Marital submission - how do Christians handle this?

So one of the most disgusting types of human beings on the planet to me are those who are very much like the Pharisees. They spend so much time in scripture and all they learn is how to make others suffer from it. It’s a never ending supply either. Just disgusting stupid people.

I have repeatedly seen people take verses like “ wives submit to your husband and husbands love your wives” and say that you do this not for your spouse but for God. That a wife should still respect her drunk, abusive husband or that husbands should still dote on their cheating insulting wives. Same people who believe that slaves should obey masters and that even if you have a terrible job where they just treat you like dirt you should treat them as if you are working for God. After all the Bible says it.

Anyone has any favorite links or books dedicated to dismantling this issue of people who believes that a wife, or husband, should remain in a terrible dangerous relationship?


Sheila Wray Gregoire’s book The Great Sex Rescue addresses the issues in too many Christian marital advice books regarding sex and relationships. Results are shared from her survey of 20,000 women regarding the topic.

I would like to point out what seems to be the most overlooked verse in the Bible.
Ephesians 5:21 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Question: if my wife, the person on earth with whom I am the closest, is not my number one “one another” then who possibly could be? Why would this verse not apply to marriage? The next verse says “wives submit to your husbands” but I do not believe that in any way negates the mutual submission asked for in verse 21.


I think marital submission is stupid and misogynistic. The two become one flesh. Work together. Wives submit to husbands and slaves obey your masters is nonsense as it is abused by wooden literalists. The part I like is where it says that husbands are to love their wives as Jesus loves the church. That is going in my wedding vows next year. “Obey me” is not. If the verse said “tolerate your husbands” instead I would understand it! But I’m not taking it as some universal imperative that a wife must always do what her husband says. We don’t live in that patriarchal society anymore. Women can vote, even open their own bank accounts and have credit cards here in the states!

I am not for frivolous divorce by any means. Making a marriage vow before God is serious. But if a husband is drunk and abusive, leave! Take your kids and go.

Also, one thing I dislike is the Christian stereotype of Pharisees. They were actually loved and well respected by Jewish people and they certainly wouldn’t have been patrolling grainfields on a sabbath trying to catch Jesus or fussing over the imaginary sabbath infringements of Christian authors who didn’t know any better!

As AJ Levine once said, the early Christians didn’t need to put the Pharisees down to make Jesus look good. He looked good on his own.



What sparked this discussion was joining a Facebook group that is racially and ethnically diverse and started bitching a trend from hundreds of posts over the last 10 months about this issue.

Literally kept seeing posts that said “ even if a woman is being violently abused she needs to stay with her husband and pray for him. That even if he kills her at least she will finally be in peace with Jesus because she was faithful to God by being submissive to her husband. But if she leaves him, she’s disobeying God and is at risk of going to hell where she will never escape being beaten and abused for all eternity”

First time I saw something like that I just thought it’s a disgusting person. But I seen it again and again and just like with the evangelical movement in America , and uk, these people usually won’t listen to anything other than verses stating something black or white.

I’ve never personally studied this subject because it was never something of contention. The churches I went to all were very clear that an abused spouse should get out of the relationship and live with some others. If when out of danger she wants to remain married and her husband gets help then great. If not that’s also ok but they should it remain living in a dangerous environment. The verses were always explained to me in this way “ Husbands and wives are equal partners. These verses were written to wives and husbands that were Christian’s and living righteously. If a spouse is abusing you they are not the type of husband these verses are about and that Christ is the example of leadership”

So never particularly studied this out but thought a good packet of links geared specifically at dismantling that mindset of staying in abuse.

Especially considering 20,000 , mostly women, are potentially part of a domestic violence call where someone is being harmed. Then finding out that roughly 30% of them get medical treatment for abuse.

