A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Since the Fall, men have been sinfully disposed to oppress women — but this doesn’t mean women must remain in abusive marriages.

This post is a coda to my 2-part series on the woman’s desire in Genesis 3:16. (Part 1  Part 2)

Recently I presented my understanding of Genesis 3:16 , which is Part 2 in my series on the woman’s desire, and I summarized my interpretation like this:

  • After the Fall, woman would desire to be cherished by her husband; but rather than cherishing and comforting his wife, the husband would be inclined to rule harshly over her.
  • The gravitational pull woman feels towards her man can easily make her vulnerable to his mistreatment.

I want to make it crystal clear that man’s sinful tendency to mistreat woman does NOT mean that women must remain in an abusive marriages.

When God told Eve

 … he [your husband] shall rule over you,

He was not ordering woman to comply with abuse or submit to oppression. He was not telling women that man’s ‘lording-it-over’ disposition is just the way things are from now on, so women have to suck it up. 

As Christians, we are all urged to live as new creations in Christ, rather than living as if we were still dead in sin, held captive and enslaved by the consequences of the Fall.

Paul spells out quite specifically what this means for Christian husbands, fathers, slave owners and community leaders. He exhorts men to

  • love their wives
  • cease provoking their children
  • give up threatening their servants
  • and stop lording-it-over their communities. 

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, …  husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. …let each one of you love his wife as himself… (Eph 5:25, 28, 33 ESV)

Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Pet 3:7)

Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. … Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. (Col 3:19, 21)

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph 6:4 )

As for masters, … stop threatening them [your slaves], because you know that both you and your slaves have a master in heaven. He doesn’t distinguish between people on the basis of status. (Eph 6:9 CEB)

Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. (Col 4:1 ESV)

“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45; cf Matt 20:25-28)

an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain (Titus 1:7)

an overseer must be above reproach, … self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity (1 Tim 3:2-4)

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. (1 Tim 3:8)

I exhort the elders among you … shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. (1 Pet 5:1-3)

With all that teaching to men, is it therefore right to tell a wife that in order to demonstrate Christlikeness she must stay in a marriage where her husband is abusing her? No!  That notion is often taught in the church; but it is not biblically defensible.

If we tell a wife that she must stay in the marriage in order to demonstrate Christlikeness, what are we implying? 

  1. Because of the stereotypical concept of “christlikeness” and “the female role” which is pushed in churches, we have implied that she must tacitly comply with her husband’s lording-over behaviour which stems from his sinful disposition to rule over her.
  2. We have implied that in her responses to his abuse, she yet hasn’t been Christlike enough.
  3. We have implied that she has the responsibility of bringing godliness her husband.
  4. We have urged her to submit and endure her husband’s indulging his sinful dispositions.
  5. We have discouraged her from paying attention to her gut-feelings — that her husband really IS an abuser, he really IS dangerous, and she really IS at serious risk if she stays in this relationship.
  6. We have discouraged her from using Spirit-guided wisdom in judiciously and assertively confronting her husband, calling on him to repent from his sinful ‘lording-it-over’ mentality and amend his character.
  7. And we have forbidden her from doing the very thing which has the highest potential to prompt the abuser to repent and change his evil ways. 

Abusive men typically escalate their abuse (making it more covert, manipulative and dangerous) when admonished, reprimanded or penalised with consequences. Abusers deny that they are the problem: they focus their energies on oppressing and blaming their victims. But when the wife leaves, refuses to go back, or straight-out divorces him, it shows the abuser in no uncertain terms that his behaviour has been totally unacceptable. He can keep denying it if he chooses to, but his appalling behaviour has in fact meant that he no longer has that woman totally under his thumb.  

An abuser will generally attend a men’s behavior change group only when mandated. Men who attend those groups are either court mandated or ‘wife mandated’  (meaning the wife either gave him an ultimatum or she just left and won’t come back). A few men do seem to actually amend their characters from participating in those groups, so if there is any hope for any abuser to change, attending those groups can help them change. (But note: we believe true and lasting change cannot occur unless the abuser is regenerated by the Spirit.)

Christians who tell a wife that she should stay in the marriage in order to demonstrate Christlikeness, are forbidding her from doing the very thing that would have the most chance (though it’s a slim chance) of precipitating repentance and character change in the abuser.

Furthermore, if we instruct an abused woman that she should stay in the marriage in order to demonstrate Christlikeness, we are instructing her to go directly against 1 Peter 3:6.

I have adapted the following from my post Should wives submit to harsh husbands just like slaves submitting to harsh masters?.

While slaves were owned by their masters, wives were not (and still are not) owned by their husbands. It is wrong, both historically and morally, to say that the ‘likewise’ in 1 Peter 3:1 means that wives MUST submit to mistreatment or abuse from harsh husbands. The socio-cultural situation of the wives Peter was addressing was different from that of the slaves.

Peter gave guidance for slaves in their social-cultural situation, and he then gave advice to wives in their socio-cultural situation. The ‘likewise’ refers to the fact that each portion of advice is suited to the socio-cultural situation of the group of persons to whom it was directed. The likewise does not indicate that the advice to each group is the same.

