Question:

I have a big problem that I do not know how to sort out. My husband and I were engaged for three years and now have been married for two years. I was a new convert to the church when I married him. He had several qualities that I deeply respected and admired. He attended church for each service and was very knowledgeable in the Scriptures. His father is an elder in the church. and the family was very close.

In the last 18 months or so, my husband has started drinking alcoholic beverages to the extent he has been fired from multiple jobs and is now unemployed. He is also using crystal meth. Up until 18 months ago, he was a teetotaler and did not use drugs. I am currently working three jobs to keep us from eviction and bankruptcy. I don't give him any money, so I don't know how he finances his alcohol and drugs. My husband has never asked how I am paying the bills. He disappears from home for weeks on end and I have no idea where he goes.

Needless to say, he has not been to church in a very long time. He has forbidden me to discuss church, Scriptures or anything related to those topics with him. He also flatly refuses to speak to his father under any circumstances and has forbidden me to tell his father anything.

The other problem is my father-in-law. He is aware of his son's drug and alcohol abuse but refuses to speak to his son directly. My father-in-law demands an accounting from me regarding his son's problems and has informed me that it is my responsibility to 'make' his son attend church with me and get him to drop the drug and alcohol habit. If I knew how to do that, I would have done it a long time ago.

I have attempted to meet with the other church elders for guidance and none of them will speak with me since my father-in-law is one of them.

I am very confused about what I should do. I took an oath of obedience and submission to my husband when we married, so I don' t see any way to address the substance abuse with him, and since he forbids any discussion of church attendance, etc., under obedience I have to comply. However, my father-in-law is my spiritual superior. and I am accountable to him and the other elders for sin in my life. Yet, none of the elders will agree to meet with me. Since neither my husband or father-in-law will speak with the other, and both are pressuring me in opposite directions, do you have any suggestions on what I can do? My father-in-law has threatened me with disfellowship if I don't follow his orders, but I don't know how to follow his orders without breaking my oath of obedience to my husband.


Answer:

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord" (Colossians 3:18).

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:22).

Submission does not mean you give up your decisions nor your choices. Submission means you follow your husband's lead as he is following the lead of his head -- Christ (I Corinthians 11:3). When your husband fails to follow Christ you cannot follow him there. You are still responsible for following the higher authority.

The same goes for elders. They are not a legislature; that is, they create no laws. You are to follow the leadership of a church so long as they are following Christ. If they demand things that are not based on God's laws, then you have to continue following their head, which is Christ.

So, let's start with your husband. He has put his salvation in jeopardy. "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 6:9-10). Hopefully he will find his way back to sobriety, but in the meantime you have decisions to make.

I assume there are no children involved, since you are managing to hold down three jobs. You made the right decision in keeping him from the family's finances.

Given that he disappears for weeks at a time, the sad fact is that he is probably committing adultery among his many other sins. If you can afford to, it would be helpful to hire a private investigator to verify this likely fact. If it turns out to be true, you have the option (not a requirement) to divorce your husband and then later decide if you want to marry someone else (Matthew 19:9). If you think your safety is ever an issue, you can separate from your husband, but it won't give you a right to marry someone else if he is not committing adultery (I Corinthians 7:10-11).

While you remain married to this man, you need to treat the situation as a Christian woman married to a non-believer, which is really what you are dealing with. "Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear" (I Peter 3:1-2). Words are not going to convince your husband to change. He knows he is heading to hell and he doesn't want to think about it. "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:26-27). But actions might get through where words cannot.

In regards to the elders, they are failing their duties. I would not wish to be in their place when they face the Lord in judgment. Many Christians will notice that your father-in-law is no longer qualified to be an elder since one qualification is: "having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination" (Titus 1:6). There is a debate whether this qualification applies to grown children who have left home, but in your case, your husband was a member of the congregation where your father-in-law served as an elder. If he cannot keep his own son faithful while under his watch, then he isn't qualified to be an elder. That the other elders are silent indicate that they are participating in your father-in-law's sin.

What I would suggest is that you find another congregation to attend, one that is faithful to God's Word. Meanwhile, I'm going to hope that you have a faithful preacher at your congregation, one who will stand for the truth even if it might cost him his position at this church. It is the preacher's duty to rebuke elders who are sinning. "Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear. I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality" (I Timothy 5:19-21). Bring the problem to the preacher's attention with evidence and witnesses he can contact and remind him of Paul's instructions.