It could be that for a large cross-section of humanity the word “submission” has become hopelessly poisoned to mean domination and power-mongering of one over another - a thoroughly anti-Christian and anti-biblical activity despite how so many may twist scriptures to support it. I think submission in the biblical sense advocated by Paul is always and only in the context of love - and I would further argue that needs to be mutual love lest it start to become pathological (at least in the context of close friendship and marriage).

If one doesn’t like the word “submission” anymore because of how much it has been twisted, they can always choose different words, but that doesn’t make the problem go away. Thorns by any other name still embody the same curse.


Yes, it’s the contorted and twisted sense I dislike. The abusive sense used to subjugate women for centuries. There is nothing wrong with mutual submission out of love. The incarnation and Cross shows how much God was willing to submit to his sinful and rebellious Creation. We can certainly use some humility and submission in our lives.

But to push back a little, does the Pauline corpus tell slaves to obey your masters out of love as well? Love of what? Existing social institutions?

I know this is a minority position but misogyny could have crept into the canon in Paul’s name. It’s not like the OT is bad and the NT is all good. Both can have a mix of questionable things and world views God accommodated. I don’t read “Paul” with a wooden literalism or see the NT through a concordant lens anymore than I do Genesis 1-11.



That’s a very welcome and necessary push-back, Vinnie - and I’m totally with you that the moment this starts moving toward justification of the twisted sort, then we need to recognize and loath it for the Satanic coercion that it is. And slavery - instituionalized or otherwise is every bit the perversion that deserves to be put down. To the extent that people want to read Paul as a justification for slavery, then (for them) so much the worse for Paul. If they can’t sort out and separate Paul from something that is so obviously Satanic, then I’m not going to try to “rescue Paul to their sensibilities” if that means - in their minds - justifying such loathsome evil.

Added edit: what really needs to happen is that Paul (and scriptures as a whole) need to be rescued from our modern ways of crippling the text to make it declare bizarre things even contrary to the Spirit of Christ.

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I remember one response Rachel Held Evans had when accused of being “against submission” is that in the more egalitarian view of marriage, you really end up with more submission, not less – a marriage with no submission would probably not last long – it’s just that submission should not be a one-way street.


My brothers all absorbed the idea that one person in a marriage needed to be in charge when there was disagreement, even my one secular brother. Each was critical of his wife but respected mine. Neither of us is in charge. It may not be the most efficient system but it doesn’t make either of us lose respect for the other or for ourself.


Forcing relationships into preconceived ideas is a recipe for failure. If you want them to work it is best to avoid this as much as you can. That includes this one. In other words you need to accommodate the preconceived ideas of the other person which they cannot let go of. Best to try not adding any more stress to the relationship if you can avoid it.

For me none of it is about any specific relationship. Just a growing trend in seeing in some Facebook groups. I figure that some people here have perhaps studied it out and had a some
Good resources. Which there has already been a few really good ones. If it was not online and a trend I would go about it in a very different way.

But what I said is a general principle and not about specific relationships. Everybody is different and pairing people up make the diversity even greater. People can change but there are limits, or rather the difficulty goes up exponentially at some point.

Women are more submissive on average, But that is the average only. There are plenty of dominant women and submissive men. And sometimes they need different roles in different parts of their life. It is a fact that you find abuse going both ways.

I guess you could say that along with science, my liberal upbringing is part of the filter through which I read the Bible. The equality of men and women was stamped so strongly upon me that it was difficult for me to comprehend the differences.

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I understand. I was misreading what you were writing and thought it was between the lines directed at how I perceive relationships and was trying to correct it. Half my family was very liberal and the other half is liberal conservative. It was overall mostly liberal though. I also had several female cousins for every male cousin and they were also breaking in wild horses, getting martial arts belts and so I never had to many issues with social equality views.

I forgot about this particular organization. Someone from there use to frequent one of the forums I was on and would comment.

