When “I do” Replaces “in Christ”

There are those who preach, believe, and live as though a woman who is married must chose her husband over Jesus. In the sight of others, sadly, the church, her wedding ring strips her of her identity in Christ and the privilege of being Christ’s sister. Instead being united with Christ as an instrument of righteousness, she is first and foremost united to and enslaved to her husband.

Some believe that a married woman is supposed to submit to her husband in everything. Every. Thing, His whims, preferences, direction, sin, and demands. The only exception is if/when he “asks them to sin.” Some would say that as long as he’s not asking you to rob a bank or kill someone, you have to obey. Some would say that if you sin in obedience to your husband, God will discipline your husband and you are excused because of your submission. We want godly examples of marriage, but this is not.

In effect, we are saying, “As a woman, marriage waives your access to Jesus Christ.” (Does this ring a bell for those who remember Bill Gothard’s Umbrella of Protection?)

Promoting or excusing abuse communicates that God’s favor is distributed by and through men alone. If they choose to dispense grace, it is enjoyed. If they don’t, there is no recompense or consequence. He is the lord of his marriage. In fact, it would appear that married men receive mercy and forgiveness at the expense of others: glory without cost. There is no cross before the crown. This view teaches that a husband, by nature of a wedding vow, wears the crown while his wife bears the cross. There is no room for Jesus, but each wife is expected to make her husband look like Christ–she, after all, represents the Church.

Herein lies the problem. Some hold that people must earn a relationship with God. Although it’s unspoken the idea is that salvation is a gift, but keeping it is a result of self effort. This underlying premise is revealed in marriages when a wife is expected to “make up for” her husband’s failings.

A belief system that that gives a husband unlimited authority teaches men:

  • Marriage makes you the lord of your home
  • Marriage gives you preference
  • Marriage gives you honor and privilege apart from consequences
  • Marriage commits your wife’s mind, will, and body to your will
  • Marriage creates a place where you are always right, never wrong
  • Marriage allows you to punish others when your expectations and demands are unmet
  • Marriage is where you experience virility without restraint with potential for a personal army/audience (i.e. children)
  • Marriage gives you the right to unbridled sexual pleasure

Consider how the gospel, seen in the following verses, are negated in husband-centric marriage:

So you too, consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 “Therefore sin is not to reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts.... I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented the parts of your body as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your body’s parts as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.” (Romans 6:11-12, 19)

For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were brought to light by the Law, were at work in the parts of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” (Romans 7:5-6)

Instead, “…they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of GodFor Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:2-4)

In the same way, a belief system that places a wife under the absolute authority of her husband communicates:

  • You exist for your husband’s pleasure
  • Your husband is your object of worship
  • Marriage revokes your personhood and agency. You are not privy to your own thoughts, desires, preferences, time, gifts, abilities, energy, or efforts.
  • Marriage negates your position as God’s child.
  • Marriage overrules your place in the Body of Christ–you no longer have the privilege or responsibility to admonish, correct, exhort, or seek the good of your husband if it conflicts with his expectations and desires.
    You are not free to interact with or address other members of the local church without your husband’s oversight.
  • Your husband stands between you and God. He is your mediator.
  • Your husband is your savior.
  • Your husband is your provider.
  • Your husband is god in your life.

Think of the confusion and added guilt she experiences when she reads the following Scripture–which is denied by her everyday experience:

  • Therefore there is now no condemnation at all for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Romans 8:1-2)
  • The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:16-17)
  • Who will bring charges against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, but rather, was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. (Romans 8:33-34)
  • Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that with one purpose and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us, for the glory of God.
    (Romans 15:5-7)

Husband worship creates incredible dissonance. A woman who belongs to God through Jesus Christ is forced by leadership and community to choose between God’s Word and her husband time after time. Daily tasks, conversations, parenting, loving others, planning–all are subject to a sinful husband’s leadership with no recourse, no intervention, no resistance. In this environment, women are caught between their conscience, sense of being, and forced submission. They want to trust God. They want to obey. But how would you explain a passage like this?

Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such people are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.” (Romans 16:17-18)

Creating a husband-centered environment nullifies the gospel for all.

Jesus died for my sin. Jesus calls me to new life. Jesus has forgiven me, created me, gifted me. Jesus chose me, predestined and adopted me. Jesus is my Savior, my Mediator. He calls me to seek the good of others, regardless of their station in life or relationship to me–husband, child, church member, next door neighbor. Anything less is another gospel.

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