The advice to each group (slaves, wives, and later husbands) is clearly different! Compared to the situation of a slave to his/her master, a wife has more options when she is being mistreated by her husband. A wife may object to mistreatment, may resist or refuse to comply with harshness and abuse, she may leave an abusive husband. She may divorce him and marry another husband because she is not enslaved to the marriage contract (i.e, ‘not under bondage’ – 1 Cor 7:15). Peter implicitly points to this when he says in 1 Peter 3:6

you are Sarah’s daughters (an idiom for ‘faithful believers and followers of God’) if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

What could be more frightening than standing up to an abuser and telling him to stop it! That is pretty scary stuff.

It takes great courage to stand up to an abuser because when you tell an abuser to stop it, he escalates his abuse. So Peter acknowledges that wives may sometimes be in situations where they can (unlike slaves) choose between submitting compliantly to harsh treatment, or standing up to it and refusing to comply with it.

Refusing to comply with abuse is often the scarier option — but it is the ‘good’ thing to do in some circumstances. By refusing to comply with abuse, the wife is doing good, being morally pure, trying to limit and curtail her husband’s sin and hold him accountable for it.

When a husband is entrenched in a pattern of egregious sin against his wife — when he is running amuck in his fallen disposition to rule over his wife, the wife actually shows RESPECT for him by judiciously setting boundaries against his abusiveness, and by employing justice and truth to hold the husband accountable. She shows purity of conduct by refusing to comply with his deceitful and evil ways.

And I have adapted this next part from my post 1 Peter 3:6—Sarah’s children do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Peter tells wives to do good and not give way to the fear of what their husbands might do.

Let us consider a wife who is being abused by her husband. She attempts to do good to her husband by admonishing him for his sinful ways, by resisting his abuse, and by setting boundaries against his destructive conduct.  The abuser simply wants to continue in his sinful ways, so he tries even harder to make her afraid of him. This wife has done good to her husband, and the typical outcome is that her husband escalates and intimidates her even more.

Verse 6 addresses this situation. It tells such wives to continue to do the good without backing down, without giving way to fear or intimidation.

It does the wife no good to be further oppressed and downtrodden — she will only become more exhausted and develop chronic health problems. And it does the abuser no good because it enables him to get further entrenched in his evil ways.

Peter is telling abused wives that it is fine, good and godly to judiciously resist the abuser’s power and control tactics. The abused wife does good in resisting being intimidated into fearful compliance with the abuser’s coercive control.

Sometimes some forms of resistance are not safe. Sometimes compliance is the only thing that creates a margin of temporary safety. And resistance can be hidden or visible, small or large. As victims, we pick our battles and we elect to let some things go through uncontested and un-remarked upon. That kind of stuff is the norm for victims of abuse, and it explains why survivors are often such strong,  careful, astute people . . . especially as they come more out of the fog and slough off the self-blame and false guilt in which they have been shrouded, shamed, silenced, immured.

A Christian wife who is being abused can be confident that, in not complying with the evildoing of her abuser, she is being Sarah’s daughter — she is doing what is right and not giving way to fear.

******

Related Posts

— I’ve given a lot of links here, in the hope that the nay-sayers and doubters will follow them up and find that what I’m asserting here is true and is testified by the Bible and by MANY survivors of domestic abuse. 

What is the woman’s desire? How Susan Foh’s interpretation of Genesis 3:16 fed steroids to abusers. (Pt 1 of 2)

The woman’s desire in Genesis 3:16 — let’s be consistent with the context and with actual life. (Pt 2 of 2)

Connecting genesis 3 and 4 through the most obscure verse by Martin Shields

Is it a sin to feel afraid?

Honouring Victims’ Resistance

How a Pastor and His Wife’s Eyes Were Opened to Abuse: A Letter to Pastors

Abuse: A Father’s Story

Domestic Abuse is the Test Case for Our Theology (and we are failing)

Biblical Divorce for Abuse explained in a nutshell

The Bible DOES allow divorce for domestic abuse

Is there biblical grounds for divorcing an abuser? (Eternity Magazine)

Carl Trueman and Todd Pruitt believe that abuse is grounds for divorce

Do not add an extra clause to the marriage covenant after it has been ratified

The Bible virtually commands divorce for domestic abuse

We Make Void God’s Word when we Prohibit Divorce for Abuse

Why Are Pastors Afraid to Permit Divorce for Abuse?

Which One is Worse? The Adulterer or the Abuser?

Does a Christian Wife Have Fewer Rights than a Slave Wife in Moses’ Day?

Abuse and Divorce: A Disagreement with the Westminster Confession of Faith

Leaving Your Abuser: Words From Someone Who Has Been There

Stop saying “Divorce causes broken homes.” Just stop it.

