By Robin Mullins Senger
You probably are familiar with all the arguments for wifely submission. But did you know that the Bible offers at least 6 times a wife should NOT submit to her husband? A wife’s unquestioning submission and obedience is man-made theology – it is not from God!
Dr. Steven Tracy offers six principles regarding the parameters of female submission. There is a link to his entire paper at the end. It is well worth the entire read!
1. A wife must not submit to her husband when obedience to him would violate a biblical principle (not just a direct biblical statement).
All but the most extreme fundamentalists agree that a wife should not obey her husband if it involves violating a direct command of Scripture. But many moral issues wives face today are not directly addressed in Scripture (Internet pornography, in vitro fertilization, gambling, cosmetic surgery, abortion, sexual fetishes, etc.). If we accept the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture, then we must not restrict a woman’s right to refuse to submit to her husband to those instances in which she can cite a direct biblical statement that contradicts her husband’s command… Often a wife may not be able to point to a specific biblical text to justify her objection to her husband’s command but will only be able to appeal to her sense of the broad teachings of Scripture which she truly believes are applicable to the issue at hand.
This takes an openness to see truth that will be painful. It takes a willingness to let our deeply held beliefs and hopes come crashing down. Even though we usually don’t see it at the time, the temporary pain caused from facing truth is a doorway to life and freedom!
2. A wife must not submit to her husband when obedience to him would compromise her relationship with Christ.
We have noted that Christ, not a husband, is a Christian wife’s supreme Lord. She is Christ’s bride first and foremost. The early Christian apostles were commanded by their religious authorities to quit teaching about Christ. Their response is instructive: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)…Modern Christian wives must recognize that their first allegiance is to Christ. Their husband is neither their priest nor their lord…Hence, a husband has no right to dictate his wife’s relationship with Christ. In practical terms this means a wife should not obey her husband if he tells her not to go to church or to a Bible study, forbids her from going to a counselor, pastor, or Christian advisor, or forbids her from spending time with a trusted friend.
This was a biggie for me. I had always had a close relationship with the Lord, but the longer I clung to Brian, the more my relationship with Christ suffered. It got to the point where I realized that I wouldn’t be able to hold onto both Brian and Christ. I would have to choose one or the other. I wish I had seen it much sooner, but at least I recognized the disparity when I did. The institution of marriage must NEVER be idolized above relationship and peace with God.
3. A wife must not submit to her husband when obedience to him would violate her conscience.
Sometimes a husband will order his wife to do something that she cannot identify as patently unbiblical, and yet the behavior is internally objectionable to her. That is, it would violate her conscience. Again, based on the fact that Christ is her Lord, and based on Paul’s teaching that we must always act in faith before Christ and not violate our conscience (Romans 14:22-23), a wife should not obey a husband if doing so will violate her conscience. This principle is particularly helpful in our culture when a husband requests his wife to participate in sexual practices that she finds objectionable.
God gave you a mind, discernment and intuition. They are a gift from Him to protect and help you. There is no verse that says, Woman, upon the most holy union of marriage, you must stop thinking and turn off all your instincts and intuition. Your husband shall now be your god – you don’t need to think or feel anymore. Nope – you are still you and will always be fabulously unique beautiful you. When something is wrong, listen to yourself and honor the instincts that God gave you.
4. A wife must not submit to her husband when obedience to him would compromise the care, nurture, and protection of her children.
God calls adults to prioritize protecting and caring for the vulnerable, particularly children (Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 22:3). Care for the vulnerable, including children, is described as the purest form of religion (James 1:27). In Scripture, both fathers and mothers have a responsibility to care for their children physically and spiritually (Deuteronomy 6:4-7; Proverbs 31:10-31; Ephesians 2:7-8, 11-12). Thus, children are commanded to obey their fathers and their mothers (Proverbs 1:8; Ephesians 6:1)… We should particularly note that children innately develop their sense of God’s character from their experience with their earthly father. So children whose fathers are abusive or harsh develop distorted views of their heavenly father. Thus, if a husband is harsh, verbally abusive, or uses excessive forms of punishment (including physical abuse), a wife has a moral obligation to protect the children regardless of her husband’s requests or demands.
