When it comes to past destructive relationships, have you ever criticized yourself and thought, “I should have known better”? “Why didn’t I see that coming? Or “Why did I put up with his control, manipulation, addiction, abuse, adultery, or _______ (you fill in the blank)?”
Sometimes, our tolerance for abuse or evil behavior is the result of misinterpreted scripture. When we don’t know and understand what God‘s Word says about confrontation and conflict resolution, we make ourselves vulnerable to control and manipulation. Have you trusted too soon or without examining character? Did you fear that you were being judgmental so you believed his promises and ignored his performance? Did you give him chance after chance hoping he’d change this time only to discover that his apology was nothing more than smooth talk?
Paul warns us in Ephesians 5:6, “Let no one deceive you with empty words.” For a long time I assumed that this verse only referred to deception regarding spiritual teaching, but what about the charming words manipulative men use to gain control? What about the empty words narcissistic men make hoping to convince their partner that they’re sorry for their actions and yet bear no fruit in keeping with repentance? Or how about when controlling men use scripture to manipulate or oppress? Paul goes on to tell us, “Do not be partners with them…have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them (vs 7, 11).
Often women ignore or minimize their spouse or partner’s behavior hoping it would go away. Or they keep silent because they feared his wrath. In addition, many God-fearing women have misunderstood the concept of submission and thought it meant they had no voice. No opinion. No right to confront. This misinterpretation of scripture caused them to give up their rights under the misguided notion of submission.
This twisted concept of submission causes women to:
- Avoid confrontation
- Go out of their way to make everyone else happy
- Suppress their feelings and bury their anger
- Take the blame when something goes wrong
- Be peacekeepers instead of peacemakers
- Give up their identity for other’s approval
- Be overly concerned about what others think
- Agree with their partner (even if they don’t) as long as it keeps the peace
- Abuse mercy by overlooking too much
- Lack confidence
- Deny reality
- Cover up evil
Submission is a concept that has often been twisted to create control. Timothy talks about men who have a form of godliness but deny its power. He says this in chapter 3 verse 6: “They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women.” Women are trained by these manipulative partners to think that submission denies them the right to confront evil behavior.
The Truth About Submission: What it is and What it Isn’t
Submission is intended to produce a climate of trust and intimacy between a husband and wife, and yet this topic causes tremendous confusion in relationships where it is abused by manipulative partners and spouses. It’s time we clarify some of the misunderstanding.
Most Christian women are familiar with the scripture that says submit to your husbands in everything. Everything? Even Evil behavior? Even abuse? Even sarcasm and name-calling? Even fits of rage? What about deceitfulness and gaslighting?
I don’t think so. But women that fear the Lord and want to honor his Word often struggle with the concept of submission. Is it wrong to call out evil behavior? Is it wrong to confront? Are we supposed to surrender to evil just because we’ve entered a covenant of marriage?
Let’s take a look at a couple of women in the Bible and see how they responded to evil behavior.
Abigail was married to a Nabal, a man that she referred to as a fool. God didn’t strike her dead for reporting her facts. When David requested food for his men and Nabal refused, Abigail went behind her husband’s back and provided the resources David needed for his men. She honored her husband, but she feared God more. She didn’t submit to her husband in everything.
The Bible calls her righteous.
And what about Esther? The king didn’t request for her presence. His previous wife was dethroned for not parading in front of his buddies. And yet she went against his command and approached his throne, even though the consequence could be deadly.
The Bible called Esther noble.
Exodus chapter 1 tells the story of a new king in Egypt who feared the growing numbers of the Israelites. He told the Hebrew midwives, “When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him..”
The Hebrew midwives, however, disobeyed the king’s orders. When confronted, they told a lie and said, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”
God was kind to the midwives and blessed them. They lied and got a blessing? Yes! They disobeyed a command, and yet their lie produced a blessing.
Women that confronted evil were called righteous, noble and blessed.
The Bible also tells us to honor those in authority above us but what if they are evil as well?
Rehab lied to the king of Jericho when he came to her and asked, where did those men go that came into your house? She hid the spies on her roof under some flax, but instead of disclosing the truth, she pointed her finger and said, “They went that way.” She lied and send the team of soldiers in the wrong direction. In willful deceit, she lied.
Rahab is included in the lineage of Christ and is listed in the Hebrews Hall of Fame.
Please hear me on this. I am not endorsing sin. But It’s clear from these examples that God is more interested in safety and security than following a strict black-and-white set of rules and regulations. I also believe it’s because God knows the motive of our heart.
People may be pure in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their motives (Proverbs 16:2).
Questions to Ponder
- Have twisted concepts about submission convinced you to give up some of your rights? If so, which of the tendencies in the list above most describe your behavior?
- How do you think God feels about it?
- Look over the scriptures below. How can you change your responses to control or manipulation in the future and still honor God’s Word?
Scriptures to Ponder
- “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses (Matthew 18:15-16).
- Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them (Ephesians 5:11).
- Submit to one another (emphasis mine) out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21).
May I pray for you?
Father, I lift up my sister and ask you to give her boldness and holy confidence to address issues that are harmful to her. Give her the wisdom so that she knows when to speak and when to be silent and how to operate in meekness which is not weakness, but rather controlled strength. May You be her refuge to provide her physical safety and emotional stability so that she can grow in confidence, peace and joy regardless of her relationship status. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.