As I read a recent commentary regarding one of the teachings of the contemporary, “Biblical Manhood/Biblical Womanhood” (BMBW) movement focused on who “protects” whom (in this doctrine, men hold the primary position of protectors of wives and families) , a critical “unintended consequence” came to mind.
A consequence that I believe may put many at risk of danger, physically—and spiritually.
Followers of this movement reinforce the “man as primary protector” sometimes citing, for their young ones in training, the fairy tale archetype of knights on white steeds rescuing ladies fair.
Now, this is a noble sentiment and an appreciated sentiment in many contexts, to be sure. Men, designed, generally speaking, bigger and stronger and equipped with testosterone, seem better fit for many protective type tasks in the physical arena.
Apologists for the BMBW movement, however, extend the idea of protection to include the realm of spirituality, too.
The husband is thought akin to Jesus Christ in a marriage, the wife, to the Church, submitting to her “Christ husband,” as it were . Therefore, the husband’s protective tasks extend beyond physicality to all aspects of the relationship. He is his wife’s alleged “spiritual head,” in a sense, too.
The wife, as per BMBW teachings, is to subordinate herself to her husband not just for physical, but for spiritual protection as well, that is to say, she submits to Christ, but also to her husband as Christ’s “type” in the relationship. Some exceptions are allowed if the husband sins, but the situation is complex–and non-biblical.
In one local church, I have heard this notion extend so far as to presume women are unable to interpret what the Holy Spirit might be saying to them via God’s Word, thus the need for the husband (or male leadership at church) to inform and/or correct them.
Who, why, when, where and how this teaching emerged is a topic for historians and biblical scholars, but for this commentary, my focus is “protection” in a much bigger context.
As Christians, we are in need of protection on all sides, as is everyone else in a risky world. Physically, men may be the more able to provide this, as noted.
However, in the spiritual realm, where protection is also needed (indeed, our real enemy is EVER “on the prowl, seeking whom he may devour” [1 Peter, 5:8]), we put ourselves at great risk—men, women, all believers—if we assign primary “spiritual protection” to only one gender, one partner in a marriage, or a few men in leadership positions.
Not that a man might not be the literal Man of the Hour for a given situation.
But women are also called to leadership and protective roles for given situations (see one illustration, below).
Why do I think that assigning “primary protective” tasks to only one gender is highly risky?
As Christians, we understand it is not really “flesh and blood” that we “war” against, but “principalities and powers” (Ephesians 6:12).
No gender required, assigned, or presumed in this “battle.”
And it is THE fundamental “protection assignment,” if you will.
There are times a man “battles in prayer” to protect his wife and family from the “weapons” Satan uses against them. And some follow-up action may be required.
There are times a woman “battles in prayer” to protect her husband and family from the “weapons” Satan uses against them. And some follow-up action may be required.
Sometimes it is grown children, or extended family members who engage and take action…
Consider another “training archetype,” if you will, this time, a real person who lived centuries ago.
There is no doubt that one such warrior/protector was Abigail (see 1 Samuel, 25). As the narrative reveals, her actions saved and protected not only her entire male household but also saved the young King David from blood guilt due to his impetuous response to Abigail’s husband’s foolishness.
In her God-directed assignment, Abigail faced the possibility of death when she went in the dead of night to “meet the enemy face to face,” as it were, to intercede for her household–and to inform and warn David regarding a serious mistake he was contemplating.
Abigail’s “head” and “protector” in this matter? God, Himself.
Where did she get her “instructions”? No doubt by listening and learning from sources available to her of God’s Word and His ways—certainly not from her husband, whose very name, Nabal, means “fool”.
But Abigail’s strength went far beyond protecting and rescuing.
Had she decided to behave according to the subordinate position of a woman in her culture, she might have actually realized here might have been a way to rid herself of her abusive alcoholic husband. How? David’s plan to kill all the males in the household because of Nabal’s surliness would have included Nabal, too.
However, because Abigail knew who her real “head” was, God, and because she was obviously a woman who understood her position in His “household,” she took charge. She saved all the men in her literal house—including her husband—and she spared the young David, who listened to her and obeyed her, from future grief…
This young woman illustrated the strength, courage, leadership, and protective characteristics of believers, both genders, who have come to understand that though they might risk all in doing what God calls them to do, they know it is the right thing.
And they persevere despite cultural and presumed restraints.
I fear that when we rigidly assign who does what, when, and where in the church, such as lead and protect, based on reproductive body parts, we seriously risk missing the bigger and, as Abigail’s story reveals, perhaps even the most crucial “picture” of God’s “assignments”.
And we needlessly suffer because of it.
Brother and sisters in the Lord, I urge you to seek God, and Him alone for guidance.
Often, true, He will “speak” through your spouse, but also through parents, friends, counselors, pastors, preachers, teachers, circumstances and/or directly from a Scripture that seems to “stand out” on a particular day or in a particular situation.
I also urge you to BEWARE of anybody who claims to be “God’s Voice” to you simply because he has been taught or has decided that you are his subordinate and must submit—in whatever sense he has construed the idea of biblical submission to match his dogma.
Of such are cults formed and many, led astray.
Jesus warned us of people like this (Matthew 24:24). And Paul warned that they often appear as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).
How to know?
Stay in the Word of God, and like the Bereans, “test all things, holding fast what is good” (Acts 17:11).
And regarding our “weapons” of protection, no matter the who, what, when, where, why or how of the situation? Don without delay:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people (Ephesians 6:10-18, NIV).
Like the believers of Berea, the warriors/protectors addressed above, you and me, are neither gender-specific–nor gender-restricted.
 For explanations on the belief system of the contemporary BMBW movement, see http://cbmw.org/uncategorized/fifty-crucial-questions/
 Specifically on the subject of the wife’s submissive role and the husband’s headship/protector role (bolding mine), from the same website:
Question 5: What do you mean by submission (in question 4)?
Submission refers to a wife’s divine calling to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts. It is not an absolute surrender of her will. Rather, we speak of her disposition to yield to her husband’s guidance and her inclination to follow his leadership. Christ is her absolute authority, not the husband. She submits “out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). The supreme authority of Christ qualifies the authority of her husband. She should never follow her husband into sin. Nevertheless, even when she may have to stand with Christ against the sinful will of her husband (e.g., 1 Peter 3:1, where she does not yield to her husband’s unbelief), she can still have a spirit of submission – a disposition to yield. She can show by her attitude and behavior that she does not like resisting his will and that she longs for him to forsake sin and lead in righteousness so that her disposition to honor him as head can again produce harmony.
Question 6: What do you mean when you call the husband “head” (in question 5)?
In the home, Biblical headship is the husband’s divine calling to take primary responsibility for Christlike leadership, protection, and provision. (See question 13 on the meaning of “primary.”)
Here is another post on Abigail, one of my biblical heroines, that I invite you to read and therein to be encouraged: