Does Scripture Oppress Women?
Read Colossians 3:18-19 (ESV)
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
How have you seen these verses misunderstood in culture today?
Many feminists today have a big problem with the Bible. And Colossians 3:18, is often cited in support of their claim that the Bible promotes the subjugation of women. They claim that the Bible portrays women as inferior to men because it commands women to obey men. Does Scripture really teach the oppression of women? Let’s go back to the Bible and start with today’s verses to find out.
In Colossians 3, Paul has been talking about taking off the old self and putting on the new self. In light of being a new creation in Christ, how are they supposed to behave in society? He answers this question by addressing how a Christian household should be run. He starts off with the wives and urges them to submit to their husbands. Notice that he doesn’t tell all women to submit to every man. He says that women who are married are to submit to their husbands.
He repeats this command in Ephesians 5:22-24 and elaborates further: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”
As Christians, we are members of the body of Christ and we are all called to submit to the headship of Jesus. Marriage is intended to be a picture of that relationship. Just as Christ is the leader of the church, so the husband is the leader of the marriage and the Christian household.
What often gets left out of the conversation is the verse that immediately follows, Colossians 3:19, that tells husbands to love their wives and to be gentle with them. Clearly, the Bible’s picture of marriage is not that women would be forced to submit to cruel husbands who treat them harshly. In fact, in Ephesians 5:25-33, Paul again elaborates on Christian marriage. He says that husbands are to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v.25) and that they should “love their wives as their own bodies” (28), and therefore “nourish and cherish” (v. 29) their wives. The leadership of husbands should be loving and self-sacrificing. They should love their wives so much that they lay down their lives for her just as Christ laid down his life for us.
The reality is that when a man and a woman get married they become one flesh. If a man hates his wife and treats her harshly, it is like mistreating and hating himself because the two are one (Ephesians 5:29-31).
The idea that the two are one also implies equality. How can the man and woman be united in marriage and be one flesh if one is more valuable than the other? The Bible supports that men and women are both made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and therefore, they are both equally valuable in His eyes.
We see people who are equal in value and worth and yet different in responsibility all the time in our society. The boss of a company is not more valuable as a human than his employees but he has a different level of authority which his employees should submit to. In the military, the lowest ranking soldiers are not less important than their commanding officers in worth. But they are different in rank. In fact, even Jesus, who is equal to the Father, submitted to His Father’s will. The hierarchy of authority results in a chain of command and a sense of order that allows institutions to function in an organized way and a Christian household is no different.
Friends, the Bible commands women to willingly submit to their husband’s loving leadership to create peace and order in the home. It does NOT teach the subjugation of women. Today, I encourage you to go back to your Bibles and look for instances where the Bible treats women as man’s equal. If you need a few places to start, here are some suggestions: Numbers 27:1-11, Proverbs 31, Mark 15:40-41, Luke 23:55, Luke 24:1-10, Galatians 3:28, Acts 18:24-26, Romans 16:1-16.
Lord, I know that Your ways are always perfect and Your commands are for our good. I submit my life to You, first, Lord. Then, I will follow Your good design for godly relationships. Amen.