faith, marriage

Perpetuating Abuse in the Name of Submission

A few weeks ago, I wrote an open letter to an abusive man. It was a written to a composite person, representing multiple people I have known over the last few decades.

It was my most popular post yet –but also my most controversial.

Dozens of women wrote or commented the first day it was posted saying that they wished someone had said these things before, that why hadn’t the church addressed these issues which, along with my desire to encourage women married to that kind of man, was exactly the point of my original post.

A small portion of my readers, responded negatively, calling me “unsubmissive” or “not a Titus 2 women” for speaking out.

Now, before I go any further, I should point out that I believe in biblical submission.

I believe that I am to submit to my own husband.

By that, I do not mean that he can just walk all over me- do whatever he wants, and I can do nothing about it. I believe that, if we don’t agree on something, he has the final say in the decision. I can back this position up with scripture.

But, I also believe that the rest of scripture –which teaches how we are to interact with other Christians– also applies to two Christians who are married.

You’d better believe that if I think my husband is in sin, behaving offensively, or mistreating me, I’m going to lovingly and graciously bring it to his attention –just as I, Biblically, should any other believer –even a man.

My responsibility to my husband as a Christian sibling doesn’t go away simply because I’m married to him.

If he wouldn’t listen to me, I would definitely go to another believer, probably a father or a brother, just as outlined in scripture.

The responsibility of rebuking and correcting is not given specifically and only to men.

Nowhere in scripture does it say that women are not allowed to rebuke.

If you believe it does, I challenge you to find a New Testament chapter and verse to back it up.

I’ve done some pretty extensive searching, and I can’t find it anywhere. Not only that, I can’t even find articles trying to defend that position. They may exist, because there is all kinds of nonsense on the internet. But the articles in favor must be so obscure that Google couldn’t find it even given multiple sets of search criteria.

Let’s look at what scripture does say: a woman should remain quiet in the church servicea woman can’t teach in the church or have authority over a man in the church.

Note that both of these are issues of how a woman is to behave within a church service. Although we Christians are the church, in this passage is specifically talking about church gatherings.

In the context of these passages these verses are talking specifically about how the church is run.

Some people extend it beyond that, but honestly, you can’t back that biblically. Context is important. If Paul is talking about in the church, he means in the church.

It is dishonest to say otherwise. We cannot apply scripture any way we please.

There is another passage in which one might be able to say that Paul means women must always be silent, but a rule of Bible interpretation applies here: we use clear and specific passages to help us understand less specific passages. The passage still refers to teaching situations alluding to church just as the above passage does.

My blog is not a church service. I’m writing an online journal and letting you all read it. I’m not preaching in a church. I’m not even proclaiming myself a preacher and looking for a pulpit.

I’ll leave that to others.

If we are going to take this women-can’t-teach-any-men and women-can’t-have-authority- over-men to its logical conclusion, then a mother can’t teach her teenaged boys (technically they’re men after age 13, according to Hebrew tradition), a woman can’t be a supervisor at work –even if she’s more experienced and qualified, and a wife can’t even teach her own husband to cook or how to fold a bed sheet.

That’s just silly.

This is not what scripture is teaching.

Why does any of this matter?

It matters because the proponents of extreme submission are giving Christians a bad name.

Not only that, but they are creating environments where abuse is tolerated and giving the women trapped in abuse no recourse, nowhere to go for help.

They are rebuking other Christian women for seeking help in an abusive marriage.

Extreme submission proponents say that women must submit to all men, not just their own husbands. I even had a pastor tell me that if he disagreed with my husband, I had to obey the pastor, not my husband!

They also say that women can’t say anything negative about any men or even say that they disagree with them.

If the women do –like I did in my post– they say that they are trying to teach and have authority over men.

I know women who have been in abusive situations, and when they go to their church for prayer or help, they are told that they are not allowed to even mention that something negative has happened with their husband. They’re not even allowed to ask for prayer.

You would think that this would be happening only in the uber legalistic or fundamental churches, but I know of cases where it has happened in moderate evangelical churches.

Women in need are being shut down and turned away when they ask for help because people have twisted scripture.

Even my teenage son was able to look at this situation and observe that this extreme view of submission gives all the power to the men and leaves no way for the women to get help when they need it.

This belief is treating the men essentially like little gods –as if they were infallible.

It’s unbalanced and unbiblical.

In this post, I’m not even going to address the wrong of men who permit other men to behave this way and don’t correct them.

In their effort to seem more respectful and submissive to men, women are perpetuating abuse, perpetuating evil in the name of something good and holy.

Submission, when properly understood, helps a marriage run smoothly and honors the Lord.

When it is misunderstood, it allows sin to destroy lives.

Shame on those who perpetrate abuse in the name of submission!

Shame on you if you do this to other women.

Just as I would not stand idly by and say nothing about my Christian brothers abusing their wives, I will not sit idly by why other Christian women sin against their sisters in need.

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:17

This topic angers me; it puts a fire in my soul.

How dare extreme submission proponents taint something holy by making it evil and then say that they are holier for allowing sin to continue?

How dare those of us who see this injustice say nothing and allow this evil to continue in Jesus’ name?

How quick we are to try to correct injustices outside the church (like abortion) while ignoring injustice within our own buildings!

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!” Isaiah 5:20-21

I will not remain silent.

And, I will not be silenced by those who think they are holier for allowing sin to continue.


Sarah Forbes

P.S. While some people believe that women should be small, weak, and delicate, I believe the church and Christ need strong women of faith willing to stand for the truth. Here’s an article describing women of strength, why men should want them, and how God can use them. I firmly believe that this article is in keeping with an accurate view of Biblical womanhood. Men should want wives of strength and character –unless, of course, they are more interested in their own power than in God being glorified.


3 thoughts on “Perpetuating Abuse in the Name of Submission”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.