Sunday, December 19, 2010

Institution of Submission—As to the Lord

Before Christ, wives didn't submit; they obeyed their husbands. Although this is never commanded, we see the pattern of wifely obedience to their husbands in many Bible stories. Sara obeyed Abraham. I assume she referred to herself as his sister instead of his wife, because Abimelech reproved her in Genesis 20:16. (Was he accusing her of putting on rose colored glasses? "Behold he is to thee a covering of the eyes...") She thought of him as "my lord" when she heard they were to have a child in their old age. Gen 18:12 Vashti was expected to obey her husband when he ordered her to display herself to a drunken, leering crowd of men and lost her royal estate when she disobeyed. Sapphira agreed with Annanias to lie about a donation to the church, Acts 5:1-10, and was struck down by God because of it. Wives obeyed their husbands as one would obey a taskmaster; with fear.

But Jesus instituted a new thing, honor and status for women, and adult submission as to the Lord, rather than child-like obedience as to a king or taskmaster.

He started the new pattern with the arrival of the one who was to prepare the way—John the Baptist. He chose to have his forerunner come through Elizabeth, a barren woman, who had endured years of the reproach of men and was now beyond child-bearing years. In Luke 1:25 Elizabeth says:
“Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.”
Barren women were the lowest of the low. Finally being pregnant raised Elizabeth's status, and that her child was filled with the Holy Ghost while in her womb, and was the forerunner of the Messiah raised her status even further. When she heard her cousin, Mary's voice and her babe leaped in her womb, Elizabeth was honored by being filled with the Holy Ghost, which was unusual in those days.

God could have chosen a different way for the forerunner of the Messiah to appear, but He didn't. He chose a lowly woman, who was reproached by men. Elizabeth's husband had little to do with raising his wife's status. Indeed, he had been unable to impregnate her for years, and now his own lack of faith made it clear that her child's Spirit-filling was in spite of her husband.

Jesus chose to come to earth through a woman of low status as well. Mary spoke of her low status being raised when she visited Elizabeth.
Luke 1:46-48. "My soul doth magnify the Lord...for he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” Luke 1:52-53 “He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.”
Very few were of lower degree in that day than females. And both Elizabeth and Mary rejoice in their raised status. Mary prophesies of the new order; that the poor and those of low degree will be exalted by God, while the oppressive rich will be brought low.

As mentioned in the previous post, Jesus continued to honor women throughout His ministry and never stooped to the common woman-debasing practices of the day. But He went a step further: He lowered His own status as humans saw it, by washing the feet of His disciples, a job no one else wanted to do. Further, He taught the disciples to do the same; to serve others—even those they considered beneath them. And to serve them doing the tasks no one else wanted to do.

The Apostle Paul follows the example Jesus established and set the stage for successful husband-servitude by telling wives to submit to their husbands, who were considered their superiors in that culture, AS TO THE LORD. This was not reiterating the centuries-old practice of obeying dictator husbands, but instead was instituting a new practice in marriage. Even as the lowly Peter submitted to superior Jesus when Jesus stooped, bent, or knelt to wash his feet, so also lowly wives were to abstain from refusing to yield to their superior husbands when the husbands dropped the rules of status and hierarchy to stoop and serve their wives with love and sacrifice.
“Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so the wives to their own husbands in every thing” Ephesians 5:24
The “every thing” wives were to submit to, as explained in the verses addressed to husbands, was the new order that Jesus had established—that those of high status were to love and sacrificially serve those of low status, thereby raising those of low status to a place of respect and honor, which would result in obliterating status differences entirely.

This new order in marriage fulfills the law of loving God with our whole being and loving our neighbor as ourselves. When husbands love and sacrificially serve their wives, they are showing evidence that they know and love God. And just like we love Jesus because He first loved us, so also wives will love their husbands because the husbands first loved their wives. When husbands demand a place of higher respect and authority, denying wives the privilege of the self-determination of following God according to their own consciences, they are not loving their wives as themselves, and therefore are not living according to the “royal law” (James 2:8) and therefore do not know God, either, (I John 4:20).

The husband loves his wife so much that he is sacrificing because he loves her, not out of obligation. His love is so powerful he sees to it that his sacrifice is helpful rather than sloppy, disruptive, self-aggrandizing, wife-exploitative, or etc. In other words, if he is serving by doing house-hold chores, he will do chores in such a way that his wife cannot tell by his poor or disrespectful workmanship (that forces her to do it over) which of them did the task. This takes humility on the part of husbands. Just as their wives at some point in their lives had to humble themselves to learn how to do things right, so also the husbands will need to humble themselves to receive instruction until they get it right. I can't imagine Jesus leaving mud between Peter's toes, nor that He would consider a sloppy or other sin-motivated job as loving self-sacrifice.

On the other hand, wives who refuse to allow their husbands to serve them with loving, non-pushy self-sacrifice, expose the pride within themselves. Just as Peter's refusal to allow Jesus to wash his feet would have shown evidence of pride in his low status, and thus a lack of love for Jesus, so also wives who refuse to allow their husbands to demonstrate their love by demolishing the status differences between husbands and wives, males and females, reveal their own sinful pride.

Wives who "submit as to the Lord," submit to receiving humble service from their husbands. Just as Jesus requested, respectfully explained and didn't insist or forcefully wash Peter's feet, and never demands or forces us to do His will, so also Husbands must respect the free-will of their wives and refrain from attempts to force them through argument or indoctrination.

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" See Fiction written to expose God's truth.

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