Mark 12:30 And thou shalt love Yahweh thy Elohim (God) with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this [is] the first commandment.
John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another
1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), and love one another, as he gave us commandment
John 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
1 John 4:21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth Elohim (God) love his brother also.
Brothers and sisters, I wish to open this discussion with an adamant declarative. We are not adversaries! Men and women were never intended to be in continuous power struggles in our relationships. Over the past few weeks there has been heated controversy over the scriptural doctrine of marital submission. It seems that some of the brothers think that Christian/Messianic wives are not properly submitted to their husbands, and there is no doubt that there may well be an element of truth to that assumption. On the other hand, many of our sisters are convinced that the demands of these men are based solely on their own selfish desires for domination and control, and no doubt there are instances where that is true as well.
First of all, I would like to state categorically that I totally concur with biblical teaching regarding the roles and demeanor of wives, as well as husbands, gentlemen. I am not here to question scripture by any means. What I am trying to illustrate is how these principles can lovingly be applied in real life without the acrimony and vitriol that this subject seems to engender so often.
Let us explore the reason for all the animosity. Is it truly an inherent struggle for authority that is somehow endemic to the nature of relations between the sexes? I do not think so. I think the basic causes are more elemental than that even.
Firstly, a very common occurrence in human nature is to focus on what another is doing with great concentration while paying little attention to what we are doing. Let me illustrate. I read a statement by a patriarch a few days ago in which he was stating that the reason the patriarchal movement did not gain ground is because Christian/Messianic women did not call their husbands 'lord' as Sarah did Abraham. Shortly after that complaint he went on to explain how Sarah brought Abraham a young and beautiful wife after she had grown old. He further went on to describe how he was teaching his daughters that they had to share daddy's love as it was expected of them in their Christian/Messianic lives. Now let us consider all of this.
In view of the title of this thesis, I must ask a question? Where is the love in these statements? I do not know this brother, only the words I have seen written, but the words have a cold and calloused feel not at all compatible with a sacrificial and loving spirit. So, while he may be technically right in his assertions that Christian/Messianic women are not showing proper reverential respect to their husbands, the tone begs the question of the motivation for the rebuke.
As we examine and become familiar with scriptures, particularly the Gospels, we find that the underlying theme for any principle is love. Yah'shua (Yesus) Himself tells us that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves and the Apostle Paul waxes eloquent in his instructions in that regard. We are instructed extensively to temper all of our actions, among non-believers, but most particularly among believers, with love. When he describes the fruits of the Spirit, he describes love as the greatest. When rebuke of a fellow believer is necessary, there are guidelines for the conduct of that rebuke with the double goal of correction and redemption always being the goal. One believer does not rebuke another one because he feels he is not getting his dues. The sole purpose for the rebuke, especially a public rebuke, is for redemptive correction. Properly motivated, a rebuke should be for the purpose of aiding the erring brother or sister to grow spiritually or guide them back to the true path if they have strayed out of loving concern. Personal motivations should be irrelevant.
In this light it is no wonder that the discussions regarding marital submission frequently generate so much animosity between the genders. When the rebuke is delivered with the inference of replacability, such as the (false I might add) suggestion that Sarah brought Abraham a young and beautiful bride when she had grown old, it becomes very difficult for the object of that rebuke to receive it in an instructive or redemptive manner. As no loving fruit of the Spirit is evidenced in the rebuke, frequently no receptive or repentant response is achieved. I myself have been guilty of responding angrily and emotionally to what might well be a genuine rebuke. While making no excuses for that attitude, I posit that you can be right and wrong at the same time. The Apostle Paul tells us that if you know the Word in its entirety but have not love, you have nothing at all. That is not my saying, it is Paul's.
On the other hand, I have heard sisters complain that the husbands who are demanding this reverential respect are not fulfilling their scriptural obligations to love their wives as Christ loved the messianic community (church). While that may certainly be true in some cases, nowhere in scripture are we given permission to ignore our obligations just because somebody else does not meet theirs. In fact, in the same passage where we are exhorted to reverence our husbands, calling them lord, women are especially enjoined to be respectfully and righteously submissive to their husbands if they are not believers or not obedient to scriptural demands as a means of winning them over to the truth with their Godly ways. That is a very important concept that many Christian/Messianic ladies do not properly consider. The way we respond to our husbands when they may be out of line with scriptural instructions can bless them greatly in aiding them to return to true obedience and submission to Christ, which is the redemptive goal in all our relationships, or should be anyway. In other words, we are by no means permitted to abdicate our scriptural responsibilities simply because our spouses do not live up to theirs.
The key to resolution in this matter, in my humble opinion, is for all of us, men and women, to develop and cultivate a spirit of sacrificial love, just as the Messiah had towards us and still has towards us today. The kind of love that does not look for return, nor qualifies itself nor looks for its just rewards. After all, brothers and sisters, what are we really, any one of us, due? As fallen humans we are due only eternal separation from Yahweh. It is only through His mercy and grace by way of the crucifixion of Yah'shua (Jesus) for the atonement of our sins that we are not eternally separated from Him. We all need to learn and be reminded that we are due nothing but have been blessed with much. And for His abundant and rich blessings, Yahweh expects us to follow some instructions. The defining rule being love, this principle could easily diffuse all the conflict if we would allow it to do so. If we put away thoughts of what we are due or what our rights are, and concentrate on what we can give and what our responsibilities are, there would be no need for the conflict. And we would all be able to see the equation a little from the other side of the fence, as it were.
If all husbands were truly focused on following their scriptural mandates of submission to Christ and sacrificial love of their wives, and all wives were truly focused on following the scriptural mandates of submission to Christ and loving reverential submission to their husbands, I dare say that there would be far less time for rebuking and far less need. The simple truth is there are enormous responsibilities on the part of both husbands and wives, different to be sure, but significant nevertheless, and if we all focus on fulfilling our responsibilities and loving our families and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, not only would the need for rebuke be greatly decreased by anyone, when it was necessary, it would be far more likely to be received by a receptive errant and far more likely to bring redemptive correction.
Remember brothers and sisters, love is the greatest commandment any of us has. First to love Yahweh with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Everything else derives from that simple, yet not so simple, direction. Remember that Yahweh does not compel, He attracts with love. In no way does this lessen the importance of the laws but a spirit of love is essential to effect any unity at all among the Body of Christ. May you all walk in the love and light of the Father as evidenced by the ultimate sacrifice of the Son. If He was willing to die to atone for our sins, it seems the very least we could do is cultivate the love that does not count the cost and extend our hands to our brothers and sisters to uplift and instruct. Not coincidentally, when we achieve this attitude of sacrificial love that is devoid of selfish demands and expectations, that is when we will reap the blessings the Yahweh has stored for us in abundance.
It is my humble prayer that these thought will encourage us all to emulate our Saviour and thus know the fullness and the oneness of spirit that Yahweh so longs to see, both in our marriages and in the wider body as well. Yahweh bless and keep all of us in His boundless love.