Eshon Burgundy shares a message on submission from 1 Peter 3

Should Wives Submit to Abuse? — Eshon Burgundy

I hate to think how many women have sat in church pews hearing a stern message about submission only to go home and have their husbands physically and emotionally abuse them,  citing those same verses.

The church has done a terrible job addressing this. Just terrible. 

Perverted Scripture Means Perverted Submission

In Ephesians 5, Paul gives a lesson on how communities can function in harmony. And it requires people submitting to each other. Husbands to Christ, wives to husbands, children to parents, slaves to masters. 

The United States started with a perversion this hierarchy between people in authority and their followers. 

In 1808, a fake version of the Bible was circulated that removed all parts of scripture related to liberation, but it preserved the scriptures that affirmed slaveholder theology. 

This is literally the most pervasive picture of submission Black people have known. Now, it’s time to unlearn this corrupted version of submission and go back to what scripture says. 

Scriptures never gives the authority figure permission to traumatize anyone. Still, many of us also have a family history of mothers, aunts, and grandmothers being abused by men who said they loved them. Many of these men would use scripture to justify their craziness. 


Study these passages on submission:

Ephesians 5, especially 15-33

 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might [g]sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

1 Peter 2:11-3:22 (amplified translation)

11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers [in this world] to abstain from the sensual urges [those dishonorable desires] that wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the [unsaved] Gentiles [conduct yourself honorably, with graciousness and integrity], so that [a]for whatever reason they may slander you as evildoers, yet by observing your good deeds they may [instead come to] glorify God [b]in the day of visitation [when He looks upon them with mercy].

13 Submit yourselves to [the authority of] every human institution for the sake of the Lord [to honor His name], whether it is to a king as one in a position of power, 14 or to governors as sent by him to bring punishment to those who do wrong, and to praise and encourage those who do right. 15 For it is the will of God that by doing right you may silence (muzzle, gag) the [culpable] ignorance and irresponsible criticisms of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover or pretext for evil, but [use it and live] as bond-servants of God. 17 Show respect for all people [treat them honorably], love the brotherhood [of believers], fear God, honor the king.

18 [c]Servants, be submissive to your masters with all [proper] respect, not only to those who are good and kind, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19 For this finds favor, if a person endures the sorrow of suffering unjustly because of an [d]awareness of [the will of] God. 20 After all, what kind of credit is there if, when you do wrong and are punished for it, you endure it patiently? But if when you do what is right and patiently bear [undeserved] suffering, this finds favor with God.

21 For [as a believer] you have been called for this purpose, since Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you may follow in His footsteps. 22 He committed no sin, nor was deceit ever found in His mouth. 23 While being reviled and insulted, He did not revile or insult in return; while suffering, He made no threats [of vengeance], but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges fairly. 24 He personally carried our sins in His body on the [e]cross [willingly offering Himself on it, as on an altar of sacrifice], so that we might die to sin [becoming immune from the penalty and power of sin] and live for righteousness; for by His wounds you [who believe] have been [f]healed. 25 For you were continually wandering like [so many] sheep, but now you have come back to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

In the same way, you wives, be [g]submissive to your own husbands [subordinate, not as inferior, but out of respect for the responsibilities entrusted to husbands and their accountability to God, and so partnering with them] so that even if some do not obey the word [of God], they may be won over [to Christ] without discussion by the godly lives of their wives, when they see your modest and respectful behavior [together with your devotion and appreciation—love your husband, encourage him, and enjoy him as a blessing from God]. Your adornment must not be merely external—with interweaving and elaborate knotting of the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or [being superficially preoccupied with] dressing in expensive clothes; but let it be [the inner beauty of] the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, [one that is calm and self-controlled, not overanxious, but serene and spiritually mature] which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands and adapting themselves to them; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham [following him and having regard for him as head of their house], calling him [h]lord. And you have become her daughters if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear [that is, being respectful toward your husband but not giving in to intimidation, nor allowing yourself to be led into sin, nor to be harmed].

In the same way, you husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way [with great gentleness and tact, and with an intelligent regard for the marriage relationship], as with [i]someone physically weaker, since she is a woman. Show her honor and respect as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered or ineffective.

Finally, all of you be like-minded [united in spirit], sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted [courteous and compassionate toward each other as members of one household], and humble in spirit; and never return evil for evil or insult for insult [avoid scolding, berating, and any kind of abuse], but on the contrary, give a blessing [pray for one another’s well-being, contentment, and protection]; for you have been called for this very purpose, that you might inherit a blessing [from God that brings well-being, happiness, and protection]. 10 For,

“The one who wants to enjoy life and see good days [good—whether apparent or not],
Must keep his tongue free from evil and his lips from speaking guile (treachery, deceit).
“He must turn away from wickedness and do what is right.
He must search for peace [with God, with self, with others] and pursue it eagerly [actively—not merely desiring it].
“For the eyes of the Lord are [looking favorably] upon the righteous (the upright),
And His ears are attentive to their prayer (eager to answer),
But the face of the Lord is against those who practice evil.”

