I Have a Prior Commitment (Conclusion)

Rewards

images-1Of course, the big reward is heaven. If we can just make it to the throne…if we can sit around the throne of God with our spouses and our children in the New Jerusalem, singing praises to the Lamb…our marriages will have rendered the ultimate reward. But there are more immediate rewards of honoring the Christian commitment in our marriages.

Our prayers are not hindered when we do marriage God’s way (I Pet. 3:7). Have you ever tried to talk to God when you have argued in anger with your husband or failed to abide by His decision? You will find that you cannot approach the Highest Authority until you have submitted to His delegated authority. If you find yourself in that awkward place, go apologize to your husband and then come back and talk to your Father.

Our daughters receive invaluable training for submission in their own future marriages. This is training that they will rarely receive in other venues in our world of feminism. In fact, their guidance counselors at school will, almost always, scoff at girls who would like to marry and bear children in lieu of having a career. Their role models in secular society mock at the rare woman of God who openly speaks of submitting in marriage. So this gift of a godly mother’s example is crucial. We must be constantly aware that we are countering a very convincing culture when our children watch us interact with our husbands. Our window of opportunity to indelibly etch this vision of what God wants and rewards in the hearts of our sons and daughters is extremely limited.

Our husbands will be better able to slay the dragons in their hectic and often godless worlds as they go about leading and providing for our families. A warm and loving haven where there is respect and admiration for a man enables him to do the tough stuff for his family in a culture of disrespect. He can take almost any courageous action for his wife and children if there is peace, harmony and respect around the dinner table.

But the biggest reason is the one listed beneath the admonition to be obedient to husbands in Titus 2:5. It is this: “…that the word of God be not blasphemed.” If we knew nothing else about the rewards of doing marriage God’s way, this would be enough. I have seen this blasphemy in the words and demeanor of teen girls and young wives who wear the name of Christ, but whose moms failed to teach them the principles of respect in marriage. One teenage girl in class responded to a lesson on submission in marriage by asking “Are you telling me, Mrs. Cindy, that I will one day have to obey the man I marry?”

I responded “No, Heather. I am not saying that. God said that.”

…To which Heather responded with folded arms and a steely resolve in her voice…“Well, I’m not doing that!”

This was a harbinger of disaster in Heather’s future marriage. It was blasphemy. It most certainly would, one day, represent a breach in some promises she had made when she had taken His name. Heather had decided not to be a daughter of Sarah. She had decided not to do well.  May you and I do well and may God help us to teach our daughters to do well.

 

Outcome-Based Obedience?

womanOn several occasions I have been approached by women who really are pretty fed up with their husbands. Some women have a right to be fed up. Sometimes they are struggling along, trying–really trying –to be godly wives and, for some reason or excuse or other, their husbands are just determined to make Christianity hard for them. Husbands, sometimes, flatly refuse counsel. Sometimes husbands just will not step up to the plate and be spiritual leaders in their homes. Most of the time, of course, they’re not leading because, well, you just can’t lead where you will not go. Sometimes husbands are verbally abusive to wives and children or perhaps they are never home due to complete absorption in career or sports. It’s just tough sometimes to keep hanging in there.

Sometimes, though the scenario is different. Sometimes the women who are having a difficult time in marriage are in relationships that were sinful in the first place (Matthew 19:9).

So every now and then, a wife will come to me and explain why she never should have married her husband in the first place. She will elaborate on why he did not have a biblically approved reason (fornication of the spouse as per Matthew 19:9) to divorce a former wife. “Thus, his marriage to me is an adulterous union,” she says. She will go on to tell me how bad things have gotten in the relationship (There is no intimacy or there is pornography.There is yelling or there is a lack of communication and tenderness, etc…) In short, she will tell me all the things that have gone wrong with her adulterous marriage and that, now, after all these years and all this misery, she wants to do the right thing and divorce her husband.

I was reminded of this scenario as I was reading the book of Daniel earlier this week. Have you ever noticed that character named Melzar in chapter one? He was the steward of the king who was responsible for the princes Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He was the one who was supposed to make them eat the king’s meat. But Daniel persuaded Melzar to give them a ten day trial–to allow them to eat just pulse and water–and see if they weren’t just as healthy as the other princes.

As you will recall, at the end of the ten days, they were fairer and fatter than the others, so, in view of the fact that the pulse was producing the result that would make Melzar look good to the king, He allowed the four Hebrew princes to continue eating the pulse–the God-approved diet.

Notice that Melzar’s compliance to the will of God had nothing to do with trust or devotion to God. In fact, we have no indication that he even believed in Jehovah. His motives were purely mercenary. He saw that God’s way was in his own best interests, so he did this diet thing God’s way.

So, am I saying that a woman who is living in an adulterous marriage, but fails to repent until that marriage falls apart, should remain in that miserable marriage? No. At whatever point one decides that she is violating the will of God, she should stop disobeying. I am saying that repentance is sometimes complicated when procrastinated.

