Does Ephesians 5:21 teach mutual submission?

"This view of mutual submission means that a husband is not in fact called to be the leader of his family nor is a wife called to follow her husband’s leadership. So which interpretation is right?" - Denny Burk

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Joel Shaffer's picture

Having had two of my relatives that were emotionally abused by their husbands and having co-counseled with my wife (who is a licensed therapist) two different couples in our church where the husbands were emotionally abusing their wives, I can share some tangible examples of emotional abuse.  

1.  Threatening their spouse with violence or abandoning them.

2.  Socially isolating their spouse and keeping them from friends and visitors.

3.  Ordering their spouse around and treating them like a servant or a child.

4. Refusing to speak to their spouse for days on end in retaliation to something that their spouse did.

5.  Constantly putting their spouse down and making derogatory statements about them.

6.  Withholding important details or information from their spouse. 

7.   Verbal actions where the spouse is fearful for their safety.

Emotional abuse really comes down to attempting to control their spouse without actually using physical violence.  Rather the person uses emotion as his/her weapon of choice as a means of control.   At the same time, emotional abuse is not arguing with your spouse.  Emotional abuse is not speaking bluntly and honestly.  And it is not necessarily emotional abuse if one raises their voice and yells at their spouse (although I don't recommend it).  Yet I have seen people scream and yell hysterically as a way to control their spouse, which is emotional abuse.  

What I've have seen personally is that most emotional abusers are not even aware that they are emotionally abusing.  In two of the four instances, we recommended separation because the abuse was so bad. One couple reconciled, but the other couple didn't because the wife (who was being abused) began an affair and left her husband and divorced him, which eventually led to her being disciplined at their church, while the husband was repentant of his emotional abuse.   In another instance, it was intense Biblical counseling, which included convincing the husband that the Bill Gothard worldview was unbiblical and toxic.    Sadly, when one of my relatives was emotionally abused, she went to a Christian counselor and the counselor gave her statistics that showed emotional abusers rarely change.  So my niece didn't think there was any hope so she delved into the affair and refused to reconcile with her husband.  The Christian counselor gave her no hope that the gospel can change people.  However, we've seen Jesus completely change emotional abusers at our church.  One couple in our church where the husband emotionally abused his wife for two years some 5 years ago, is now counseling their married friends (whose marriages are falling apart and aren't connected to a church) and they take them on a retreat at a friend's cottage for a weekend and counsel them and begin to disciple them as part of outreach at our church.   

Jay's picture

I'd second Vernick and Langberg for sure.  I'm reading Rachael Denhollander's book now (I'm on the pre-launch team - the short review is that everyone on this site should buy and read it). Her book is extremely helpful but doesn't really get into emotional abuse per se

Here are two resources on emotional abuse that may be helpful.  I'll cite short sections from each, starting with a Psychology Today article (I'd prefer to refer to Christian materials, but I'm not aware of any resources that really get into this the way it needs to be addressed, which is a shame):

Mary is showing a distinct pattern of emotional abuse that comes at Tim from several different directions: 

1. Constant criticism or attempts to manipulate and control
2. Shaming and blaming with hostile sarcasm or outright verbal assault
3. The use of shaming and belittling language
4. Verbal abuse — name-calling 
5. Withholding affection as punishment
6. Punishment and threats of punishment
7. Refusal to accept her part in the dynamic
8. Mind games, such as gaslighting, when it comes to accepting personal responsibility for her own happiness.
9. Refusing to communicate at all
10. Isolating him from supportive friends and family

The emotional abuse cycle follows the same pattern as that of physical abuse — once the victim of emotional abuse figures out what’s going on and starts thinking about leaving or seriously calls the abuser on his actions, the abuser will suddenly become very apologetic and romantic, trying to woo her back into the fold. He will buy flowers, cook suppers, tend to the children, or whatever else he has to do to make her believe that what she thinks she saw, what she believes to be true, is actually false. No, he is a perfectly good husband or partner, and there is absolutely no reason for her to be thinking about leaving. But as soon as she comes back around and begins to trust that he will no longer emotionally abuse her, he starts back up with the same old abusive patterns. Now, it is harder for her to leave, because she has begun to believe in him again. 

Emotional abuse is a painful and serious pattern of abuse in which the primary effort is to control someone by playing with their emotions. We dumb down the implications of emotional abuse by mislabeling minor interactional issues as emotional abuse.

