Yesterday I spoke about the improper application of genuine truth. I said this is sometimes a problem when preachers and teachers try to get “practical” and speak to life situations. It is also a problem that plagues those who instruct youth that may temporarily impress the inexperienced but often results in young adults throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.
One example of this sort of thing is so-called biblical instruction on child-rearing. The Bible does say many things about raising children including: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). However, this injunction, while establishing broad parameters for parents, does not give us the kind of specific detail that is frequently heard from self-appointed experts when they teach on the subject.
Over the years in certain circles I have heard elaborate instructions given on how to “biblically” spank children. I vividly remember one instance where a speaker told parents to “spank their children until their cry changed from one of defiance to one of submission.” This is at best gross rhetorical exaggeration and at worst child abuse but it is certainly not something that should be touted as biblical.
The same is true with instruction on marriage. Within the context of mutual submission one to the other the Bible has much to say about husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church and wives submitting to their husbands as to the Lord but again theses are broad principles that can and should be worked out in different ways depending on the people involved. Too often there is a kind of cookie-cutter view of male-female roles that does not do justice to the precepts nor the real life relationships that are set forth in the Scriptures. People are made to feel guilty if they do not measure up to these artificial standards and in some cases this kind of instruction actually contributes to a host of marital difficulties.
For some reason there are always people who like to be told what to do by those who are more than willing to comply. Instead preachers and teachers who are doing their jobs properly should be giving people the biblical principles and encouraging them to think for themselves. Biblical ethics are linked to Christology and Pneumatology in ways that go beyond simplistic fundamentalist assertions. Thinking through how Christ loved the church and how the church is submissive to him will take us beyond the usual prescriptions that distort the roles of both men and women in the New Covenant era. Only then will we find the fullness of what Christ has for us as his people and only then will we have something attractive to present to a watching world.