Mark 9:24

Men, die for your wives

In Lay Meditations on March 17, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Too many of us postmoderns wield words like a fly swatter, in fits haphazard and careful with terms. Definition, best a scalpel for discerning truth, is instead wielded as a sword, and poorly — imagine a stubborn 6-year-old boy with a pocketknife. For example, take Ephesians 5. Say some: Please.

Male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, all have some cross, in imitation of Christ. Do we imitate Him further?

For reference, refer to the two verses from Ephesians every postmodern knows of:

Let women be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord.

… and …

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it.

Why are men not required to submit? (Why does outrage so often approach glee?) From here we usually see an emotional appeal: Toss Ephesians so to toss Paul so to toss the New Testament so to toss the Bible and finally be rid of Christianity. If we love our brother, we should not let him wave his hand so furiously. His wrist will hurt.

We might begin by mentioning the preceding verse —

Be subject one to another, in the fear of Christ.

— but suppose we forgot this. From just these two verses, and the smattering of Christian teaching everyone knows, we can easily appeal to truth.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it.

What could this mean but living selflessly? Killing the ego to serve, completely, as Christ did? What is more terrible than that?

Serving your husband as you serve the Lord, that’s what, says the Modern. Surely this command is uniquely against the woman.

Arguable, good Modern, but don’t call me Shirley. To find the truth, take it even further — how did Christ love the Church? He gave Himself up for her, says Ephesians. This is not just killing the ego, a terrible and good thing to ask of any man, male or female. Paul commands husbands to kill their ego so completely that they would, if needed, die for their wives as Christ did on the Cross. But let us take the good passage literal, now, so that this mandate becomes clear — interpret this passage with a hard “as,” so to speak.

How did Christ die? Was it a quick suffocation or a twig of hemlock? Was it sleeping peacefully in His bed, or as an earthly king of the Jews would lead a doomed charge against the Romans? No, as even children of the world know, Christ did not win His fame in cavalry but at Calvary. We may dispute Christ’s historicity before we dispute His sacrifice.

Remember, friends: Christ was spit upon, stabbed, whipped, crowned with thorns, mocked, and nailed to wood we have no reason to suspect was first sanded down. All when very few merely in the world and nobody of the world has any reason to suspect such suffering is needful or useful. He died, for the world judged God a blasphemer, instead freeing a man named Son of the Father to be their freedom fighter and temporal king. To this end the world killed the real Son of God as they would a common thief. In this life, the crown of a faithful husband is a crown of thorns.

For God went through this even as the faithful in the world dwindled, nearly but 11 men and a virgin widow. It is as if God had said: Even should your wife be faithless to you, be faithful to her, and unto torture, exile and death. Such a command, particularized for men, is certainly weighty; it is hardly so trivial as it must be if the wife’s submission were measurably so much heavier.

Yes, men, love your wives, but this cannot be so trivial as it sounds from a postmodern tongue. Love is not a passing affection renewed in coitus or a merely hormonal attraction of we, who ain’t nothing but mammals. Love is a solemn vow, an act of the will; vows to the point of torture, exile and death are heavy promises indeed. 

* * * * *

But maybe I am completely wrong, and the burden on mothers at home is not smaller but indeed, as Chesterton wrote, more immense than that on fathers at work:

How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.

Perhaps women are not commanded to love their husbands because they already do, a cross borne before Paul wrote to Ephesus. Perhaps women do indeed have an extra burden to bear, more than men. Surely this means that women are far spiritually stronger if they, in the sum, can bear such a great burden, and greater than men. This is something other than women commanded to be weak. This is more like commanding women especially to be weak in the ways of this world and strong in the Way of God, which the Christian message says is the only way that matters.

Should this command exist alone for women, surely that is evidence enough St. Paul — and God — think women capable of it; so we end with the conclusion that women are better than men in the one quality that really matters: They are holier. How feminist of Paul to say so.

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