Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Husband's Abuse Of Headship

We know that the “wheat and tares” must coexist until the end of time, and that Satan wants nothing more than to plant within the true church something that mimics the church, but produces bad fruit and evil. Church history is littered with false teachers, cults and many a christian leader who has been disqualified by sexual sins.  It is no wonder that some groups would over-emphasize submission to the point that leaders become immune to acting like Christians, and instead act like God died and left them their own little plaything called the church.

The abuse of spiritual authority can be seen in legalism, the overemphasis on minor theological doctrines, submission to spiritual authority, and often many family members of the leader on the payroll. If anyone questions the leader in any way they are blacklisted as a troublemaker. Often such churches or groups implode under a pile of sexual allegations as there are few boundaries when Jesus is not the Head. Unfortunately, far too many followers of this group are burned by not knowing the truth of God's Word for themselves, and they are dragged along by the deception that Christ is somehow pleased with their blind submission, when He is not.
Some are critical of the Always Learning blog believing that it teaches a form of blind wifely submission. They are concerned that the wives who heed the advice given here will become "shells of women" who are obeying their husband's every whim as he abuses his role as her leader by demanding her submission. Recognizing that the Internet runs worldwide we would like to make very clear that not only is godly submission voluntary, it should never be forced upon a wife.  

To any wife out there who may be in a marriage where you feel your church is over-emphasizing husband leadership to the point where love is not being shown to you and others wives, or you simply believe your husband may be using his position as “head” to bully or manipulate you, please seek help from a godly counselor, perhaps outside your church. Seeking wisdom and truth is not being unsubmissive in any way. It is the truth that sets us free.

It is one thing to stay with, to love and to try to win a difficult husband, and yet quite an awful thing to be a part of a marriage where a husband is abusing his leadership, all in the name of Christianity.  Jesus reserved his strongest rebukes for the religious leaders who abused their positions. There is no excuse for such abuse, so one must differentiate between the two dramatically different conditions of a husband’s heart.

God makes it clear that we are to be known by the fruit of our lives. We love the fruit that God has given Lori in her ministry to hundreds of women who have been a part of creating a Biblically submissive marriage, yet we also know that her ministry is not to husbands, but to wives. Lori speaks unapologetically to the wife's Biblical role in a marriage, and if it appears at times to be unbalanced, it is not. A wife's role, like the husband's, stands on its own as both spouses are to fulfill God's calling on their lives 100%, even if the other spouse does not do their part. Remember, it only takes one obedient spouse to put Christ into a marriage and thus sanctify the other.  
I will be happy to speak husband to husband so long as wives do not look to their husbands to be perfect before they fulfill their role. To any Christian husband who may feel the need to play the “submission card” on his wife to lead her where he feels she needs to be, rest assured that we are not opposed to your request that she be obedient to God's Word, so long as you allow that wifely submission is to be a voluntary state and not one that you manipulate or control. Not all husbands must lead the way I do, but I suggest three tests of your leadership ~
1. Does your leadership reflect acting like a Christian with the fruit of the Spirit in your life?  Being controlling, domineering, demanding, putting your wife down, and not building her up in love, are unchristian. God did not give you the role as "head” of your family for personal gain, but to serve your family with the life of Christ shining in the fruit of how you behave and treat your wife.
2. Do you lead by example? Can you turn around almost every request you make of your wife and do it yourself first? If a leader is asking something that they are unwilling to give or do themselves then they are not being a kind or generous leader. Certainly one cannot expect the husband to do everything for a wife, all dishes and housework, plus a job outside the home, but whatever the demand is, the “smell test” for fairness is whether you would do what you are requesting yourself.
3. Lastly, a wise leader rarely tries to lead by themselves. You have a partner God has given you who knows you and the family perhaps better than you do, so listen to her. Leaders who are islands are dangerous to themselves and others because they cannot see life, and especially themselves clearly. I am not saying you should in any way abdicate your responsibility as leader, but when listening to your wife, if you are not able to give her most of what she desires or feels she needs, then something is broken in one of you. Seek help.

I will add that I believe it is best to give your wife the authority to stop you when you are about to do something stupid, and that includes if you make a bad request of her. If my wife feels strongly that I am wrong she may choose not to submit to me with my pre-approved blessings. This should not be a regular occurrence, but when a godly wife says, “I am sorry, but no way!” we as husbands must take a step back and listen, pray and work through this with them. I also give to my spouse specific areas I request she hold me accountable for, and that includes that I treat her with kindness and respect. 
In a previous recent post, Biblical Submission Is So Understood, we explained that the concept of a Biblical marriage has many facets. This post shows some additional facets that must be considered. There is black and white in what God’s Word teaches, but in its application one must allow “scripture to interpret scripture” and see that there are many truths which balance out and help clarify how God intends godly Believers to live. To overemphasize one truth just to wipe out others is not what God desires for the Christian life, nor should submission become an exaggerated truth. 
I also stand by the post we wrote, Dealing With A Rebellious Wife as simply another facet of the truth contained in the application of a Biblical marriage. There are times, and it should be few, that a wife is significantly off course and a loving husband may show a firm side to leadership to try and win his wife and marriage. The Christian ideal is to be like Christ who loves completely when dealing with women, children, his disciples and the Pharisees.  This includes the most gracious of loving kindness, but also rebuke and accountability, especially if the offense is one of the abuse of spiritual authority.
The ultimate goal of a Biblical marriage is oneness uniting husband, wife and the Spirit together in a marriage that shines Jesus. To achieve such oneness will demand a certain level of vulnerability for intimacy and connection to flourish. Look to your spouse and decide how much they can be trusted, and perhaps trust a little beyond your comfort zone in doing what they request or feel they need from you. But if your spouse is untrustworthy, no amount of wishful thinking should develop that trust, but only time and the work of the Spirit can make the necessary changes. Do not blindly follow the ideal of Biblical submission, but test it with modest vulnerability, without blindness, and see what fruit begins to result in your marriage. If no fruit is forthcoming, make sure you are talking to wise Christian counselors who can coach you. 

Christianity is meant to be lived in community and to be part of the one body of Christ made up of many members. Christian men, if you see another husband abusing his role, take him to breakfast and discuss it with him to create a level of accountability. Wives, do not neglect being part of a group of believers who can support you, pray for you, protect you and insure that you are in God's Word and will. Submission is not blind obedience, nor is it servitude or playing second fiddle. 

A true Biblical marriage is two equals playing two God given different roles in a healthy way where there is no loser, but a union of husband, wife and Spirit into One Flesh.

And the two shall become one flesh. 
So they are no longer two but one flesh. 
What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.
Mark 10:8-9
***Written by Ken