So I recently read a blog which claimed primarily on Old Testament scriptural grounds that a man basically owns his wife’s body. Well, it was actually a piece of a passage from Paul backed up by a handful of passages from the Old Testament.
The author in question wrote the post to assure Christian men that their wives ought to serve them as they rightfully deserve, being men and all. In fact, he argued that any woman who tries to use the sexual favor due her husband as a bargaining tool should be quickly put in her place. (How this was to be accomplished was not clearly spelled out.) He even used the insulting comparison of buying the cow in order to get the milk and claimed that prior to marriage the woman bears the greater responsibility for sexual purity.
I actually read it months ago. A friend linked it with her response which consisted mostly of “No! No! No…Just no!” As my goal here is to always be reflective and not reflexive, I have had to wait these several months to get over my rage and be able to reflect upon a proper response.
How do we answer such a fool? According to his folly or not? Solomon seems to hint that maybe there is not proper answer for a fool. Still, some young man (or woman) may read his arguments (o similar ones elsewhere) and take the asinine ideas to heart…so I will respond by countering his main point here.
The argument presented in the blog hinged upon I Corinthians 7:4, but like so many fundamentalists (right and left) he only used half of the verse and paid no attention to the larger context. The portion, “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does,” was all he quoted from Paul. He ignored the fact that Paul says “LIKEWISE” the husband has no right to his own body either but his wife does. Husband and wife are one flesh…they belong to each other fully. Neither is in a power position…especially when we remember the hermeneutic of Peter, not abusing our physically weaker wives lest we suffer separation from God. More to the point, we must remember the Pauline context as well as the connection to the words of Jesus.
Paul makes the above statement in the midst of a discussion dealing in large part with the command against divorce. The point about our bodies belonging to each other is in a context of our mutual protection against the temptation to commit adultery and the ensuing possibility of divorce. And, when the radically converted former pharisee, Paul, speaks firmly against divorce, we should see in that discussion a connection to Jesus corrective of the pharisees in a discussion about divorce. Jesus interprets the Mosaic Law as permitting divorce because of the “hardness of men’s hearts” (Matthew 19:8 & Mark 10:5). Jesus responds that it was not so from the beginning and then takes us to the principle that husband and wife are one flesh from the beginning. Paul’s passage fits firmly in this context.
Yet the fool in the patriarchy post used the laws given for the hardness of heart as the basis for the interpretation of Christian marriage. Again I note that we as Christians are no longer under the curse. In marriage, the idea that a woman will desire her husband and he will rule over her is not God’s design “from the beginning.” Those are the words of the curse brought by sin…the fact of the brokenness of what should be the most intimate of human relationships. Christ releases us from the curse. He breaks down every wall of separation. He restores the relationship that was “from the beginning.”
In fact, next time I will share the radical degree to which Paul takes our release from the relational curse of Genesis chapter three and the Mosaic laws about marriage. Just a hint, he seems to say that Jesus not only restores the relationship of marriage to something rooted in its original state, but creates the revolutionary reality in which a woman does not necessarily need to get married.