Well.it’s lunchtime and I am back in bed having done the clinical duty and a night on call, and dealing with the current winter virus which has basically closed two wards. I am not going to the weekly medical meetings this weeK: I have handed over chairing the meeting (I am the usual alternate and the chair phoned saying he was too busy on the ward) to someone else as I really don’t want to share this bug with others.
Even though it is going around, and even though I got it from one of my sons. It is not prudent. Yes, this links to the passage for today. And yes, I am going to discuss the roles of a husband and a wife, but to do so I need to lay down a bit of background.
One of the Catholic ideas — taken from Augustine, and he would argue he took it from Christ and from Paul — is that of natural law. That the world works according to patterns, and these are predictable, and they follow type. Jesus talked about looking at at the fruits of one’s actions to judge people. And Paul talks about not associating with evildoers.
Instead he talks about living as if one is wise, and not according to the ethos of the day. In the Greco-Roman world, marriages were fungible. They were not for life: Paul instead warned against hedonism and impurity and then taught the duties of a wife and husband.
So I am going to go there despite the fact my marriage is destroyed. Because most people try to weasel out of the exegesis of this because they are scared of the offence: it is seen as a “third rail” issue: touching it will destroy you.
All the more reason to go there.
1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
3But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints.4Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. 5Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. 7Therefore do not be associated with them. 8For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light – 9for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; 13but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
15Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
21Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. 24Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.
25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, 27so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind – yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. 28In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30because we are members of his body. 31“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church.
Firstly, and most importantly, we should not let ourselves be deceived with empty words. These include most modern ideas: it includes any comments about equality, or patriarchy, or indeed any form of Christianity plus. One can as easily fall into the same error of the feminists while arguing about the injustices of the family court. [The fact that Paul Elam and Janice Bloomfield have backgrounds that include exposure to feminism fits here: they are using the same neo-marxist terms of analysis, perhaps with a flavour of libertarianism on the side], It is all to easy to see the activists around an injustice as correct, and then accept their logic: that is an error: all logic requires examination.
Secondly, Paul says we are different. Men are not women: we are not effete. This fits with the observation made (in that small part of the internet called the Traditional Ladies Auxiliary} that men who are in touch with their feminine side and plead for love induce a visceral reaction, and that is repulsion.
This leads to two commands Paul has. Wives are to submit to their husbands because their weakness is a tendency to control him . Men need to feel that they have a sense of respect: that there is an order within the team, and that there is not continual fighting over who is to lead. Most men can lead and can follow — and move from one to the other working on the unwritten rule that the most competent person in this situation leads. Many women fight over such things. And no man likes being subverted, particularly when he is trying to do his duty. But women want to test, to push, to be in control, and despite vowing to obey, they will struggle with it. But their role, within the families, is all to frequently more hands-on: most husbands are quite happy to let a wife lead where she is competent and when there is agreement that this is how it will happen.
But if the woman’s need to rule and control has been there from the beginning, the command to men is stronger and harder. We are to love our wives. Even when they are horrid, shrewish, and disrespectful. In fact, particularly when they are horrid, shrewish and disrespectful. We are not to blow the marriage up and go after that cute babysitter. We are to ensure that she knows she is cherished. Not that she will feel cherished all the time. or understood all the time.
Finally, there are no guarantees in this life. You can be as righteous a wife as possible, knowing this and doing well and he may not love you and leave you.
But in this time, it is far more common that you will be taught as a husband that love is the same as appeasement (it is not: it involves leadership. Which at times means you HIDE that chocolate, or remove the booze) and even if you lead and love that is being interpreted by many as “abuse” and the wife will be encouraged to “leave the abusive relationships” and enter into the joys of secularism, sapphism and cats.
Your spouse can blow your life up. It is as it was in ancient times. Which is why we have to be careful not to let ourselves be deceived by the rhetoric of rights, or the emotional language of abuse, and consider that the commands of scripture place a burden of duty upon us.
We have to obey. Particularly when we don’t feel like doing so. And particularly when the commands challenge the spirit of this age. For we are supposed to be different from the secular members of our society, not a religious arm of the same movement, slithering lockstep towards perdition.