A response to a reader’s question about who’s responsible for “wife washing” – Jesus or hubby?
Readership: Christians in LTR’s;
Richard P posed the following question in response to that post.
Re. the link to Sigma Frame’s post, Washing Her Clean (link up-thread):
Just posting some idle thoughts here. Not trying to start a discussion.
Consider this phrase from Ephesians 5:26 that is part of that post:
“…that He (Christ) might sanctify and cleanse her (the Church) with the washing of water by the word.”
Some argue that these Ephesian 5 verses place an obligation on the husband to wash his wife with the word, as Christ washed his bride (the Church) with the word. Two points occur to me:
- A careful reading will show there are no words in these verses that require the husband to wash his wife with the word. The only requirement is that husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies.
- A careful reading will show that Christ is washing his bride (the Church) with the word.
Assuming both husband and wife are redeemed, and therefore both are part of Christ’s bride that Christ washes, we end up with the following:
- (a) As part of the Church, husband is cleansed by Christ with the washing of water by the word;
- (b) As part of the Church, wife is cleansed by Christ with the washing of water by the word;
What, then, is left for the husband to wash off of his wife that Christ has not already washed off? And – to extend the metaphor – if wife has goo left on her that still needs washing off after Christ washed her, then we might presume that husband still has goo left on him that still needs washing off after Christ washed him. Husband is supposed to do a re-do wash on her? Who does the re-do wash on the husband? And Christ’s washing in not sufficient, not complete, at least on the wives??? Do we really want to claim that?
That scenario is not logical on so many different levels. I think Christ gets it all off with the first wash. And I think those who claim that husbands are commanded to cleanse their wife by the washing of water by the word are finding words where there really are not any. For the reasons laid out in Point 2(a-b).
We have the natural inclination to conjure up mental images of taking a bath, so Richard’s reaction is a logical, associative one. But the world of spirit and emotions are not entirely subject to rationale. Here, The Parable of the Inherited Estate might impart further understanding.
The Parable of the Inherited Estate
We should not conflate our objective (or “positional”) identification in Christ with the tentative (or “conditional”) experience of regenerative living. Here’s a parabolic interpretation of this paradox.
You inherited an estate from your great-granduncle. On paper, it’s all yours. But when you go to inspect the estate, you find that it hasn’t been maintained in decades. Trash is scattered everywhere. The roof is leaking. The house is moldy and rotten. Small trees are growing through the cracks in the driveway. There are even homeless bums squatting on parts of the overgrown property. If you want to live there, you’ll have to do some renovations and restorations. It’s a lot of work. It takes further investment, and a few years to finish. But once complete, you are finally able to call it your home, and not just a derelict rat trap that your relative left to you.
To interpret the parable, the estate is your lot in this life, which includes your emotional constitution. Jesus did the legal work, paid the taxes, and made it “yours”, as opposed to you just being a tenant or a squatter. The Holy Spirit is the contractor who renovates the property.
When you get married, your husband or wife shares your estate, and you share hers. If she is not a believer, then her estate is still under lien, and so you always have to dicker around with her “landlords” ≈ idols, or various strange affections (who may very well be represented by the in-laws).
When you divorce, you lose part of the joint estate, or part of your ownership of the estate, and you risk returning to the status of being a tenant (rent ≈ alimony, child support, etc.).
Responses from Married Christian Females
We saw some feedback from two female readers, which are valuable as general indicators of how wives might receive the ideas in my previous post.
Stephanie responded to Richard as follows.
“But it IS logical in a marriage. When we accept Christ, we don’t automatically become mature, fully-developed, perfect Christians. We have to go through a very complicated sanctification process. In Philippians we’re literally told to, “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Not getting into any Calvinist/Armenian theology stuff (I honestly can’t argue for any of that well – my husband can though). But it’s clear that yes, both spouses will still have “goo” (as you said) still on them from not yet being fully sanctified. And it seems that process takes an entire lifetime, and people can slide backwards unfortunately in old age (Solomon 😦 ). It’s a continuous process of staying close to God, and accepting/receiving rebukes, etc.
Since the husband is the head of the family, he’s responsible in a big way for their spiritual maturity and growth, or at least, he probably should be. So it makes sense in that way.
It’s not that Christ’s washing wasn’t sufficient, but that the husband as being head of the household (and told to play the role of Christ toward the Church) should be the one helping correct her when she’s wrong. That involves some kind of discipline/correction, not meaning it can’t be done in love, but it IS needed, and it definitely is logical when you think about it.”
Ame responded with a couple pages of scriptures.
“22Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” ~ Ephesians 5:22-33
Going to the beginning… How did/does Christ love the church?
To make us holy.
Sure, husbands need the same love from Christ, but wives aren’t commanded to love their husbands this way.
“18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 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, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror. 7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” ~ 1 Peter 2:18-25 – 3:1-7
Ame and Stephanie’s comments indicate that they are familiar with the concept behind The Parable of the Inherited Estate.
- Σ Frame: Man as the Manager, Woman as the Helper (2018 May 19)