Skip to content

Biblically, Does Submission Equal Obedience?

October 28, 2007

I once took a class in Christian Ethics. We looked at Case Studies to help us think through how to apply Scriptures in modern life. I would like to do that in this post with respect to the false doctrine of “Submission” equals “Obedience”.

For a very VERY long time, I interpreted “obedience” as “submission” and it was a fatal misunderstanding on my part. It is very spiritually, emotionally, relationally destructive and violates human dignity and free will.

Case Study 1: Submission to husband by wife
“Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Eph 5:24

This is Case Study about a modern American Christian couple who sits next to you in church on Sunday.

The wife has been sick, throwing up all day. The baby is sick too and was up a lot last night, so she is also exhausted. She hasn’t had water in the house for two days because something went wrong with the well. This is a hardship. She is not used to figuring out how to clean the baby’s bottom and take care of throwup messes with no water

She is not allowed to call up and get a repair man in to fix the water because her husband believes the doctrine that he is the master and Lord of the household and he will not permit her to do so. He is in no rush to take care of it. It just doesn’t bother him much.

She tells him about her day, but he ignores her; he is playing with himself. He says “I want sex”. She protests that she does not feel well. He says “1 Cor 7:4 says your body belongs to me. Spread your legs now or I am going to tell the pastor and the 7 male elders and bring you before the church because you are in SIN by defrauding me sexually (1 Cor 7:5)” (In case you are wondering, not a week has gone by in their entire marriage without sex a couple times, except for medical issues: post childbirth and miscarriage, mainly. He doesn’t believe in birth control and she has been pregnant 11 times.)

What does “submission” look like?

(this case study is based on actual events)
Case Study 2: Submission to the Church
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls” Heb 13:17

The wife from Case Study #1 goes to her pastor. She has trouble expressing the pain and difficulty of the marriage. She is very upset and angry toward her husband and she tells the pastor that her marriage is intolerable and she is seriously considering leaving her husband.

The pastor chastises her for her anger and tells her that her attitude is sinful and the problems are her fault. He points her to 1 Cor 13 and tells her she needs to love her husband and she must not leave him because “God hates divorce” and Titus 2:4-5 says she will be blaspheming GOD unless she can behave herself better. And she must not talk about her husband to anyone because that is malicious gossip which is forbidden in Titus 2:3.

Shamed into silence, she repents of her many failures and tries harder to be a good Christian wife. She is very stressed, she feels like her home is a prison, a concentration camp. She has symptoms of PTSD and mood swings. Although the doctor suggested that her medical care is confidential, she does not want to disobey her husband. A couple years ago, her doctor had suggested antidepressants, because she was so sad and lifeless. But when she had mentioned that to her husband he said that psych drugs are from the pit of hell, GOD is the answer to all our problems, and he had called up the doctor and lectured her that his wife was not to have these drugs.

Desperate for somewhere to vent, she goes online and finds a Christian forum which is strict enough so that she thinks will be safe from the evil influences of worldliness. She posts about some of the difficulties . From one camp, she hears that women are too emotional, weak, easily deceived sinners, and must obey their husbands. From another camp, she hears that divorce is the solution.

Note: My pastor and church did NOT handle it this destructive spiritually abusive way (although I did read a book which had exactly such teaching) Again, the details about the woman is based on actual events.

What does “submission” look like?

Here are some related links which were helpful to me:

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: