Bad Teaching: “Like Christ Loved The Church”, pt. 3

bad teaching

In my last post in the Bad Teaching series, I started writing about the idea of what “Loving Your Wife As Christ Loved The Church” (herein abbreviated to LYWACLTC) does NOT mean. After all, I had noted that this phrase from Scripture seems to have become the shibboleth of just about every pastor, counselor and marriage writer I’ve come across.

As I pointed out, I noticed that while these well-meaning advisors, with well-intended advice, can cite Eph. 5:25 like a mantra, they almost NEVER tell us what it means, and more importantly, what it DOESN’T mean. Last year, with that thought in mind, I started asking just what bad marriage advice should NOT be a part of LYWACLTC, and I came up with a list of things that Paul did not intend when he wrote to the Ephesians.

I realize that my ideas are capable of stirring controversy and disagreement, and I intend to discuss the list in depth; however, in today’s post, I am only going to address the first point on my list:

LYWACLTC does NOT mean:
1 – you are to be a slave to your wife.

LYWACLTC Does Not Mean You Become Your Wife’s Slave

“Oh, come on, CSL, don’t be ridiculous! No one is teaching that a husband is to be a slave for his wife.”

Yeah, in essence, we do. Oh, we don’t call it “slave”; after all, that’s a very loaded word, veddy offensive. So, we instead change it from ‘slave’ to ‘servant’, and as I pointed out in a previous post, we’re very big on recommending ‘Servant Leadership’ for husbands.

I admit to having an imperfect knowledge of the Servant Leader teaching, as it has been imported into the Church. I was aware of the fact that proponents of the SL model attempt to dress it in church clothes by adapting scripture to support their ideas, but I hadn’t done a search/study of the topic. Until this week.

I found some interesting ideas, even some good counseling to husbands on how they can better help their wives, how to be better husbands. And, as expected, I did find scripture-bending for doctrinal support. For example, I found this statement in an article on the role of husbands in marriage, on the Family Life website:

#3: Serve your wife. According to the New Testament, being head of your wife does not mean being her master, but her servant. Again, Christ is our model for this type of leadership. Jesus did not just talk about serving; He demonstrated it when he washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17) [my highlight]

(In browsing the website, it appears that Family Life is the parent organization for the popular Christian marriage seminar, Weekend To Remember.) According to them, the husband’s relationship to his wife is to be “her servant”. BTW, notice how the writer of the article uses Jesus’ act of washing the feet of the disciples to reinforce their statement? More about that, below.

Southern Baptists Teach This?

Of course, as popular as the SL teaching is, I was not surprised to find ministers and teachers that I think highly of presenting the SL model. For example, the late, great Adrian Rogers was a wonderful preacher and teacher, three times moderator of the Southern Baptist Convention. Although he died 10 years ago, he can still be heard on his Love Worth Finding broadcasts. Here is Rogers addressing a question about husbands:

When a dispute erupted among the disciples about who was the greatest, Jesus said, “But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:26-27). Jesus, then demonstrated His leadership by washing His disciples feet (see John 13:11-17).

A leader serves. Your wife is not there to serve you. You are there to serve her. Ephesians 5:21-23 says, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.”

In this section, Rogers goes for the two-fer, using both the foot-washing AND Christ’s teaching from Luke about leaders being servants. And then he went where all SL proponents go, Eph. 5:21, “Submitting yourselves to one another.” That verse is used to say that it is the husband’s task to submit to his wife. After all, “Your wife is not there to serve you. You are there to serve her.”

Did you get the contradiction in Rogers’ second paragraph, where he said, “The wife is not there to serve the husband, but the husband is there to serve the wife?” And then he uses Paul’s line, “Submit to one another” as support for this. Wait a minute! If the wife isn’t there to serve, why is the the husband there to serve, if BOTH are submitted? Doesn’t mutual submission mean that BOTH should serve? (Okay, I get that Rogers is speaking about leadership, but still, …..)

(As an aside, aren’t Southern Baptists usually accused of suppressing women? Telling husbands to submit to their wives doesn’t sound like it, does it?)

Other Examples

In searching for SL information, I found the website of a pro-life organization that operates pregnancy centers in eight different states. Among the material on their website, there are bible studies, including a three-part lesson on Servant Leadership for husbands. Here is a point from the first lesson in the series:

1. Reread v.[Eph. 5:]21. To whom is this verse addressed? How does this truth fit in with what we already have learned about servantleadership? [sic]

• Paul addresses verse 21 to all Christians. All Christians are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. This is important to keep in mind. Even as he carries out his role as the leader in the family, the husband and father must submit to his wife and children. [my highlight]

Two points: One, like Adrian Rogers, above, CLR uses Eph. 5:21, “submit to each other”, to support their teaching of SL. Two, the husband “must submit to his wife and children.”?!? Fathers have to submit to their children? Are they fresh out of their minds? It seems Paul missed a golden opportunity, in the very next chapter, to say that when he DIDN’T tell fathers to be submitted to their children, but for children to be submitted to their parents. This seems to me to be just flat-out un-Biblical.

I found another example on Crosswalk, one of my favorite Christian sites; they have wonderful bible study tools, and many helpful articles and devotions, from many, many writers. One writer, a Stephen Burns wrote an article for Crosswalk on becoming a Servant Leader. In his article, he wrote:

That answer to prayer I received one night might sound cryptic but I knew exactly what it meant. She [his wife] must literally, not figuratively, be the queen of our family. My queen.