Here's something else from womenshealth.gov:

You may be experiencing emotional or verbal abuse if someone:

  • Wants to know what you’re doing all the time and wants you to be in constant contact
  • Demands passwords to things like your phone, email, and social media and shows other signs of digital abuse
  • Acts very jealous, including constantly accusing you of cheating
  • Prevents or discourages you from seeing friends or family
  • Tries to stop you from going to work or school
  • Gets angry in a way that is frightening to you
  • Controls all your finances or how you spend your money
  • Stops you from seeing a doctor
  • Humiliates you in front of others
  • Calls you insulting names (such as “stupid,” “disgusting,” “worthless,” “whore,” or “fat”)
  • Threatens to hurt you, people you care about, or pets
  • Threatens to call the authorities to report you for wrongdoing
  • Threatens to harm himself or herself when upset with you
  • Says things like, “If I can’t have you, then no one can”
  • Decides things for you that you should decide (like what to wear or eat)

If anyone has other resources, please share them!

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jay's picture

In the case of marriage, kids see, and friends see.  The process, as I understand it, would involve determining whether physical or emotional abuse occurred, and then determining a path out--and whether that would involve counseling, separation, or even divorce would be determined in that process, using outside experts as necessary.

Side note: I am fully aware that this view of mine makes many people cringe, and reasonably so, because so many churches have made a total hash of the process of church discipline per Matthew 18 and other passages. 

I've seen way too many all-knowing pastors / deacons / etc buy into the fakery and go after the surviving spouse under the guise of 'he's got to be a godly leader / man' or 'you need to submit' or 'you're just being too hard on him and need to stop complaining' to agree with any blanket 'the church needs to automatically jump in and fix everything' statements that are made.  Thanks for explaining what I could not, Bert.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

GregH wrote:

For me, emotional abuse is not just fighting but is a form of control that substantially damages the victim's capacity to operate/think normally.

But you see, this is exactly what would be claimed by the woman I know that left Christianity.  Her parents' control and "indoctrination" of Christian teaching has damaged her capacity to operate and think normally (as she sees it).  I don't know that she'd go so far as to claim "Stockholm syndrome," but it certainly seems her mindset is approaching that.  If "emotional abuse" can be defined that loosely, then it can mean almost anything.

I like some of the additional detail given by other posters, but some of those would still be hard to prove or disprove.  It's definitely a hard question, but one that must be worked through.  Without that work being done, it will be hard for churches and pastors to judge rightly, and they can't just accept any claim of emotional abuse at face value without some amount of corroborating evidence.

Dave Barnhart

M. Osborne's picture

GregH wrote:

No, I really did not mean what you might have hoped me to mean. I think a person who is emotionally abused is justified in leaving her marriage regardless of whether the church verifies it or not. The church does not have the power to force people to be married. Of course, they can throw her out if they wish if she decides to take care of her emotional health; I would say that she is better off if they do.

In other words, it is an individual decision that a person has to make and live with. I don't know many church leaders that I would feel comfortable with making that decision for someone else. Maybe they would fit on one hand in fact. 

I've been reading the discussion with interest. Greg, in light of what you've said, I'd be interested to get your take on the Westminster Confession 24.6.

Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage: yet, nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage: wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills, and discretion, in their own case.

Do you believe marriage is a private or public institution? Do the church and state have any role in promoting and preserving a marriage and preventing frivolous or unwarranted divorce...? How would this be similar to or different from their role (if they have one) of protecting those victimized within a marriage?

Oh, and for the record: I interpret "willful desertion" in the WCF loosely enough to allow for constructive desertion; that is, there are cases where one spouse makes cohabitation impossible and has effectively deserted the other spouse. But my question focuses on what roles outside parties have, if any, of speaking into such situations.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Bert Perry's picture

Jay wrote:

<my comment snipped>

I've seen way too many all-knowing pastors / deacons / etc buy into the fakery and go after the surviving spouse under the guise of 'he's got to be a godly leader / man' or 'you need to submit' or 'you're just being too hard on him and need to stop complaining' to agree with any blanket 'the church needs to automatically jump in and fix everything' statements that are made.  Thanks for explaining what I could not, Bert.

The way I'd phrase this phenomenon is that people in general, and probably fundagelicals in particular, tend to defer to authority figures and males excessively.  One big reason we often make a hash of Matthew 18 proceedings.  

One other note is that this comment of Jay's (the bolded parts) describe one response to being confronted well; it's called "love bombing."  The flip side to this--I don't think anyone would say it's easy who understands it at all--is that when someone misleadingly alleges emotional abuse, the natural response of the accused is to show kindness to her--sometimes strengthening the view that it's actual abuse when it's not.  (again, real story close to me)

All in all, a lot of it comes down to simply asking for details.  In the case Dave mentions, why does the young person say it's emotional abuse?  What categories does her experience fit, or not?  Do the parents or others corroborate that story?  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jay's picture

Oh, and for the record: I interpret "willful desertion" in the WCF loosely enough to allow for constructive desertion; that is, there are cases where one spouse makes cohabitation impossible and has effectively deserted the other spouse. But my question focuses on what roles outside parties have, if any, of speaking into such situations.

Yes, I've seen this as well and agree with the WCF here.  As an example, the husband gives the wife an allowance or budget for necessities like clothing or groceries, but the remaining balance of his pay is his and is to be used at his discretion.  This explains why a family that should be doing well has family members with fraying and worn out clothing but can afford expensive hobbies or toys.  It's not as simple as having the right priorities, although that plays a role as well.

I agree with the WCF - there are times where a person has 'left' the marriage but refuses to actually move out.  I've seen multiple cases that where the husband(s) had adulterous relationships but insisted that he's not leaving until his wife becomes more submissive or whatever.  These kinds of situations get morally dark very quickly and almost inevitably involve pornography and other forms of deviancy.  A few have been criminal in nature.

Like I said, this is a tough, tough field.  A lot of this goes back to aberrant and unbiblical understandings of authority and leadership.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

GregH's picture

M. Osborne wrote:

I've been reading the discussion with interest. Greg, in light of what you've said, I'd be interested to get your take on the Westminster Confession 24.6.

Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage: yet, nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage: wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills, and discretion, in their own case.

Do you believe marriage is a private or public institution? Do the church and state have any role in promoting and preserving a marriage and preventing frivolous or unwarranted divorce...? How would this be similar to or different from their role (if they have one) of protecting those victimized within a marriage?

Oh, and for the record: I interpret "willful desertion" in the WCF loosely enough to allow for constructive desertion; that is, there are cases where one spouse makes cohabitation impossible and has effectively deserted the other spouse. But my question focuses on what roles outside parties have, if any, of speaking into such situations.

To start, I am wary of historical positions on divorce both in and out of the church. I think this area is one where society has grown and improved. That is especially true in regards to women's rights regarding divorce. So the fact that the WCF is a few centuries old is not necessarily a good thing.

The truth is, in the Bible, I just don't see any evidence that people should be making marital decisions for other people. Did it happen on a rare basis? Yes. A lot of wacky things happened in the Bible. But you just don't see that kind of thing in a prescriptive way. In the case of divorce, it seemed to be a civil thing at least in the OT but you get the idea it was almost like rubber-stamping. So, the church's assuming the role of granting divorces is in my opinion as extra-Biblical as it would be for them to assume the role of telling people who they can marry in the first place. (In fact, to be consistent, I am not sure that you can have one without the other.) Note I am not saying all divorce is OK. I am just saying it is not a decision the church has the right to make for someone.

On a practical level, there is a need for civil involvement at least in our society. How far a civil government should go in holding together marriages and protecting them from frivolous dissolution is hard to say but I would say that they should lean toward leniency. It simply is not easy to prove spousal abuse in all cases. If a woman (or man) feels they are in an abusive relationship but cannot prove it because the spouse is just to slick or controlling, neither a church nor a civil government should be trying to keep that marriage together.

Also on a practical level, I have fully lost confidence in the ability of almost all churches to handle these situations well. In fact, I suspect they make things worse most of the time, normally because they are fooled by the abuser. Hundreds of emails in my inbox lead me to that conclusion. There are exceptions of course but most churches simply do not have the expertise to do this.

So again, I believe that if someone is in an abusive situation, she needs to get out regardless of what her church tells her. If they discipline her and/or dump spiritual abuse on her, she needs to leave the church and shake the dust off her feet.

dmyers's picture

GregH:  Yesterday you said the following about my reaction to your position:

GregH wrote:

I make no apology for what I said. Your words are dishonest and ungracious in your representation of what I said. However, it is not hard to see through the emotion of your writing and guess that you have been personally impacted by these things. For that reason, I have no ill will.

Today, you've elaborated on your position and thereby confirmed even more explicitly that I described your position and your attitude toward scripture and the church accurately.

