written in the Bible. Then what “Bible” are we talking about? The Protetestant version which has 66 books, the Catholic version which has more than 66 books, the Gnostic Bible, what about the former books of the Bible like the Book of Enoch that are not part of the current canon? Then there’s different language translations and many English-language translations? The next time a friend talks about wanting to have a “biblical” marriage or claims to have a “biblical” marriage, I’ll say, “Biblical is a loaded term.” I also want to go on and say, “There were all kinds of “biblical” marriages such as polygamy, marrying your rapist (ex. Bathsheba), sex-slave tryouts (Esther among many of the other maidens for the pagan King Xerxes), marrying a relative (Sarah and Abraham were half-siblings), etc. So, I do NOT want a biblical marriage; I want a Jesus at the center marriage!

  6. Lisa Johns

    I have been thinking much lately about my own desire for a “biblical” (i.e. “christian”) marriage, and the advice given to women with passive husbands who wanted to “build up” their husbands and turn them into awesome brave men who would fight the world for their wives and families. The advice I read? You got it. SEDUCE YOUR HUSBAND! Give him awesome sex and he will become what you want him to be!!
    The thing is, this advice landed with me not because I grew up in a christian home (I did not), but because of stuff I had read during high school from decidedly secular sources. The whole idea that men are sex monsters who are constantly questing and never stop thinking about it came, for me, from Alfred Kinsey, and was backed up by the pornographic romance novels my mother kept around the house. (Talk about a BAD place to get your sex ed!)
    A quick google search of Kinsey and his methods will show you the obvious problems with the conclusions that were drawn in our culture.
    The thing is, Eggerichs, FOTF, and apparently everyone else in those circles accepted that same information, and it became mainstream. So these guys got their information — not from the Bible nor from godly and compassionate teachings — but from a researcher who could credibly be accused of voyeurism and pedophilia, at the very least. And they are now perpetuating quasi-information that was obtained in ways that would NEVER be biblically condoned.

    • Lisa Johns

      Sorry, I think that slightly deviated from the article you were deconstructing! But it has been on my mind. Then this morning I read about Mark Driscoll’s latest rantics… 🤦‍♀️🤢

      • Jo R



      • Angharad

        He sounds totally unhinged. Which I kind of hope he is, because if he’s sane, that’s even scarier.

        • Lisa Johns

          It’s scary that his unhinged-ness is so “OK” in some “christian “ circles!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      VERY true!

  7. Phil

    Here is what the discussion in the podcast did for me: Probably about 12 years ago I was sponsoring a guy in my 12 step program who knew the bible well. I did not but was interested in his knowledge and quized him a lot. What I wanted was a summary of the bible. Reason? Laziness so I didnt have to read it. Several yeas later he gave me a bible summary book which I would call Cliff notes of the bible (Coles notes in Canada). It is called Manna and Mercy. Really cool quick summary of the bible in ~100 pgs. While that was super helpful. The bottom line is you still need to study the bible to understand it all.

    I recall having an exchange here on the blog with a woman regarding complementarians or other power driven type thought process thinking people (assume male) who say we need to listen to Paul as an argument to the interpretations of headship and hierarchy, and all that mess. My response to her? Jesus is my savior not Paul.

    The podcast discussion helped me put more pieces of the puzzle together regarding the bible organization and meaning/purpose into formidable language. What I came up with is the Gospel tell is about Jesus. Complimentarians dont fight/disagree with egalitarians over the Gospel interpretation but rather what Paul wrote in his letters which is directed by Jesus…this is where I like Romans 8 which in summary says LIVE BY THE SPIRIT. So if what Paul wrote was directed by Jesus then Jesus said LIVE BY THE SPIRIT. Not just Jesus is the Spirit but Jesus lived the Spirit as an example to us. Live by the Spirit of the Gospel. Live like Jesus. WWJD? Thats why I love Romans 8. For me it is the FINAL argument to any power tripping complimentarian or any other power tripping person. Maybe I am just rambling to some or all here but I picked some fruit of the tree here and at least in my mind, I now have a better understanding of the bible and can verbalize such…for that I am thankful.

    As for other musings – as I continue to listen to Andy Stanley who totally gives me biblical perspective beyond my thinking abilities…he does this wonderful thing. He gives Jesus life. Or what we would call a personality. He will take a verse and tease it out and put an image to it so “people can touch it”. He will open with – “Imagine Jesus standing there…and he SMILES and says”… or imagine Jesus looks over at Peter and LAUGHS…. and Andy goes on to describe how Jesus spoke and he gives description of the possible tone of Jesus and how he might have been looking at the people or how he might have been thinking. He gives scene settings and possible descriptions of what is happening that is not described in the scripture to give Jesus life.

