BAPTISTS, MARRIAGE, AND SUBMISSION
by David Sisler
Last year they took on Disney and homosexual relationships, this year the Southern Baptist Convention addressed one of the basic precepts of heterosexuality. The pro-homosexual lobby quickly and vocally mobilized last year, but being for heterosexuality, and working to strengthen marriage relationships, will attract as much lasting attention as the proverbial news story of "dog bites man." If the man doesn't bite the dog, it just ain't news.
The first attempt in 35 years to change the Baptist Faith and Message comes into sharper focus when viewed against two very different stories recently in the news.
First is a lawsuit brought Paul M. Foray against Nynex. In 1996 Nynex began offering health benefits for the partners of employees in "long-term, committed homosexual relationships." Foray applied for the benefits last year but was turned down. His partner is a woman.
Jonathan Rauch, writing in The Wall Street Journal said "it will become legally risky for companies to offer partner benefits to gay employees without also offering benefits to heterosexuals who are, to use a quaintly judgmental phrase, shacking up."
Marriage is going public in a way "shacking up" can never be public. Marriage is making a public commitment that "shacking up" can never match. In marriage, two people promise — whether they ultimately live it or not — we will stay together until one of us dies. If you are "shacking up" you stay together until one person walks out.
The same Journal article warned, "Cohabiting women are more than twice as likely as married women to be victims of domestic violence."
From another study: 40% of people living together break up within 16 months. People who live together before getting married have a 75% greater likelihood of divorce than people who do not.
The Southern Baptist Convention is putting us all on notice that "marriage is God's unique gift to provide for the man and woman... the framework for intimate companionship, the channel for sexual expression according to biblical standards."
The second news item concerns the National Basketball Association, and not its playoff competition. World magazine reported a few "stats." Michael Jordan led the league in scoring with 28.7 points; Dennis Rodman was the top rebounder with 1,201 boards; Rod Strickland led the league with 801 assists. And in another category, Shawn Kemp led the NBA in children fathered out of wedlock. He has seven.
It is time and past time that all of us, and not only Baptists, take a close look at our personal attitudes towards marriage and compare them with the Bible's standards.
The part of the draft resolution which attracted the most attention was the call to honor the scriptural demands of Ephesians 5:22-24: "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."
Modern man, and woman, reads "submit" and sees slavery, weakness, and abuse. Such interpretation ignores an important fact from the Ephesian letter — and I did not quote the entire marriage passage for reasons of space — wives are addressed three times, husbands, eight. The burden is clearly on the man. He must love his wife with the same devotion that Jesus loves the Church. That means the husband must sacrifice for his wife, give himself for his wife, and die for his wife (if not actually in body, then most definitely in attitude). It is easy for the Church to be submitted to someone who is always present, who never leaves us, who never forsakes us. A wife is entitled that same knowledge and security.
There should be a requirement which demands that no husband be permitted to comment on his wife's submission, until he has first committed his heart to loving her in the fashion which Christ loved the Church.
There should be a requirement which demands that no wife be permitted to comment on her husband's love, until she has first committed her heart to submitting to her husband as unto the Lord.
There is another principle often missed, or ignored, when reading this passage. Before the Bible calls on wives to submit and on husbands to love, we are all challenged to "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." That means that Jesus Christ must have the first place in our lives, before, during and after marriage. The bottom line is, if you have a relationship with Jesus, you are beginning to understand what submission really means.
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 6/13/98
Copyright 1998 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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