Monday, April 11, 2005

The Ephesians 5:25 Husband - Jesus' Example

As we saw in Friday's post, we husbands are called to exhibit agape love towards our wives. At an abstract level, as described in I Corinthians 13, this is a pretty idealistic command. In some ways this is discouraging. As a husband, I flinch every time I read this chapter. I Corinthians 13 was the text from which my father preached at my wedding. (And yes, it was very cool to have Dad perform the wedding ceremony for us!) Reading from it makes me realize how often I've failed to live up to the ideal.

Part of the problem with the ideal, though, is that it provides little in the way of practical guidelines, or examples. It doesn't give any examples of how we can be kind, for instance. Now, yes, it is true that we should be able to discern whether we are acting kindly or not. But. Actual examples of how we are to treat our wives would add to our general knowledge of proper behavior, and provide a frame of reference within which we can better work.

Fortunately, Paul gives us such an example whenhe points out that we are to love our wives as "Christ also loved the church." Jesus Himself can be our example of ways to love our wives! How exciting! (And yes, a tad scary...there's NO WAY I can live up to His example 24x7.)

So let's take a look at some of the ways Jesus loved His church, especially through His interaction with the Apostles. First, and most obvious, Jesus died for the church. While we cannot take on our wife's sins and bring them redemption, we most certainly need to be willing to die for them. We are supposed to love our wives with agape love, and there is no agape love greater than laying down our lives for our (best!) friends. This ties back to the I Corinthians 13 claim that love "always protects" (v. 7.) We need to be willing to protect them, even with our very lives; their well-being comes first. Fortunately, this type of decision doesn't come up too often - but for darn sure I'm the one who gets up to explore strange sounds in the night. If it's a burglar, I'd rather it be me beat about the head than her. The purpose of Jesus' giving of His life is different from the (potential) giving of mine; but they both are the result of agape love.

This is, fortunately, not the only example Christ set for us. He also provided a couple of more mundane examples for how we can show love to our wives. I'm not sure how popular they'll be, since it may mean that some of the "traditional" chore assignments are rearranged, but they are ways that Jesus showed love to His disciples. First, Jesus made breakfast for them. This is seemingly a small thing, but the disciples had been out working (fishing), getting at first discouraged with the absence of fish, then working hard when Jesus provided a huge catch. Tell me there aren't times your wife puts in a hard day, at work or with kids, and wouldn't feel deeply loved if you cooked dinner for her and the family. Or watched the kids and gave her some peace and quiet. Or cleaned the house. The seemingly mundane can be a huge blessing to someone who's weary. (Admitted: general stereotyping above - but statistically, women still do most of the household chores. Guys too often lack the servant heart we should have in this area especially.)

The second example was when Jesus washed the disciples' feet. This is a beautifully humble picture of servant love. Jesus did a task that was beneath Him; this was normally a task for servants. This isn't a task we are often called to, and I've only seen it done symbolically. But the principle is much broader. Jesus humbled Himself to serve His disciples. We need to humble ourselves and dig in with tasks that are "beneath" us, or outside our normal role.

There are other examples. Jesus taught the church, and so we should show love in teaching our wives on the (rare) occassions they don't know as much as us. Jesus healed the sick; we should care for our wives when they are hurting. Jesus was compassionate towards sinners, and we need to shower compassion and forgiveness on our wives when they sin.

Jesus outserved the church, as Wellington Boone said. There's no way we could do more for Him than He did for us. If we are to love our wives as Christ loved the church, guys, we have to serve them more than they serve us. Is it possible? Not always, in my experience...though I have my moments. I've married a servant-hearted woman, and it's hard to keep up with her, let alone outserve her. But scripture leaves me no choice. To truly love her as I ought, I must serve her as Christ served His church.


Not Crunchy said...

Thanks for talking about the relationship between men and women from a biblical perspective. On Christian blogs, I mostly read about how women should serve men, so it is refreshing to see the other side of the interpretation. I happily admit that I am a feminist (and by feminist I mean that I believe men and women are equal), and am very turned off by women who want to turn back the clock on women's rights - I do not think that they understand that the reason they can make such proclamations of their subjugation on the internet is because they have the benefit of the women's movement behind them that allows them the freedom to make such proclamations. In the good old days of no women's rights, they would not have a voice in our society.

R. Stewart said...

Interesting perspective, thanks for sharing.

I think you'd be surprised, though, to find that many/most/all of the Christian bloggers telling women they should submit to their husbands also believe they are equal with men. In fact, the Bible speaks to this in Galatians: 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

In Christ there are no distinctions worth worrying about. All are equal, all are family. But as submission as a topic is rather complex, I'll wait to address it in my series instead of here - hope you stick around:-)

BTW, my wife is as liberated as they come. Good Irish stock...but she has chosen a path that some feminists decry as "turning back the clock." I'd be curious as to what, exactly, rights you think some women are trying to turn back. Is it just abortion? Or the right of women to work outside the home? Thanks!

