Do you fear your husband

New Warhorn Media post by Tim Bayly:


I don’t disagree, but I don’t even know how to start. I’ve struggled with this for awhile, trying to psych myself out in various ways (“Treat him like you treat your boss!”), and I’ve come a long way in that I rarely now treat him with DISrespect, an improvement over the early days of our marriage. But the feeling, even of reverence, is not there. Love, appreciation, even respect are there, but not reverence, and certainly not fear.

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But you do fear God, don’t you? And you teach your children to fear you, don’t you? And you know that, in the godly, fear and love embrace, right? Think of your sinful and weak husband as standing in the place ordained for Him by God and fear him because God has placed him there and delegated His authority to your dear husband. Maybe this is helpful? Love,


It is, thank you.


Notice the absence of comments, here. Crickets. Let’s talk about how bad the world and BLM are, okay?



The name of this post is a question directed to a wife. The majority - probably the vast majority - of Sanityville inhabitants are men, not women. Perhaps that contributes to the paucity of comments?

Considering for the nonce these male members of Sanityville, the ones who are married, that is, what’s to discuss? The ones who fear their wives rather than the other way round . . . should we expect them to rush forward to confess this? And the ones whose wives fear them for godly reasons (such as you outlined for Gnat above), the godly among them will have sufficient modesty to retard their rushing forth to display unseemly boasting.

To preempt the crickets, I report that my wife views marriage pretty much as you’ve described it to Gnat, and she has done so for all of our 39 years of marriage.

Like most faithful Christians, her convictions have run way ahead of her success in practicing them (same with the companion convictions I hold about the office of husband). So the occasion for us to repent is constantly with us.

I am encouraged, however, to see my wife’s faithfulness - to repent when needed, and to practice what she’s preached to her daughters - replicated in those daughters’ marriages. They come to Mom from time to time with open ears and hearts willing to hear her counsel and encouragement.


A dumb question: why (and given the times in which it was translated) would the KJV render this word as “reverence” when the Geneva and Douai-Rheims translations do have “fear”?

In Middle English “reverence” meant something much closer to “fear” than it does today.


Right, Joseph. Meanwhile, Wycliffe and Tyndale are both “dread.”

Abt comments, Bill, you’ve missed the reason. On every forum I’ve been on among conservative Christian men for almost two decades now, the sins of the church bring much less discussion than the sins of the world. That no one is interested in discussing wives fearing their husbands and the gagging of God’s Word by all modern Bible translations at this point is most certainly not because all of us here have wives who dread us and teach their daughters the same, nor that all of us read Bibles that translate this correctly and teach our children to do the same, nor that all of us are interested and actively engaged in warning our sheep abt their own unfaithful Bible translation nor…

I realize my criticism is somewhat amorphous in terms of proper responses, but I’m not looking for responses. Only self-awareness here on Sanityville of what we like and don’t like to give our attention to. Love,


Truly difficult topics are always less popular than the hot political topic du jour. Thanks for an informative essay.


My wife and I are both on the same page with regard to these issues, so there’s a sense of not wanting to “rock the boat” by bringing up unnecessarily contentious issues. For example, I’ve recently become convinced that head coverings for women in church is still required, so I brought the issue up with my wife, asking her to consider it, do some reading, and then we’d discuss it. I would like it to be something she agrees with from Scripture before I “require” it of her. However, I recognize that even if she disagrees, I have the authority to require it of her nonetheless, but I don’t want to play the “authority” trump card if I don’t absolutely have to. Am I being sinful in this tendency? Possibly, but my primary motivation is to not be domineering I think, along with a healthy desire to not cause unnecessary trouble.

Anyway, all that is an example. What I’m asking is, what is the best way to approach my wife on this particular issue (appropriate fear)? Should I ask her if she fears me? Should I admonish her to fear me more? I know one thing she will ask is “What does this look like practically speaking?” Any ideas on how to answer that question? Since I feel respected by her and have had evidence of her obedience on certain important issues in the past, should I even bother bringing this up?

