Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Beauty of Godly Submission

Back in 2006, I got involved (for a while) in a blog site separate from this one. It was hosted by a Christian blog hosting company, and I met a lot of fellow Christians as a result of some of the articles I wrote there. Eventually, I decided to pull the plug on my blog there, for reasons too complex to discuss in this article. But I met some good people during that time. One of them was a guy from California, named Mike Myers.

Not long ago, Mike got married, for the second time. I don't generally approve of divorce or remarriage, because I believe that God wants us to be faithful to the people we married the first time. But sometimes it isn't completely up to us. If we were unfortunate enough to marry people who later decided that they didn't want to follow or obey the Lord, we certainly can't force those people to do the right thing and stay faithful to us, no matter how much we might wish that we could do so. I've never spoken with Mike's ex-wife, so it's possible that she would give me a different story from the one I've heard from Mike, but I get the impression that the divorce broke Mike's heart. In fact, he calls his blog site "A Man In Healing", which I believe is a direct reference to that fact.

When Mike remarried, it was one of the best moments of his life, judging by what he wrote about the subject. I was very happy for him. And I was blessed when I saw the photos of the wedding ceremony, because it was not an ordinary wedding. Oh, sure, there were the traditional wedding clothes and vows. But there was also a ceremony which is rarely seen, in weddings or otherwise. There was a foot washing ceremony, in which Mike washed his new bride's feet.

Ooh, ick, you might think. Toe jam and wedding cake might seem like a poor combination. But if you think that, it's because you aren't familiar with what it meant for Mike to publicly wash Lauri's feet. It was a symbol of his willingness to serve her for the rest of his life.

The text which accompanies the picture of the foot washing portion of Mike's wedding to Lauri says the following:

As a symbol of servant leadership, Mike would now like to wash Lauri’s feet. In the ancient world, the task of washing feet was usually delegated to slaves since it was such a menial task. There were no paved roads back then, and since most people wore sandals, their feet got pretty dirty.

Jesus washed His disciple’s feet at Passover the night before He was crucified. He did this to teach His disciples that those who choose to follow Him must be the servants of all. Though Jesus is the Lord of all, He came to serve, not be served.

Mike has been given the responsibility of leading his family. But it will not be the kind of dictator leadership we often find in this world. No, his leadership is to be the kind that serves those he leads. A good leader lays down his life for those he is entrusted with. And Mike is choosing to lay down his life and serve Lauri from this day on.
St. Paul has sometimes been painted as a misogynist, on account of his teachings concerning the role of women in the Church and in the family. But that amounts to slander, based on a misconstruction of the meaning of Paul's teachings.

Paul taught that the wife was supposed to submit to her husband. That teaching is to a modern feminist what a red flag is to a bull during a Mexican bullfight. But Paul said elsewhere that the husband and wife were to submit to one another. It should be clear that mutual submission was what Paul had in mind.

In a mutually submissive relationship, neither party dominates the other. In such a relationship, both parties treat the needs and desires of their partners as equal to or superior to their own needs and desires. In short, they willingly choose not to live self-centered lives.

If modern feminists have misconstrued St. Paul's intentions, they are not solely to blame. Some men have deliberately twisted Paul's meaning in order to justify their own abusive ways. It is hardly surprising that some women would revolt against that type of thing. But it's sad, too, because their lack of understanding regarding the Christian attitude towards women has caused them to see Christianity as an oppressive system of belief, when the reality is that Christ laid the groundwork for a society in which people of both genders could be treated as equals.

Jesus treated all women with kindness and decency, in a day and a society in which women were traditionally regarded as inferior. The disciples and apostles learned from his example. St. Paul wrote that in Christ, there was neither male nor female, but rather, all were one in Christ. Yes, there were certain roles that were assigned on the basis of gender, but those roles were not based on the assumption that one gender was inferior to the other. Rather, they were a temporary accommodation to the cultural prejudices of the time, one which was necessary in order to insure the spread of Christianity.

The concept of "servant leadership" is applicable to many areas of life, not just to marriage. Some bosses and political leaders think that they are entitled to walk roughshod over the feelings of others. Ironically, in doing so, they demonstrate their own insecurities, and they disqualify themselves for true leadership.

All of us will be held accountable by God for the ways in which we have lived our lives. No one is exempt from the Golden Rule, which is that we ought to treat others as we would wish to be treated. Instead of turning marriage or the workplace or the political arena into a battleground in which each person fights to get his or her own way, we need to learn to serve one another in humility, just as Christ did, even though he had no obligation whatsoever to do so.

No comments: