Should a Christian wife submit to an unsaved, non-believing husband who does not know how to love his wife as Christ loves the church?

I am a fairly young newlywed. I agree that wives should submit to their husbands within the context in which it was originally intended. What about wives submitting to unsaved, non believers who can't love them the way Christ loves the church?

Clarify Share Report Asked June 04 2013 Mini Athena Taylor

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B8c746f3 63c7 43eb 9665 ef7fba8e191b Kelli Trujillo Supporter Minister, Mother, Grandmother, Teacher, Musician
As difficult as it might be at times, yes, you are instructed in the Bible to submit to your husband unless he asks you to do something that directly violates scripture. God's laws trump man's impulses. I believe the passage you're referring to is Ephesians 5:22-33:

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[b] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

While this passage is directed at Christians, the principles still apply, but with one partner being unsaved, this can become difficult. Clearly, an unsaved husband is not going to have the same revelation about how he should love his wife "as Christ loves the church." This might seem like a reason for wives of unsaved men to be excused from having to submit to them, but I don't think so. 

We have to remember the lengths that Jesus went to to redeem us and how He loved us and died for us before we had any idea of who He was or what He did for us. Jesus went to the cross for us long before we acknowledged Him as Savior. Look at Romans 5:6-8.

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

I believe--and I've seen this at work in people's lives--that when a woman who is married to an unbeliever is faithful to serve and love her husband the way Jesus does, very often God will work on his heart. I won't say that it's easy, but the cross is the one thing that separates us from all other religions and it's the one thing that speaks louder than words. 

When we are willing to lay our lives down for others--especially when that person doesn't have the revelation of how to love us back with the love of Christ--that's when the truth of what we believe can truly impact someone because that's what Jesus did for us.

God bless you and may your husband become saved!

June 06 2013 7 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Anonymous
I agree with Ms. Kelli Hamann. Yes, the Bible instructs us to submit to our husbands (Eph. 5:22-24) UNLESS, and I quote Ms. Hamann  .."he asks you to do something that directly violates scripture".. then, we have to obey God rather than man. Please God, rather than men. (1 Thess.2:4) 

Yet, don't despair, Ms. Athena. If you walk in the light of Jesus Christ, your examples of being a truly godly wife (and constantly praying for your unbelieving husband), God could change his heart and eventually he would come to know the Lord. Through your godly actions.. (loving submission, one of them) and perhaps being a true Proverbs 31 woman (The Virtuous Wife).. a difficult task :-) but not impossible... God, by His grace and mercy, will work through you to bring your unbelieving husband .. to Him. That will be awesome! Be in constant communication with God through prayers for your husband and for yourself, as well, Ms. Athena. 

To God be all the glory!

June 14 2013 1 response Vote Up Share Report

Stringio Nathan Toronga Christian Elder.
I agree with Kelly, and all the other answers.

I just want to add, though, that there's also Scripture that address situations as these:

1 Peter 3:1-2, 5-6 KJV "1. Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2. While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. 5. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 6Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement."

So, even an unbelieving husband, especially an unbeliever, should be obeyed. That way, you will be preaching, in deed rather than in word.


October 20 2013 5 responses Vote Up Share Report

9aa51e4b447252291b959c696fb96539 400x400 Jeremiah Kaaya Pastor at Springs of Power Church, Teacher by professional
It is very Biblical for a wife to submit to their husbands, and for husbands to equally love their wives (Ephesians 5:22-33).

What does submission mean in this sense? To obey in all possible ways. And mark you; I said in all possible ways. However, how is it when the husband is a non believer? Does a wife have to submit to a non believing husband as she should have if the husband is a believer? My answer is yes if, and if it does not jeopardize her Christianity. If it does jeopardize her Christianity only then, I believe it could be controversial an issue. But I also believe that submission is relative and subject to scrutiny if at all.

In my Country Uganda, we have multitudes of testimonies of wives who have been Born Again when their husbands are not. NB In our country, usually women accept the Lord Jesus the CHRIST first before their husbands do.

The submission of these wives to their husbands (yet to accept the Lord Jesus the CHRIST), has acted to turn around the lives of such men to happily and joyfully accept Jesus the CHRIST as their Lord and Saviour. This is because; such men have had vivid and practical testimonies to follow in their wives and they too (the men) are only encouraged to follow suit. 

