Thursday, October 3, 2013

Submission Versus Love: Offended By The Bible?

A church in England preached Ephesians 5:22 and Colossians 3:18 and immediately many women members were so offended that they quit the congregation.  So what does Eph 5:22 and Col 3:18 say that is so offensive?
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. -- Eph 5:22
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. -- Col 3:18
Some of the women congregants said they were "disgusted" by the sermon which was accompanied by leaflets. Further, a woman member asked,
"How can they talk that way in the 21st Century?. "No wonder the church is losing touch if this is the kind of gobbledegook they want us to believe in. I will not be going back to that church and will have to seriously consider my faith if this is the nonsense they are spouting now."
Before we get into the texts in question, let's look at the responses by some of the women. Clearly the two texts cited, call for wives to submit to their husbands, and these are New Testament texts, not something brought over only from the Old Testament in case someone implies these concepts are "done away with in Christ". But some of the responses by the women show that they want to believe only the things they want to believe about the Bible. This pastor isn't making up some personal concept but rather is merely preaching Christian concepts.
Maybe rather than summarily reject the message, the women should ask themselves, "Yes, that concept is in the Bible, but what does it mean?"  Does it mean women are to do whatever their husbands tell them without question?  Does it mean women can never talk in Church?
Another woman congregant said:
"What kind of medieval sermon is that — we are not in the 15th Century. I have already canceled my direct debit to the church."
Is every sermon we find to be non-contemporaneous with our views to be dismissed as "medieval" or out of touch with modern times?  What kind of Faith will we end up with if we impose our beliefs on the Bible rather than having the Bible shape our beliefs and practices?
Now let us look closer at the texts in question.  The entire context of Eph 5 is not only submission of wives to husbands but submission of Christians, "as children" to God and submission to each other as a community of saints.  Christianity is not a lone-ranger religion despite how it is often depicted as a "personal faith".  As a matter of fact, Eph 5:21, one verse before the wives submit to their husbands verse, we read:
"[Christians] submitting to one another in the fear of God" -- Eph 5:21
Is it merely 15th-century gobbledygook for Christians to submit to one another and worse yet in "fear" of God?
Next, let's look at the full context of the wife submission verses.
"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything."  -- Eph 5:22-24
As you notice, the full context gives us the reasoning behind the concept, that is husbands are the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of Church.  When we deny that a husband is the head of the wife do we also deny that Christ is the head of the Church?  Keep in mind I am writing this article as a married man, married 20 years.  I fully discussed this issue with my wife on more than one occasion and discussed this specific article.  And how fitting I write this article one day before Valentines Day. :-)
But what does in submission to everything really mean?  Does it mean, well everything?  That wives should just do everything they are told by their husbands without question?  Is that how the Church submits to Christ?  Do individual Christians, even the apostles themselves just do everything Christ said or did they sometimes question Him.  Not question in rebellion or disobedience but in clarification.  Now, granted husbands and their judgment is not perfect like Christ's so when a husband is questioned, as Christ was often questioned even by His followers, a husband may need to relent and change his decision.
But before we go on, let me continue the context of the quote, for it does not end with calling women to submit.  So often, as my wife pointed out we focus on the fact that the text tells women to submit to their husbands yet we do not hear many sermons preached on what men must do toward their wives.
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her" -- Eph 5:25
Just how much does Christ love the church?  He gave Himself for her.  Or more specifically, he was defamed, ridiculed, tortured, and ultimately killed for the Church.  How much more self-sacrificing can you get than that?  So, the problem is, while we see and understand the Bible calling for wives to submit to husbands, how much do we really understand the kind of self-sacrifice a husband should have for his wife?  Does ANY husband really love his wife like that yet we want women to submit like the Church submits (is supposed to) submit to Christ?  And quite frankly, there are many husbands that aren't "leading" their wives or their families -- many are off concerned about themselves, their work status, their social status, everything but a self-sacrificial love for their wives. I'm not saying we should then drop the whole thing on both sides, but rather each should strive more to live up to these biblical precepts, realizing we will often fail.
Looking further at the Colossians 3 context, we read:
"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged." -- Col 3:18-21
Maybe if submitting to your husband is "disgusting" so too is it "disgusting" for husbands to love their wives and not be bitter toward them.  Maybe it is "disgusting" that children are told to obey their parents in all things.  Maybe it is "disgusting" that fathers are told to not provoke their children?
The point is, while we may find things in the Bible which are sometimes difficult for our human nature to practice, nevertheless as Christians we need to be receptive to what the Word of God is saying and not blame the message on the messenger.
Do some people take the wives submit to your husbands text out of context?  Yes, some husbands use it as a license to boss their wives around, forgetting the self-sacrificial role of the husband.  Some people want to claim it is merely a culture precept, meant only for those immediate times but no longer for today.  Again, so if that is the case, then should husband's loving their wives and children obeying their parents also be cast away as only a 1st-century thing?
Christian marriages fail, Christian families fail when we turn away from the Bible, claiming it is so "medieval" that we pick and choose what to believe and what to practice.  If we behave like that, that is no longer a "Christian" marriage or "Christian" family.
So, as the Bible says; wives submit to your husbands, husbands love your wives self-sacrificially and without bitterness, children obey your parents, fathers do not provoke your children but treat them gently.  What is so "disgusting" about that message?  Why would a Christian become offended by that message? 
The UK article can be read here:

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