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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Submission & Abuse

The topic of submission and abuse is so loaded that I would encourage you to examine everything I have to say by comparing it to scripture for yourself. It would also be wise to speak with your pastor and/or elders to glean their godly wisdom and experience. I am a saint by the blood of Jesus, but none-the-less a sinner in the flesh. Anytime we approach a topic like this (or any topic, for that matter) we should always ask, "Lord, what do you say?" Remember, only God has cornered the market on truth.

As I begin to unpack submission and abuse, I also must acknowledge that many of you reading may not know Jesus personally. Let me say outright that without Him, there is no hope. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up our wounds. He offers an eternity without tears. I have no consolation to offer without Jesus. I would not be here today without Him. He has healed me, saved me from hell, and given me firm ground to stand on. He is my hope, my rock, my comforter, and my savior. I am slave to Him alone. Without Him I have nothing...and am nothing.

How Does God Command Us To Treat Each Other

I am starting with this question because I believe it is paramount to the discussion. God in no way desires or delights for us to treat others with wickedness. He admonishes us to love.

We are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), treat others as we would like to be treated (Luke 6:31), and be devoted to one another in brotherly love, honoring each other above ourselves (Romans 12:10). He even goes a step further by charging us to be imitators of Himself, as beloved children, and walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us (Ephesians 5:1-2).

If we call ourselves Christians, but do not love, we are liars and the truth is not in us (1 John 2:4).

How Does God Command A Husband To Treat His Wife

A husband is to love and honor is wife:

"Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body." Ephesians 5:25-30

How Does God Command A Wife To Treat Her Husband

A wife is respect and submit to her husband:

"Let the wife see that she respects her husband." Ephesians 5:33

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands." Ephesians 5:22-24

Why Does God Place These "Roles" Upon Us?

Aside from the fact that "roles" just make life work in the best, most practical way, there is a much deeper explanation.

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." Ephesians 5:25-28

When we "do" marriage right, God's way, it is a magnificent picture of His love for us.

We are adulterers. Everyday we choose to worship idols (money, clothes, houses, fame, success, self). We have all spit in the face of God at one time or another by our sinful behaviors. We've mocked God, blamed God, and cursed Him. Why should He want anything to do with us?

I don't know why, but I do know that he went so far as to give His life that we should know Him, glorify Him, and enjoy Him...forever.

Jesus gave himself up for the church. He washes away our sin with His perfect blood. When we accept His sacrifice, we are declared holy and blameless. We become a radiant bride. This is how a husband is to love his wife, in purity and sacrifice. The wife responds by willingly following her husband, respecting him as an authority that bears the responsibility for not only himself, but her as well. Sin corrupts the picture, but the goal doesn't change. In humility, we obey God by accepting the role He has entrusted to us, and doing our part to fulfill that calling, whether or not our spouse does. Our ultimate authority is Christ.

What Should I Do If I Am Being Abused (Physically, Sexually, or Verbally)?

After seeking counsel on this issue and reading the Word of God, my advice to someone who is married to an abusive spouse should do the following:

Leave The Spouse For A Time As A Means Of Protection

Abuse is sin. While the goal is always reconciliation, if abuse is going on you should leave and seek help, especially if you have children. I am not saying you should leave with the intention of divorcing your spouse. I am saying you should leave as a means of protection while you work towards the restoration of your marriage (this will involve prayer, counsel, and a mighty trust in the Lord).

"Do not associate with a man given to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man." Proverbs 22:24

Go Privately To The Elders Of Your Church

If you belong to a church, it is important that you go the elders and tell them your situation. Ask them to intervene.

"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother."But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED."If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." Matthew 18:15-17

Go To The Authorities (if physical or sexual abuse is taking place)

God has set up a system of protection by giving us governing authorities, such as the police. We should go to them and do what we have to do, not only for our protection, but for the betterment of the abuser. They need to be held accountable. This is also an action of love towards the abuser.

"Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God...for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil." Romans 13:1-4

Pray And Work Towards Reconciliation

Go before God with a humble heart, asking Him to show you what sin you may be holding in your heart with respect to the abusive situation. Pray for the abusers heart to be broken and reconciled to God. Pray for your marriage to be restored. Don't give up.

By no means is this an exhaustive examination of submission and abuse, but rather an offering, so to speak. I would also ask the older, wiser, God-fearing women out there to please correct me if I have written something that raises a red flag. I know that as a "teacher" I am held to a higher account for my words, so please know that my heart is open to admonishment.

Tomorrow I'm going to take a break from the "tough stuff" and share with you my top five blog tips. I'll revisit the "tough stuff" on Thursday. Stay updated by clicking here. :)

Follow me on Twitter @sarahmaeblogs


Isabel said...