Marriage and Divorce: The Fallout

The Erroneous Idea that Leaving is “the easy way out”

A True Story of Redemption from the Pit of Abuse

Abuse and God’s Mercy: Martin’s Story

 

56 Comments

  1. Jeff Crippen

    Thank you Barbara for this post and for this entire series. As I have read it and thought about these things more, it is growing clearer to me just how twisted the teaching on these subjects has been that most of us have received growing up in the evangelical church. I will no longer claim the label “complementarian” nor allow people to apply it to me without protest. The entrenched comp camp will often accuse us of virtual apostasy when we reject their tenets, screaming “egalitarian” at us, by which they mean “you reject the Bible as the inerrant word of God! You are an apostate liberal!” But complementarian teachings are not the gospel.

    I would very much encourage you to put this series in some kind of published form so they can be readily available to everyone who has ears to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.

    • Danna

      I agree. Thank you for your clarifications and stances.

    • E

      Yes! A pamphlet series! I may make some to hand out with full content, references, and credit. Thank you! This and Barbara’s Levite Concubine video (is there a written version of that?) are the first teachings on those two topics that have ever made the passages make complete sense.

      • No; I haven’t published a written version of my Levite’s Concubine teaching yet.
        😦 😦 Too much to do all the time. Reading and responding to all the comments on the blog. Networking other activists to each other. Giving people links to good materials which will help them understand more truths about scripture and domestic abuse. And I have a fear of publishing books. It comes from the long dragged out agony of publishing my first book. And being a woman — which means I’m more likely to be picked apart and or ignored by the heavy-weight theologians. ….

        Jeff is gently getting on my back to help me over this hump…

    • healinginhim

      Thank you for this post and additional links.
      Jeff’s idea of having this in pamphlet form would be utilized by me.

    • Jason Jones

      Jeff, I don’t know if you’re meaning to make the connection, but it would appear that you’re suggesting that to be complementarian means a person cannot be supportive of wives getting out of abusive marriages.

      As I’ve shared in another thread, I disagree with Barbara’s interpretation of Genesis 3:16, but I can support most everything else that is being said in this article, along with a good deal of what you are advocating for here at CryingOutForJustice. While you might think that makes me a small minority within the Complementarian camp, I would disagree.

      I’ve heard Barabara use the phrase “soft comp” which I assume she means to imply that a “soft comp” is different than the majority and holds to views that are more respectful of women. I’d say that what you might refer to as “soft comps” are actually the vast majority of us.

      I don’t wish to revise the comp vs. egal debate, but I only bring this up because I really believe that both comps and egals can join together in the fight against abuse. There is nothing in core Comp beliefs that necessitates a woman staying in an abusive marriage, or that she can’t get divorced where abuse is concerned.

      • Hi Jason, neither Jeff nor I would suggest that to be complementarian means a person cannot be supportive of wives getting out of abusive marriages.
        We know some complementarians (including pastors) who DO support wives getting out of abusive marriages.

        Here is my personal observation of what I call soft-complementarians— they fall into two groups.

        The first group — very much the minority of soft comps — is highly aware of the dynamics of abuse, the tactics of abusive husbands, and the terrible suffering of abused wives, and they are activists in trying to awaken the church to abuse and support the abused. People like Steve and Celestia Tracy would be in this group.

        The second group — the vast majority of soft comps — would agree with the rhetoric that “husbands should not abuse wives” and that “complementarian doctrine does not endorse men abusing women”. They think that because they agree with that rhetoric, they ‘get it’. They think they don’t need any further education because their doctrine is all hunky dorey. So they are resistant to being told that in fact under the radar, a LOT of husbands are abusing their wives in complementarian circles, and these husbands are getting away with it, because those who should know better are letting them get away with it. They become very uncomfortable when we try to educate them about how naive they are about abusers. They prickle when we try to tell them that the way complementarian doctrines are being taught, there are way too few caveats being given to guard against complementarianism becoming toxic. And they don’t want to be come active in the cause of abused women, because that would be to difficult for them. It would take them out of their cosy complacency.

        A man who has genuinely experienced domestic abuse from his wife or ex-wife, is more likely to be in the first group, in that he will understand the dynamics of abuse and the suffering of victims. But I have observed that very few male survivors of wife abuse become active and passionate educators and supporters of the abused. We have only seen a few such men at this blog, so our sample is small, but it seems to me that most of those men are not all that active in trying to educate the church and support victims of domestic abuse. I would say Joe Pote is the most activist male survivor that I am aware of.

        But we do know a few activist pastors (some of who would be in the first group if they are soft-comps) who understand abuse dynamics and support victims because either they have suffered abuse in their own family of origin, or they have become aware of it being perpetratred on their own daughter, or they have woken up to it after suffering abuse from some of their own congregants.

        Lastly Jason, you said

        I really believe that both comps and egals can join together in the fight against abuse. There is nothing in core Comp beliefs that necessitates a woman staying in an abusive marriage, or that she can’t get divorced where abuse is concerned.

        I agree with you that both comps and egals can join together in the fight against abuse. But we have pretty stiff criteria for what that must mean. And complacency is ruled out! (see our post Non-negotiables for Effective and Biblical Abuse Ministry)

        As to whether or not there is anything in core comp beliefs that necessitates a woman staying in an abusive marriage, let’s leave that to one side as it could get hairsplitting over what is ‘core’ and what ‘comes with the core package in most cases, implicitly or explicitly’…

        The point we make at this blog is that the church (both comp and egal streams) needs to wake up to domestic abuse a LOT more and to take strong, well-informed, proactive course-correction to address it.

