In my last Bad Teaching post, I wrote about the abuse of Eph. 5:25, in particular, the use of the phrase, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ love the church” as a cudgel to pound on husbands. In that post, I took issue with pharisaical teaching that laid heavy burdens on the shoulders of husbands, but didn’t lift one finger to help them.
As I said in that post, husbands are told that if they love their wives as Christ loved the Church, then all will be well, that their marriages will suddenly become Heaven on earth. When pressed to define what that means, the most common teaching is some variation of Servant Leadership. After all, Jesus, for the sake of the Church, became a servant and submitted to death on the Cross, and husbands should be willing to become servants to their wives and live sacrificially for them. (If you have read any of my posts, you probably know what I think of that.)
I want to turn upside down that question about what it means to Love Your Wife As Christ Loved The Church (for brevity’s sake, throughout the rest of this post, I will use the abbreviation LYWACLTC.) Let’s, instead, think about what LYWACLTC does NOT mean.
Disclosure: some of the material that follows are thoughts that I shared last year, on The Marriage Bed.
This post was triggered by a book I downloaded for my Kindle app. As a librarian, I am always on the lookout for free reading material, and one day, a Christian marriage advice book was available from Amazon for free. I downloaded William Cutrer’s Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, and as I was scanning through it to see what it was like, I came across a section in which the author started to deal with the topic of “Submission”. Here is how Cutrer began this section of his book:
Because the word submit carries so much baggage, perhaps it would help to begin by clarifying what submission does not mean.
Submission Is Not …
• giving up all efforts to influence your husband, giving into his every demand.
• letting him think he’s better at something than you are when he isn’t.
• waiting on your husband. (The woman in Proverbs 31 has servants; she is not herself a slave.)
• obeying. Submit differs from obey, which is given as instruction to children and slaves-and is certainly our duty to God.
• letting the husband make the final decision.
• tolerating abuse. (Submission never means tolerating abuse. The best way to be a “helper” to an abuser is to expose him.)
• going along with your husband even if he wants you to sin (as Sapphira did in Acts 5), or if he endangers your life (as in the case of Abigail, described in 1 Samuel 25).
As I scanned this list of caveats, I realized that every time I have come across someone who feels that they need to address “Submission” in the Bible, they begin with an apology, and act like they want to apologize to women and wives that they have to even mention the topic. They will begin with caveats as to what “submission” doesn’t mean, they will then proceed to hem and haw their way through their presentation (with continual apologies for bruising wifely sensibilities), and finally end with a “See? That wasn’t so bad, was it?” conclusion that conveys the idea that the Bible doesn’t take the subject of “Submission” so seriously. More often than not, what the speaker or writer is trying to communicate is, “You can trust me, I’m not one of those knuckle-dragging troglodytes that actually believes in ‘Submission’.”
Before anyone decides to break out the torches and pitchforks, let me assure those of you with the above-mentioned bruisable sensibilities, that this is not an article on “Submission.” What really got me, though, was this fact:
While every sermon/article about submission comes with a checklist of caveats and concerns about “what submission is NOT!”, there never seems to be one for LYWACLTC.
For the life of me, I can’t recall ever seeing a list of exemptions, caveats, and “I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings” when the topic being discussed is “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.” Instead, the attitude changes to, “Guys, we really don’t care about hurting your feelings, so we’re gonna lay it on, brothers, just thick as we please.”
So, What Does LYWACLTC NOT mean?
As I said, above, this was something I started thinking about last year, and presented on The Marriage Bed. I decided to ask the denizens of TMB (a Christian sex-positive forum) their thoughts about a list of caveats for the LYWACLTC teaching, and during the following discussion, I distilled their comments down to a decent list of “why’s”, “wherefore’s” and clarifications. Here is the list of ideas telling husbands, who are abused by pastors, writers and teachers with the LYWACLTC Teaching, just what LYWACLTC does NOT mean.
LYWACLTC does NOT mean:
1 – you are to be a slave to your wife.
2 – avoiding doing right because it makes your wife feel bad.
3 – allowing her stay in sin just because she is comfortable.
4 – romancing your wife.
5 – avoiding correction to keep the peace.
6 – losing yourself in your wife.
7 – treating your spouse like a child in order to protect them.
8 – shielding your wife from the consequences of her sin.
9 – never saying “no”. (Of course, this is not referring to sexual refusal)
10 – attempting to take the place of Christ, either in your eyes or hers.
Set Free To Do Right
One of the statements about salvation is that we are not set free to do what we want do, but to do what we ought to do. This list, describing what LYWACLTC does not mean, is your emancipation from bad “christian” teaching, freeing you to live as a godly Christian husband. This is not a Get Out Of Responsibility Card, but a checklist by which you can test any pastor, writer or teacher who tries to lay the burden of your marital problems on your shoulders. If it does turn out that you aren’t doing what your ought, then get ‘er done, as Larry the Cable Guy says.
But if it turns out that what is being pushed onto to you violates these statements, then refuse the teaching as false. Yes, I realize that there are several things on this list that may be controversial, but as I like to say, “So what?” In my next Bad Teaching post, I will address several of these caveats, explaining why I believe them to be true.