Biblical Submission

“[A woman] is to obey her husband as if he were God Himself. She can be as certain of God’s will when her husband speaks as if God had spoken audibly from Heaven.”[1]

And thus,

“[She has] freedom from having to take the consequences of making decisions.”[2]

This, according to Elizabeth Rice Handford (author of the “classic resource”[3], Me? Obey Him?) is what submission looks like.

The true biblical definition of submission is neither “obedience” nor “exemption from accountability”. Biblical submission does not shape wards, subordinates or dependents. It is not the opposite of strength, competence and maturity. Rather, it is “serving one another humbly in love” (Gal. 5:13) and “in humility valuing others above ourselves” (Phil. 2:3), and it is a way of living we are ALL called to, regardless of gender or marital status.

[1] Elizabeth Rice Handford, Me? Obey Him?, p. 34
[2] Elizabeth Rice Handford, Me? Obey Him?, p. 67
[3] Typical example of conservative evangelical praise for this book: https://www.thebereancall.org/content/me-obey-him

Train Up A Child In the Way He Should Go, And…?

Let me start with this truly humble disclaimer: I am no expert in child-raising. I’m still raising my own and making plenty of mistakes in the process – so no, no kind of expert, and yes, still in the school of hard knocks.

That being said, over the years I have reached conclusions on some methods that don’t work. I can say this with confidence because I’ve observed them first-hand and seen the results.

Recently I read a short series on a blog that reminded me of some of these things. It’s a critical review of Reb Bradley’s Child Training Tips, a book which lines up pretty well with a few others you may or may not recognize:

What the Bible Says About Child Training, Richard Fugate
To Train Up A Child, Michael Pearl
Withhold Not Correction, Bruce A. Ray
Spanking: Why, When, How?, Roy Lessin

These books offer a supposedly Biblical parenting formula that guarantees success: the “right” training method equals godly, obedient children who grow into godly, obedient adults. The results, however, reveal important flaws and dangers in the formula (something Reb Bradley himself had to admit in his later article, “Exposing the 7 Major Blind Spots of Homeschoolers”).

This is the breakdown of the critical issues reviewed in the series:

#1: Parents are pushed to assume the worst about their children instead of being encouraged to demonstrate the virtues of mercy and understanding.

#2: Parents are urged to exercise an extreme level of control of their child’s mind and body, which prevents the child from preparing for adulthood.

#3: Parents are instructed to use spanking as their primary tool of discipline, not only for behavior modification but also to force the child to change their opinions or feelings.

#4: Parents are urged to isolate their families in order to maintain extreme levels of control over their children without outside interference.

If you’re raising a kid/kids I’d love for you to read the author’s exposition of each point –  not only for the excellent analysis, but for the practical advice and encouragement it offers. The series is linked below.

In addition, I’m sharing a link to an article by Sally Clarkson, a truly excellent essay recently passed on to me by a friend, which I wish I had read years ago, called “First-Time Obedience: How’s That Working For You?”

I hope they prove as helpful for you as they have for me!

LINK: “Biblical” Parenting: A Series By Latebloomer
LINK: First-Time Obedience: How’s That Working For You?

The Debt of Honor

“Honor all people” (1 Peter 2:17). “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). These are two general commandments meant to preside over us as people of God in our relationships throughout life.

If we are to truly live them out, however, we need to understand what we are being summoned to do. We need to be able to distinguish between what genuine honoring is and what it is not. We also need to determine if there are ever any exceptions to these rules. This will keep us from falling prey to unrighteous demands and being trapped in diseased relationships.

What honoring IS

Honor is a word which in Hebrew (kabad), and in Greek (timḗ), means to value, to respect, to give weight to. It has also been translated as “treat honorably”, “show respect for”, “treat with dignity” and “prize”.

Fundamentally, all people deserve to be treated with dignity because of their identity as human beings. We owe one another honor as fellow members of the human race. In this sense we are all peers, no matter what our age or social rank (much less our ethnicity or gender).

Parents, specifically, deserve to be cherished because of their unique role in our lives. We owe them, in summary, everything. They brought us into this world, loved us fiercely, cared for our needs, tried their best to shape us into good and happy people. The bond between us is sacred. The honor we owe them can be shown in many ways, not the least of which is caring for their needs as they grow older. This, as a matter of fact, was precisely how Jesus defined honor on the only recorded occasion that he expounded the Fifth Commandment.

What honoring IS NOT

It is not a synonym for obedience. As someone observed[1], if this were the case, the words could be used interchangeably in Scripture. The most cursory analysis will prove they cannot. The effort to merge the two concepts is simply untenable. Although it is true that in some contexts honor will be expressed through obedience, such as children (those being brought up) towards their parents, it is not true that obedience is mandatory where honor is concerned.

The oft-wielded Ephesians 6:1 – “Children, obey your parents in the Lord” – is not an alternative translation of Exodus 20:12, but the adapted version for children, precisely because they are being prepared for adulthood (this is upheld by the context, see v. 4). That is, in fact, the whole point of obedience. It is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The goal is transition to sui juris, the launching of a full-fledged person. Parents (or spiritual leaders) that seek to keep their children in perpetual pupilage, making obedience instead of maturity their aim in training, reveal a selfish and ungodly agenda: POWER AND CONTROL.

It does not imply a chain of command. Honoring someone does not mean that they are in charge and that you are to “keep in your place”. It does not mean you are under an obligation to report to them, obtain their consent or follow their orders.

It does not mean relinquishing our critical faculties. Some would have us believe that any criticism of their attitudes or methods constitutes a dishonor to their persons. This is false. Unconditional compliance is not honoring, it is spoiling. It also empowers overbearing and abusive people.[2]

Exceptions

Are there any exceptions to these two general rules? I believe any honest scrutiny of real-life situations compels us to accept that – sadly – there are. Only the most oblivious people could think otherwise. There are indeed people, there are indeed parents, who cannot be honored in any genuine way beyond the most basic respect owed to any person.

People who have inflicted deep pain and lasting emotional and/or physical harm on others (a thousand times more heinous when inflicted on persons under their care), and who are so self-righteous that they are incapable of change. People who poison the environments they control with their hubris, their incessant demands and their destructive behavior. People who, while exacting honor for themselves, systematically dishonor others.

Perhaps the only honor we can give in such cases is that of withdrawing from the sphere of their influence and praying for future healing and reconciliation.

Conclusion

May God give us the wisdom to discern between true and false honor, and may true honor grace all our dealings with one another.

 

[1] http://www.recoveringgrace.org/2011/09/honor-vs-obey/ (accessed January 27, 2015)
[2] More on what honoring is not at http://www.recoveringgrace.org/2014/09/four-tools-of-spiritual-manipulators/

Am I a Legalistic Parent?

Steve Smith has a great blog called Liberty For Captives where he writes about his experiences with legalism, spiritual abuse and cult systems.

Among many helpful articles, one called Breaking the Chains of Legalistic Parenting really got my attention. Perhaps you are like me and this checklist will challenge you, hearten you, and remind you of what’s really important. Continue reading “Am I a Legalistic Parent?”