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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I was recently extremely irked by a story that referenced an article from the Daily Mail (UK) about a pair of Anglican Church leaders (a vicar and a curate, like pastors) who had the audacity to preach what the Bible says about marriage.

Of course the article was typically full of liberal bias and used selective and sensational quotes to make these men sound ridiculous. Although I don't have the benefit of having actually heard what the men said in full context (thought neither did, I suspect, the writer of the article) I can pretty much guess that the paper left out the most important parts. I won’t pretend to defend all that these men profess to believe, not knowing more about those beliefs than I do, but I will respond generally about the issues the story raises.

I am sure that despite my attempts to be concise, it will likely take me a few posts to deal with the topics to my own satisfaction. This is really important stuff.

Let me start with a reminder that I believe, as do the vicar and curate of the story, that the Bible is the benchmark book on marriage (and life for that matter). I believe it’s timeless and true and inspired by the Holy Spirit. I believe scripture must be considered in context of the whole Gospel and that real understanding comes by the Holy Spirit, not by cultural or moral relativism. I don’t wish to debate this point, I simply wish to frame my comments with the correct understanding of my own perspective.

What perturbs me most about articles like this, which I suppose at some point will also be written about me and/or this blog, is the way they almost always completely miss the point. They go out of their way to portray the biblical understanding of marriage as archaic and culturally irrelevant by taking things out of context and extrapolating to outrageous conclusions that just don’t agree with what scripture actually says. By skimming the surface they completely miss the underlying gold that lies beneath the surface of a biblical marriage.

It’s fairly easy to take a sentence or two out of Ephesians 5 and then claim that the Bible promotes inequality, denigrates and discriminates against women, and portrays them as inferior to men. For example, “wives should submit to their husbands in everything” or “the husband is head of the wife.” The problem with only quoting these snippets is that the heart of the matter is left out, which completely distorts the picture and prevents any genuine understanding.

Imagine watching a football game (or any other sport) on TV in which the cameras only show one team by electronically erasing any image of the other team. It would be completely nonsensical to watch. Any conclusions you’d draw about the sport would basically be misguided and meaningless. So it is when people use bits of Ephesians 5 without considering it as a whole.

That chapter actually has nothing to do with equality, with who is more or less, or with who is better or more capable. This portion of scripture is describing the differing roles of husband and wife, both of which are equally vital to a successful marriage, both of which are of equal value and worth. The scripture simply accounts for the fact that men and women tend to be wired differently, with differing needs, and points toward ways of interacting that will most meet those needs. Nothing here indicates that either party’s needs are more important that the other’s.

The instruction here for a husbands to first see to his wife’s need for love, the unconditional, sacrificial and selfless kind that Jesus lavishes on us as his bride.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Eph 5:25
He is to cover and protect her, to nurture and encourage her toward the realization of all she was meant to be. The instruction for a wife to respond to her husband’s love by giving him the respect, honor and support he desires most.
“Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Eph 5:33
She is to give him the room and encouragement he needs to lead the marriage and family toward the full attainment of God’s destiny. It’s a beautiful picture of a dynamic love interaction in which both husband and wife are completely satisfied and thoroughly delighted in the relationship.

As I said, there is so much more here than I can possibly address in a single post, so I'll pause here. Next time: The Myth of Equality.


stu@themarryblogger said...

Great Great Great Scott. I am looking forward to reading the rest of this series.

I had a Bible teacher who always said "Context is everything." He applied it to the Bible...but its true in life as well!!

Taking a line or snippet, he taught, was always dangerous...Words have meanings. Then they have meanings around other sections and in complete letters and books of the Bible.

It's good to have us revisit this stuff!!

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