I feel like my situation is pretty good, so I would love to see some advice for those married to a rebellious wife as well. I know I may be called upon to advise men in such a position at some point as well. How can a man persuade a rebellious wife to submit in appropriate fear to him? Or an ignorant but compliant wife? Or a non-christian wife: For example my friend at work is married to a Japanese lady who is not a Christian. Currently he’s just working on sharing the gospel with her. (This marriage occurred during a period of falling away for him and he’s recently returned to the faith and working through the consequences of his own sinful choices. Makes for lots of very difficult pastoral issues that he’s posing to me.)


This is a nit, but the King James Version is in Modern English.

Middle English is considered to have run from AD 1066 (Norman Invasion) to about 1500. It’s quite interesting to look up familiar passages in Old and Middle English to see just how far distant they are from even KJV. The Lord’s Prayer is an interesting comparison. Well, I guess it’s interesting if you’re a word nerd.

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For example, I’ve recently become convinced that head coverings for women in church is still required, so I brought the issue up with my wife, asking her to consider it, do some reading, and then we’d discuss it.

We did the same thing. I did some research, read through the passage in Corinthians, and came away agreeing with Sproul that long hair is not the covering talked about. I showed it to my wife, she went away and did some research, and came back having agreed. < 2 hours or so. Ordered one of those Catholic looking veils on Amazon.

Not to distract from the current topic, but it was a blessing that she didn’t have any qualms over it.

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Think of it as something that your wife will grow in and grow into; one can’t expect overnight sanctification, starting with oneself, so the wiser option could well be to let her come to this conclusion in her own time.

Funny thing, but I’ve come to the opposite conclusion. I think head coverings is something a husband should ask his wife to do—and largely because it’s so hard to do so, today. “You’re husband actually TOLD you to cover! I mean, really? He didn’t let YOU make the decision! MY husband would never try to make the decision for ME!”

After many years, it sort of came to seem as if I should make the decision myself, which is not to say my dear wife disagreed. But it seems certain decisions in marriage need to have the weight carried by the man which often is a relief to the woman. Just my own take on it. Love,


My wife was covering routinely for several years before we married, so my contribution was to endorse - and in one dramatic episode, to defend - her decision made as a single woman.

However, the more general principle you’ve mentioned here is key to much of a wife’s submission from a practical point of view. For the wise submissive wife, her husband is an almost constant object of study: what is it that will advance his mission in life? how may I facilitate what he is doing? what, exactly, is it that he desires me to be doing?

“My husband wishes me to do this” is what my wife calls “cover.” And she has at various times in our marriage petitioned me to extend that sort of cover for something she knows she needs to do but is anxious about the social ramifications. If she can “blame” me :smirk:, if she can “hide” behind me in a plausible and honest way, then this is, as you’ve said, a welcome relief to her.


Pastor @tbbayly as you know my plate is a little full at the moment. So sorry for not reading or responding till now.

I for one think back to Machiavelli’s the Prince, who wrote about the king’s need to be both loved and feared. I don’t remember if the word respect crept into that text but I think it might have been used to describe the blending of the two.

But your translational points are well taken. I think I have read that footnote and also interpreted respect through that added information though I am certain that neither my wife nor my church would view a wife fearing her husband as a good thing.

I remember in a counseling session with one of our elders my wife told him that my kids told her that they were afraid of daddy. Of course the thought went immediately to, what would they have to fear of their father.

I explained that I interpreted their comments that they didn’t like receiving consequences from daddy when they were in rebellion. I also pointed out that though they claim to be afraid of me, when it’s time to go to bed and the lights go out, and they are afraid of the dark, it’s actually me and not mommy that both of them want to be with to protect them and assure them. Sometimes I’m up for a hour tending to my children’s fears and praying with them or snuggling to get them to calm, or even just sitting in their rooms while they settle down.