The effect on our marriage was amazing. In obedience, I actually started picturing my wife as royalty. I pictured a crown on her head. A robe. When we talked I consciously tried to defer to her. Picturing our apartment as a palace was a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea [….]

Queen, huh? Well, at least the husband is promoted; no longer a servant/slave but a courtier. Servile, but still….

Scripture-Bending For Support

Okay, okay. I get it. Ministers and teachers come up with all kinds of tortured metaphors and similes to help them make their points as they teach. Wife and I used to serve as associate pastors, so I know about trying to illustrate or reinforce a sermon point. But that doesn’t excuse the manipulation and misapplication of scripture.

Matt. 20, Luke 22 and John 13 are pulled in to demonstrate that Jesus taught that leaders were to be servants, and that Jesus Himself took the place of a servant when He washed the feet of the disciples, at the Last Supper. These scriptures are then used to tell husbands, “See, this is your proper role as a husband; you are to be submitted to your wife and children and serve them.”

In doing my researching on Servant Leadership, not every article/blog I came across was a devotee of the SL teaching (most, but not all.) One, in particular, was written by a man whose skill with composition impressed me, despite his, uh, rem, ….. impolitic (?) manner of expressing his belief. Despite his manner, he did point out something that every blinkin’, stinkin’ SL teacher conveniently omits: Jesus, despite taking on the role of a servant, was still Lord!

This creative doctrine is loosely supposed to be based on the command for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved His Church. But sacrificial love is not synonymous with servanthood, much less servitude. The soldier who leaps on a grenade to save his buddies is not their servant, nor did Jesus Christ’s humility in washing His disciples’ feet alter the fact that He was still the Master and they the followers.

One Question Before Breaking Out The Tar and Feathers

Is Jesus Christ Lord, is He your King, or is He your slave? SL teachers tell us that Jesus took on the role of a servant, that he submitted Himself to the Church. Do you believe Jesus to be submitted to you? If Paul wrote that the husband is head of the wife just as Christ is head of the Church, do you believe that Paul was wrong, and that while Christ is head of the Church, the husband is to be submitted to his wife and children?

Or is it possible that this submission, as husband and father, takes on a different character than the popular SL teachers would have us believe? The writer of the grenade analogy above continues with a reference to a C. S. Lewis book, and demonstrates what true Christian headship and leadership consists of:

It is true that there is a sacrificial element in all leadership. The true leader must always put the interests of the family/business/team ahead of his own desires. He must accept responsibility for failure and deal with the consequences, even when it is not his fault. It is C.S. Lewis who may have described the concept best when the king of Archenland explains the burden of kingship to his newly-discovered heir in “A Horse And His Boy”:

“Hurrah! Hurrah!” said Corin. “I shan’t have to be King. I shan’t have to be King. I’ll always be a prince. It’s princes have all the fun.”

“And that’s truer than thy brother knows, Cor,” said King Lune. “For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.”

Christ, as the Lamb of God, gave His life, sacrificially, for the Church. Christian husbands, in following Christ, live sacrificially, for their wives and children. That’s true “servant leadership.”



Filed under Marriage & Sexuality

4 responses to “Bad Teaching: “Like Christ Loved The Church”, pt. 3

  1. Jon

    Thanks for writing this series. I’m a newlywed and have been wrestling both with what this Scripture means for me as a husband and what it means to be a leader of a household ever since I got engaged.


  2. rwhiteside2014

    What this article describes is a problem in the modern church – CONTEXT. Shortly after my first wife died, I took a class taught by a seminary professor. The main point of the class was an understanding of “context.” It comes down to this:

    The context of a word is the sentence.
    The context of the sentence is the paragraph.
    The context of the paragraph is the point being made.
    The context of the point is the book.
    The context of the book is the testament.
    The context of the testament is the entire Bible
    The context of the Bible is God’s message about Jesus.

    So far, everything is easy to understand. However, there is a second context that is commonly overlooked. This is quite simply:

    The context of the book is the CULTURE to which is was first presented.

    The context of Paul’s letters was a CULTURE where women were considered non-persons, subservient to their husbands, or if widowed, outsiders to society. Paul (and Peter) elevate women to equal with men. Unfortunately, because of the “Women’s Liberation Movement” in the 1960’s, and the church trying to become culturally relevant, many scriptures, and especially Eph, 5, were redefined to mean “men are slaves to women.” Remember, this is a recent phenomenon and not what Paul meant at all.


    • Thank you. I had never read that context pyramid before. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to steal this, too. 🙂


      • rwhiteside2014

        Go right ahead. It wasn’t mine in the first place. If attribution is necessary, please use Dr, Ronald Walters, International School of Theology.

        Also note that “chapter” and “verse” are omitted as context levels. Take, for instance, the Pentecostal teaching that, “to be filled with the Holy Spirit, you must speak in tongues,” Their main proof text is 1 Cor. 13:1. This is actually one sentence fragment and violates just about every rule of proper context. Well, the actual context begins with 1 Cor. 12 and doesn’t end until the bottom of 1 Cor. 14. Paul addresses this very doctrine in the 1 Cor. letter. Read the entire context and, yes, I am a “Gift Continuationist” accepting the gift of speaking in tongues, but reject that any one gift is essential for filling by the Holy Spirit.


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