A little before Christmas, an article appeared on the Desiring God website called “Husbands, get her ready for Jesus.”
Desiring God summarized Pastor Brian Stoudt’s article this way:
Husbands, we have the staggering privilege of getting our wives ready for Jesus. And we’ll only do that well if we learn how to lovingly correct them.
And Stoudt ends the post this way:
Like us, one day our wives will meet Jesus and be perfect, “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing . . . holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). But until that day, until death do us part, husbands have the staggering privilege of getting our wives ready for Jesus, their true husband.
With God’s help, and for his glory, may we correct them with the grace and truth that we’ve received.
Much of the advice within the article is quite practical, about how to confront someone when they’re in sin. But the whole approach of the article really shook me.
Before I jump in, though, let’s address one big pushback I got. Women were saying,
But he’s just writing to men, just like you write to women–so what’s the problem?
I get it. What’s wrong with a post to men encouraging them to hold their wives accountable?
I have no problem with a post about how men should lovingly confront when something’s wrong. I have no problem with an article that says, “Men, let’s challenge our wives to be the best they can be this new year!” I’ve written the same thing about what wives should do!
But it’s not like the author was simply addressing this to men, but could just as easily have written it to women. No, this was a post that could ONLY be written to men because of the “why” behind it. He is saying that husbands correct their wives in order to get their wives “ready for Jesus.” This is not something that wives can do for husbands; he believes it’s a husband’s unique role.
Whoa. Back up that truck.
If husbands need to “get her ready for Jesus”, is she not ready for Jesus without her husband? Can Jesus not get her ready on His own? Is the husband ready for Jesus just as he is, but the wife needs his help to get ready?
Does that even make sense? Does this mean that single women are fully saved, but once we’re married we need husbands to complete our salvation? If so, it would be better to remain single!
There is nothing missing with women’s salvation that requires husbands to complete it.
Readers, Jesus saves me, not Keith. As Tim Fall wrote, my wife has a saviour, and it’s not me. And others have written well about why husbands are NEVER called to complete their wives’ salvation, so I won’t repeat those arguments too much.
But I must insist: This is a gospel issue, people. It’s not really a gender issue. And you DO NOT want to mess around with the gospel!To say that women need husbands to 'get them ready for Jesus' is to pervert the gospel of Christ.Click To Tweet
Jesus is all-sufficient for our salvation. He has already done the full work on the cross.
I doubt that Stoudt intended to promote heresy by implying that women aren’t fully saved, but by saying that women need their husbands to get them ready for Jesus, that is, intentionally or not, what he said. And distorting the gospel is dangerous. I’m reminded of something that Paul wrote in Galatians 1:6-9 (emphasis mine):
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! (NIV)
Ladies, we do not need another mediator. We already have one.Women do not need their husbands to be their mediators with God. Click To Tweet
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5) (NIV)
It is not a husband’s role to get her ready for Jesus. And because of that, this idea that husbands must “correct” their wives can be dangerous, too, both spiritually and relationally.
Let’s tackle the spiritual stuff first.
Are husbands called to “correct” their wives?
I have no problem with husbands and wives challenging each other, confronting each other, holding each other accountable, even rebuking each other. In fact, not only do I not have a problem with it–I would hope that we are doing this, lovingly, in our marriage! As author Gary Thomas wrote so well in Sacred Marriage, what if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? (That’s not to say that marriage can’t make us happy; only that happiness is a byproduct of becoming more Christlike).
But that’s not what Stoudt said. He used the word “correct”.
Think about that word for a moment. You correct someone’s math or grammar–because you know more about math or grammar. You “correct” their understanding of history–because you know more about history. A parent “corrects” a child because they know more about how we should act.
To correct someone implies superior knowledge.
To say that a husband’s job is to correct his wife also says that they have superior spiritual knowledge–not only a superior role, but actually superior knowledge.
There is absolutely nothing in Scripture that says this. We are all made in the image of God. We all have gifts from the Holy Spirit. Men are not closer to God than women are.
If, however, he’s right, and God truly believes that the ideal in marriage is for husbands to correct wives, then why is Scripture so filled with opposite examples?
When I think of stories in the Bible about individual men and women and husbands and wives, it is more likely that the wife is shown to have more spiritual insight than the husband.
- Zipporah calls Moses “a bridegroom of blood to me” and circumcises her son, because Moses had neglected to do it. (Exodus 4:24-26).
- Tamar shames Judah into living up to his obligation as the kinsman redeemer, and Judah says, “surely she is more in the right than I.” (Genesis 38)
- Pilate’s wife warns Pilate not to execute Jesus, but Pilate disregards her. (Matthew 27:19)
- Abigail goes against her current husband (Nabal) who is endangering his household and disobeys him to petition David (her future husband) for mercy; David says of her, “Blessed be your good sense, and blessed be you, who have kept me today from bloodguilt and from avenging myself by my own hand!” (1 Samuel 25). (NRSV)
- Sarah correctly tells Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away since they are not part of the promise; God tells Abraham “whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you.” (Genesis 21:10-12)
- Bathsheba confronts David with his negligence to keep an eye on the kingdom and to fulfill his pledge to make Solomon his heir. (1 Kings 1:15-21).