What if Melzar had come to trust God and had decided to do the diet God’s way BEFORE the ten day trial? Well, then his compliance to God’s system would have been obedience, plain and simple. But because his decision was predicated by proof that compliance was in his own best interest, he was actually acting in his own behalf, rather than in submission to God.

What if a woman decides to get out of an adulterous marriage when she learns the gospel, but is desperately in love with her husband? What if he is loving, funny, handsome and caring? What if he is everything she wants, but she know she has no right to be married to him? Well, then, her sacrifice of the adultery she commits is a real act of submission. It is a huge price to pay, in this life, for eternity with Jesus. Would anyone question whether or not such a woman was penitently submitting to the Lord?

Whatever the right thing to do is, it is still the right thing whether it results in relief or misery. But when one searches her heart, she must be sure that she is being obedient because she loves the Lord; not merely because she wants to escape a situation that is burdensome emotionally or physically. It is just harder to clear the conscience when my repentance comes at a convenient time for me. Can I be forgiven when repentance is delayed until it benefits my current lifestyle? If I am truly penitent as I turn from sin, I can. But convincing myself of my own sincerity may be the difficult and haunting aspect of my life changes. Pragmatic repentance may leave little room for godly sorrow.

If you need to repent of some sin, do it now. Procrastination often muddies the water. It can become extremely difficult to have the godly sorrow that works true repentance, if our sorrow is such that would characterize even someone who is of the world (II Corinthians 7:10). The sorrow of the world works death.

If I do the right thing because of some present torment, I may risk eternal torment. If I do the right thing and suffer for it, I will be glorified with Him (I Peter 4:15,16).

Melzar’s decision to allow the diet of pulse was quite different from, say…the three Hebrews’ decision to stand when the music played. Melzar chose what would insure his own prosperity. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego chose what would get them in a very heated situation very fast. True submission is not outcome-based, at least not in the short term. True submission is eternity-based.

I Had Rather Write…

…about hospitality, the fruits of the Spirit, child-rearing or time management…anything but submission. Our culture has beaten down the Christian perspective of marital submission relentlessly in the latter decades. Feminism has intimidated us to even speak of our Biblically submissive roles. Satan has blockaded our days with arenas of embarrassment…places where it seems terribly antiquated and even funny to say, “I am submissive to my husband,” or “I obey my husband.” The women with whom I work out at the gym would never let me live it down if I said something like that. Tele-marketers have even scoffed at me because I told them I needed to ask my husband before I make a large monetary commitment. How long has it been since you saw a female celebrity profess that she lives under the authority of any man? Oprah doesn’t applaud the obedient woman as the model for society.
When I write and speak about submission I pray for boldness to say the Will of God, because, frankly, the Will of God about submission has been dismissed by our culture. I can often see in the eyes of my audiences that I am saying something they have not been hearing in their classes and from their pulpits. But I will continue to teach Biblical submission for two reasons. First, the Bible teaches it. Second, we are not doing it.
Here they are…the only reasons we need as Christians.
  1. Ephesians 5:22: “Wives submit to your own husbands as to the Lord…”
  2. Ephesians 5:24: “Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their husbands in everything.”
  3. Ephesians 5:33: “…let the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
  4. Colossians 3:18: “Wives, submit to your own husbands as is fit in the Lord.”
  5. I Peter 3:1: “Wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, that if any obey not the Word, they may also without the Word, be won by the behavior of the wives, while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.”
  6. I Peter 3:5: “For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands.
  7. I Peter 3:6: “Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord, whose children ye are, as long as you do well…”
  8. Titus 2:3-5: “That [the older women] may teach the younger women to…be obedient to their own husbands…that the Word of God be not blasphemed.”
Did you notice the straightforward nature of these injunctions? Did you feel the strength of words like obey, submit, subject and reverence? See, you and I can argue that submission in our culture is extremely difficult. We can argue that it doesn’t really fit into our evolving society. But we cannot argue that it’s not commanded in the New Testament.
Oh, there are those who argue that Paul’s and Peter’s instructions about submission were limited in scope; that these injunctions were intended to apply only to the particular culture to which they were addressed rather than to broadly apply to all cultures thereafter. But this argument has no scriptural merit. Examine closely the instructions of I Timothy 2:11-14. Though these verses more specifically apply to submission to male authority in worship, the principle of origin is applicable to our study.

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
And Adam was not deceived, but the women being deceived was in the transgression.

Whatever the reason for this submission, it originated in the Garden of Eden. Its application began with Adam and Eve. The principle was in effect during the lifetime of Sarah (I Peter 3: 6) and continued to the culture of the apostles. Since we are instructed to be subject to our husbands as “the church is subject to Christ” (Ephesians 5:24), surely the principle is still binding. Different people…different eras of time…vastly different cultures and societal norms. One universal teaching of the God of all cultures. The origin of this submission teaching is not culture. The origin is creation!

Taken from You’re Singing My Song, by Glenn and Cindy Colley, www.colleybooks.org, Huntsville, AL