A December article on the Reformed site desiringgod.org urging Christian husbands to correct their wives in order to "get her ready for Jesus," is eliciting strong responses online, particularly from female writers.
Bryan Stoudt, a pastor from Philadelphia, penned an 1,100-word Dec. 18 essay, titled "Husbands, Get Her Ready for Jesus," in which he recounted a conversation he had about his marriage with a friend who told him that he did not challenge his wife enough. Although caught off guard by his friend's comment, he agreed with his friend and knew something had to change.
"It's crystal clear: God calls husbands to be instruments of his sanctifying work in the lives of our wives," Stoudt stated, referencing the Apostle Paul's instructions for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church in Ephesians 5:25-26.
And loving them means many things, he explained, noting that at times it includes correction.
"We all still fight with sin. We all need to be progressively sanctified. Even the most Christlike wives will sometimes need an honest, loving word to get back on course," Stoudt said, stressing that husbands are not to correct their wives in frustration or harshness. But a more common tendency is for husbands to be passive and stay quiet, he said.
"Silent types appear much nicer than their critical counterparts. But it's also true that what doesn't come out of the mouth proceeds from the heart. Just like angry husbands, timid husbands are motivated not by their wives' holiness, or God's glory, but by preserving their own kingdom. A kingdom where peace, however false, reigns."
He concluded that until Christ returns "husbands have the staggering privilege of getting our wives ready for Jesus, their true husband."
Some female readers were not so enthused, taking issue with his take on Paul's words, reasoning, and choice of language.
Canadian author and blogger Sheila Gregoire commented on Stoudt's article, writing Thursday on her website, To Love, Honor, & Vacuum: "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?"
She went on to explain that it is not scriptural for a husband to claim he somehow possesses superior spiritual knowledge to correct his wife to prepare her for Christ. Although instances of husbands correcting their wives in the Bible do exist, more plentiful are passages where the wife is in the right in correcting her husband, she pointed out, citing the examples of Queen Esther, Moses' wife, Zipporah, in Exodus 4, Pilate's wife in Matthew 27, and Bathsheba's confrontation of David in 1 Kings 1.
"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?" Gregoire asked.
"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!"
Similarly, writing on the website of Christians for Biblical Equality Tuesday, self-described "recovering academic" Sarah Lindsay opined that the Philadelphia pastor has misunderstood Paul's words in Ephesians.
"[H]uman men are no more capable of making their wives acceptable to God than they are capable of making themselves acceptable to God. Only Jesus can make us holy in the sight of God, so the analogy cannot mean that men are responsible for sanctifying their wives," she wrote.
"When Paul speaks to husbands, he is speaking to men in a culture that elevates men above women; as Christ has more power and authority than humans, so Roman men possessed power and authority that women simply did not. Men had more legal rights and protections than women and were considered superior both physically and intellectually."
Lindsay further argued that Stroudt's words places a heavy, unbiblical task on husbands.
While marriage can be an important instrument in spiritual growth, "and spouses certainly have the responsibility to challenge and encourage one another as co-heirs of Christ working out their salvation ... to shift this responsibility to husbands alone is binding up an impossible burden on their shoulders, since men are not Christ," she said.