This is a book review series of The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews if you’d like to catch up.
Chapter Thirteen is titled, Biblical Submission: Basis of the Wife’s Protection. Yes, you read that correctly….biblical submission provides protection.
Peace starts the chapter stating that “many women, even Christian ones, are confused and sometimes hostile about what it means for a wife to be submissive to her husband.” (Really, no one is confused about what she means by submission. But, thanks for projecting that on us.)
She spends time informing us that submission neither means that a wife is a doormat, nor does it mean mutual submission. I contend that Peace is confused about what she considers submission because her descriptions do not provide protection for abused wives. Below are some examples of what she considers submissive, but the reality is that it is abusive behavior.
A husband who forbids his wife from going to church is spiritually abusive. The submissive wife must let her husband know that he is most important to her.
If a husband is an unbeliever and does not want his wife to attend church she must respectfully disobey. However, she should make sure that his resentment is not because she values her Christian friends more than she cares for him. If that is the case, the wife should make the concessions necessary to ensure that her husband knows that he is more important than her other friends. Therefore, if a husband occasionally desires his wife to go fishing or camping with him, then she should go and enjoy the time with him. God is more pleased with her desire to be faithful in all things than He would be with a rigid attitude about church attendance.
A husband who does not think his wife is being submissive has God on his side. A wife must re-evaluate her perspective.
A wife’s responsibility is to change her perspective and view submission through God’s and her husband’s eyes. The husband is the head of the home, and the wife is to submit to even very small and seemingly unimportant requests or directives from him because they are important to him. Unless she is providentially hindered, her failure to comply is not only insubordination to her husband but also disobedience to God.
A husband may be physically or verbally abusive, immoral, threaten leaving, use alcohol or drugs, and lie or deceive his wife. A wife must choose to answer with love.
She (a submissive wife) entrusts herself to God, knowing that in difficulty, God will give her the grace she needs to get through it at the very time she needs it. Not always, but most of the time, when a wife responds by standing up to her husband in the right way, it turns out better than she had anticipated. In the event it does not turn out well, the wife can have the comfort of knowing that she was pleasing to her Lord and whatever suffering she undergoes will be “for doing what is right” 1 Peter 3:17.
A wife who does not submit to her husband does not honor God. Spiritually abusive language keeps wives in their “rightful” place.
When a wife is not submissive to her husband, she brings shame to God’s word because she is not living up to the standard God has clearly laid out for the godly wife. If she is outwardly expressing faith in Christ, but inwardly has not changed in her heart regarding submission to her husband, she is not submitting to the Lord in that area of her life.
A husband can act selfishly toward his wife. It is the wife’s responsibility to change her attitude to be submissive.
If her husband is being selfish or unreasonable and his wife dwells on how he has hurt her, it will likely be very difficult for her to feel like being graciously submissive. She may outwardly do the right thing, but she will struggle with bitterness and will not feel like being submissive.
The chapter ends with a list of examples of unsubmissive behavior by wives toward their husbands. These include: being annoying, not disciplining the children the way he would like, being more loyal to others than her husband, arguing or pouting, not staying within the budget, correcting or interrupting her husband, manipulating her husband to get what she wants, and making important decisions without consulting her husband.
It’s obvious that in Peace’s world of submission, a husband can behave any way he likes without consequence; otherwise, options would be given to wives for how to deal with abusive behaviors. Instead, wives are told to talk kindly and gently to their husbands to win them over, re-evaluate attitude and behavior, and adjust to his perspective. This one-sided power and control by the husband lends to an abusive environment and does not protect Christian wives.