Tag Archives: wife

What does it mean for a wife to submit to her husband?

The answer you receive will depend on who you ask. Evangelical Christians living in the United States generally fall into two camps when it comes to biblical gender roles: Egalitarians and complementarians.

Both egalitarians and complementarians believe in submission; however, each group defines submission differently. Egalitarians believe that biblical submission means mutual submission. Husband and wife are to lovingly and respectfully defer to one another. They cite Ephesians 5:21 (nlt) as the key verse: “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) is an organization that represents the main tenets of Christian egalitarianism.

Complementarians believe that biblical submission means that a woman should have the disposition and inclination to yield to her husband’s leadership and guidance.  They disagree with the egalitarians’ reading of Ephesians 5:21–33. The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) represents the basic beliefs of complementarians.

Within these two camps, there is no consensus on the specifics of gender and gender roles. Subtleties, differences, and even sharp disagreements exist even among those within the same camp. Again, the answer to your question depends on who you ask within these groups.

If you’re married, a good first step is to have a conversation with your spouse. What do each of you think about submission within a marriage relationship? Have you both studied Scripture and the primary resources written by both egalitarians and complementarians? We cannot make a well-informed decision if we haven’t studied the grounds for each view ourselves.

My personal belief is that husbands and wives ought to submit to one another with the utmost love and respect. Each of us is to ask God for the ability to selflessly love the other with a 1 Corinthians 13 type of love. If a wife has gifts in an area that a husband does not have, he should intelligently submit to her gifting and expertise, and vice versa. For example, some husbands who have gifts of hospitality are married to women who have gifts of teaching Scripture. Each should freely practice his or her gift as unto the Lord.

When there is a disagreement, I do not think a wife must automatically acquiesce to her husband just because he is a man. They need to work through it, and if they cannot, they should seek outside counseling that takes both of their views into consideration.

There are equally lovely, intelligent, orthodox, and committed Christ-followers who have the highest view of Scripture who disagree on this issue. Both complementarians and egalitarians make ample use of Scripture to support their positions. Consequently, we cannot demonize our brothers and sisters who hold different views.

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Will We Still be Married in Heaven?

Jesus made it clear that no one will be married in heaven: “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30 NIV).

But this doesn’t mean that we won’t know each other or will cease cherishing our earthly relationship. The rich man recognized Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, even though he was in a different place and separated by a “great gulf” (Luke 16:19-31 NKJV). The disciples recognized Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration, even though these two men had lived many centuries before (Matthew 17:1-5). Finally, we recall the striking promise made by our Lord to the repentant thief in Luke 23:43, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise” (NIV).

The apostle Paul said we will have more knowledge in heaven than we have now (1 Corinthians 13:12). This implies that we will know and recognize people more fully in heaven than here on earth. He also said it was “far better” to depart and to be with Christ than to remain in the body on earth (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:22-23).

In all of these passages, heaven is depicted as a place of greater experience than we now know on earth and a place where we will have more knowledge and understanding. This would lead us to believe that we will recognize other members of our family, even though we will not live in family units. Instead, all believers in this age will be united in the bride of Christ and in fellowship with our Savior as the heavenly Bridegroom (Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 19:7,9).

Scripture leads us to believe that we will enjoy such a state of wonderful intimacy with our glorified brothers and sisters that there will no longer be a need for the exclusive relationships that protect us from loneliness and despair in a fallen world. This does not mean, of course, that we will not know and share a perfect love with those with whom we have been especially intimate in our earthly lives. However, all of the joys and ecstasy of marital and family love will be far surpassed by the joys of perfect intimacy and trust in heaven.

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How Can I Be Happy in My Marriage When My Spouse Is Not a Christian?

The fact that you and your spouse do not share the same faith in Christ can create a number of problems in your marriage. At one time, the differences in what you believed might have seemed like a minor problem. But now they have grown into feelings of detachment and resentment, hindering intimacy and causing a significant barrier.

It’s not uncommon in marriage to have feelings of loneliness and isolation. Any of us who are married can begin to lose our passion for our spouse. But a believer who is married to an unbeliever may have even more of a struggle with feelings of loneliness, isolation, and resentment.

The challenge for you as a believer is to do all you can to set the stage and create an environment for your husband or wife to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. Exhibiting Christlike love in your marriage has the greatest potential for compelling your spouse to trust in God.