I'm blessed to be a member of a church (and a denomination) that takes the Bible seriously regarding divorce and church discipline (which, by the way, means the whole process, not just the negative sanctions that may or may not be necessary).  The elders of our congregations love the church members enough to try to save and strengthen their marriages and their souls.  Whether a contemplated divorce is mutual or unilateral and regardless of what are the asserted grounds for the divorce, the elders try -- with much prayer, humility, love, and grace -- to bring the sinning, selfish spouse(s) to repentance and obedience.  Sometimes the process saves a marriage without anyone else in the church knowing anything about it.  Sometimes one or both spouses are obstinate.  In the most recent case in our local church, the husband wanted out and wouldn't even engage in any conversation with any church member or leader unless the person promised not to try to talk him out of it.  His attitude never changed, he persisted in the divorce, refused to engage in any part of the "discipline" process, and ultimately was excommunicated.  The excommunication was explicitly for the purpose of bringing him back to God (and the church), per 1 Cor. 5:5.  Thanks to him, his children will now perpetually bounce back and forth between two households, probably with multiple girlfriends, boyfriends, and eventually step-parents, along with a whole host of other difficulties as to which they have no fault and no control -- which should grieve your soul, Greg, enough to actually stand against it.  The husband in this case was quite public (on social media, of course) about how mean the church was to him.  But there's no question that the church did the right thing -- and every other married member saw firsthand that the church isn't going to give a spouse a pass on their marriage vows and abandon the young ones to their parents' selfishness without a fight.  We are not the world -- or at least we're not supposed to be.  "Feelings" don't cut it.

GregH's picture

dmyers wrote:

Today, you've elaborated on your position and thereby confirmed even more explicitly that I described your position and your attitude toward scripture and the church accurately.

You are an attorney I believe and should know that words matter. There is a difference between saying the Bible does not address something and "bragging about rejection of the Bible" as you have now twice claimed I have done. I think you know the difference, which makes me question your honestly. I am sorry you obviously are emotional about this issue but that does not give you the right to be dishonest.

Bert Perry's picture

Greg, I'd be interested in how you apply Matthew 18.  I'd agree that Scripture doesn't specifically, as you say, tell us to "make marital decisions for other people", but it does appear that there is precedent for the church participating in addressing the sins of members--which per Matthew 5, would seem to include unwarranted divorce.  Tell me that the church messes this up in a lot of/most cases, I'm with you 100%.  Tell me the church seriously needs to up its game, amen and halleluiah.  Tell me the endeavor needs to be abandoned altogether....well, ya just lost me.  Would like to hear you out on this.

My position is that yes, prosecutable offenses ought to be referred for prosecution, but that the church does need to address the sins of her members.  To do otherwise more or less imposes a punishment without an authoritative reason to repent, and it does so in such a way that can actually induce victims to jump out of the frying pan into the fire--domestic abuse is far worse among singles and the divorced than among the married by a factor of 2 or 3.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dmyers's picture

So do you have a substantive response to the dozen or so sentences in the second paragraph of my comment above, or just an ad hominem response to the single-sentence first paragraph?

I do know that words matter, so I also know the difference between being dishonest about your position and describing it in my own words (which apparently have hurt your feelings).  It would be dishonest for me to quote you as having said something you didn't, or to twist your words into meaning the opposite of what I knew you to mean.  I didn't do that; you know it, as does anyone else who reads our discussion, regardless of which of us they tend to agree with.  I honestly described what I honestly believe your position boils down to and where it leads.  You're free to disagree with my conclusions.  But rather than respond on the merits to my description and detailed criticism, you have twice now avoided any discussion of the merits by falsely claiming dishonesty on my part.  You've also twice tried to minimize my points by assuming I'm so biased by personal experience that I'm disqualified from contributing to the discussion, which allows you simply to dismiss my points.  (Are you contending that you have absolutely no personal experience touching on this topic, so you can be completely academic about it?)  Common tactics in our social media age, but beneath this forum.

You've been confronted repeatedly (by me and by others here) with scripture, long-standing creedal language, and personal pastoral experience that contradicts your oh-so-enlightened carelessness about divorce.  If you want to withdraw from the field, you're free to do so.  But don't hide behind ad hominem attacks and supposed emotional superiority.  

Your bio here at SharperIron provides no details, so I'm curious:  how is it that you have "seen" so much and had "hundreds" of emails, etc. that forms the basis of your authority to be "wary of historical positions on divorce . . . in . . . the church" and to sweepingly indict churches as "most of the time" and "normally . . . fooled by the abuser"?  Perhaps you actually have a role in life that makes you personally privy to so much on-point information, but I'm not aware of what that is.  It would be helpful to know.