      • Jason Jones

        Thanks for the reply Barbara. I believe there are many more Comps than you might imagine that are close to what you would describe in the first group, but I would like to clarify that what I’m talking about is rank and file Comps and not the nationally recognized leaders or ministers. These rank and file members may not understand all the pathology and terms with regards to abuse, but I believe they do understand that the evangelical church is out of touch on this issue and this needs to be changed. However, it’s going to take awhile before these changes work their way to the top and become more visible.

        I’ve read through all the Non-negotiables on the post you linked. I would have a few clarifying questions on some of the points, but if I posted those, I’d do it on that page.

      • If there are more on the first group, why aren’t they being activists? Why aren’t they standing up to the leaders who are allowing all the injustice to go on under their watch?
        Obviously, I think there are not more in that first group — because I don’t see and hear them speaking up or rocking the complacent boat.

    • Remedy

      Hi P Jeff….attending your event in York PA again this year. Do you put this out anywhere on the blog in case any more of us are in the area and would attend? You don’t need to publish this comment if you don’t want to. I just was wondering if our blog community knew you will be on this side of the country. I’m guessing many would travel to hear you speak in person and opportunity to meet you.

  2. Suzanne

    Amen to this article and to Jeffs comment. I couldn’t have said it better and I believe it to be a most excellent synopsis of the Biblical understanding of and approach to abuse. It saddens me to think of all of the pain endured by wives and others whose churches do not deal with abusers and support their victims as the Bible has instructed us. I pray that God will use these teachings to open the hearts and minds of His people everywhere.

  3. LH

    Yes!!! Christians NEED to understand this!

  4. Annie

    I recently listened to preaching about how Jesus said his followers would be persecuted for following him. And while I’m sure many listeners were thinking of currents events around the world I finally realized that my husband’s ongoing battle isn’t just with me; it’s with Jesus too. I remembered he once revealed to me in an argument years ago that he knew I’d never put him first — that I put Jesus first. He’s unwilling to understand that I want us together to put Jesus first. He wants to be first. And it’s not just he wants to be first over me. He wants to be first over me because I put Jesus above all. That’s one aspect he knows he can’t control.

  5. Annie

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Barbara, thank you.

    He was not ordering woman to comply with abuse or submit to oppression. He was not telling women that man’s ‘lording-it-over’ disposition is just the way things are from now on, so women have to suck it up.

    Many scriptures are misused because they are taken as a prescriptions rather than a description

    • Yes and it appears that the ones that are doing the “prescribing” are the same ones that are “profiting” from the continuation to lord-it- over..
      Looks like we need to stop trusting the foxes to watch over the chicken coop.

  6. TJ

    The word in Genesis 2:18 that is usually translated “help meet” or “help suitable to him” is often used to teach that women are inferior to men. However …[Eds: a couple of references removed here because we have not read or vetted them] the word is actually ezer kenegdo in Hebrew.

    Ezer is a combination of two roots meaning “to rescue, to save,” and “to be strong.” Usually the word ezer is used in the OT to describe God as a warrior who comes to powerfully deliver someone in trouble. The word kenegdo could be defined as “equal to him.” If so, then God makes for the man a woman fully his equal and fully his match. In this way, the man’s loneliness will be assuaged. [_reference redacted__] says that “The woman was never meant to be an assistant or “helpmate” to the man. The word “mate” slipped into English since it was so close to the Old English word “meet,” which means “fit to” or “corresponding to” the man which comes from the phrase that likely means “equal to.” What God had intended, then, was to make a “power” or “strength” for the man who would in every way “correspond to him” or even “be his equal.”

    • Thanks TJ

      you will see I edited your comment a bit and removed some of the references in it. I did this because we have a policy at this blog of not publishing (even in comments from readers) references to other materials unless we have read and vetted them. I hope you understand. See more on our publishing policy here.

      I know that what you say about ezer kenegdo is basically correct.

      You and the rest of our readers may like to read this article about ezer kenegdo written by Marg Mowczko:
      Kenegdo: Is the woman subordinate, suitable, or similar to the man?

      And since this is your first comment TJ, welcome to the blog! 🙂

      We always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      • Free

        I’ve heard the ezer word preached one time. Yet I hear and see the submission false teaching (even subtly) in bible studies, sermons, conversations, conferences, etc.

        This is an outrage!!! I hate this evil world. I’m so glad to know that is NOT who God is!

      • Free

        Hi Barbara or anyone else who know,

        Where is the page on what to say and what not to say to abuse victims? Thank you

      • Hi Free,

        You may be referring to Barbara’s article “Unhelpful Comments by Well-Meaning People” This is a direct link; though it can be found on our Resources page under the subheading “Supporters of Victims of Domestic Abuse”

  7. Annie

    7. And we have forbidden her from doing the very thing which has the highest potential to prompt the abuser to repent and change his evil ways.

