Authority figures–whether fathers, husbands, church elders, government leaders, or employers–influence women’s lives. How we women respond to them reveals our hearts. This article by counselor Julie Ganschow appeared first here on her website and is used with permission.
When Authority Figures Disappoint Us
As Christian women, we function in a world that is watching to see how we will respond to the authority figures in our lives. Fathers, husbands, and church elders are the basic authorities under which we function. Sometimes our leaders disappoint us, don’t respond the way we want them to, or even do things that are extremely hurtful to us.
How we respond is an indication of what is lurking in our hearts.
Women who respond to authority with anger and rebellion are often applauded in larger social circles or on social media. Our female friends and acquaintances don’t want to see us get pushed around or “abused” so they bandwagon with the offended/hurt woman and jump to her defense.
This is very unwise.
Proverbs 18:13 says,
He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him. (NASB)
Often, those defending a woman who has been hurt do not have the full story. They speak out in support of her without knowing the facts of the situation.
Unless you can have access to the other party involved, be very careful about coming to conclusions. It is very easy to take up a reproach on behalf of someone you care about or when the cause is important to you for personal reasons. I see this a lot when a woman is claiming that she has been harmed in some way by her church leaders or by her husband. Typically, there are so many factors involved in such situations that unless you have access to all persons involved you cannot possibly know the complexity of the matter.
Questions to Ask Before Responding
To keep from being a fool, ask a number of questions (who, what, when, where, and how) and seek to understand the problem. Verse 17 tells us,
The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him. (NASB)
It is imperative that you learn both sides of the issue before taking a position in support of the woman. It is easy to form a wrong conclusion about something without having all the facts. Perhaps you have been in this position, and learned too late that you spoke or acted prematurely on behalf of someone. It is much wiser to take your time and learn the background and pertinent information about the issue and the people involved before you say or do something that will bring shame upon you later on.
While asking questions, it is important that you listen to what is being said in response. This is why Proverbs 18:15 says,
The mind of the prudent acquires [gets] knowledge and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge [information]. (NASB emphasis added)
You want to be actively seeking to learn information about the problem and the person who is in the middle of the problem. Listening is much more than merely hearing what is being said, this is active listening; the kind that is engaged in hearing and processing what the speaker is saying. In addition, the listener is discerning the heart issues being revealed as she talks (Luke 6:45). Again, asking clarifying questions will help you to gain an understanding of the problem.
Ministering With Understanding
When you are confident you have a good grasp on the problem, then you can proceed with ministering to the heart of the woman. It may very well be that she has been wronged; how she responds to it will either bring glory or shame to the name of Christ. Our responsibility is to help her form a biblical response to those who have hurt her.
1 Peter 2:18-23 is a wonderful passage to begin teaching her what will honor God. Remind her that Jesus completely understands suffering under an unjust authority and that He is with her in her suffering (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15). Show her the pattern He left for us to follow: when He was reviled he did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but entrusted Himself to Him to judges justly (1 Peter 2:23).
No one is saying this will be easy, and she may balk at your counsel. You may have to be persistent, helping her to see the issues of her heart as revealed by her words and deeds (Luke 6:45).
The goal is always repentance and restoration before God. It may not be wise for her to return to the situation (physical abuse, spiritual abuse), but there should be peace between the parties if at all possible (Romans 12:18). This is what glorifies God.