Dear Sarah Mae!A big well done! You have really, really addressed the issue in a splendid way! I hope and pray that women who in this situation come across this. Blessings to you. And again: good job.

Miranda said...

Sarah Mae,
Thank you so much for your post! I have a friend who is going through this right now. I have struggled in giving her advice. Thank you for giving me a foundation on which to help her. Please pray for her.

Tiffany said...

Sarah Mae, excellent post. Your humble spirit and willingness to learn and share really show the love you have for God and for the women reading your blog. This is a valuable post.

Dusty said...

Very well said. I'm not the most eloquent person in the world, and many times in discussions about submission, someone has brought this topic up, and because of my lack of verbal finesse, I have a hard time relaying this very message!

My mother has been in abusive relationships and even now, with my own stepfather deals with things no woman should have to, and I certainly want and need to share with her how to deal with her problems by relying on God and not worldly influences.

Robin said...

I appreciate how you have handled this topic and God's word. It is hard to give up our ideas of how we think our relationships should be, but when we submit to God's authority in our lives and follow His word and order there is a peace that fills our lives that does not come from any other source.
If everything in this life was perfect we would not need Him nor would we be able to glorify Him through our lives.

Debbie said...

What a beautifully laid out explanation of Scripture! Submission is never easy - especially in this day and age - and dividing the Word rightly where marriage and relationships are concerned is so critical.

Thank you for braving this topic in this way. For being vulnerable & transparent - for being strong & willing to share God's truth. You are a bold warrior in a world that settles for mediocrity and misery.

Chicken Little said...

I'm very pleased that you wrote all this out in a very logical way. This is exactly right. I hope that the people who need to see this, will read it and be encouraged.

MamaHen Em said...

You did a really, really good job addressing this, Sarah Mae. I'm going to print it off and hang on to it as a point of reference. Thank you for taking the time to pray and seek counsel as you tackled this very tough issue. Blessings.

Jenni said...

Sarah, Praise God for you. You are a beautiful instrument of God. Thank you for your willingness to serve Him (and us). May God continue to bless you in all you do.

mom-2-4 said...

I love that you put all the scripture you did into that post. I've been blessed with such a great man for a husband-so we've never had to deal with abuse, but I will say that our marriage got so much better when we both learned about honour and submission.
Julianne :)

Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates said...

Right ON Sarah Mae! My hubby and I discussed what would be the biblical thing to do if being abused in a marriage and we agree completely on every point! You did a great job laying out all the information.

People definitely should be reading Scripture for themselves, praying and seeking pastoral counsel when necessary.

You are such a blessing my friend - I know that the Lord will use your words to reach the right people.

Have a blessed evening! :)

Muthering Heights said...

Very well written! :)

custom cup said...

Dear Sarah Mae!A big well done! You have really, really addressed the issue in a splendid way! I hope and pray that women who in this situation come across this. Blessings to you. And again: good job.

Anonymous said...

Dear SarahMae-
My folks had a long-term 'abusive' relationship -- my father was an alcoholic and mentally abusive. He followed what his dad did and also had lots of baggage 'left-over' from being in the concentration camp. (Note: I'm only 41 years old. They had me, their only child when they were 47) It was hard. Many, many times I wished that he (or she & I) could just leave. He didn't live with us full-time 'till I was in the 8th grade and then I left for boarding school in the 9th. It could have been much, much worse. But, in retrospect, I am grateful that they did stay together 'till death did them part. It has meant a lot for me that they did stick to their vows even when it did not make sense to.
- HveHope

Anonymous said...

A quick clarification of my earlier 'comment'...
I shared from my personal experience so that I could lend real-life SUPPORT to the God-ordained covenant of marriage and its worth. My parents were not practicing Christians in any way, though it seems that we as a family experienced a great deal of 'common grace' for which I am incredibly grateful. I have been married for going on 15 years and have been privileged to be wife to an incredibly patient man who is a strong believer. Even yet, we are both earth-bound practicing sinners (but by Jesus' blood Heaven-bent) who have had to WORK on loving each other. You are SO right in saying that we have no hope without Jesus and no guidebook without Scripture.
Let me add my thanks to the others' for your prayer-saturated approach to this difficult subject.

Angelia in TX said...

Full submission is what I long for in my heart and it show in my life. Thank you for your devotion to seeking truth and sharing what you gleen from it. My prayers for you and all of us who read your blog to receive from Christ what we must have "His divine power to do His Good" will in this and all areas of our lives.

Smiles, Angelia

Proverbs 27:19 said...

Great way of making yourself clear.

Excellent of you to put the scriptures.

You are doing a great job Sarah Mae, awesome!