Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Gift of Submission and the Selflessness of Love

Yesterday I ended my post by saying that if you loved your wife with a Godly love, that the way husbands are supposed to treat their wives would come naturally.  Perhaps you are confused in that you "know" you love your wife, but you do not treat her as the Bible says that you should.  The problem comes in our misconception as to what Godly love actually is.  Godly love is not the warm and fuzzy feeling we get when we are around the ones that we love, nor is it even that desire to spend time with the ones that we love.  It is not even in those feelings of romance you get when you are around your spouse.  All of those are great things, but they are fleshly feelings.  I am not saying they are of the flesh (that is called lust and it is a distortion of the special kind of love we have for our spouses).  These feelings are the result of a certain kind of love, but not love in and of itself.  True love is of God as God is love.  The kind of Godly love I am talking about that we have for our spouses is a kind of love that is more of a choice than a feeling.  You may say that you can not control who you love.  That is bologna.  God calls us to love everyone, including our enemies, and many times that requires us to make a choice to love rather than to hate and to trust God to give you the strength to express that love.  If you are not living up to the kind of love you are called to have for your spouse, the answer is not to doubt your feelings but to ask God to give you that love.  God would not have called you to do something that He is not ready, willing, and able to give you the ability to accomplish. 

I talked much about husbands yesterday, but today I am going to talk about wives, particularly the wives of husbands who fall into one of the categories I spoke of yesterday.  Through this lesson, there is also a lesson about love that both husbands and wives can learn from. Let's look at today's Scripture.
Wives, likewise, [be] submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct [accompanied] by fear.  1 Peter 3:1-2 NKJV
This is one of those great verses that answers the excuses we try to come up with.  First Peter tells wives to be submissive to their husbands.  That part is generally easy as a Godly wife has a desire to submit to a Godly husband.  Many wives, though, question whether they should still be submissive to a husband who does not obey the Word.  In fact, some say that they can not submit because they are more spiritual than their husbands or that their husbands are not spiritual at all.  Outside of spirituality, some wives do not submit because they feel they are more mature, intelligent, or better equipped to make decisions.  The answer to that excuse is found give right after the command "that even if some do not obey the word."  There is one exception to the rule of being submissive to your husband, and that is if your husband asks you to sin or, even worse, asks that you renounce your faith in Jesus.  Your husband's authority is limited in that he has no authority to make you break God's law.  Otherwise, the wife is called to be submissive.  There is no allowance for any reason to not be submissive.  God has called men to be the leaders in their home.  This means that even if you feel you are better equipped, you are not.  God has equipped your husband for that role, whether or not he chooses to accept that provision over his own flesh.  I realize that many wives do not like the idea of having to submit to a disobedient or immature husband.  Sadly, many women choose to marry immature or disobedient men who make very poor leaders and find themselves in a position where it is hard to submit.  I do not mean to sound cold, but it is a situation of your own choosing and it gives you no right now to try and rule over your husband.  The Bible is clear. Lest your husband asks you to break God's law, you are bound to submit to your husband. 

There are many wives who are more spiritual than their husbands and choose to take on a leadership role.  They boss their husbands around and it ends up causing more arguments than it solves.  Even worse are the wives who lead through a passive aggressive mentality.  They may obey, but they sort of tell the husband what he should be telling her.  Then there are the wives who manipulate their husbands while pretending to submit.  The husband makes a decision and the wife sort of convinces him to change his mind instead of submitting to his authority.  Some wives just get plain bossy and openly and publicly disrespect and rebel against their husband's authority.  All of these behaviors are wrong.  The Bible tells the wife to submit, not to take charge, manipulate, act passive aggressively, or rebel. 

Next, Peter gives the reason why.  He says "they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct [accompanied] by fear."  What Peter is saying is that your obedience to God will be a strong witness to your husband.  You are not going to win him by arguing with him or by trying to take his role, but by fulfilling yours.  Your obedience and faith in God to work things out despite how they may seem will be the only kind of thing that will win him over.  Perhaps you think you know your husband and fear that this will not work.  Despite how well you know your husband and despite what you may feel to the contrary, God knows your husband better and knows how to reach his heart.  There is not guarantee that your husband will change, but by living obediently to God and to your husband and staying earnestly in prayer for your husband, you have the best chance.  Submit to your husbands, unless he tells you to sin.  Live as a witness to the joy of living in obedience to God.  Show your husband your love by submitting to him even though his leadership has much to be desired.  That is how God will reach your husband. 

Yesterday and today Peter has taught us some very important things about love.  The husband is called to love his wife as Christ loved the church (a sacrificial love) and to treat her as the delicate and precious gift of God that she is.  This call is not dependent on how she treats you, but it is a call for how you are to treat her.  For the wife, she is called to submit to her husband, even if that submission does not seem justified and even if she thinks she is more qualified to make decisions (spiritual or otherwise) for the family. In other words, the husband and wife are each accountable to their own roles irregardless on how the other spouse behaves.  Ultimately, it is about obedience to God and trusting in His authority as the best way to a happy marriage.  This teaches us three things about love. 

First of all, it is not about you.  True love is a selfless act and has nothing to do with how that person acts towards you.  We are to love every one from our spouse to our worst enemy.  It does not depend on how a person makes you feel or what good things they do for you.  It does not even depend on warm fuzzy feelings.  True love is selfless and that is what allows us to love someone no matter what.  True love is a selfless and complete concern for the other person. 

I may sound like I am about to contradict myself, but the second thing we learn about love is that it is not about the other person.  It is in that our love is towards the other person, but it is not about them.  Love is not about the other person deserving your love.  You did not deserve God's love, yet He sent His Son to die for your sins.  Love is not about their worth, their abilities, their looks, and it is not even about their willingness to love you back.  Even if the other person absolutely hates you, you are still called to love that person. 

So if love is not about you and not about the other person, then what is love about?  Love is about God.  Love is all about God.  It is unnatural for us to love someone who hates us, yet we are called to do it.  It is unnatural to outwardly and completely love a spouse that does not seem to fulfill their roles towards us, yet we are called to do it.  It is unnatural to bless those who curse us or to do good things for those who do horrible things to us, yet we are called to do it.  Love is not a feeling, but it is a choice, and that choice is to follow God.  Our choice is to allow the Holy Spirit to do that marvelous work and empower us to love even those that are truly hard to love.  God is love and if He resides in our hearts, our hearts will become filled with love.

In the end, it comes down to faith.  Obedience is all about faith, especially when that obedience does not make sense.  Husbands, if you want your wives to love you with a Godly love, then love them as Christ loved the church.  Dwell with them, understand them, protect them, lead them, and treat them like the precious gift of God that they are.  Wives, if you want your husband to love you as Christ loved the church, then love them and submit to them, and by doing that you will make a wonderful example to soften even the hardest of hearts.  Husbands and wives, do not wait for the other to change, but step out in faith and obedience that fulfilling your role with joy and patience will lead the other to begin to fulfill their own role.  Above all, pray.  God is love and it is only His love filling our hearts that we will have the strength and ability to truly love our spouses with the Godly love we are called to.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  1 John 4:7-11 NKJV

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