Friday, December 26, 2014

Be Subordinate? Really?

The Feast of the Holy Family

For the Feast of the Holy Family, the church allows pastors to choose between Colossians 3:12-21 And Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19 for the second reading. I decided to look at Colossians only because it was listed first.

What kind of misogynist was this Paul character, anyway? I mean “be subordinate”? Really? Anyone who really thinks that any one among us owes obedience to anybody at all is obviously either backward or extremist. Obviously! (I mean, you knew that, too, right?)

Verses dealing with the model of the family are difficult for our modern ears to accept. God does have a plan for the family unit, and has imprinted his perfect design on our hearts. Femininity is naturally inclined to the nurturing of others. Masculinity is naturally inclined toward the provision for and protection of families. Children are naturally inclined toward emptying cabinets of Tupperware the imitation of their parents.

Paul is not telling wives that they should be subservient to their husbands. He is rather telling them to listen to the impulse planted deep within themselves to nurture. Women are the ones who bear children, who carry them around, nurturing them for nine long months, and usually who care for them after they were born. Wives are called to nurture and build up their husbands. Husbands need this, though it is, perhaps, uncommon for them to let this need be known.

Likewise, Paul is not giving husbands license to be domineering. In another place where this family structure is discussed (Ephesians 5:21 and following), husbands are commanded to love their wives “as Christ loves the church”. Christ loves the church to his very death, and seeks nothing so fiercely as for her to be more closely conformed to the image and likeness of God, that she might be perfect, as her heavenly father is perfect. Men are the ones who guard, protect, and provide for their wives and children. A husband must love his wife in the same way, with this perfect charity, that seeks her spiritual perfection as much as his own - if not more.

The full truth of the matter is that Christians are called to a kind of self-giving love for each other that all of these roles will follow naturally from that love. And it will flow in all directions. Wives need nurturing and building up, and husbands need someone to desire their spiritual perfection.

Christ embodies this love perfectly, and husbands and wives are called to participate in that love that Christ has for us to the extent that the grace to do so has been given to us.

This is not always an easy thing to do. As much as we are fallen creatures, so are our husbands. Making sacrifices for one another isn’t easy, but it is the kind of love that we, as Christians, are called to.

Let us pray that God will increase his grace in us, to enable us to love our families more perfectly. Let us ask that he help us to see the places where that love is weakest and how we can best express our love for each member of our family.

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