Think about your relationship (or not) with your earthly father. How did that affect you? I have yet to talk to a victim of spousal abuse who had a healthy affirming relationship with her earthly father. You have the power as mother to help your children through a dysfunctional relationship with their dad. For me that meant leaving Brian and it was the greatest decision I made. God put truly Godly caring men in my daughters lives who filled in the gap of an absent father. If I had to do it all over again, I would leave sooner and not waste so much time worrying about if my daughters would be okay not experiencing a toxic environment. I know that sounds ridiculous but that’s the confused reality of abuse, difficulty reasoning and making sense of things. Really – anyone is happier in an environment of peace and love.
5. A wife must not submit to her husband when obedience to him would enable (facilitate) her husband’s sin.
Not only are wives to avoid obeying a husband’s command to sin, but they should also avoid following any commands that facilitate a husband’s sin. The holiness of God requires that we not enable others to sin with greater ease
6. A wife must not submit to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
…It is thus important to recognize that enduring avoidable abuse, including at the hands of one’s authorities, is not commended biblically. Scripture affirms the wisdom and propriety of fleeing an abuser, “a prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 22:3) There are numerous biblical accounts of godly individuals who avoided physical abuse from their authorities (civic and religious) whenever possible…
Not only is it entirely biblical for a wife to flee or otherwise refuse to submit to abuse of her and her children’s physical and emotional wellbeing, but not submitting to an abusive husband is also best for the husband. Wives are to do good to their husbands (Proverbs 31:12), and one of the best ways wives of abusive husbands can do this is by challenging the abusive behavior through fleeing, filing assault charges, contacting church authorities, or by otherwise stimulating real accountability and painful consequences for the abusive behavior. Refusing to submit to abuse and instead taking action to not allow it to continue is good for the husband because: (1) this is one of the best ways to break through the abusers’ distorted thinking and stimulate repentance; (2) It decreases the temporal and eternal consequences that accrue the longer a husband abuses. In cases of unrepentant abuse, divorce may well be a tragic necessity.
God knew that some men would mistreat their wives and children. He knew that many would do it in His name, to justify their abuse and reinforce their assumed power and authority. So God did something very loving for you. He laid out what His perfect plan was for marriage, and then He laid out concessions so that victims of abuse could have a way out.
Don’t be afraid of falling out of God’s grace if you reject abuse and mistreatment, or do things to protect your children. God will help you and will honor you as you honor Him with your trust and obedience. I was reading in my Bible this morning Isaiah 30. Think about this passage and the principles as they apply to your marriage.
15 “For the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel has said this, ‘In returning to Me and rest you shall be saved, In quietness and confident trust is your strength.'”
If you read before and after, it offers a pretty depressing picture of not trusting and resting in the Lord:
12-14 “Therefore the Holy One of Israel says, ‘Because you have refused and rejected this Word of Mine and have put your trust in oppression and guile, and have relied on them, therefore this wickedness [this sin, this injustice, this wrongdoing] will be to you like a crack in a wall about to fall, a bulge in a high wall, whose collapse comes suddenly in an instant, whose collapse is like the smashing of a potter’s jar, crushed so savagely that there cannot be found among its pieces a potsherd large enough to take coals of fire from a fireplace, or to scoop water from a cistern.'”
Salvation is not promised to those who stubbornly choose to cling to “oppression and guile.” Only heartache awaits those who hold back in fear of man. God hates it and you can embrace His heart and hate it too. It’s the enemy who wants to destroy you that whispers constantly, “You will fall out of God’s grace if you leave this oppression!” That’s a lie! God says, “Daughter, you have life and death before you. Choose life that it may be well with you and your children!” (Deuteronomy 30:19)
Read a little more in Isaiah 30,
“Therefore the Lord waits expectantly and longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed, happy and fortunate are all those who long for Him, since He will never fail them.”
See that? He LONGS to be gracious to you. You are not incurring His wrath by rejecting abuse and oppression. You are coming into alignment with His heart – the result will be blessings, happiness and fortune.