Here are some very good questions I was asked recently regarding a woman “asking her husband at home” and “learning in silence.” These questions were in response to my recent articles on Feminine Quietness and Informal Theological Discussion. But first, for background, these are the Bible texts being referred to:
“Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church. Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 14:34-37
“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” 1 Timothy 2:11-15
One reader asked:
…What if a husband of one Christian woman is not a believer? Of course, in this case, she cannot ask her husband at home. What do you think about it?…
Another reader also had a good question:
…I think that the USA is a Christian country. Is this issue–marriage with a non-Christian spouse–there also in churches? If so, I want to know how believers in the USA deal with it. In Japan, most of the churches have this…
Since both of these inquiries are related, and since I thought my answer might take up a lot of space, I decided to respond with a post of its own. I hope it helps!
While I still felt insecure about returning to church after several years of experiencing a wild detour, someone invited me to a women’s Bible study which I bravely decided to attend.
All the chairs had been stacked up along the walls, and there were about 10 round tables set up inside the main church-service area. I was assigned to one of those tables, along with maybe five other women. After listening to a lecture given from the podium by a female speaker, we participated in a discussion around our tables regarding the topic for that day. To wrap things up, everyone shared prayer requests, if they wanted to.
I don’t know what gave me the impulse to share my heart with all those women I hardly knew. I hadn’t realized how starved for Christian fellowship I had been until then. I never intended to cry, but I did. Violently. Here’s what my prayer request was:
“Please pray that Antonio [my “man”–we weren’t married at the time] would become a believer, too.”
So simple; yet voicing that request was like unplugging a hole in a dam. Once the topic was opened up, my tears flowed faster and faster. I struggled to regain composure while everyone else tried to hide their embarrassment for me, and attempted to be sympathetic. I don’t know if they understood the heart-wrenching conflict that was taking place inside my soul. Maybe they did…
If you have ever strayed from God for a time, you know the deep sorrow that results from it. The intense self-loathing, the doubt (in God’s love and forgiveness) that nibbles away at your insides day after day. Add to that mixture a dehydrated thirst to return to the Shepherd’s fold accompanied by a reluctance to leave behind the one you love most on earth.
I didn’t want to go to church if he didn’t come with me. I felt that the only way I would go would have to be if he was the one taking me. Otherwise, I thought I would be creating needless division in an already tense situation. And furthermore, I didn’t want to face all those people alone.
Amazingly, several months later my “man” humbled his heart and raised his arms in surrender to our Savior, and he’s changed dramatically in many ways since. We were able to walk with Jesus together, I continuing the journey I’d started long before, and he beginning a fresh adventure he’d never experienced in his days as a Catholic.
We married, continued having children, kept learning, and here we are today. The journey’s far from over, though. I look forward to all the joys God has in store for us, even while I cringe at the thought of future trials. But, I’m coming to understand little-by-little that sometimes it’s the trials that make the joys of life possible.
For those who find themselves in a similar situation (you’re a believer but your husband is not), here’s what I recommend.
Read your Bible at home. Your husband will probably not forbid you to do this. Jesus said that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). It really isn’t as necessary for you to go to church as it is for you to soak up God’s words in the Bible. Yes, it’s important to “not forsake the gathering of yourselves together,” but if that would be problematic, just focus on your main priority for now, which is reading the Bible. I think that going to church against your husband’s wishes could damage your relationship. He might see it as defiance and disrespect, and that is not what’s going to win him over.
Ask him for advice. Yes, you can “ask your husband at home,” even if he’s not a Christian! Not being a Christian doesn’t make him stupid; true, he doesn’t have the Holy Spirit of God leading him. But, he is made in the image of God and lives in the realm of “common grace”; he has the ability to recognize what is good and right in the world because God has revealed it to him through creation and through his conscience. When you ask your husband his opinion, even on spiritual matters, you are saying, “I respect your opinion. I look up to you as my husband, as my leader. Being a Christian doesn’t mean I’m going to abandon you” (which may be a fear he has). By asking your husband at home, you will acknowledge that he is your God-given authority. He will most likely feel uplifted and encouraged, rather than threatened. However, if you are continually asking others about spiritual matters, he will feel like you think he is too stupid to lead you in this area. Even though he’s not a Christian, he still has the God-given need to be a man to his wife and children.
Learn in silence. Although a woman is not supposed to be vocal in church but is to be silent, she is still permitted to learn! Who said the only way of learning was by asking questions? If your husband allows you to attend church, you can learn from the sermon. If you have questions but can’t ask your husband because he feels uncomfortable about it, you can still read the Bible! And, you can read books on topics that you’re interested in. However, I would be cautious with book-reading: some authors are biblically accurate, and some are not. And, if you are adamant about one author’s stance, this could also be another way your husband feels his leadership is threatened. So, keep it “gentle.” Read to learn, but don’t read so you can beat your husband over the head with how much you (supposedly) know, and how much he doesn’t. Your husband may not be “Bible smart,” but he may be gifted with a lot of common sense. And where does that come from? From God! Allow God to speak to you through your husband’s common sense.
The USA is not a Christian nation (as in, we all follow Jesus), though we do have a Christian background. Many of our laws were based on biblical principles. Many of our leaders were believers, and led our nation according to the Bible’s guidelines. But, not so much anymore. We are becoming a pagan nation, full of crime, filth, and perversity. I don’t see that we’re that different than other nations, anymore. The situation of a believer having a non-believing spouse is not uncommon, either because one becomes a Christian while the other does not after they are already married, or because one was a believer and the other was not before they were married, as in my case. The Bible says to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). There’s a reason for this! If you are both joined together, but are facing different directions, it is very hard to move forward! But, if you find yourself in that place, be assured that God’s kindness and care to you are always available when you ask. And, you never know how God may bring your spouse to salvation, like He did mine. Expect a miracle!