Controlling Behavior

A lot has been said in recent years about the negative effects
of "controlling behavior" in marriage relationships. According to a recent Associated Press story, "One factor strongly linked to (domestic) violence is controlling behavior by men. This behavior includes keeping a woman from seeing friends, restricting a woman's contact with her family, insisting on knowing where she is at all times, becoming angry if she speaks with another man, and expecting her to get his permission before seeking medical care" (AP, 10-9-06).

It is obvious to most rational people that an abusive husband's efforts to control every aspect of his spouse's life through intimidation, emotional abuse and violence are just plain wrong. The Christian understands that such behavior is sinful (see Ephesians 5:25,28; 1 Peter 3:7; Colossians 3:19). If that is what someone is talking about when they condemn "controlling behavior," I couldn't agree with them more.

But Satan is ever crafty -- always looking for a way to make evil seem good, and good seem evil. And so, he has used his vast influence in our culture to broaden the meaning of "controlling behavior" to include some things that are actually righteous and good. Satan's workers would have us believe that virtually any real exercise of legitimate authority constitutes "controlling behavior." So now, if a husband merely attempts to provide headship in the home, he is accused of being "controlling." If parents require obedience from their children, they are said to be "controlling." It has even come to the point where elderships that are Scripturally shepherding local churches are accused of being "controlling." It all reminds me of the success that Satan has had re-defining "discrimination". Do you remember when "discrimination" referred to not treating black folks fairly? Now it means that you haven't bent over backwards to accommodate homosexuals and criminals.

As we've mentioned, there are a number of behaviors condemned as "controlling" by the world that God's word commends! Consider the following:

1. Parents should control their children with discipline.

* Proverbs 13:24, "He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly."

* Proverbs 23:13-14, "Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. {14} You shall beat him with a rod, And deliver his soul from hell."

* Proverbs 29:15, "The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother."

* The Lord condemned Eli "because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them" (1 Samuel 3:13).

2. Elders should oversee and rule local churches.

* 1 Timothy 5:17, "Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine."

* 1 Peter 5:2-3, "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; {3} nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock."

3. A husband should be the head of wife, providing direction to her as Christ does to the church.

* Ephesians 5:23-24, "For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. {24} Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything."

There is nothing wrong with those who have legitimate authority exercising it. This is true in the relationships that we've mentioned, as well as many others such as government-citizen, teacher-student, and boss-employee. From a Biblical perspective, many of the problems that we see in these relationships today can be traced back to too little control, not too much control. Ultimately, a person who disdains being under the legitimate control of another will also disdain being under the control of God.

By Steve Klein Via The Bulletin of the Church of Christ at New Georgia, October 15, 2006

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