By the way, scripturally, there is no such thing as "women's rights regarding divorce" any more than there is such a thing as men's rights regarding divorce.  Your writings leave the impression of being way too impressed with secular feminist and sociological thought (not to mention chronological snobbery) and way too unimpressed with scripture and the demonstrated wisdom of our forbears.

 

Bert Perry's picture

Dmyers, that's a bunch of attacks on Greg for a guy supposedly denouncing ad hominem attacks. 

Let's be out with it: you're a divorced man who's seen the inside of the divorce industry from a legal standpoint as well.  You know that perjury in divorce proceedings is common and almost always unpunished, making modern family law just a little bit crueler than the Torah punishment for adultery.  At least the person who was stoned had the stoning stop when he was dead.  On the flip side, Greg has interacted with some number of abuse victims, and has written about it on his personal site.  He's seen a good part of the cruelty done that way by people who know well how to "play" each other.

I'm the child of divorced parents where abuse was involved.  I've been to Parents without Partners meetings that functioned basically as singles bars, where divorced parents sank lower and lower with each failed relationship.  I've been in the room where the church tried and failed to mediate problems.  I've listened as friends and relatives recited the abuses of family law.

Both sides of this argument are real and valid to a degree.  No need to take potshots here.  I think there's a need to avoid absolutism on either side--a full acceptance of the Duluth Model on one side, or a full acceptance of the claims of mens' rights advocates on the other.  There are real and wrong reasons for divorce, and there are real and false accusations of abuse.  Any tool can be abused here.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

GregH's picture

dmyers wrote:

So do you have a substantive response to the dozen or so sentences in the second paragraph of my comment above, or just an ad hominem response to the single-sentence first paragraph?

I do know that words matter, so I also know the difference between being dishonest about your position and describing it in my own words (which apparently have hurt your feelings).  

Just a quick note: you have not hurt my feelings. I do sympathize with your position to an extent. I am well aware that some abuse allegations are false. I am however not comfortable with the emotion and vitriol and I don't think you are trying very hard to understand anything I say so I am going to pass on further dialogue with you on this.

GregH's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Greg, I'd be interested in how you apply Matthew 18.  I'd agree that Scripture doesn't specifically, as you say, tell us to "make marital decisions for other people", but it does appear that there is precedent for the church participating in addressing the sins of members--which per Matthew 5, would seem to include unwarranted divorce.  Tell me that the church messes this up in a lot of/most cases, I'm with you 100%.  Tell me the church seriously needs to up its game, amen and halleluiah.  Tell me the endeavor needs to be abandoned altogether....well, ya just lost me.  Would like to hear you out on this.

My position is that yes, prosecutable offenses ought to be referred for prosecution, but that the church does need to address the sins of her members.  To do otherwise more or less imposes a punishment without an authoritative reason to repent, and it does so in such a way that can actually induce victims to jump out of the frying pan into the fire--domestic abuse is far worse among singles and the divorced than among the married by a factor of 2 or 3.  

It seems to me that the list of sins that qualify for church discipline are few and quite arbitrary. I would guess that the two of us have a few billion sins between us and a lot of decades in church but no church discipline. So a first question is why divorce even makes the list? That is not meant to be a solid argument but on the other hand, it is inconsistent to say that divorce needs to be handled that way when few if any other more common sins are (I am not implying divorce is always a sin).

I do want to draw a distinction though between what a church does and what a victim does. If a church wants to do church discipline without knowing what is going on, piling spiritual abuse on top of marital abuse, that is their right. But that is where their power ends; they do not have the right to make binding decisions about someone's marriage.

If my daughter is the victim in a church that pulls out church discipline on her, I am going to counsel her to get out of there as fast as she can and don't look back. With a clear conscience. This is really simple: if church leaders tell someone to do something idiotic that endangers them (like keep living with an abuser and just try to submit harder), that victim can/should ignore that advice and stay safe.

dmyers's picture

I think GregH has demonstrated that he has no understanding of church discipline either.  Enough said.

Larry's picture

Moderator

It seems to me that the list of sins that qualify for church discipline are few and quite arbitrary.

Where is this list?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

One of the quandaries of these proposed situations is which party gets the 'innocent until proven guilty' designation. If you believe that we should always come down on the side of authority, then you are going to be predisposed to think the husband is acting appropriately. If you believe that the victim should always receive the benefit of the doubt, then you are going to expect the husband to prove his behavior falls within Biblical parameters.

