PREFACE: Looking at the title, the blogiverse starts taking bets on the depth and diameter of the hole I'm about to dig and occupy. Unfazed (some would say "clueless"), I clear my throat, and....
I've noticed a connection between public persons who are black, and public women of any color. Here it is:
When they buck the "party line," the repercussions can be vicious beyond belief.
Let a black writer defy conventional "party line" opinion, and come out for conservative, applied-Bible values, and he's not merely wrong. No, he's a traitor to his race, a turncoat, a Stepin Fetchit, an Uncle Tom, an Oreo. And those are just the nicer sobriquets. Ask our dear sister LaShawn Barber, I'm sure we'll hear an "Amen."
But similarly, let a woman buck the party line -- let her write or speak in favor of loving and respecting one's husband, of being a mother, of opposing abortion -- and she, too, is a traitor. She gets hate mail, abuse, all sorts of vitriol. Once again, poor LaShawn gets a double helping, as have many of the good sisters who post here.
One who has had her share is Christine, of I'd rather laugh than cry. Last August, she posted a little narrative with the beguilingly innocent title my path to women's ministry (don't blame me that Christine doesn't like capital letters). In it, Christine relates a visit to a Bible Study attended by a number of professingly Christian wives. Christine writes:
A junior in college and not a single date to boast of, I was not qualified to partake in a discussion on the matter, so I sat back to listen as the women discussed the topic of *how* they could show love to their mates. I began to squirm at the blatant disdain most of the women felt towards their husbands. They were failures as husbands, fathers, and men. I clenched my fists.To Christine's discomfort, she was eventually asked to share her opinion. She tried hard to dodge the question, but was pressed to answer. So she said this:
"I believe that a man feels most loved when he knows that he is respected."
She expanded on this before the silent audience of Christian wives out for a Bible study. When she was done, the silence turned to hoots of condescending laughter. She was dismissed outright.
I was so struck by the insight and wisdom of Christine's observation that I posted on it. Christine caught some flack for this post, and had her (!) attitude questioned and challenged. She felt the pressure put on someone who'd buck the party line.
Glutton for punishment that she is, she's back with calling him "master", her reflections on 1 Peter 3:5-6. You know the passage:
For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.Christine's thoughts are worth a read, and she's "asking for it" again -- but I'm actually using this as a launching point to offer my own.
On the face of it, the passage is plenty challenging. For decades, many have put their shoulder to the fool's task of muzzling the Biblical exhortations to wifely submission and respect. It can't be done, shouldn't be done; but as long as folks haven't really grasped Jesus as Lord, they'll buck against acknowledging anyone else as an authority.
So still on the (honest) surface, Peter calls wives to be "submitting," which would be better translated "subordinating [them]selves" (hupotassomenai) to their husbands (v. 5), "as Sarah obeyed [hupekousen, submissively listened to] Abraham" (v. 6). Even in terms of apparently outward behavior, there's a standard above the norm all in itself.
Could we read this, and come away thinking that outward obedience is all that is called for? If a woman can say that she technically "never disobeys her husband," is she done? If he crosses her will, will a curt, curled-lipped "Yes, lord!" followed by angry, grudging compliance suffice?
As God is He who searches the hearts and minds, as His word pierces to the very depths of us (Hebrews 4:12), so we find that Scripture probes deeper still.
While preaching/teaching through 1 Peter, I lit on this passage. I paused to ponder that expression: "calling him lord" (v. 6). I wondered, "When did Sarah call Abraham 'lord'?" So I did a search, and the results were revealing.
Searching then, and re-searching now, I could not find any passage where Sarah addressed Abraham as "lord," nor any in which she referred to him as such in speaking with others. The only canonical occurrence I found was in Genesis 18:12 -- So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?" Presumably this is the passage that the apostle has in mind.
What stands out from this passage? What struck me then (and now) is that Sarah is not talking to Abraham, she is not speaking to someone else -- she is talking to herself. This is the way she thinks of her husband, in her own secret, private thoughts. She thinks of him as her lord.
The Bible delves more deeply than outward behavior alone. For many women, including the women in Christine's "Bible study," changing outward behavior would itself represent a massive transformation. But in marriage as elsewhere, our righteousness is to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.
The lesson I find here is that the fountainhead is the heart, the mind, the center of thought and decision. From the heart flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23). If a woman wants to be a godly wife, this is where she must focus her consistent, prayerful, strenuous attention. She must focus on how she thinks about her husband. She must attend to and police the thoughts she indulges, and the attitudes in which she marinates.
How many women do not merely tolerate, but actively cherish, nourish, feed, and embrace thoughts of their husbands that are low, denigrating, demeaning, haughty, bitter, resentful, and disrespectful? How many such women wonder why their feelings and actions are so often so hard to control, or so hair-trigger fleshly? How many lament as to the lack of intimacy in their marriage, how "alone" they feel, how unhappy their marriage is?
I neither say nor believe that this is the root of all marital problems and unhappiness. I do suggest that it is the source of many and much, however. The wise woman, who would practice her Christianity in her marriage, would do well to do constant introspection along these lines (I once created a little aid towards that end).
It is a happy thing that single Christian women like Christine are already thinking about this, before marriage. This is the commitment you make, with the vows, sister. This is why non-Christian men, or men not walking with the Lord, are not even options. If you know from the outset that a man isn't up to that role, you know the bridge is out. Only a fool goes down that road.
The godly wife will soon learn what husbands learn as well: such change is beyond us. Our fallen nature hates God, hates His authority, direct or delegated (Romans 8:7; 13:1ff.). We love our fleshly passions. We cannot merely try harder. We must be born again (John 3:3), and then we must be filled with God's Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), and stop making enabling excuses for our flesh (Romans 13:14). Only by the Spirit of God can the righteousness of God start to work out in our lives (Romans 8:4, 12-14).
When it does, it will invariably look like what we find in Scripture.
AFTERWORD: what does any of this have to do with my title?
There's always an excuse for not listening to what you don't want to hear. I might be dismissed because I'm a man. But that wouldn't matter -- Christine is a woman, and her hearers dismissed her...um, er, because she was single. LaShawn's vicious critics call her terrible names even though she does have the "creds" for what she's writing, simply because they hate what she's saying.
For the Christian man or woman, whether white, black or green, there should be one focus only: what does the Word say?