Written by Natalie, Editress of Visionary Womanhood
This is a blog post, and by nature, blog posts are supposed to make a point and make it succinctly. Therefore, in order for me to make my point and let you go, I‘ll assume some things.
- I’m assuming that the typical reader of Visionary Womanhood is a conservative Christian woman who would view feminism as a destructive force in our culture.
- I’m assuming that the reader believes what God’s Word teaches about basic submission to authority, and how that enables cultures to thrive in an orderly, protective fashion.
- I’m assuming the reader has a basic understanding of sin, the institute of marriage, the importance of honoring and respecting one’s husband, the role of a wife in the marriage relationship, and how agape love makes the world go round.
If you are reading this and you don’t believe those things, then you might need to click away. There are foundations you need to pursue before this post will mean anything to you. But if you are on the same page here, then you might benefit from a discussion of this important topic. Because this pendulum SWINGS.
Swinging Over to the Left
You have secular feminists howling that women rock and men are crud. It’s the “girls rule, boys drool” mantra for self-centered children in grown-up bodies.
Swinging pretty close to those folks are the Christian feminists who would tell you that men and women are equal in preciousness, but they compete for the same roles. Roles for men and women are interchangeable depending on Wemmick whims. There’s more…but for our purposes, this brief description will suffice.
Swinging over to the Right
You have Christians making rules that supersede the Word of God. It’s a rule that is BETTER than God’s Word. More holy. This is a common error among religious Wemmicks. It’s the ancient error of the Pharisees. You know…those guys that Jesus was always saying “mean” things to?
These folks believe that women are to be silent. Period. If their husband is sinning against them or their children, their only recourse is to pray that God will “lay it on the husband’s heart” to repent. God apparently is not allowed to use human means of the “help meet” to…well, help.
The wide-spread teaching found throughout God’s Word on conflict resolution and peacemaking is not applicable in the marriage relationship. A couple of verses are chosen to trump the rest of the Bible when it comes to marriage, leaving a woman in a vulnerable position. But that’s OK, because God will make it all right in the end.
Is your husband beating you or the children? Don’t tell anyone or you’d be dishonoring him. Is he into pornography? Don’t correct him. You must remain silent, winning him without a word. Did he just take a wrong turn when you were on your way to an out-of-town wedding? Don’t let him know the wedding was in the other direction. You’d be usurping his authority. Never mind that you are his “help-meet.” The help can wait while he wanders around lost and you sit next to him experiencing a nice, holy feeling.
Now, these are extremes, I realize, but I’m showing you the swing, right? I know people who believe this stuff. How? I used to believe it…back when my marriage was unhealthy. Once I threw out the Wemmick teaching and turned to God’s Word as my source of direction, our marriage perked right up. My husband is happier. I’m happier. Let God be true and every man a liar. (Romans 3:4)
Why This is Critical
Error in the church has serious repercussions that reverberate for GENERATIONS. There are blogs and websites springing up all over the Internet authored by women who lived under the false teaching that wives should not contribute to their marriage relationship by exhorting, restoring and building up their husband to love and good deeds.
This sick teaching produced the sick fruit of sick families. And ultimately, sick children…who grew up. Now those children are vomiting all over forums and blogs designed to blaspheme God and His Ways…when it wasn’t even God’s fault! It was the unhealthy, man-made, “holy” rules of their parents in a sinful reaction to cultural feminism.
Whenever we REACT to a false worldview, we swing to the opposite error. God does not want us reacting all the time. His Word, and His Word alone, is to be our plumb line. Christians who are not regularly reading their Bibles will be more prone toward falling into extremes based on the beliefs of Christians Wemmicks around them. The more you study God’s Word, praying through it daily, meditating on it, speaking it into the life of your family, the more grounded you will be when Wemmick winds start blowing in funny directions.
The Meaning of Correction
- The action or process of correcting something.
- A change that rectifies a error or inaccuracy
Is your husband a human being? If you answered “yes,” this means he is a sinner. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All. (Romans 3:23)
Sinners need recalibration periodically, right? So let’s set marriage aside for just a minute and simply take a look at the issue of correcting ANYONE. What does God’s Word say on this subject? When someone sins, what do we do?
Give a Blessing…Be a Blessing
Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
…not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead, for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. (I Peter 3:9)
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)
Pursue peace with all men, and holiness without which no one will see the Lord, looking diligently lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled. (Hebrews 12:14)
Are these verses for all of us, in any relationship? Do these verses apply to the marriage relationship? Of course they do. Let’s look at another way we can respond when someone sins against us or wants us to do something that is wrong.