When I say 'everything rises and falls on leadership' (ht: John Maxwell) it's not meant to make leadership roles a dumping ground for abuse any more than being a follower would. But the responsibility to lead Biblically falls on the leader, not the follower. So I think we have to establish what the husband's leadership in the home is supposed to look like before we can intelligently discuss what submission is supposed to look like.

I hope that is a more succinct explanation of the point I want to address. I've heard about how a wife should submit ad nauseum, but other than a brief reading and reiteration of the verses addressing husbands, I've never heard clear cut guidelines for what is and isn't an appropriate use of authority in the home. I've heard plenty of jokes about what it looks like, but nothing that actually challenges men to be spiritual leaders.

What I've mostly seen is authority used to control a woman's appearance, spending, social life, and household tasks. What I seldom see is the use of that authority to model the fruits of the Spirit or encourage the wife to develop her spiritual gifts to their full potential.

That's not to say that I haven't seen young men hornswoggled into marrying a 'good Christian girl' with virtuosity oozing from every pore, only to find that once she's out from under the authority of mom and dad, she's a witch on wheels. I can think of two young men right now who I grieve for constantly, one of whom took his life a couple of years ago--IMO as a direct result of the young woman whose actions brutalized him so thoroughly he never recovered.

Which is one of the reasons I think authoritarian approaches to parenting can be very dangerous, because if young people are never given enough rope to make some decisions on their own (especially girls), you will never, ever see where their heart is at. The person who finds out will be their future spouse.

End of rabbit trail.

I want to come back to "What I seldom see is the use of that authority to model the fruits of the Spirit or encourage the wife to develop her spiritual gifts to their full potential." If the example given in Eph. 5 is that the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church, then isn't that what his authority is going to be focused on? Not what time dinner is on the table, or if she wants to go bowling with some friends instead of staying home to watch football, or she wants to get a new hairstyle and buy a new dress (and for the purposes of this question, these are to be seen as generic, benign examples).

And if the husband loves his wife as he loves himself, he isn't going to expect from her what he doesn't expect from himself, right? He should not hold her to a higher standard of organization, care for home and children, financial responsibility, physical fitness, etc. I think a double standard often comes into play here; a wife who would be fine with submitting if the husband actually modeled the behaviors he wanted to see in her.

And again--bad leadership doesn't excuse bad followership and vice/versa. However and IMO, we must acknowledge that the very nature of leading and following makes it very difficult to be submissive if the leader has gone off the rails, because now the follower has to figure out when/when not to obey. And no matter what the followership acts like, the leader is tasked with aspiring to the Eph. 5 model of leadership, period.

Jay's picture

There's a podcast available today by Julie Roys titled "How Should Churches Minister to Abused Women"; it may be helpful to some of the readers here.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

The way I'd put your position is that given how too many churches have practiced church discipline--something Susan adds pretty well in her comment--it's no surprise that those subject to it are prone to inviting the deacons to take a long walk off a short pier, preferably one on the Niagara River within a mile or so of the Falls.  Sound about right?

I think Susan's comment also points the way out of this, as does the very root for discipline in the Scriptures, meaning primarily instruction, not punishment, and being wary of places where (in my not humble enough opinion of course) instruction has gone off the rails.  If you're not disciplining (not just punishing, training)( believers as they do, or do not, show the fruit of the Spirit and the like, all Hell will break loose when you suddenly develop an interest in their lives when they (or their spouse) files for divorce.  (exactly as you say, I believe)  Put differently, the man with no patience and an explosive temper is not going to become easier to manage when it's learned that he's also a wife beater.  The woman who's endured years of impatient leadership with an explosive temper is not going to be more amenable to church discipline when she's got a couple of shiners, either.

In other words, I'd argue that church discipline is not extensive enough, not that it's too extensive.  The way I read Matthew 18, Christ does not give a list of sins which are, or are not, subject to those provisions, and hence--with due respect to the Romans 13 king's role--the list of interactions with church leadership perhaps ought to be quite extensive.

Put differently, church leadership ain't just preachin', and if I'm understanding things correctly, the change would be great--and as I noted above, quite scary to people used to church leadership getting involved only when things got really bad.  If you did it right (fruit of the Spirit again), though, you could achieve some really neat things.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jay's picture

I knew MacArthur taught mutual submission within the marriage but didn't have the links to document it.  Thanks for pointing this out, Thomas!

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

TOvermiller's picture

Jay wrote:

Thanks for pointing this out, Thomas!

¡De nada! I was actually looking for something else, but then noticed this and recalled this past discussion.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

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