- Esther confronts her husband about his decree to kill all the Jews. (Esther 5-8).
Certainly there are opposite examples: David rebukes Michal for not understanding worship, for instance, and Hosea calls his wife to stop her philandering. But in Scripture, when married people disagree on something, you’re more likely to find the wife in the right than the husband in the right.
And what about stories not about marriage, but simply featuring both men and women?
- Rahab saves the Israelite spies’ lives by suggesting how to hide;
- the woman anointing Jesus’ feet with oil is commended over the Pharisees;
- the women stay at the cross versus the disciples who deserted Jesus;
- Mary becomes the first evangelist rather than the disciples, since she is at the tomb.
- Deborah leads and judges Israel because she has more faith, and Jael is given the honour of killing Sisera, because she has more courage than the Israelite military leaders.
Why would Scripture so commonly praise women, rather than depicting them as falling short? Was Scripture trying to say that women are more spiritually in tune than men are?
No, not at all. I think it’s because Scripture was written to very male-dominated societies, where the impulse would be to create a very male-centric religion. So God went out of His way in Scripture to praise women’s spiritual insight and gifts, so that women could not be denigrated. He didn’t want a male-centric gospel; He wanted a Jesus-centric gospel! I wish Pastor Stoudt had realized this.God never intended the gospel to be male-centric or female-centric; only Jesus-centric.Click To Tweet
Now let’s turn to the marriage ramifications of husbands believing they should correct their wives.
Correcting your wife is exactly the wrong focus for a successful marriage.
Let’s say a guy who genuinely wants to follow Jesus reads this article, and now feels that he is being passive if he fails to correct his wife (and Stoudt does accuse men who don’t correct their wives of passivity). After all, his job is to sanctify his wife and get her ready for heaven, so he had better start looking for things to correct her for! He doesn’t want to fail at his job.
His focus in the marriage, then, becomes looking for things that she is doing wrong.
I can’t think of a better way to destroy intimacy.
John Gottman’s marriage institute has looked at the habits that lead to a successful marriage, and the two most important ones are looking for opportunities to connect and scanning for things to praise.
Let that last one sink in for a moment.
If you want your marriage to be successful, you should be deliberately looking for things to praise your spouse for, not deliberately looking for things to critique them for. Of course we may need to confront our spouse from time to time, but if that is the focus of our interactions, we’ll do a lot more harm than good.Want a successful marriage? Look for things to praise her for, not to 'correct' her for.Click To Tweet
So what should our attitude in marriage be?
Instead of saying that husbands need to correct their wives and get them ready for Jesus, why don’t we just quote Scripture that comes straight from the Holy Spirit?
Hebrews 10:24 says:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (NIV)
That’s the prayer I’ve prayed for each of my daughters as they’ve met the men they want to marry–“God, may they always spur each other on to love and good deeds.” That’s what I pray for Keith and myself. I can’t think of a better or higher calling.
So, please, let’s just stick to that!
When we make correction and confrontation one-sided, we create unhealthy marriage dynamics and potentially dangerous marriages.
I’ve said this before, but let me say it again: Sometimes we hear advice that works great for our marriage, but we don’t ask the question: “what would happen to a woman in an abusive marriage reading this?” It may work great for you, but you may be married to a good guy. What if your sister, or your friend, is not? If it doesn’t ALSO work for a woman in an abusive marriage, then there is something seriously wrong. And by the way–if it doesn’t work for a MAN in an abusive marriage, either, then it’s also seriously wrong! Any advice that makes one person powerless and puts another in the position of Jesus in the relationship is too easily perverted and misused. Jesus wants us to love each other, protect each other, and spur one another on. He doesn’t want us controlling each other.
Frequently we read articles on Christian sites or we read Christian books, and because they’re couched in Christian terms we assume they must be right. But you’re allowed to be a Berean from Acts 17! They were commended for taking everything they heard, even stuff from the apostle Paul, and judging it against Scripture.
Whenever you hear something that sounds off, don’t automatically assume that you must be sinful if you don’t initially agree. Really examine it. You are responsible for your relationship with God–YOU. So study Scripture. Pray. Get to know Jesus intimately. And don’t let anyone else ever tell you that you’re wrong for doing so.
And then, when all is said and done, let’s just spur one another on to love and good deeds. Because Jesus has already done the rest.
Many of us grew up with the idea that husbands SHOULD correct their wives–and it’s led to very dysfunctional marriages.
There is a better way! If you want to learn how to communicate better, deal with issues, and truly grow intimate, check out my book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage.
Because sometimes the things we believe about marriage actually stop us from having a great marriage.