In the discussion of Effortless the conversation turned to how wives should expect to be lead, and how they would naturally react if their husband lead them as the Bible teaches. There are two parts to this, which correspond to the separate instructions to husbands and wives:
- Wives are to submit to their husbands even if their husband doesn’t obey the word. The idea that a wife should expect her husband to first lead (and lead correctly) before submitting is not only not supported by Scripture, but it is in direct contradiction to 1 Pet 3:1-6.
- Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the Church (Eph 5:25-29).
The first point is generally ignored, although it is worth noting that modern Christians are quite enthusiastic about 1 Pet 3:1-6 with a twist. The second point is much more popular, and this is what I want to touch on with this post. While as fallen men and women none of us will achieve Christ’s perfection, it is still important to look at His example.
One of the problems with modern Christian culture is the misconception that loving is a synonym for nice. Jesus is often considered to be a sort of passive non judgmental friend, instead of our Lord, our Master. Husbands are then compared to this false standard. For example, in How to Make Your Wife Submit to Your Authority -6 Tips Caleb Suko starts with:
As a husband your job is to love like Christ loves. One of the best ways you can do that is by simply being a friend to your wife.
The first sentence is straight out of Ephesians, but the second sentence has origins from the Book of Oprah. A bit further down Suko claims that loving like Christ means never holding your wife accountable:
Here’s the real quality of a man, if you make a mistake you’d better admit it and fix it!
If she makes a mistake you need to fix that too but you don’t have to say anything!
You know what I’m talking about, that time when she made a poor judgement call about buying a new kitchen gadget which promptly broke the following week.
Even though it’s tempting, don’t say,
“I told you so!”
Instead suck it up and fix it for her without saying a word. She’ll love you for it and next time she’ll be a lot more likely to listen to your advice.
Wives read and hear this sort of message all the time and come away thinking “Why can’t my husband be more like Jesus?” They become convinced that their own rebellion is purely a reflection of their husband’s imperfection. The problem is the Jesus Christian leaders like Suko are describing doesn’t match the Gospels. Nowhere in the Bible is there a rule that a leader can’t correct the one they are leading. Moreover, Jesus very strongly rebuked the Apostle Peter after Peter failed exactly in the way that Jesus had predicted. In John 21 we learn about the reunion of Jesus and Peter after the Resurrection. Peter eagerly dives into the sea and swims to Jesus, but Jesus doesn’t address Peter until after everyone has eaten. Jesus then repeatedly rebukes Peter, to the point where Peter is absolutely heartbroken:
15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah,[b] do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah,[c] do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah,[d] do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
According to Suko’s theory of Christian leadership, Jesus has failed to act as a Christian leader by not sucking it up and pretending that Peter hadn’t failed exactly as Jesus had foretold. Implicit in Jesus’ rebuke is a very serious “I told you so”. Moreover, Peter is right; Jesus could see into Peter’s heart, and knew he loved Him. The problem of course is not that Jesus was unloving, but that we have been sold a great deal of nonsense about what loving means. Jesus loved Peter, and never stopped loving him even when Peter denied Him. After Peter pleads with Jesus to look in his heart, Jesus then lets Peter know He indeed does know that Peter has repented. Jesus responds to Peter’s plea by explaining that because Peter has repented and will faithfully follow Him in the future, Peter will suffer an excruciating and humiliating death:
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. 18 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”
In foretelling Peter’s excruciating, humiliating death Jesus is paying Peter a great honor. But this only makes sense if you remember that Peter (just like us) was called to obey Jesus.
I bring up this example not to offer it as the single template for Christian leadership*, but to explode the false idea that being a loving Christian leader always means being passive or nice. At the same time, this should demolish the related assertion that if husbands were to lead like Christ wives would naturally want to submit:
I can’t speak for all women, in general, i think we are wired to respond well to Christ like love- “laying down of ones life (as Christ did)” …in fact- I can have nothing but total admiration and respect for that man (and -that’s- just a natural reaction :-).
For those wives like soulthirstjc who believe they would naturally want to submit if their husband lead like Jesus, I suggest you place yourself in Peter’s shoes in John 21:15-19. You have failed in a truly spectacular way, a way which will be remembered for all eternity. You are deeply ashamed of your failure, and the moment you realized what you had done you wept bitterly. You have also been physically separated from Christ and are reunited with Him for the first time. You are so excited to see Him again that you dove into the sea to swim to Him. But before Christ welcomes you back, He strongly rebukes you three times, reminding you of your failure and questioning if you love Him. Only once you demonstrate that you are truly heartbroken does He acknowledge that He knows you are sorry, telling you that because of your repentance you will die a painful and humiliating death.
Do you still think your reaction to the leadership of Jesus in the flesh would always be to automatically want to submit? Isn’t it much more likely you would sometimes at least initially** be hurt and angry, and accuse Him of being unloving and unworthy of your submission?
Isn’t this precisely how you feel at times about your own husband?
*This is one of many examples of Christ’s leadership in the Gospels, and it would be a mistake to either focus solely on it or pretend it didn’t exist when considering Christ’s leadership. However, other examples demonstrate that Jesus wasn’t passive or “nice” in his always loving leadership; He first called out the embarrassed woman with menstrual blood who touched His garment as well as the Gentile woman who asked Him to help her possessed daughter, before ultimately blessing both of them. Husbands should also remember that we are called to dwell with our wives in understanding, giving honor to them as the weaker vessel.
**Until you repented.