    And, on the converse, when forbidden, a godly wife will be tempted or even commanded to pretend, as if approved by God to be intellectually dishonest about the relationship.

    Being prone to believing what I had been traditionally taught about staying in a marriage at all costs, actually made me prone to all kinds of escalating marital abuse.

    I was living what I wished were true and living what I hoped would some day BE true, but it was not true. Now it’s impossible for me to find a card that IS true.

    The truth is that all the sweet-nothings (which is really what they were — nothing), were used against me. Every time he received one of those cards, in his narcissistic mind, it justified his abuse. Period. There was never a moment in his mind when he thought to apologize to me saying that he did not deserve the cards that I gave him. Or, if there was, then he resisted the Holy Spirit’s prompting to the point now where he has a seered conscience*. Each card that I wrote (think how many times over a period of 26 years that he was enabled) gave approval for how I allowed myself to be treated.

    * He actually said to me one day that he didn’t even know if he had a conscience. (Of course, it was merely another excuse).

    So that when I finally came to the knowledge that doing good to him was not ignoring the sin, but rather exposing the lies (sin)…he turned around and used my cards to accuse ME of lying to him.

    That totally caught me off guard.

    And. It was another subtle, covert way of not admitting to/of denying HIS lies.

    One just can’t live honestly with a Biblical worldview (using all of scripture to interpret scripture, contextually, historically and grammatically) and believe that Genesis 3:16 is a prescription.

    • healinginhim

      * He actually said to me one day that he didn’t even know if he had a conscience.

      Well, several different counselors alluded to the fact that the man I married was sorely apathetic and actually lacked ‘a conscience’.
      Also, many years ago ‘the man’ read a book based on this theme and admitted that he was described in the book … ‘a man without a conscience’.

      So, here we have a man who admits to lacking any conscience; the children, siblings, extended family and so-called friends, including the ‘c’hurch can see it but think, “oh well, that’s just the way he is.” And yet the pressure was put on me to change; to conform to this severe lack of empathy. Exhausting!

      It was more than a lack of empathy as various forms of abuse were involved!

  8. standsfortruth

    This is such an Exellent message!
    It strikes at the “Root” of the false teachings that have kept women in bondage to evil and cruel husbands when it was “Never” intended to be that way!
    No more shackles.
    Thank you again for all the hard work you do.

  9. Barbara, this hits the nail right on the head. Thank you for making the truth crystal clear. This will encourage women to lift themselves out of the trenches. The “Church” needs to listen and not force false teachings onto them.

  10. M&M

    I heard the “no rights” idea in a non-abusive context, but I realize that it could be applied to abuse in someone’s mind. I heard it in the context of “God doesn’t owe you earthly riches.” True that He doesn’t owe me money or owe me rights, but He choose to give me rights. When He says “do not do xyz” in the Bible it also means we have the right to not have xyz done against us. My parents don’t owe me Christmas gifts, but they choose to give them so now I have gifts and we have rights. I hate how hard it is to filter out stuff that’s almost true, but still not.

  11. Misti

    I actually looked at I Peter 3:1 yesterday, and the word translated “servants” in I Peter 2 is actually servant, not slave. It’s more analogous to “employee”.

    And the example given for how we’re to submit to earthly authorities is how Christ Himself behaved in relation to earthly authorities—which was behavior that included leaving.

    Much of what’s claimed as “Christlike” or “Christian” behavior in the church isn’t actually Christlike. In fact, it’s often what Christ refused to do, what others wanted Him to do. (“Just shut up and do what you’re told and not have any opinions or feelings about it!”) But He both refused and left.

    • Anonymous

      See Misti, THIS is The Lord I love. Thank you for sharing this.

    • HI Misti, your comment made me look up 1 Peter 2.

      Verse 18 is the only verse in chapter two of 1 Peter which contains (in English translations) the word ‘servant’. That word in Greek is oiketes (see here for more info on that word). It says that this word means household servant, and it has a more restricted definition than doulos (slave) because it refers to an individual who is a household domestic. So the word oiketes, as I understand it, would not be applied to a slave who worked in his or her master’s fields. It would apply to only to an individual who worked in his his or her master’s house. That individual, I am guessing, could be a slave, owned by the master, or could be a servant who was not actually owned by the master.

      Side note: In those days, slavery often did not last for a lifetime; many slave owners in the Roman Empire gave their slave freedom (emancipation) after the slave had worked for them for some years. Some of those freed persons might choose to continue working for that master as freed men or women. And it was not unusual for a master to train a slave to have high level skills in managing the master’s affairs. And at a certain point the master might free that slave and the skilled slave continued to work for the master exercising a high level of authority in managing that master’s affairs.

      • Misti

        Thanks for that background, Barbara. That’s what I was coming from when I thought “employee” was more analogous in modern culture—the house servant/master of the house relationship is socially comparable to the employee/employer relationship of the modern day.