13 Now who is there to hurt you if you become enthusiastic for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness [though it is not certain that you will], you are still blessed [happy, to be admired and favored by God]. Do not be afraid of their intimidating threats, nor be troubled or disturbed [by their opposition]. 15 But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy—acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord. Always be ready to give a [logical] defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance [elicited by faith] that is within you, yet [do it] with gentleness and respect. 16 And see to it that your conscience is entirely clear, so that every time you are slandered or falsely accused, those who attack or disparage your good behavior in Christ will be shamed [by their own words]. 17 For it is better that you suffer [unjustly] for doing what is right, if that should be God’s will, than [to suffer justly] for doing wrong. 18 For indeed Christ died for sins once for all, the Just and Righteous for the unjust and unrighteous [the Innocent for the guilty] so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit; 19 in which He also went and preached to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the great patience of God was waiting in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons [Noah’s family], were brought safely through the water. 21 Corresponding to that [rescue through the flood], baptism [which is an expression of a believer’s new life in Christ] now [j]saves you, not by removing dirt from the body, but by an appeal to God for a good (clear) conscience, [demonstrating what you believe to be yours] through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God [that is, the place of honor and authority], with [all] angels and authorities and powers made subservient to Him.

Submission, Scripture, & Salsa Dancing

For me, my final point of doubt before committing my life to Christ was understanding submission. 

I come from a family of women who were either abandoned or abused by the men they loved. So,  in my mind, submission meant that you tolerated abuse to obey God. But after years of rolling my neck and chanting my independent woman chorus, I decided to wrestle with it. I said, “Lord show me, what do you mean by submission?” 

And He led me to learn to salsa dance. 

Salsa is an Afro-Latin dance where the man leads. He initiates every turn, every dip, every twirl. He decides when you’re stepping front-to-back, side-to-side. He controls her. And she loves it.

When I was hanging out at the salsa clubs, our dance instructor made it clear that anytime the dance is not smooth, it’s the man’s fault.

If she stumbles, it’s his fault.

If she falls, he better catch her and play it off like a fancy move. If she hits the ground, it’s his fault.

If she is unsure about which way to turn, that confusion is his fault. 

He has to calculate if she’s a novice, so he can keep it simple. Or if she’s more advanced, he has to match her complexity. Her job is to keep the basic step.

You could tell if a guy was good by how much fun the woman was having during the dance. If she was smiling, laughing, flirting, and looking flawless, it was because of him.

Some guys were so good that women would dance with them blindfolded. That meant his trustworthiness and technique were masterful. He made women want to be under his command.

Other guys were terrible. Some wanted all the attention, so dancing with them was like dancing by yourself.

Or they were sloppy, doing stuff they hadn’t practiced and stomping on people’s feet.

If the woman fell or got injured, that was humiliating for the man. No other girl would dance with him that night.

The first time I salsa danced with a guy was in Havana. This guy was so good, he could dance with two blindfolded women at the same time. But with me, he was going one way, I was going another. He stopped and said, “You’re American aren’t you.” Guilty.

Women have to be trained to follow. Otherwise, she won’t be able to read his signals and correctly follow his turns.

Yes, she can do her own styling and shimmies, but she can’t be so into her own moves that she stops following his lead.

She has to stay focused on him.

Salsa can be a very fast-paced dance, and it’s non-verbal. So, women who have not been trained to follow are frustrating, and they bump into everybody.

After observing a difficult woman with one guy, not too many other guys would ask her to dance after that. 

There should be no abuse, no injuries, and no force. The most striking beauty of the dance is the harmony.

Christian Men Are The Least Likely To Be Abusive Husbands

Research suggests that "men who attend religious services several times a week are 72% less likely to abuse their female partners than men from comparable backgrounds who do not attend services.”

African American men are more than two times as likely to be abusive as White or Hispanic men—except when the Black man is Christian. "Religious involvement, specifically church attendance, protects against domestic violence."

On the flip side, the most abusive husbands are men who say they are Christian but rarely or never attend church. These men tend to be more abusive than secular men.

Race/Ethnicity, Religious Involvement, and Domestic Violence. Violence Against Women.

W. Brad Wilcox, co-author of Soul Mates: Religion, Sex, Love, and Marriage among African Americans and Latinos (Oxford, profiled in Christianity Today, 2017

The Bible’s Version of Submission

Here’s a teaching on submission by my husband’s go-to hip hop artist, Eshon Burgundy. He breaks down what scripture says about abuse and the fear of submission. This is a good word for married folks or folks headed for marriage. 

Reflection Questions:
1. What patterns of submission do you need to unlearn to have a peaceful marriage?
2. How has your church, if you go, dealt with abuse between husbands and wives? 

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