I have to admit it pains to hear things like they are afraid of daddy. I much rather hearing them they say that they love me, and they do often. But I also know that if they didn’t fear me at all, I wouldn’t be doing my job and they wouldn’t grow up to be functional human beings much less citizens of the kingdom of heaven. To be honest, I think they still don’t really fear me.

So, does my wife fear me. Again I’ve never given her cause to fear for her safety but she has commented that she is sometimes afraid of me in that my sternness of disapproval can be rather intimidating. I honestly don’t try to intimidate, but I think I am somewhat of an intense personality. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, and it’s no doubt been shaped by years of trials. I don’t want my wife to be terrified of me, but I do often see how her rebellious nature comes out when she forgets that she fears me.

Ugh, what an impossible balance. Maybe I should go back and reread the Prince and perhaps switch to the ASV, since it appears even the KJV translators took the same exception.

Ephesians 5:33
Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.


Dear Pastor Tim (@tbbayly),

Thanks so much for your post. You post on sexuality always cause me to pause and do some self-examination. Invariably, I always find some blind spots in either family or church life that I need to be corrected, and for that I am very thankful. Most of us probably don’t write back because we need to let the Holy Spirit deal with our life.

The discussion about head covering also brings out a hole in my sanctification. I have to confess that I have been inconsistent in carrying out this command. I know that I can often rationalize it because in my church, I’m viewed as being ‘right of right’, and I don’t want to give them anymore ammunition to throw at me. And also my English group is already small (as you know) and to throw this on top of all the commands that needs to be obeyed seems akin to- humanly speakign- trying to kill off the group. On top of that there are battles with my wife and teen daughters about this- some more successful than other. With other ‘important’ things in ministry, I let it slide.

Can you offer any wisdom for me about taking steps to actively obey this command? Thanks.

Love in Christ,

p.s. There’s an elder I regularly argued with about women in leadership. He always ends it by saying that I need to command all women at our church to wear a hat. He knows that is his trump card. But logically he’s right. If ‘complementarians’ pick and choose which commands to obey, whey can’t everyone else? And maybe headcovering is not such a side issue in our cultural war. But how do you best approach this?


Your elder is going a too far. I know many men whose wives only cover for the service, not before or after. And some only cover for parts of the service. Some only when they’re up front participating in the service in “leaderly” ways. And there’s room to only require it of married women. Be careful to implement change led by faith and not by fear.

And you only need to command your wife, not others’.

I’d like to hear @Fr_Bill 's defense of his wife covering while single.

I had a grad school Christian brother who responded similarly to your elder but by demanding that I greet with a holy kiss. That hit the nail on head, leading to an explanation of how our church is bringing that tradition (and obedience) back. A few men have kissed me, on the neck during a hug, but only those who feel it’s likely comfortable. And I’ve started it myself, barely, but in time to surprise my grandfather pleasantly before his death. What a joy! But reform is messy. It will be awkward. I had to get one man to stop with me. I couldn’t handle it. What a rare blessing to have something like that settled peaceably! This particular tradition (holy kiss) is probably not reasonable until a church first has a healthy culture of appropriate hugging.

All of this requires faith and trust in God and each other. A healthy culture that accepts faithful missteps.


Here are two non-marriage examples I hope are helpful. I think they are examples of what @tbbayly summarized well above: the point is Godly fear and fear of God. Children will begin to learn of God through their parents and learn to demonstrate fear, and into their eventual, Lord willing, roles of husband or wife will display Godly fear in leadership or in submission.

Love and fear combined in fatherhood
A story told by @jacob.mentzel, of him commanding his daughter to come to him out of the street because of an oncoming car. No time to explain. No time to count to three. No time to get to her and pull her to safety himself. (I’m telling my version) No time to be savior, only time to be lord. Only time to yell at her to come quickly. She ran to him, genuinely scared but probably not sure of what, then stood before him afraid, balling. He could then console her, thank her, confirm his love for her, explain the situation to her, hug her. She could have ran from him in fear further into the street, run in rebellion, or stood still in paralyzing fear or dismissal. But, thank God, love and fear combined to bring life-saving obedience.