        If you consider the items in I Peter 2 & 3 as example applications rather than as prescriptive rules, it fits the didactic purpose of the letter and makes the context more applicable overall, both then and now. For example, the I Peter 2 description of house servants vs. masters of the house could be applied to field slaves with their overseers—and the house servant vs. master of the house example is a fantastic analogy/example, for didactic purposes, due to how it addresses both slave and free + involves a situation that isn’t necessarily permanent. (I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s witnessed underlings in a company speak and act as if they’re doing their boss a favor by actually showing up for work and doing any work at all.)

  12. beckylovesthelight

    Barbara, I believe this with all my heart. Thank you for this. May God bless you for your ministry of bringing truth to the oppressed.

  13. Still Reforming

    I also think that by asking wives to be “Christlike,” churches are actually going against Ephesians 5:25, wherein it states that the HUSBANDS are to be Christlike and the wives like the church (v.24). That ball nearly always gets dropped as the leaders press upon the wives to be as Christ. That’s a clear reversal of the Biblical God-given roles.

    Re: 1 Peter 3:6, I have a friend whose husband told her to call him “lord” since that’s how he interpreted that verse (“…Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord…”). They are no longer married, thanks to her initiative to finally end it. 🙂

    • Oh golly gosh! I’ve never heard of a man actually using that verse to order his wife to call him “lord” ! There are no bounds to the abusers’ inventiveness in misusing scripture, eh?

      And you made a really good point SR, here:

      By asking wives to be “Christlike,” churches are actually going against Ephesians 5:25, wherein it states that the HUSBANDS are to be Christlike and the wives like the church (v.24). That ball nearly always gets dropped as the leaders press upon the wives to be as Christ. That’s a clear reversal of the Biblical God-given roles.

    • Not really Scared anymore!!

      Mine used it to make me call him “Master”. I just didn’t call him anything after that.

    • Remedy

      SR…you’re back!! I have missed seeing your posts regularly and have wondered several times how you are doing. Was happy to see your post this morning!

  14. Bronwyn

    This is just what I am understanding. When we stay and protect and hide we are not loving our husbands; we are encouraging them to continue. And horrors, we are horribly affecting our precious children. Thank you for writing this.

    • Hi Bronwyn,

      And thank you for commenting!

      We like to direct new commenters to our new user’s page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog.

      Welcome!

    • Free

      Hi Bronwyn

      To be clear because your comment sounds to me condemning. Perhaps you didn’t mean it that way. Nonetheless- I didn’t stay and protect and hide. I was abused and so were my children. It was both the same for myself and the children. I am not responsible for the evil I endured. It’s others around us who stayed and protected and hid the evil.

      I did not horribly affect my children – the abuser did. I don’t love the abuser x h to Christ or to a behavior that’s non abusive. But yet church was commanding me to LOVE him and stay and hide and submit because the abuser was “not perfect”. Thank you

    • Free

      Hi Bronwyn,

      May I suggest a a crucial resource IMO to you?

      https://notunderbondage.com/pages/unhelpful-comments-by-well-meaning-people-a-coaching-clinic

      Thank you.

      You said this…(in parentheses are my thoughts)

      This is just what I am understanding. When we stay and protect and hide we are not loving our husbands; (I didn’t stay to protect my husband or hide. I certainly was loving him and I certainly was speaking up and taking action) we are encouraging them to continue. And horrors ( I NEVER encouraged my husband to continue. This is an incorrect an condemning assumption to me) , we are horribly affecting our precious children (No, THE ABUSER and those who enable them and refuse to stand for the truth are horribly affected my precious children) . Thank you for writing this.

      I am a survivor who endured abuse and fights abuse. It was never my fault, not once. I speak boldly and with all due respect to you Bronwyn and others who think and speak this way. Thank you.

    • Hi Bronwyn, welcome to the blog. 🙂

      It can sometimes be tricky to talk about this stuff, can’t it? It’s not always easy to find language that rightly expresses the truth — language that ascribes the blame to the abuser and makes it clear that the victim is not being blamed for the harm the abuser causes, yet language that at the same time acknowledges the potential risks and consequences of staying with the abuser versus the risks of leaving the abuser. And it’s complicated by the fact that sometimes a victim may be choosing to stay because she has weighed up the risks of each scenario, and decided that for the moment, there is more risk in leaving than in staying….

      You may find these posts interesting, in helping you think about all this 🙂

      https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2013/08/26/enabling-sins-of-the-victim-tetchy-topics-indeed/

      https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2015/12/28/parched-for-truth-dehydrated-victims-appreciate-any-water-but-its-better-to-give-them-pure-rather-than-muddy-water/

      and this booklet from Calgary Women’s Shelter: Honouring Resistance

      • standsfortruth

        I am ever learning how important language usage is Barbara, and how to state things in such a way as not to “give room” for any misunderstandings.
         
        When someone is still struggling within a fog producing abusive environment, “clear language” can give freedom from misconceptions once entrenched upon and believed.
        If I may be so bold as to add some of my own clarifyers to your title statement for the sake of those in the fog, please indulge me to do so.

        Since the fall, men have been sinfully disposed to oppress women, but this does not condone their abuse, nor does it imply or suggest that women are to subject themselves to male abuse in any situtation, including marriage.

