Earlier this week, Raj Gupta posted Helping Husbands be Husbands on sydneyanglicans.net.
It’s the latest instalment on the submission saga (dare I say submissiongate?) from earlier this year. For those of you who missed it, I’ll quickly get you up to speed. It’s to do with the Sydney Anglican Sydnod’s proposal to introduce the option of vowing to submit to your husband at your wedding.
- First there was an interview in the SMH with a newly married Anglican couple, To Love and Submit.
- Then Julia Baird’s stinging response, No Place for Spirited Women.
- The Sydney Anglicans became a laughing stock with Richard Glover’s witty piece, reminding us that for most Australians, ‘submisison,’ has different connotations than in the evangelical subculture. For a Happy Marriage try the Submissioanry Position.
- It culminated in the appearance of Peter Jensen himself on qanda where he disarmed Catherine Deveny with his gracious manner and patient listening. Cue sigh of relief; it was over.
I’ve been reading through 1 Corinthians with a student recently and what’s really surprised me is Paul’s extreme pragmatism, even populism. It seems that everything about him is up for grabs, everything he does, even what he says, except for preaching Christ crucified.
So , Raj Gupta’s piece got me thinking. Gupta writes:
The argument to remove [the submission clause] was twofold and, I believe, flawed. The first argument was that the issue was making us unpopular in our society. There is no doubt it is, as we have experienced in recent times. However, unpopularity is part of being Christian.
To Gupta, neither popularity or unpopularity means anything. It sounds fair enough given Jesus’ words ‘Don’t be surprised when people hate you because of me’ said Jesus, even ‘blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of man.’
But then, what do we do with Paul’s pragmatism?
1 Corinthians 19
22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
1 Corinthians 10
32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
Paul’s trying to please everyone in every way! It doesn’t sound very ‘Christian’ (what happened to trying to please God and not people?), but he’s doing it so that they might be saved.
1 Corinthians 14
23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”
That is, try not to sound like nutters. It seems like Christians over the centuries haven’t changed, we’ve always had a problem with sounding just a little bit crazy.
1 Thessalonians 4
You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
1 Timothy 3
7[Elders] must also have a good reputation with outsiders.
3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive.
Paul explains that we should act in our households in a way which garners respect, so that our message of Jesus is attractive. It’s about how we appear to outsiders so that they will hear the gospel without distractions.
‘Ah, but what about, ‘the foolishness of the cross’ earlier in 1 Corinthians?’ I hear you ask. Exactly. It’s the foolishness of the message of the cross, not our foolishness.
Where does this lead us? We’re told to expect to be hated, but also to try and be liked and respected and, most of all, try not to sound crazy.
Is this a contradiction?
No. Paul’s not craving affirmation, he doesn’t need to be loved.
Rather, he wants nothing, not our behaviour, our speech or even our teaching to stand in the way of others hearing about Jesus. This is why everything is up for grabs, he’ll change, do anything, be anyone to make the Jesus known.
So I disagree with Gupta, Christians should be concerned about PR. We need to think how we come across to outsiders, whether we’re respectable or easily dismissed as a crackpot fringe group, stuck in the dinosaur age. We need to be concerned, not for our pride, but for the sake of winning others to Jesus. It’s not a good thing if people think we’re ridiculous!
But, don’t be surprised that when, despite our best appeals, Jesus is rejected.