26 April, 2009

The Ugly Secret

Recently Chuck Colson gave a commentary on Breakpoint: The Ugly Secret. The ugly secret is finally starting to be acknowledged as the serious crisis it really is in our churches. The example Colson uses is of a deacon and Sunday school teacher who killed his wife. The pastor knew about the abuse, giving her the ‘biblical’ admonition to go home and submit more because he is your ‘spiritual head’.

There is so much wrong here that I hardly know where to begin. Colson calls the pastor’s admonition, ‘misinterpreting scripture’. But note further down in the article, he quotes author Denise George as saying this about ‘Christian’ abusers:

Tragically, however, George notes, some of these men justify their violence “by citing biblical passages.”

Yes, they are citing passages taught to them over the course of many years about their ‘headship’, which is taught as authority even ‘spiritual’ authority over their wives as if Jesus Christ was not her only High Priest or the Temple Veil was not torn in two for her. Many pastors will defend this saying that they are teaching men to ‘love’ their wives as their spiritual head, not abuse them. But there is a problem with this because we all define love and sacrifice in different ways.

This is not just misinterpreting scripture. It is leaving out ‘the full counsel of God’.

Pastors and teachers have to take responsibility for what they are teaching, because our churches are chocked full of the unregenerate. Often, they are in leadership positions.
What is missing from the message being taught to men and women?

It is simple. Ephesians 5:21 is missing.

Ephesians 5:21. The verse that translators have tried to hide with paragraph breaks and pastors have ignored for centuries. The verse that is almost always left out when teaching on Ephesians 5:22.

In the original Greek, the word 'submit' is in verse 21. Translators added it to verse 22. Why is that significant? Because the entire submit/sacrifice message flows from verse 21. ALL believers submitting one to another.

Verse 21 does NOT omit believing husbands. There is no asterisk exempting husbands because they are the spiritual 'head'. In fact, in order for husbands to live out the admonition in Ephesians 5, they have to submit to their wives, too.

Another aspect that is hardly ever taught to men and women on this passage is that for wives to submit was a STEP UP for them in that day and time when the Household codes demanded they ‘obey’ their husbands. Paul purposely does not tell them to obey their husbands. How could he? He just told all believers to submit to one another. Besides, obeying your husband can get you killed. Ask Sapphira about that.

Another aspect of this teaching that is seriously flawed is expecting a believing wife to lay down her life for her ‘professing Christian’ husband. It is one thing to lay down your life for an unbeliever to see the power of God or to proclaim the Name of Christ. But why do so many expect the wife of a professing believer to continue to take beatings? In some cases leading to their deaths?
Let’s use another example to see if this sounds right: What if a man went to his church and was abused by the pastor, his perceived authority. He is told by others to submit to the abuse because the pastor is his spiritual authority and he must submit to him. It does not fit, does it? Makes no sense. We would think the pastor had a serious problem that must be dealt with immediately.

My question is: Why does this same scenario seem different when it is between a husband and wife who both profess Christ as their Savior? What is it about marriage that makes us reluctant to say: A ‘Christian’ husband would not continue to do this.

There is a good reason it is perceived as being different: What we are teaching folks in the pews about women, their ‘roles’ and standing in Christendom. That is the big difference.

Until the Body of Christ teaches in context and totality, mutual submission and all the ‘one another’s’ that apply to every single adult Christian in the Body, we will continue to see the ugly secret. But, by the time we see it, in many cases, it will be too late.

The Ugly Secret is not just abuse by the hand of a professing Christian husband but what he has been taught about his wife, and women in general, from the pulpit is not the full counsel of God.

The meaning of 'head' (Kephale): I Believe in Male Headship


Clellie said...

Thank you, Lin.

Corrie said...


This really hits the nail on the head.

Yes, the real problem is what men are taught about their position in relation to their wife and what these men hear about their wife's position which is "submit".

I love the scenario you gave about the pastor abusing a man who goes to his church. You certainly would not hear anyone tell this man to go and submit some more. Nor would they tell this man to "be sweet" or ask him if he is being pleasing in his behavior or if he was doing anything, no matter how minor, to provoke the abuse. Nor would you hear that if he was truly submissive the pastor wouldn't be hitting him. Nor would you hear that this pastor had two alternatives to deal with this man's obvious rebellion (why else would this pastor hit him if it weren't for rebellion?) to his authority- either passivity or physical abuse.

Every woman I know, personally, who has been hit by her husband and has gone to their pastor has been asked what she is doing to cause the abuse.

Obviously the church doesn't understand that abusive people abuse just because. Everything and nothing triggers their abuse and they have a myriad of excuses when confronted.

Lin said...

Clellie, Hey, please write and lets catch up. I miss hearing from you. You are still in my prayers.

Corrie, I think I am going to write about the advice one pastor I know gave to a woman how has undergone 6 operations to repair damage from her abusive husband. One reason I want to write about it is because of what you said:

"bviously the church doesn't understand that abusive people abuse just because. Everything and nothing triggers their abuse and they have a myriad of excuses when confronted"

This is exactly right. And it is why Chuck Colson's advice for this issue is a major uphill battle. He would do better to tell the pastors to call the police. The secular authorites seem to understand this aspect of total depravity better than Christians do. For one thing, it is against the law.

You are a blessing to me, Corrie.