      • I think your clarifier is fine! But I won’t alter the title of this post because titles have to be fairly short. Short titles look better on the blog, and on FB and twitter they work better too.

        But I’m happy to repeat your clarifying extension:

        Since the fall, men have been sinfully disposed to oppress women, but this does not condone their abuse, nor does it imply or suggest that women are to subject themselves to male abuse in any situtation, including marriage.

      • standsfortruth

        Oh yes, I only meant as a reply for further clarification reasons , not to change anything about your origional post..

        I must confess, I am very excited by this latest post of yours…☺
        I can just guess the wolves in sheeps clothing will not be though. lol

  15. Some of you have suggested I publish my three articles about Genesis 3:16 in a booklet.

    When I think about publishing another book, my spirit wants to hide under the doona and never come out. I actually start having thoughts of wishing to be dead — which are not normal for me these days. These thoughts are relics of the suicidal ideation I used to have many years ago. I simply want to avoid the whole work of publishing. Sigh. I suppose that publishing Not Under Bondage was so hard for me to do, that I automatically flinch away from going through that degree of stress and fear again.

    But out of the corner of my mind I prayed last night in bed, asking God to help me with this. And I woke up this morning with a tiny sense that Yes I could do it. And I might actually be able to turn my energy towards doing it.

    I’m sure that many of you understand how debilitating triggers can be. So you’ll have some comprehension of my feelings here.

    • Lost

      Thank you Barbara for saying this so clearly.
      You said:

      I’m sure that many of you understand how debilitating triggers can be. So you’ll have some comprehension of my feelings here.

      Thank you. I do understand I was hit with several lately and debilitating is the word. The wanting to die feelings and thoughts I also understand. Im so grateful you all don’t call this victim mentality. This is certainly because I was abused and I fight abuse while growling now.

      I am so grateful to have A VOICE! I talk a lot on here because the EVIL HATEFUL UNREPENTANT “GODLY” ABUSER COMMANDED MY LITERAL SILENCE FOR YEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      I cried tonight a most painful silent cry. The kind that makes no noise as if the monumental pain inside had absorbed any possible sound. I know God hears me and I know those who know Him hear me on here too. Thank you for hearing my cry.

      Thank you COFJ team for helping me. The truth is my strength and armor. It’s my honor and what is saving me from the abuser and others alike. Jesus says He is the way the truth and the life. Thank you for telling the truth about the reality of abuse and the reality of what God says about it.

    • Charis

      Thank you…for your authenticity.

      I have never composed a book. I have written and published articles (for work) and that was both exciting and truly miserable, in every way.

      I can identify with the idea of the immense workload and tremendous amount of energy involved in putting forth a book. Several people have been pushing me to do the same…and the thought of it nearly drives me to panic and dread – as does the thought of NOT doing one.

      All that to say: I support your decision – either way. Thank you for being real. Being you. *love & hugs*

      • the thought of it nearly drives me to panic and dread – as does the thought of NOT doing one.

        Yes exactly. My biggest dread is dying before I have written all the book(s) I have to write…

        Thanks Charis. It helps me to share my weaknesses on this blog.

  16. MaxGrace

    Thank you so much, Barbara. Along with Anonymous and MIsti I have to say Yes this is the Lord I know. He is a champion for the downcast. I also would love to see this in pamphlet form. Sincerely and gratefully.

  17. Avid Reader

    Hi Jason,

    We are on your side, agreeing with you that this is a blog where Complementarians and Egalitarians come together to stand for truth and help the hurting.

    I think what Pastor Jeff was trying to say is that most of us have grown up in the church hearing teachings by Complementarian leaders that emphasizes submission without distinguishing between submission to GOD and submission to ABUSE. There are hundreds of pages of Complementarian books that teach wives to obey but only a few pages here and there on domestic violence. Those few pages often just say that violence is unacceptable but don’t give any teaching on how abuse is Biblical grounds for divorce. That’s why we need more Complementarians like you who are willing to be an ambassador to the church.

  18. MarkQ

    Hi all, I think I’m a complementarian* now. What I’ve been struggling with is that authority also comes with the concept of discipline. We see that with the state. In order to preserve societal peace, the state has to punish lawbreakers. In a similar sense, when my children disobey God, I have a responsibility to guide them to a proper understanding of what is right and true.

    But… when I look at the husband and wife relationship, I see the term submit, but I don’t see the flip side (authority) of that. Just as I have a responsibility of protecting my family from harm caused by my wife, she has a responsibility of protecting her family from harm caused by me. I see these in many ways as parallel. In other cases, I don’t see that my role is somehow superior, meaning that I don’t see situations where I get to call the shots against my wife’s objections. What I see is that we work together as a team, and when we disagree, we need to give each other the space to resolve the disagreement.

    I think there are unique and different things that we bring to the marriage relationship, but I don’t think of my “masculine” traits as being superior, or my wife’s “feminine” traits as being inferior. I don’t see that I have any unique call to lead my family that my wife doesn’t, and I don’t see that she has some unique call to follow me.

