Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Women and Men

Over Memorial Day, we were staying at my parents' cabin down toward Ft. Wayne. For Sunday morning we decided to go to a local church. I like showing up at a place where no one knows me and seeing how other places worship.

The kids were very nervous. Even after promising that we wouldn't make them go to some class on their own, but we'd all sit together in the pew (or individually stackable, padded chairs arranged in rows), they were still sure it was going to be a place full of 85 year olds wearing suits and ties and listening to pipe organs.

Well, we were pretty close to the middle of nowhere, but we found a "Community" church with a service at 10:00am. We arrived right as the service was starting and heard drums and guitars going. The first people we saw were in blue jeans and shorts. There was a themed service going on, complete with a large set built on stage for visual cohesiveness, a drama, special music by the full band that felt like a concert, and a video presentation. In short, it felt about like most growing, suburban churches. The kids were at ease.

The theme for a few weeks was "Desperate Households" modeled after the TV show by a similar name. The scripture text was Colossians 3:18-19, "Wives, submit to your husbands; husbands love your wives." The pastor had some very good things to say about interpersonal relationships between spouses, and I was personally challenged to be a better husband. But there's something about the exegesis of this passage that is always so glaring in omission. For we got the typical take on it in which women are encouraged to let men lead like they should, and this is not oppressive to women because men really are charged with the more difficult task of loving (of course this is something of a caricature; again, he had some very good things to say).

Now, I have few doubts that first century Roman Empire was a very patriarchal culture, and I'm not trying to twist the text to make it sound otherwise. But as we try to appropriate the meaning of the text for today, does anyone seriously doubt that wives are also called to love their husbands? And if that is the case, doesn't it seem reasonable that husbands might also be called to submit to their wives? On this interpretation, wives are being told what they need to hear especially, and husbands are being told what they need to hear especially. Look at almost every TV commercial involving a married couple and see who is the mature, dominant one; to this model of spousal interaction, I think Paul would say, "Ladies, ease off a bit and make the guys step up." When we get down to reality, most guys don't have much trouble submitting and letting their wives call the shots and run the family. Most guys do, however, have trouble showing genuine love for their wives--and their wives need this. Hence Paul's injunction to them.

The model of mutual submission and mutual love needs to be upheld as a model for marriage. We can learn something from the Trinity in this.


Rob said...

Good stuff our SS we're working through "Love and Respect" by Dr. Eggerichs. It's a very biblcal approach based on that same verse, but not real popular in our culture today. I think we've even been guilty of not teaching it in church for years. It's only contriversal because it's not the societal norm...but the right way to do things is always the right way to do things.

(Boy, that's deep, isn't it?...I'm such a clod....)

Doug Ummel said...


Hello from Nashville! I have been reading you blog for a couple of weeks now and have been enjoying it immensely. It is good to catch up on you a liitle bit, even if you didn't know I was doing so. My family and I will be moving closer to you this fall as we are going to Bloomington.

Anyway, I am a bit confused as to what you are saying in this post. It appears that you are advocating a mutual submission (egalitarian) position to marriage. I can't really tell from your post though as it was very brief. Can you clarify at all?

J. B. Stump said...

Hi Doug. I'm not thrilled with the labels available to discuss this. I think this is a very complicated issue when you attempt to understand the first century Roman culture in which Paul was writing, and the culture today.

I will say that I think function ought to be assigned by giftedness rather than function. But I'm willing to admit I might be wrong on that.

Doug Ummel said...


I would be interested in conversing with you off-line on this if you are. I see this issue as a very important one in today's church, but it can be quite inflammatory and has the potential for ungracious responses and misunderstandings. Shoot me an e-mail when you get a chance at doug dot ummel at southwestern dot com.

Talk to you soon!