Actions speak louder than words. To only say you are Born Again with no transformation in behaviour is empty talk. Words should be followed up with entire transformation in thought and action. By this, the unbelieving husband will come to realize the transformational power of the Lord Jesus the CHRIST. At that point, he can only deny by himself to accept the gospel, otherwise, you will have done your part. Many very hardhearted men in my country have had their lives turned around to accept Jesus the CHRIST by this method. I have vivid testimonies of very close people whom I can personally look to and so I’m in position to counsel someone accordingly. I have a very close friend, a wife to a very powerful man who by using this very method, just kneeling (subject to your culture) to greet the husband, this alone touched the husband to accept Jesus the CHRIST as his Lord and Saviour (1Corinthians 9:19-22).

Another question would be; if a wife is to submit to a non believing husband, what would the submitting wife be looking for in that very action? What is the intention? First of all I believe it is because it is a command in the Bible for wives to always submit to their husbands. Equally important is to use it as a method of spreading the gospel. It can also be effective.

I believe a believing wife to a non believing husband should submit to their husbands other factors constant. Well, one should come before the other, but which one comes first. Is it submission that comes first or the love? I believe it is possible to finally win the husband’s love by this very method.

November 20 2013 1 response Vote Up Share Report

Mini Patricia Teck
I agree and Amen!!  The Holy Spirit works in amazing ways when we live and love and walk in Christ.  I have seen these amazing interventions in my own marriage!!

June 15 2013 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Stringio kiki titus
Short answer is yes. It is relationship. God created Eve from Adam ribs and she has a special place in his heart. Why not his feet or head? 
Women is the weaker vessel and it makes sense to submit, as a Christian, and her ways can lead her husband to salvation.

June 07 2015 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Alicia Kazansky
Having personal experiences, I would only like to point out that when a "Christian" husband or non-Christian husband deal in practices that are spiritually impure (lying and exaggerated speech or untrue stories=the Christian would remain submissive to God as her "spiritual husband" in stating she does not share the same comments or ideas either verbally or by body language by moving away from the situation or changing the subject or giving witness to her personal beliefs in hopes it would be a witness of truth.

Negatively exploitative thoughts, actions such as actively engaging in fantasy or talk or reading material fleshly oriented magazines as Playboy, Hustler etc, no matter how harmless one might think, saying that it is a normal Adult activity would be mistreatment and distant from anything called spiritual. In this case verbally stating one's objection (if given the opportunity) or one's not being available to engage in this activity as being against one's faith would be a visual witness or a mere faith strengthening activity knowing God is behind giving strength.

 Too many people go along with their unchristian activities and close their minds to doing their own thing rather than growing in Christ's education and love. Sad choice..but this can be an opportunity to give witness either in word or deed respectfully.

December 16 2013 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Paula Fether Lifelong student of the scriptures
The overarching principle Jesus taught (e.g. Mat. 20:20-28) is that Christians are not to have authority over each other. 1 Peter 5:3 tells us not to “lord over” each other. Eph. 5:21 tells us to submit to each other, which is impossible if “submit” means to have authority. And since “God is no respecter of persons” (Rom. 2:11) and judges by the heart rather than the flesh (1 Sam. 16:7), we see that there cannot be any hierarchy between Christians, including/especially between Christian spouses. It should raise great concern when anyone teaches division by flesh in the Body of Christ, as if that Body has many heads (ref. 1 Cor. 12).

Never does scripture command a wife to be “unequally yoked”. Paul discussed such a scenario in 1 Cor. 7, verses 12-16. Look especially at verse 15: If an unbelieving spouse wants to leave, they may, because “God has called you to live in peace”. But when they wish to stay together, we must look in 1 Peter 3. It begins by saying that when a woman has an unbelieving husband, her best witness is to exhibit such standards of Christian living that he will be convicted in spirit. In that culture and time, a woman could be beaten or killed for speaking to her husband in any way deemed disrespectful, especially if she challenged his gods.

But it does not say to obey the man. In verse 6, Peter is not saying that wives should call husbands Lord, as that would be idolatry, since there is only one Lord and Master. Rather, in the only recorded instance where Sarah called Abraham “lord” was when she laughed at the prospect of him getting her pregnant at their advanced ages (Gen. 18:12). Context is vital, and Peter goes on to clarify that husbands who don’t honor their wives as joint heirs of grace will have their prayers opposed by God.

Spouses are partners. They should complement each other the way the left and right hands do. We have one Lord and Master, and marriage does not change that. Otherwise the Body of Christ is hobbled and sickly.

April 24 2023 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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