    For the most part our relationship with our children is similar. We have bounds on what God says, and we have bounds on what we are willing to do as parents, but mostly we think that our children should be allowed to have their own desires and decisions. I don’t think God makes our children extensions of us. That’s a huge balancing act. Do our kids play sports because we get gratification from their flesh, or is it that we recognize the benefits of discipline (and sometimes force them to do things that they don’t want to do), or is it because they want to, or if they don’t, they understand that there is a benefit and they trust our judgment.

    I came up with a simple guideline to help me get control of the parent-child relationship. If my children ask why they have to do something, and I can’t defend it past obedience, then it’s probably abusive. For example, my kids go to school. I say, the state requires you to be in school, therefore I have a responsibility to make sure that you attend school. Or, God says that we are to treat each other with kindness and respect, and hitting your sister is not kind. Therefore… But. “Because I told you to get me a glass of water” doesn’t pass the test.

    *meaning differences in roles, but not necessarily the whole philosophical system around authority and submission.

  19. MarkQ

    I completely agree. I’ve heard too many sermons that claim that the wife wants to usurp her husband’s authority. If that were the problem, we would find it much more common, but what we find, instead is the almost universal subjugation of women.

    I think that we modern Evangelicals are so blind to systemic sin that we take clear teaching of scripture and turn it on its head. Jesus says don’t lord it over, but we say, in order to be a godly leader, you need to have a smile, yes, but also an iron fist.

    • Free

      Thank you Mark. I am so tired of hearing how a wife’s aim is to control her husband when I knew full well that I had NO desire to do that but was being brainwashed by church, men, women and culture to think I was WHILE I was being controlled. I was consistently being treated like I knew nothing. Like I didn’t know how to be a wife, friend, mom (people would actually do typical “mom things” toward my kids right in front of me as if I was unable!), or get thru a day, make decisions etc etc.

      But that’s what the evil abuser was actually like. Yet people treated him like the healthy one and me like the wicked unloving abuser. What confusion and what a prison I was forced into.

      Guess who’s got some respectful and true friends now? Yep the one who calls evil evil and good good and fights abuse.

      You said:

      I completely agree. I’ve heard too many sermons that claim that the wife wants to usurp her husband’s authority. If that were the problem, we would find it much more common, but what we find, instead is the almost universal subjugation of women.

      Thank you for speaking up. Glad of it.

      • MarkQ

        “Like I didn’t know how to be a wife, friend, mom (people would actually do typical “mom things” toward my kids right in front of me as if I was unable!)”

        My brother did that to my wife. My wife and I were SO angry about it. I’m sure if we did that to his kids, he’d have a cow. Don’t be deluded. That kind of abuse is deliberate and it is meant to be demeaning. My brother was saying, “if you aren’t going to be the parent, I WILL.”

        So, we cut the length of our visits from a week to a few days. Seems like he can control himself about that long, and I can keep my mouth shut as well.

  20. Aimee Byrd (Housewife Theologian) recently posted Listening to the Women. She’s nailed a big problem in the way complementarianism is being practiced.

    She has been asking: How complementarianism can be healthy if women are not heard? — And she has been getting the usual sound of crickets chirping from well known complementarian men…

    Here is quote from the end of her post:

    What’s significant about the complementarian model CBMW is promoting, and groups like Together for the Gospel, Acts 29, SGM and others have been operating under, is that it emphasizes male leadership, but not male listening; womanly submission, but not womanly speaking. It has viewed women as helpers, but not as necessary allies. And in choosing to lead alone, leader after leader after leader has instead fallen in to sin, and ministries that have served so many so well are now left vulnerable.

    I am certainly not arguing that simply incorporating more womanly counsel into a ministry will protect it or its leaders from sin or error. Nor am I suggesting that this is the only issue at play. But at this moment in history, when the church of Christ seems poised for some of the biggest battles against culture and secularism it has yet seen, she needs allies.

    She has allies.

    She needs to lean on them.

    • In Aimee’s post, she mentions the term ezer kenegdo.

      “necessary ally” [is] a term proposed by John McKinley at ETS as an alternate, more complete translation of “ezer kenegdo” than the common “suitable helper”.

      I think the term ‘necessary ally’ is a very good a translation of ezer kenegdo.

      • More info on John McKinley’s teaching on ezer kenegdo:

        He gave a talk ‘Necessary Allies – God as ezer, Woman as ezer’ to the Evangelical Theological Society’s 2015 Annual Meeting. You can purchase the mp3 here for $4.

        In Aimee Byrd’s article Always A Woman she quotes a bit of what McKinley says:

        The issue in ezer is neither equality nor subordination, but distinction and relatedness. She is to be for the man as an ally to benefit him in the work they were given to do. Just as ezer tells of God’s relatedness to Israel as the necessary support for survival and military perils, the woman is the ally to the man, without which he cannot succeed or survive. Unlike helper, that could seem optional, and allow the man to think he’s otherwise adequate for his task without the women, the distinction of ally marks the man’s dependence upon her contribution. This dependence is plain when we consider Israel’s need for God’s contribution as her ally. …

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