Kristen said...

Just to back up what Ron's saying--yes, I do think we're totally equal. Equal in worth and standing before God...just not the same when it comes to role and design. There are plenty of things I do better than Ryan, and of course there are things he can do that I can't.

Looking forward to your thoughts on this, Ron.

Not Crunchy said...

Ron, By turning back the clock I am mainly referring to 2 things: 1)attaching a stigma to working outside the home and 2) voluntarily giving up what was so hard to get in the first place - the ability to express an opinion and to be taken seriously. Perhaps the cry against feminism is just a new flavor of feminism, because in the past women could not have even had a voice in the issue of anti-feminism. Rather ironic if you ask me.

Regarding abortion - I think there is a misconception that pro-choice people like abortion. I do not like the idea of abortion at all, but I am pro-choice. Ideally a woman could give her baby up for adoption if she chooses to not have a child. But life situations aren't always ideal. It really bothers me that there are approximately 1 million abortions per year in our country (in fact last year I chewed out my local NPR station for reporting that of the 80,000 abortions performed in Michigan, "no one died"), but I cannot dictate to a woman what she can and cannot do with her body, particularly when every situation is unique.

R. Stewart said...

Thanks for clarifying your concerns. As to the first, there is no reason that women should feel stigmatized for working outside the home. Many women in the Bible worked outside the home (including Priscilla) and the wife described in Proverbs 31 (kinda the "ideal" wife in Solomon's view) sold products in the marketplace and invests in real estate.

However, from the evangelical perspective, we see far too often criticism from the left that women who choose to work in the home are "betraying" what feminists fought for. Frankly, I think that's hogwash, and needs to be decried as much as the other extreme (that women should be homemakers only.) Women have a choice in terms of employment - whatever they choose should be expected, whether at home or in an office.

As to the second, I know of nobody who willingly gives up the right to have an opinion, or be taken seriously. In fact, I find that all the Christian women I know are quite eloquent about their opinions. Perhaps your experience varies from mine due to the subcultures we traverse. There are many fine women leaders in Christianity (Anne Graham Lotz springs to mind quite readily.) If you could provide an example of what you're talking about, perhaps I could address it better than this.

R. Stewart said...

NC -
Regarding abortion (different topic, different comment)...

I don't believe that most pro-choice folks like abortion. What I hear most often from them is "I wouldn't, but I can't take the right away from others." I find this a copout - no offense - since it's the exact same logic as "I wouldn't own slaves, but I can't take the right away from others."

Where moral decisions are concerned, it's not a matter of preference. If something is immoral, it is immoral. And abortion is a deeply moral question.

I'm also not sure that making allowances for "life isn't always ideal" is a good-enough answer. Would it be right to tell the starving child that "life isn't always ideal?" Of course not. We'd try to feed that child. Likewise, we should try to save the child in danger of being killed because "life isn't always ideal."

A woman has always been able to do what she will with her body within limits. Women can't do things with their bodies that harm others (i.e. murder, rape, robbery, etc.) Why is the exception made in this one case? Why are they allowed to "do no harm" in other aspects of life, insofar as the law is concerned, but in this one area they can end the life of another human being?

I'm not trying to be harsh - and please understand I believe you are not pro-abortion (I make the distinction between pro-abortion and pro-choice.) I just don't see the logic of accepting abortion as a viable, ethical, moral alternative. Life isn't ideal. That doesn't mean we should take it out on those with no voice of their own.

Not Crunchy said...

Ron, I suppose I was not being clear in what I'm trying to say about feminism. You say, "I know of nobody who willingly gives up the right to have an opinion, or be taken seriously. In fact, I find that all the Christian women I know are quite eloquent about their opinions." Yes! I agree! And Christian women are able to give their opinions quite openly because of the women's rights movement! Women did not even have the right to vote in this country until 1920. What I'm saying is that these Christian women have unprecedented freedoms due to the feminist movement. "We've come a long way, baby."

R. Stewart said...

I think we're okay then. I don't hear anyone trying to take those rights away from women. The only "right" I hear people talk about taking away is the right to abortion; and the arguments against that have nothing to do with a woman's gender and everything to do with the fact that an innocent/vulnerable life is ended. Christians don't want to take away the rights of women to work outside the home, to vote, to speak and be heard.

Which is what the early suffragists fought for, many of whom were Christians. In fact, some key people in the abolition and feminism movements were quite devout Christians. We owe them quite a bit for helping remove the stigma of inferiority placed on women in public life.