Traditional marriage vows in some circles. The woman promises to love, honor, and obey. In my former church, the “obey” was emphasized to the point of embarrassment in the ceremony. Supposedly the pastor was “just teasing” but it was not the time or the place, and it wasn’t something to be taken lightly or joke about. Men demanded that “their women” obey them in everything, even if it meant they must go hungry, stay home rather than going to social events, have few friends, give up their hopes and dreams, or even endure abuse.

The man promised, in the ceremony, to love, honor, and protect (or keep). If he did not do these things–if he abused her, made her go hungry, didn’t provide basic necessities, didn’t allow her any friends–he was not considered wrong, but if she didn’t obey, she was. The vows that were made by the man were very broadly defined. The vow of obedience was absolute and entire for the woman. For a month before the ceremony, obedience of the wife was emphasized. She was to obey in all things. There was no caveat, no boundary for that obedience.

About a month ago I brushed up on the memory of these ceremonies in a service where Ephesians 5 was used. “Wives, submit…” The pastor mentioned that he discusses submission and the meaning of Ephesians 5 in premarital or marriage counseling. The word ‘submission’ carries some damaging memories, but so do weddings. “Love, honor, and OBEY.”

It was only tonight that I read that in the New Testament there is nothing that says women to are obey their husbands. Children are to obey, slaves or servants are to obey, but nowhere in the Bible does it say wives are to obey.  I checked. The writer of the article I read was right. It’s not there. And not one version of the Bible translates ‘submit’ as ‘obey’, either, at least not regarding wives.

I had come to a point in my former church of thinking that any woman who got married there was selling herself into slavery because of the way she was treated and regarded in a marriage relationship. The unbiblical emphasis on complete obedience may have just provided more evidence of that.