Make an Appeal
An appeal is when we respectfully ask a person in authority to reconsider an instruction based on information he/she may not know about or understand clearly. We are to do it in kindness, not harshly or sarcastically. Daniel is an example of a godly person who made an appeal to authority when asked to do something that violated his conscience. (Daniel 1:11-16)
Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. Proverbs 16:21
The heart of the wise teaches his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips. (Proverbs 16:23)
This applies to all relationships that involve two people, including the marriage relationship. Here’s how Martha Peace puts it in her book, The Excellent Wife:
“However, when a wife believes she has a better or wiser idea, as her husband’s helper, she should be ready to give her husband the benefit of her wise counsel and advice. A wise husband should always be ready to receive it. “A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.” (Proverbs 1:5) Who knows a husband better than his wife and who has God placed next to him who is better able to give him wise counsel than the “helper suitable” for him?”
If the person in authority maintains their position, and they are not asking you to sin, then you must accept that decision as the will of God for now. “For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” (I Peter 3:17)
If there is sin involved, however, there are steps that God has set up that are designed to restore the person to a right relationship with God. This is the whole point of Biblical rebuke: a person’s RESTORATION. If we love one another, we will practice what God teaches regarding this. If we love ourselves and want to avoid conflict, we will set up our own rules that “feel” more holy and make us have the appearance of holiness. God sees our hearts, and God’s Word trumps our “holy rules.”
Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. (Luke 17:3)
Open rebuke is better than secret love. (Proverbs 27:5)
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:6)
By the way, when a verse uses the word “brother” in this context, it is not referring to a biological brother. It is not referring to men only. These verses are referring to fellow believers: both men and women. When you get married, you don’t lose your “fellow believer” status in regard to your marriage relationship. If you think you do…you’d need to make a Biblical case for that, showing that God excludes the marriage relationship in such verses. If you can’t prove that, then you are prey to Wemmick thinking…not Biblical teaching.
Again, I want to quote Martha Peace because she puts it so well:
“Another wrong, but wide-spread belief is that a Christian wife should never reprove her husband because she must love him unconditionally—she must accept him as he is. As this view goes, she must suffer in silence when her husband sins against her. Though there may be times when it “…is a glory of a man to overlook a matter” (Proverbs 19:11), this view is flawed because it misunderstands the true natural of biblical love.
Proverbs 27:5 says, “Open rebuke is better than secret love.” Certainly a wife must humbly, gently love her husband whether he ever changes or not. But, she also is given to him as his helper so that he might grow to maturity in Christ Jesus. A wife shows great love to her husband when she rightly encourages him to faithful Christian living. “Love edifies” (I Corinthians 8:1). It builds up rather than tears down. A wife’s reproof done in a biblical manner and with biblical motives is intended to build up her husband.
If a godly wife refrains from “speaking the truth in love,” her Christian husband will be deprived of one of God’s greatest provisions for his own spiritual growth—the words of encouragement and exhortation of his own wife. True biblical love “rejoices with the truth” (I Corinthians 13:6) A godly wife’s biblical reproof is not only an act of love, but it will (if it is done properly and he humbly receives it) strengthen the love of the husband for his wife.
“…rebuke a wise man and he will love you” (Proverbs 9:8). “Above all keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins,” The idea here is that love will not broadcast a person’s sins to others, but will “cover them” by dealing with the sins in a loving, biblical manner.
A Christian wife does not have the option of whether or not to reprove her Christian husband who continues in sin. She is commanded to reprove him because her husband is also a professing Christian brother in the Lord. Galatians 6:1 explains what a godly wife must do when her Christian husband sins against her, ‘Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one.” She must go privately and tell him in a straight-foreword, clear manner how she believes he has sinned against her.
This verse also cautions the one giving the reproof (in this case the wife) to do it “in a spirit of gentleness; each on looking to yourself, lest you also be tempted.” The wife should examine her own motive first to ensure that when she goes to her husband she has a clear conscience, free of sin, and that she does not sin in how she speaks to her husband (e.g. in a disrespectful or argumentative way). Her motive should be to restore, not to expose, not to make things easier for herself, and not to get some other personal reward.”
If you want to read more on this subject, I recommend The Excellent Wife, by Martha Peace. It is, in my opinion, the first book a Christian wife should read on the subject, next to the Bible.
Verses Used to Propagate the Idea that a Wife Should Never Correct Her Husband
“The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” (I Corinthians 14: 34-35)
This is the chapter in I Corinthians where Paul is telling those folks “enough already with the chaotic ruckus in church.” Apparently the women were contributing their share of the noise. Don’t twist this out of context or make it say something God isn’t saying.
“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives,” (I Peter 3:1)
The second part of this verse (…so that even if…) is wise counsel for wives married to unbelieving husbands who do not have the Holy Spirit living inside, and consequently have no power outside of themselves to do what is right. A Christian wife can correct her unbelieving husband until she’s blue in the face, but it will do no good. He is spiritually blind. What he first needs is regeneration, and the Bible is saying here that the best way to “win” him over to a saving faith in Christ is through powerful example of gracious, noble conduct. Not words.
