Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. Ephesians 5:22 NIV
There are not many women who do not instantly cringe when this scripture is read by itself. The first time I heard this scripture read out loud in church during the first year of my abusive marriage, I felt like I had just heard my life sentence of torture. The pastor stayed focused on how women were to remain under the leadership of the man and submit to him. He concluded his sermon with the scripture, “God hates divorce.”
Not Hearing the Whole Truth
At the age of eighteen, and newly married, I was trying to understand how God would want me to submit to my husband hurting me. It didn’t matter what I tried to fix or change according to what my ex-husband told me; nothing made him stop abusing me. The problem with abusers is that they always change the rules to blame others.
Whenever I would question him, he would tell me I had to submit, or I would make God mad at me. The position the pastor took and the way my husband used this scripture made me turn away from the church for years. I couldn’t believe God was okay with my Christian husband hurting our children and me.
As the years passed, the abuse escalated. I left several times, but when my ex-husband apologized and promised he would change, I went back because I was afraid of disappointing God. The last time I left, my father kept pressuring me to give my ex-husband another chance because God hates divorce. I reluctantly returned.
Without Christ Changing the Abusers Heart, the Abuser will Keep Abusing
Within three months my ex-husband’s abusive outburst drove me to wait for him to come home with a loaded shotgun in my hands. I told God that either He was going to end the abuse, or I would.
Thank God My ex-husband never came home. God gave me a way out, and I fled my marriage. I went to visit Pastor Jim, for understanding and help because I had no one else to turn to where I was living. His daughter had divorced her abusive husband, and she and her children were living with him.
He asked me to read the full marriage passage in a study Bible out loud. After I finished reading it and all the notes, I knew I had been deceived for thirteen-years. I asked Pastor Jim if God would hate me for divorcing my husband and he showed me the passages on divorce.
God’s Truth About Divorce
God created divorce to protect the women. He knows our hearts and how we can make terrible choices and mess things up. God NEVER says he hates the people or sinners; he hates divorce. He hates it because it goes against his design of love for us and divorce devastates individuals, children, and families.
All of my confusion about marriage began with the misinterpreted and twisted scripture about wives submitting to their husbands. Now that I knew the truth, I was set free from my life sentence of abuse. Abuse is contrary to Christ’s and God’s design of love and marriage. I was not trapped. I could see that my ex-husband had NEVER kept his role as my husband under God. He broke the covenant the first day we were married.
25 And you husbands, show the same kind of love to your wives as Christ showed to the Church when he died for her, 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s Word; 27 so that he could give her to himself as a glorious Church without a single spot or wrinkle or any other blemish, being holy and without a single fault. 28 That is how husbands should treat their wives, loving them as parts of themselves. For since a man and his wife are now one, a man is really doing himself a favor and loving himself when he loves his wife! 29-30 No one hates his own body but lovingly cares for it, just as Christ cares for his body the Church, of which we are parts. 5:25-30 TLB
The truth about the marriage passage above is that men are meant to be our covering and protection. They are called to treat us as they would treat themselves and Christ with respect, love, and honor. When we are loved by Christ’s design, we are happy to let our loving husbands make a final decision about something we can’t agree on.
Submission is Given and a Gift in Christ’s Design of Love
Submission must be given. Submission doesn’t mean women do not have a voice, opinion, or influence on our husbands. Submission does not mean we are slaves and obligated to do whatever our husbands want; especially if it is abusive or goes against the morals and character of Christ. When you know the whole truth of God, it sets you free.
I found a quote that sums up submission well.
“Submission is the defined calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership, and so help to carry it through according to her gifts” John Piper, Christian Author, and Teacher
The amazing husband God has blessed me with for the last three years has loved me like he would Christ. We are partners, and I have no problem letting him make a final choice because of the love and respect I feel from him and the love and respect I have for him. When your marriage is centered on Christ’s design of love and marriage, submission is a wonderful gift you gladly give your husband.
If your Christian husband is using the submission verse as manipulation in any way, seek wise Christian counsel and review the other signs of domestic abuse. God can heal marriages when BOTH parties are willing to follow Christ’s design of love and marriage. For more information about abuse go to https://godstransforminggrace.com/1348-2/