Monday, October 31, 2016
Monday Morning Rewind: The Woman of the House
Actually, that's a colossal understatement. I spoke on a subject that tends to get preachers picketed and protested. And to evoke that kind of response, I don't even need to say anything myself. I needed only to quote the passage we read together yesterday morning:
"Likewise wives, be subject to your own husbands...."
Yesterday, we entered week two of our series "A Marriage Made on Earth." For marriage to work as God intends, both husbands and wives need to be obedient in their respective responsibilities toward each other. Next week, we get to the husbands. (In fact ladies, the guys get TWO weeks!). But yesterday, we started with the wives, because that is where the Apostle Peter began.
But that word "submit" causes a lot of misunderstanding, confusion, and anger, so we first had to unpack its meaning--and it doesn't mean what most in our culture think it means.
1. It doesn't mean all women are to submit to all men. Because maleness, in and of itself, doesn't qualify anyone to lead anything.
2. It doesn't mean the husband is the ultimate authority. That position is filled by the Lord Jesus, and no man with a brain wants to try to assume it.
3. It doesn't mean that husband micromanages everything. Truthfully, most husbands would make a colossal mess trying to do so.
So what does it mean? Ultimately, the command to submit is given because God will hold husbands, not wives, responsible for the well-being of the entire family unit. Male headship is about responsibility. And the picture that unfolds in these verses is the picture of a family moving forward toward Jesus together, with the husband leading the way, and his wife following that lead in a way that helps him and makes him better. And Peter describes four ways that "submission" is displayed by wives in a marriage relationship (next week, we will look at how this sort of deference is to be displayed by husbands for a marriage to work)
1. In Her Actions. Non-Christian husbands come to Jesus, Christian husbands become better followers of Jesus, and all husbands become better husbands, when the actions of a wife in the home who lives out her faith with consistency. Few men will change by listening to their wives preach at them. But I've seen many who have drawn closer to Christ by watching the "walk" of their wives. I'm one of them!
I spoke yesterday about an experience when our daughter had major surgery many years ago--watching the way my wife cared selflessly for her. Watching Amy sacrificially give of herself during that time, and seeing the grace with which she handled that whole situation modeled sacrifice for me, and it made me a better man.
2. In Her Appearance. Some people believe, based on this passage, that women shouldn't wear makeup or jewelry, or be concerned at all about their looks. But that isn't what Peter has in mind. But what he does have in mind is a godly woman who isn't obsessed with her appearance.
Too many women today live in an environment of "body shaming" that takes two forms. The first is the false expectation of a certain kind of body style or shape, or a certain weight that drives too many women toward bulimia, anorexia, or other harmful acts. The second is the "Abercrombie and Fitch" era that pushes women--knowingly or unknowingly--to be defined solely in terms of their bodies. The Christian answer to both of these expressions is simplicity, and modesty.
Most "women's magazines" you pick up at the grocery store have a lot to say about how you should look as a woman. Few address how you should live. Peter tells us here that what is truly attractive to a man who is right with Jesus is a modest, simple, and thus naturally and truly beautiful woman who has put the lion's share of attention on her heart, not her physical appearance.
3. In Her disposition. Peter speaks of wives here as having a "gentle and quiet spirit." Sometimes, this can be misinterpreted to make it seem as though if a woman is boisterous and loud, she is violating the Scripture. But actually, what Peter has in mind with these words is less about a woman's volume and more about her disposition toward her husband. I know many godly couples for whom the wife is the extrovert, and she is not violating Scripture by simply being herself. You can be the life of the party and still live in the kind of submission Peter speaks of. Conversely, you be a very quiet, reserved woman and be unsubmissive, rebel against authority, hover in the background and be controlling.
The big question is this: Ladies, are you living in a way that your husband would say you are good company?
4. In Her Mentors. Peter concludes this section by calling women toward emulating the examples that came before them. And ultimately, he points his female readers toward Sarah--the wife of Abraham who became the mother of all Israel.
But let's be honest about Sarah. This woman encouraged her husband to sleep with another woman so they could have a child together, then in jealousy would later put that woman and her child out of the home. So later this week when you scream at the kids or let stress get to you, I hope you remember that even our female heroes made some pretty bad mistakes.
When those hard times come, women need other women. So if your mother or grandmother is a Christian, go to them for advice. If you don't come from a Christian family, find godly older women in our church family who can listen to you, pray for you, and give you advice. Read biographies of great women of God like Elizabeth Elliott or Ruth Bell Graham. Learn from those who came before you, and be encouraged!
"Submission" isn't about women being "inferior." Its about you emulating the very example of Jesus who, though He was God, willingly submitted Himself to the will of His Father. Its about you becoming more like Jesus in your role as a wife. If it still seems objectionable to you, I'd only ask you to consider the alternatives offered by our culture--a vision of womanhood that includes you watching porn with your boyfriend to keep them happy and living with you--a vision that includes you paying for your own dates in the name of "equality."--a vision that includes you using your body rather than your entire being to keep worthless men interested--a vision that includes a culture where women are increasingly the victims of violence at the hands of those who would abuse them--a vision that includes sharp rises in depression, bi-polar disorder, anorexia, and STDs.
What do you think ladies? Is the serpent still trolling the garden? Are the daughters of Eve, thousands of years later, still just a gullible as their mother was on that dark day?
God has something better for you, and for your marriage. That "something better" doesn't require a trip back to the 1950s, nor does it require you to check your college degree and brain at the door (and any man who thinks it does isn't worth your time!) But it does require submission--first to Jesus--in the way you relate to the man you call "husband."