    For me, I cant have a relationship with Jesus by just reading scripture. It is dry and in many cases somewhat like the pictures in Italy described in the podcast. Baby, Baptized, Dead.

    For me – This method is one of the ways in which I have a relationship with Jesus. I can then carry this to my marriage…

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I love that, Phil! I often picture Jesus laughing. He laughed so much, it seems to me, when you read the gospel stories. But we never see Him that way!

      • Phil

        Well Sheila – can I offer a different perspective? I think we do see him that way – it is through people. Good Jesus loving and growing people. That is where we see Jesus. Maybe we think we never see him that way (and I do think that is what you meant in your reply) but we do see him…we just tend to not recognize it. We see him smile and laugh and cry, grieve and express joy and give love and be of service and he even shows us how to do life. The facts are in the bible. The life of Jesus is in people.(who choose it) I wrote a comment a few days ago where I describe being molested by my Youth Pastor at our church but still being able to see Jesus…maybe not right at that moment but today (chills just went up my spine), I reflect and see people from my church: Carol and David, Kenny and Doris, Skip & Elda Mae, Joe and Elsie, John and Ruth, Les and Nancy, Ralph and Edith, Frank and Millie, Eddie, Candy, Ruth, Lois, and Clarabelle and these are just to name a few!-I bet that list is 10 times longer. That was Jesus showing his face to me even in the darkness of that time. Is that not so totally awesome? I think it is off the charts 😁

  8. EOF

    This episode was amazing! I need to listen to it again to really process it. So much good stuff!

  9. Susannah Cragwick

    Hello from Finland. My husband and I really enjoyed this episode. Through the article from Desiring God that you analyzed, we could see the sad truth that women have not only been taught to be silent, but that their needs and desires do not matter. As I was growing up, my dad constantly disrespected my mom and used the fact that he was the financial provider to shame her and not involve her in major decisions and to ignore her voice. Part of her healing process has been finding the freedom to discover her wants and needs. When we’ve been told for so long either directly or indirectly that we do not matter, we can sometimes lose the ability to define what we want and need. I love what Rebecca said about instead of having a Christian marriage, being a Christian in your marriage. As we operate in Christ centered love for each other, we not only bring each other closer to Christ, but also closer to truly knowing ourselves. To know we deserve to have a voice and that our wants and needs matter is healing.

  10. Amy

    As always, I am thankful for your content. Would you be willing to explain why you hold Rachel Held Evans in high esteem? It surprised me that you are promoting a book she wrote when she didn’t seem to believe Scripture as inspired, inerrant or the basis for science.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Amy, did you read the quotes? I thought they were brilliant!

  11. Jenni Bobicz

    I think the author is confusing expectations with standards. We should not EXPECT our husbands to be perfect. Meaning, we won’t be shocked and surprised when they slip up. However, we still have STANDARDS about what behavior is acceptable, and when he violates standards important to our well-being, we absolutely have reason to feel hurt and/or angry, and we need to communicate that the standard is important (or non-negotiable, depending on which standard was violated). Then we might need to offer support and assistance in remedying the problem or we might need to enforce a boundary (ie he needs to get therapy, one of us moves out, etc, depending on the severity of the violation).

    But the author is using the expectation that no one is perfect to coerce wives to ignore his problematic behavior. She is saying wives don’t have a right to have standards.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, exactly! And if we don’t have the right to have standards, then we don’t have the right to draw boundaries either.

  12. Rebekah A

    “What if we stop focusing on a Christian marriage and started focusing on just what it looks like to be a Christian in your marriage.” -Rebecca

    That was so good for me too. I have a good caring husband, who shows so many fruits of the spirit, but he’s had no interest in church or overt Christian practices for maybe 10 years. That sounds too long but it might be true. I was gutted when I first realized it no longer seemed to mean anything, and it’s hurt over time that my expectations or hopes didn’t happen. But! So many things are unexpected. We also had Christian marriage and s3x books given during engagement that certainly didn’t help us, and but I’ve always known he cares about my pleasure and sees me as an equal partner, and we finally learned how to please us both. I’m so thankful he’s not the “leader” those books talk about.


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