#3 of 5 Mistakes the Church Makes in Regard to Abuse


2.Misapply headship and submission

There are typically 2 opposite views in the Christian world regarding headship and submission in marriage. On the one side are the egalitarians who believe there are no gender distinctions and that since we are all one in Christ, women and men are interchangeable when it comes to functional roles in leadership and in the household. The opposing view is held by those who refer to themselves as complementarians. The complementarian view believes in the essential equality of men and women as persons (i.e., as human beings created in God’s image), but complementarians hold to gender distinctions when it comes to functional roles in society, the church and the home. (gotquestions.org)

Regardless of what side you fall on in the controversy of egalitarian vs. complementarian, it is important to realize that abuse is never ordained by God. Having power and control is never a Christian attitude or behavior. Unfortunately,  the problem arises when complementarianism is taken too far and used in spiritual abuse. Misapplying the ‘headship’ or ‘patriarchy’ teaching often runs rampant in the homes of complementarians gone wrong. The Bible is misused against a women to keep her isolated, silent and shamed into ‘obeying’ and submitting to someone who is ungodly.

That brings us to submission. Sometimes, it is easier to look at submission is the view of what it is not rather then what it is. Setting up Biblical boundaries can clarify how a wife and husband can respectfully fulfill their individual roles in marriage.


Submission does not include being agreeable to everything that your husband/wife may say or do. A husband/wife is primarily accountable to God and when your husband/wife is choosing ungodly things, you are not required to follow him/her in submission. In fact, we are called to stand up against sin, not look away and ignore it. Eph. 5:11

Submission does not include handing your brains over to someone else. It does not mean that you become a doormat to be used and bossed at the will of another. A spouse who takes the terms of headship, leadership, submission and chooses to define them according to their own wordly and selfish views instead of looking to the Bible to define what those terms mean will always see themselves as superior and the spouse as inferior setting a ready environment for abuse to exist. God created each person with freewill and the ability to make choices. God, Himself, doesn’t impose His will upon His people. Therefore, it is never His will for a husband/wife to impose their will on their spouse either.

…woman needs to be protected from such grotesque abuse, and if divorce is the only weapon to protect her, then the church should thank God such a weapon exists. ~Gary Thomas

Submission does not mean silence. God made each person to have influence in this world. Each person is made by God as a unique individual with strengths, desires, opinions and influence. He makes every person, male or female, for an intended purpose for His kingdom. If a husband/wife demands that their spouse hand their individuality over to them, they are not following Gods ideal for any person. They are disrespecting the Creator and who He created each person to be according to His plan. Being silent and prevented from using your God given influence within a marriage goes against Gods plan. He intends that a husband and wife will work together for the good of their family. This does not mean that a husband/wife is to remain silent and go along with their spouse. It means that they both have equal voice and equal choice. They are to respect each other and put one another ahead of themselves.

Submission does not mean fear and violence. Nowhere does God ever require a husband/wife to live in fear and violence in their home. Fear takes away a persons ability to choose, to think clearly and to connect with others. God calls both spouses to love.

Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Cor 15:4-7

Love is respect from both members in a marriage toward each other. Love is leadership, sometimes by the husband and sometimes by the wife. Love is submitting to one another, according to Gods word that teaches us to respect each other and deal kindly with one another. A loving marriage works to meet both partners needs as individuals and its goal is to become a united front in their marriage.

*Source: Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion   Barbara Roberts






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