Loving your spouse means putting your spouse’s needs before your own. It’s not ignoring your needs, but when he has a legitimate need (not anything that would violate you as a person), it is loving to do what you can to help him. Invite him to enjoy a deeper relationship with you and hopefully a future relationship with Jesus Christ. Loving him well is being truthful and honest about your feelings and allowing him the same freedom to have and express his thoughts and feelings. Open communication and mutual respect help define a loving relationship.

As you love your spouse, also stay committed to God and to your values. Continue to pray, to go to church, and to read the Bible. Pray for your spouse ( Colossians 1:9 ; Hebrews 4:16 ). Fellowship with other believers (1 Thessalonians 5:14; Hebrews 10:25 ). In 1 Corinthians 7:14, the apostle Paul explained that the unbelieving mate is “sanctified” through the relationship with a saved partner. This means that the unsaved husband or wife is set apart to a place of special privilege and spiritual potential through living with a saved partner. For example, an unsaved man who has a wife sincerely praying for him and living a Christian life before him in the home is in a position where conditions will be favorable to his salvation. Not only does his wife influence him, but fellow believers who know the man’s spiritual state will also join in prayer on his behalf.

But try not to push your unbelieving husband or wife. They may feel manipulated if you encourage them to go to church or read the Bible with you. Trying to get them to attend church with you or pray with you is futile. Unbelievers have no basis to want this. Why would they pray when they have no faith? Pushing them to do activities such as church-going may lead them away from the truth of the gospel. In fact, the apostle Peter told believing wives to win over their unbelieving husbands “without words” but by the “behavior” of “purity and reverence” and “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” ( 1 Peter 3:1-4 ).

Remember that your faith will be tested. There may be times when you feel that your efforts are worthless, that they are not making a difference in your husband or wife. Your partner may even misunderstand your motives at times and pull away from you. The distance you feel can make you want to give up trying.

During these lonely times with your mate, acknowledge your legitimate feelings of loss and disappointment over not having a happier marriage. Take them to God in prayer, for He will comfort those who grieve ( Matthew 5:4 ). God doesn’t promise marital happiness, but He gives us something far better — restored faith, hope, joy, peace, and love ( Psalm 119:116; 147:11; Romans 15:13 ). God uses difficult times like these to bring about patience and character in us, working for our benefit ( Romans 8:28; James 1:2-4 ).

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Is It a Serious Mistake to Marry Someone of Another Faith?

In 2 Corinthians 6:14 the apostle Paul wrote:

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

Imagine being in a relationship with someone you love and care for deeply. You take long walks together, talk till dawn, share many of the same interests. Your companion seems to be the one you have been searching for all your life. There’s only one problem — that person doesn’t share your faith. What should you do?

When Paul says that Christians shouldn’t be “yoked” together with unbelievers, he uses the image of two draft animals pulling a load. An ox and a donkey fastened to the same yoke won’t work well together. They are “unequally yoked,” with serious differences in height, size, and gait. Struggling to compensate for their differences, they squander their strength.

Paul’s example is a good metaphor. In some ways, a “team” of two people is better equipped to handle life’s load of stress and responsibility. But unless a husband and wife are working together as a team, their union becomes a liability rather than an asset.

When Paul warned the Corinthian Christians about avoiding an “unequal yoke,” paganism and Christianity stood in sharp contrast. Corinthian paganism involved sacrifices to idols and flagrant sexual immorality. Today, 2,000 years of Christian influence on Western culture has softened the distinction between “pagans” and “Christians” in some ways. Modern “pagans” have often adopted enough Christian values to be decent, moral people by Christian standards, and there are many nominal Christians who don’t understand the meaning of Christ’s words, “I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” ( John 3:3 ).

Even so, being unequally yoked is never a minor matter. In Ephesians 2:1-5 the apostle Paul vividly described the difference between Christians and non-Christians. No matter how decent, moral, or likeable a modern pagan may be, he is spiritually dead, at odds with his Creator. Without God, his goals are irrational and unsatisfying, and he is drifting on a downward arc toward absurdity, chaos, and — ultimately — hell. Like a sleepwalker, a person who hasn’t been supernaturally awakened by the Spirit of God may seem conscious, but actually he is unaware of the most important things around him ( Ephesians 5:8-15 ).

How can someone who is supernaturally alive through the miracle of God’s grace live in harmony with someone who is dead? How can someone who is awake communicate with someone who is asleep? How will the two of them set priorities, rear their children, select their major relationships?