On the other hand, if your husband is a Christian, then he is not only a husband, but also a brother. In fact, he will be your husband for only a brief moment in time on earth, but he will be your brother forever. So whenever the Word of God gives instructions regarding how we are to treat our brothers and sisters in Christ…those instructions can, and should be applied to the most important relationship on earth: the marriage relationship. When followed, these instructions will bear good fruit.
Biblical Examples of Wives Correcting Husbands (or Not!)
God calls Abigail’s husband a “fool.” When Nabal told David he wasn’t going to give him recompense for David’s help, David decided to demolish the entire household. Thank goodness Abigail wasn’t “silent.” She intervened and saved many lives. God didn’t zap her for this. To the contrary, He killed her husband and gave her a new one. (1 Samuel 25:32-33 and 41-42)
How about Sapphira? Now there’s a silent woman for you. She failed to correct her husband, and God DID zap her right along with him. Zapped them both dead. (Acts 5:1-11)
What do Godly Men Think of Their Wives Correcting Them?
Humble, godly men welcome correction as a gift from God. They look to their help meets for counsel. This doesn’t mean they do what the wife wants all the time. But they see their wives as having insights and wisdom (yes, wisdom is personified as a woman in Proverbs!) that they can take advantage of and benefit from. Here are some real quotes from godly men and women I respect:
“My husband would die in a big pile if I suddenly told him I would no longer “correct” him. And vice versa. He depends on me to be his faithful counselor. That’s how I help him most. Now…when we disagree…as we often do…I go with what he wants. My husband has said before that a wise man will listen to his wife! God gave her to him to complete him and help him.”
“May the LORD keep me and our brethren from becoming a Nabal ( fool 1 Samuel 25:2–3).”
“What a shame for a husband not to have the benefit of seeing himself in the clearest mirror available, his Christian wife. If one wants to argue that one in a submissive position should never rebuke one in a leadership position, then our Lord sinned in rebuking his parents and Nathan probably sinned in rebuking David. We always lose when we depart from the vibrant truths of scripture, and we may give our opponents legitimate cause for criticism.”
What Did the Puritans Believe About Wives Correcting Husbands?
The following quotes are taken from an extraordinarily interesting (my copy is dog-eared) book about the Puritans, Worldly Saints by Leland Ryken:
“Headship did not, for the Puritans, mean tyranny. It was leadership based on love. Benjamin Wadsworth wrote that a good husband will ‘make his government of her as easy and gentle as possible, and strive more to be loved than feared.’ According to Samuel Willard, a good husband will so rule ‘as that his wife may take delight in [his headship] and not account it a slavery but a liberty and privilege.’”
“The husband’s headship did not mean that the wife was his servant. John Downame made this clear when he wrote that God ‘gave the wife unto the husband to be, not his servant, but his helper, counselor, and comforter.’ The most customary Puritan term for defining the relationship was to call the wife an assistant. Gataker called the wife ‘an help, or an assistant; not a mate only, but a helper; not a companion only, but an assistant too.’
“Nor did the wife’s submission mean to the Puritans that women are less intelligent than men. Some Puritans did argue thus, but not all of them. Samuel Torshell wrote that ‘women are capable of the highest improvement and the greatest glory to which man may be advanced.’”
“Hierarchy did not mean that the wife could not debate and issue with her husband. Samual Willard expected a husband to be obeyed only if he can support his viewpoint from the Bible, “and lay before her a sufficient conviction of her duty, to comply with him therein; for he hath no authority or compulsion. A wife, he continued, “hath greater liberty of debating the prudence of the thing” than do other subordinates. There is even a duty of mutual admonition: both husband and wife should “choose the fittest seasons to reprove each other, for things which their love and duty calls for.”
“The practice of hierarchy did not prevent a woman from religious teaching or spiritual admonition of a man. ‘Women may and must privately and familiarly exhort others,’ wrote one Puritan writer on the subject; ‘they may also privately admonish men and reprove them.’ The Chester minister Nicholas Byfield declared that the wife was not subject to the husband ‘in matters of her soul and religion when his will is contrary to God’s will….And again, she is not so subject but she may admonish and advise her husband with certain cautions, as if she be sure the thing she speaks against be sinful and hurtful.’”
What’s the Bottom Line?
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22: 37-40)
When our motive is love…when our desire is to “correct” out of love for our King and devotion to our husbands, then correction is right and proper. (Very few husbands, or wives either, for that matter, will respond well to correction the moment it is given. We are all Wemmicks and need some time to recover from our wounded pride.)
Most of the time our spouse can see through our real motives. Are we being catty? Manipulative? Sarcastic? These attitudes are sinful and not born of love. But just as we can sin in our “correction” of our husbands, we can also sin in our refusal to correct. It is not loving to watch another human being unknowingly walk toward a pit…and not warn them of the impending danger.
Do you love your husband and desire to honor him? One of the ways you demonstrate love and honor is through proper, humble, careful, gentle correction.
An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31: 10-12)