Married women the world over can fail to understand their standing and authority in Christ two ways. The first way is when they over-shoot and miss the mark by assuming headship over their husbands. Some husbands like it that way, and they go along quietly because, if they keep their heads down, life goes along peacefully enough. But “wearing the pants” is not all it’s cracked up to be.
The second way women fail to grasp their position in Christ is to cower and “submit” to a man who has forfeited his authority over her. In the first instance, I suppose the man should send up a flare for help. But no one really feels sorry for the husband who gets walked all over. After all, he’s the guy and should know how to stand up for himself. But when a woman gets walked all over, she should also stand up for herself. She is a free woman in Christ. Sometimes a Christian woman should be what some might call “unsubmissive.”
Now before you gasp and think I’ve gone over to the dark side, let me just clarify. Authority is a good thing. Moms have authority over their kids, teachers have authority over their students, the head of the company has authority over his or her employees. The husband has authority over the wife just as Christ has authority over the church. This is a sacrificial authority.
In a good and godly marriage, both husband and wife are submitting to one another out of love for Christ all the time. The only time that a wife is called to be submissive in a particular way is when she disagrees with her husband. In other words, the only time she must obey God’s command to submit to her husband is when she doesn’t want to. But in a good marriage, her husband has sought her input and counsel before he makes a decision. If he has to make a decision contrary to what she is wishing, he knows God holds him accountable. This is a grave thing.
Submission is found in the Godhead, for Christ submitted to the Father, showing us what submission looks like. It’s not easy, but it is holy. But now back to my earlier point. Human authority is real, but no human authority is absolute. When should a wife refuse to submit to her husband? Here are a few scenarios where a husband’s authority is trumped by God’s.
1. When her husband forbids her to worship God.
2. When he tries to convert her to a false or idolatrous religion.
3. When he forbids her to teach her children about the Lord.
4. When he wants her to lie or cheat or steal or break any of God’s commands.
5. When he forbids her to read her Bible.
In these cases, a wife should refuse to go along with her husband. She should cheerfully decline. And then she should look for help. She should call her pastor (which is another good reason to be a member of a church). She may feel that by calling someone for help she is betraying her husband or being disloyal. But our loyalties are always to God first, and His authority is the only absolute authority. Sometimes being unsubmissive to her husband is exactly what the situation requires in order to be submissive to God. We would call that a godly unsubmissiveness.
Women shouldn’t just try to be as pretty as Abigail. They should try to be as shrewd as she was as well.