Christians should take the command in 2 Corinthians 6:14 with the utmost seriousness. Of course, God’s grace still is at work in the lives of people who are unequally yoked, and apart from the grace of God we would all be lost ( Ephesians 2:8-10 ). Unbelieving spouses sometimes do become Christians through the influence of their mates ( 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 ). But a believer should never presume upon God’s grace ( Romans 6:1 ). There are consequences for disobedience, and the risks are much too high.

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What’s the Difference Between Normal Marital Conflict and Abuse?

Every marriage experiences some degree of conflict. Most marriages experience strong differences of opinion. Arguments are not uncommon. Spouses are occasionally grumpy and unkind to each other. Spouses lose their tempers and can sometimes blow up at each other. Everyone is capable of being hypercritical or falsely accusing his or her mate. Small skirmishes for control over a particular issue can break out from time to time. These are all a part of the normal tension and conflict that inevitably arise when an imperfect man and woman join their lives together in a marital relationship.

Marital abuse, whether or not it involves physical violence, is very different. One key difference is that marital abuse is a one-sided, oppressive relationship where one spouse establishes a pattern of unhealthy control. Even though there might seem to be times of peace and affection, these good times linger in the shadows of the subtle or not so subtle controlling tactics an abusive mate uses for the purpose of getting his or her own way.

For example, an abusive spouse may prevent his (or her) partner from seeing family members, going out with friends, or going back to college. He may try to regulate the people his spouse talks to, where his spouse goes, or how and when his spouse spends money. He may demand all of his mate’s attention. He may put his spouse on an irrational guilt trip for talking to or doing things with other people. He may consider his spouse’s needs as an infringement on or a betrayal of his own needs. He may act insanely jealous and falsely accuse his partner of cheating on him. He may constantly monitor and check up on the whereabouts of his spouse. Many are known to lash out and belittle their spouse when they don’t get their own way or when they feel betrayed or abandoned. Others threaten to divorce or to physically hurt their spouse or destroy a cherished possession, all in an effort to intimidate and punish their mate.

While normal marital conflict can at times seem far worse than what it really is, it tends to lessen in time because of the loving foundation of the relationship—“love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). That important foundation is painfully missing in a marriage marked by abuse. Because of the extreme levels of selfishness at work in the heart of the abusive spouse, marital abuse, if not confronted, will only escalate and get worse over time.

Another important difference is that normal marital conflict and marital abuse require different levels of intervention. While some married couples who experience normal conflict may require help from an objective and wise third party, many can eventually work through their differences by themselves within an atmosphere of mutual love, consideration, and forgiveness. Marital abuse, however, is a different story. Due to safety concerns and an abuser’s excessive self-focus and chronic complaints of being a victim, addressing marital abuse and restoring the relationship is a much more difficult and complicated process. It requires outside help from those who can provide guidance, support, and protection for an abused spouse as the abuser is confronted and held accountable.

While most abusive spouses will insist on joint-marital counseling once their pattern of domination and control is exposed, this is the last place to begin addressing marital abuse. For his or her own reasons, neither spouse is ready for the kind of honest and open conversation that is needed for marital counseling to be beneficial. Almost without exception, abusive spouses will derail the counseling process by trying to micromanage it. And most are far from being able to discuss their pattern of control without acting like a victim. On the other side, abused spouses will not feel safe enough to openly share their true thoughts and concerns, let alone admit to any faults they may have. They are understandably afraid that their partners will shut them down, twist their words, or later make them pay. Years of being controlled have also taught an abused spouse to see things mostly through the eyes of her (or his) spouse in order to avoid doing something “wrong.” Marriage counseling will not be beneficial until abused spouses recover the ability to think for themselves and the freedom to show up as a person in the relationship.

Abusive spouses who are truly serious about stopping their pattern of domestic abuse will agree to pursue a path of individual counseling (separate from their spouse). Their individual counseling is designed to increase their awareness and insight into how they try to control their spouse, the damage it has caused to their marital relationship, and why they feel such a deep and pressing need to dominate their partner and maintain a victim mentality. Joint-marital counseling is only possible once abusers stop playing the victim in the marriage, end all of their excuses, and consistently own up to their patterns of control and the harm it has caused. Only then are they ready to have honest conversations with their spouses and to continue their own journey of working through and finding healing and freedom from their own personal wounds and insecurities.

To read more about physical and non-physical abuse in marriage and what can be done to address it, please feel free to order our booklets When Violence Comes Home , When Words Hurt, and When Power Is Misused.

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