Fearing God more than man allows a man to discipline his children in public, in front of his wife, or in front of his in-laws. We discipline children as an act of love (Proverbs 13:24). We obey God as an act of love (John 14:15). We also obey God because we fear Him (Matthew 10:28, Acts 5:9). We trust God, we love God; He loves us, first loved us. So fear, like obedience, is appropriately unidirectional and hierarchical, the flip side of authority. Love is mutual but not equal. Avoiding idolatry and pride, our fatherhood should mirror the Fatherhood of God, and our children have Jesus’ model of Sonship. Children should hopefully have their father as an example of both fatherhood and sonship.

Dogs and their masters
A well-trained and -bonded dog presents many examples of obedience based on mutual love and one-way fear. My college roommates tried and usually failed to get my dog to break the rules when I was absent. He wanted to be on the couch but not without his master’s permission; only I could place him on a couch without causing him to shiver in fear. And then there were the times I led this country dog down a five-story, metal fire escape. That was a wide-eyed dog, shaking to the bone but following.

An old woman in my neighborhood keeps the scariest and most athletic dog around. She walks this huge German Shepherd off leash, and there’s no other dog I trust more here despite his intimidation. It doesn’t know me nor obey me much. But a chiding from its master, and he begins to obey me…for a short time, playing with me rather than toying with me. A good parent can do better, effectively having their children obey a baby-sitter all night. A trustworthy parent speaking with authority can delegate that authority, and even their trustworthiness. To obey a baby-sitter is to love her, and is also obedience and love of the parents. To obey and love parents is to obey and love God.

@Krlamb1, I’m glad you connected you children’s various fears. Your nighttime routine demonstrates that they’ve combined fear with trust. I’ll take it one step further. Perhaps they know that even demons and monsters should fear daddy. That would be good. It’s really pointing to God. Brings to mind the Aslan quote,

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …"Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

and a song by Ross King,

These relate to marriage because we have similar comparisons. Wives are to consider Lordship (1 Peter 3:6, Ephesians 5:22) without frightening fear (1 Peter 3:6) nor timidity (2 Timothy 1:7). So we don’t throw out the word fear but understand it as more and different than mere afraidness. If anything, fear of God and fear of husband emboldens and protects a women to live rightly, as @tbbayly and @Fr_Bill pointed out. Woman have as models those who call Jesus Lord, especially Sarah’s calling her husband, but also husband and father submitting to God and church and family and government. Husbands in their headship (as Jesus is Head) are told to love their wives specially as Jesus loves.

Why is it so hard to apply these gulfs of distinction (father & son, man and animal) to man and wife? I had been thinking of writing how adult men and women are more equal than parents to children and men to animals. Adults are brothers and sisters in Christ, commanded to mutual submission, all with equal Christian liberty of conscience. So it’s hard to find the balance. This has to be considered when adding the respective roles of husband and wife to Christian men and women. This doesn’t feel right. The distinctions are plain to see, in person and in scripture, and are beautiful. We only feel bad because we are accused (by Satan and men) of being unequal, lording it over others (1 Peter 5:3) and angering others (Ephesians 6:4). These qualifiers tell men how to lead. They don’t tell men how to be equals. Men are told to lead rightly, carefully, appropriately; but to lead regardless, and to love not like a female human but like the God-Man. Men are called to follow Jesus in more ways than women are. Mainstream complementarians get it wrong by stressing the equality, in league with egalitarianism/feminism/androgyny. Complementarianism is soft egalitarianism, except for some few who do softly believe in Patriarchy. Adam definitely appreciates and needs the sameness he saw in Eve, bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, but let’s take it for granted while we still can that humans are to be preferred over beasts (and pets).

Patriarchy, the Bible, celebrates the distinctions of men and women, most gloriously as husbands and wives, raising them to properly high statuses. Let’s have a fairer sex. Here’s a bumper sticker design.