To Protect and To Serve

Posted on May 27, 2015

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Eph. 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

Matt. 20:28 “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.”

This is not a post about the police department.  I just commandeered their slogan for the title.  I’ve been letting my Christian faith be more overt in these posts lately.  I hope my readers of other faiths or no faith will bear with me and see if you can find wisdom in these posts.  I have also been on a role with calling men to step up to being the husbands we are called to be.  I recognize that most marital difficulties involve a dance between the partners that keeps you stuck.  At the same time, guys, I think we can do better on our part.

The letters of the Apostle Paul have sometimes been called sexist by modern readers for instructions such as “wives submit to your husbands” (Eph. 5:22) and “it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church” (1 Cor. 14:35).  In our current egalitarian culture, these seem offensive and oppressive.  Though a thorough analysis of the cultural context and the audiences[1] to whom these were written is beyond the scope of this post, I would like to look at an idea that Paul put forward that would have been much more radical to his readers/hearers, namely, the idea that a man had a moral duty to love his wife in a tangible and sacrificial way.  Within the cultural context in which he was writing, this was a revolutionary idea.[2]

So what is this business about loving your wife as Christ loved the church?  First, that love is unconditional.  Humans have difficulty with unconditional love.  The best we seem to be able to do is come close.  This love is not just about a feeling, but about doing, how you treat your wife, how you speak to her, how you speak about her to others and in your own head.  It matters.  I am not talking about being called to have poor boundaries, nor am I suggesting that a husband should be forced to endure ongoing infidelity or abuse.  I am talking about choosing to be loving when she is at her least loveable.  As Paul wrote to the Romans, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

The second aspect of Christ’s love that we are called to is servant leadership.  Christ came to serve rather than to be served (Matt. 20:28).  Let’s start with housework.  Even in households where both partners are employed, the bulk of the housework still falls to the wife.[3]  Similarly, childcare duties fall more heavily on the wife.  Incidentally, when you are taking care of your own children, it is called “parenting,” not “babysitting.”  When everyone is tired at the end of the day, how transformational would it be if we were stepping up more.  There is also the question of noticing what needs attention. “Although men are putting in more hours on housework tasks, responsibility for noticing when tasks should be performed or setting standards for their performance are still most often assumed by wives.”[4]

Third, there is this idea of being willing to sacrifice for your wife.  Christ was willing to die for the church (i.e. the people).  Does your wife have the felt sense that you are there to protect her physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing?  Again, this is not about unhealthy codependence, but about a willingness to love one other person with a sacrificial love.

One of the criticisms sometimes leveled at Christianity is that no one has ever tried it.  This may fall in that category as well.  But imagine if we did this.

[1] With most of the New Testament you are reading someone else’s mail.

[2] Perhaps in our culture as well.

[3] The references are copious.  Do a quick internet search if you want to check it yourself.

[4] Read more: Division of Labor – Contemporary Divisions Of Labor – Gender, Cohabitation, Theory, Family, Development, and Women – JRank Articles http://family.jrank.org/pages/408/Division-Labor-Contemporary-Divisions-Labor.html#ixzz3acoXLOGD

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