Heard it mentioned again today with a Pete Enns podcast that was recorded before , I think her name was Rachel Evans, passed away but released sometime afterwards. I’ve heard her in a few podcasts and I remember a post about her in the past. On this episode thought she mentioned the Junia Project. ( admittedly I’m not convinced she was an apostle but was well respected among them but part of that debate comes down to power of the Holy Spirit and laying on of hands versus one sent out ) of which both groups may be called apostles. Typically termed “ Apostle vs apostle “. But it’s besides the point of the post, though I guess it’s closely related to the general equality issues of submissiveness.

Nonetheless the Junia Project was a organization I was refereed to several times years ago and just never got around to digging to deeply into it. I’ll have to keyword search thst verse this weekend and see what it may pull up.


Hey Skovand of Mitaze and @marta
You asked about resources…
*Theology Gals Podcast has quite a few episodes with book authors who are looking at abuse of all kinds, and also questions related to “submission”.
*Aimee Byrd’s book “Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”
These two resources will get you started. Getting into the associated bibliograpies, works-cited-pages and show notes will open the floodgates of resources.
You are not alond in your interest. God bless you for pursuing it.


Hi Kendel!

Thanks for tagging me and some resources, I’d have probably missed this thread otherwise.

Great points made above. Myself, I always considered myself equal to men and I consider my marriage to be an equal partnership.
And I probably have a lot of knowledge regarding feminism picked up over the years. I grew up in a very misogynistic country so I suppose I had to educate myself in order to fight back lol, but at least my family was fairly liberal.

So believing in equality isn’t a problem for myself.
My concern is rather, how do we convince others? By others I mean both Christians and non-believers. Especially the latter, as I know that religiously incated misogyny is mentioned all the time in anti-christian resources and for many it’s a deal breaker. In all honesty, that was almost the case for me.

It’s all very well discussing this with like minded people, this being BL forum that attitude is exactly what I expected, but how do I convince people IRW?

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Paul was trying to implement love for his time. He wasn’t speaking for Love for all time.

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My wife and I enjoy the Christian book, “Two Sides of Love,” by Trent and Smalley. They emphasize that we aren’t the same, but complement each other–often people of different types are attracted to each other as a result. So, my wife is stronger than I am in certain respects, while I complement her (and she asks me for advice) in others. We’re equal in worth, but her talents outstrip mine in many areas (directions, driving, and decision making, for example; as well as keeping on time!) Breaking down the interaction helps to illustrate how we are equal but different, I think…


Your welcome. Your questions are good ones. I’m not sure how to really answer about in the real world. Sometimes, it’s all women can do to protect themselves from physical abuse, much less demonstrate to their blind culture that they are worth of respect. In the United States right now, where everything seems to be understood in polar binaries right now, I am probably perceived in my extremely conservative (US understanding of the term) as a feminist (which seems often to be uttered as a curse word) and questionable Christian, in spite of my sincere desire for orthodoxy and faith in Christ.
To begin with I think we need to support effective organizations that protect women. Onour homefronts, wherever they are, I think we have to focus on relationships with the people we encounter in our normal circles. Sometimes service, humility and unwarrented kindness can win an enemy over. But not always. The reach or our individual influences are small. Our God is not.


Even here in the UK where I currently live, there’s certain stigma associated with it. There are few things we can do to mend it though.
If a woman says"I’m not a feminist" you can ask whether she thinks she should get paid less than a man for exactly same work, or perhaps her father should get paid for her work instead? Should she have her husband’s written permission to open Bank account or travel? Should she be voting?
All this can sound very condescending and even like a personal attacks, so we must always always remember to be kind. And it won’t work on some kind of fanatics for sure, but it will on majority of women. Why? Because most deny being feminist because of some common misconceptions. It’s all very well playing the submissive little housewife, but nobody actually wants real implications of that.
And another thing… Men need to start referring to themselves as feminist too. Some do already, sure, but not enough. Especially not openly religious men. It’s the same as white people supporting anti racism, bodily abled supporting disability rights campaigns etc it really shouldn’t be just down to women to fight for their equality.


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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