Following the traditional Anglican daily lectionary is a lesson in old-fashioned obedience. It just goes right on through the Bible, not skipping very much, and not making any apologies, either. It includes a lot of the ugly stuff that you really, really wish wasn’t part of the Judeo-Christian message. But there it is. Politically incorrect and as obtuse about it as your Great-Uncle Elmer.
In the First Epistle of St. Peter, apostle and bishop, he is quite blunt about how to live as a Christian. “Slaves, obey your masters;” not just the nice ones who treat you well and give you a day off, but the awful ones, too, who are way too demanding and don’t appreciate anything anyway.
And then, the Big One: “In the same way, you wives should be obedient to your husbands.” What?! Is that still in the Bible?
“Then if there are some husbands who do not believe the Word, they may find themselves won over, without a word spoken, by the way their wives behave, when they see the reverence and purity of your way of life.” This suggests that maybe some husbands are like slave-masters, doesn’t it, unappreciative and domineering. But are modern men like that?
The human nature of 2000 years ago is a lot like the human nature of say, five minutes ago. I can say this because I continually appreciate that my own husband loves and appreciates me as a wife and a Christian, and lets me know. (And even though I think he has the right to edit and censor what I write, he insists that he doesn’t and won’t!)
Wives, obey your husbands, and “husbands must always treat their wives with consideration in their life together.” Now, Peter says women are the weaker partner and he does mean physically. This is just a general fact of sexual dimorphism (differences between males and females physically) and although as a woman, I am stronger than a lot of men my size, most men are a lot bigger than I am, and my husband is literally twice as strong as I am. Although women are physically frailer than men, they are equal heirs to the gift of life in Christ Jesus, not just weak children who need constant supervision.
Obedience is acknowledging that while marriage partners are equals in Christ, and give each other mutual respect, someone has to be head of the household. In some circumstances, if the husband is not able to do that, then the wife may have to take that role, but in a traditional household, the husband, who works outside and deals more with the public, has that decision-making role. Most things should be decided together, in cooperation, as Christians should always do, but if there is no concensus, it is up to the husband to take the leading role, standing in the place of Christ. He may make mistakes and needs to admit when that happens, but then the wife shouldn’t belittle him over it, either.
It is a modern disease in culture that women put men down, and men treat women as if they are stupid. There is a lack of mutual respect that makes “obedience” and “consideration” impossible, not just hard. I would rather “obey” my considerate and respectful husband than have nothing but contempt for and from him when I don’t get what I want.
Yes, men (and women) make mistakes about their family lives, and I have seen too often that this leads to hard feelings and recriminations and even marital failure, because one party cannot forgive the other. “Love each other as I have loved you,” the Lord said, and He, in love for us, has forgiven us everything, even the human sin that sent Him to a criminal’s death, undeserved. We forgive ourselves a thousand little faults every day – the burned toast, the late start, the lost pencil, and we forgive ourselves some pretty big faults, too – laziness, hesitancy, lack of compassion. But when our partner makes a big mistake, are we quick to rush to fault-finding and blame, rather than comfort and consolation? If we are truly one flesh with our spouse, then that problem is our problem, too, and the only sensible (and Godly) thing to do is address it and overcome it.
Marriages are sometimes so broken, though, by deceit and infidelity, that the other spouse cannot enter into that state of comfort, consolation and problem-solving. Sometimes the marital expectation is so unreasonable and so anti-Christian that a partner simply cannot stay and obey. This is worse than ever, I believe; we live in a world where we are taught “Me first,” and that we have rights to pleasure and personal fulfillment even at the cost of those who love us and deserve our love.
It is through daily interaction with the Word in Scripture and in Holy prayer that we learn how to live in a broken world as healed children of God. There is no harm in simply obeying! We obey God in how we act in our daily lives, not by spending an hour or so in a church building once a wekk and giving some money when asked. We live in obedience when we are willing to practice what we learn, or why bother learning it? Why would I bother studying civil engineering if I’m never going to build a road? Why would I read God’s Word if I have no intention of following Jesus?
Let the world know that thee is a Christian, by following the Way. The Lord gives thee simple instructions: be obedient; dress simply and modestly, give to those in need. Live in the kingdom of God as if thee is already in the New Jerusalem.