Answer: When it's simply legalism. The Daily Mail (not that we want to hold them up as the bastion of consistently objective, unsensational reporting) has a stunning article today on a truth that many in UK evangelicalism have known for a while, Stephen Green [wiki] of “Christian Voice” is a bit of a nasty man.
Caroline Green was often punished by her husband Stephen for failing to be a dutiful, compliant wife, but his final act of violence against her — the one that prompted her long-overdue decision to divorce him — was all the more chilling because it was coldly premeditated. Stephen Green wrote a list of his wife’s failings then described the weapon he would make to beat her with. ‘He told me he’d make a piece of wood into a sort of witch’s broom and hit me with it, which he did,’ she recalls, her voice tentative and quiet. ‘He hit me until I bled. I was terrified. I can still remember the pain. ‘Stephen listed my misdemeanours: I was disrespectful and disobedient; I wasn’t loving or submissive enough and I was undermining him. He also said I wasn’t giving him his conjugal rights. ‘He even framed our marriage vows — he always put particular emphasis on my promise to obey him — and hung them over our bed. He believed there was no such thing as marital rape and for years I’d been reluctant to have sex with him, but he said it was my duty and was angry if I refused him. ‘But the beating was the last straw. It convinced me I had to divorce him.’
Somehow this man has established himself as a regular on British TV as, well, a “Christian Voice”. But let's be abundantly clear – this is not Christianity at all. Nowhere do the Scriptures call upon husbands to treat their wives this way – quite the opposite.
But, on reflection, this revelation is not surprising when you consider the background. Yes, “Christian Voice” has a page clearly explaining the gospel but it's hidden away at least 2 clicks from the homepage and, even then, it's hard to find. Rather, the overwhelming tone of the whole site is Law, not Grace. The clone has a few thoughts,
With my pastoral hat on, here’s what Green needs to do. Repent. Repent Stephen. Confess your sin to an Almighty and forgiving God and throw yourself on his mercy. It doesn’t matter one bit if you are spot on when you talk about homosexuality, if you have not love you are just a resounding gong. Repent and then take a very long sabbatical to reflect on what God is calling you to do next. If you humble yourself in front of him he WILL restore you and use you, but it has to be on his terms, not yours.
Indeed. But let me add something more with my own “pastoral hat” on. If you're a Christian husband reading this today then the correct response is not to simply sit with a sense of semi-righteous calm, knowing that Green makes the rest of us look good. On the contrary, he exposes the sin deep in each one of us. He shows us that the Curse, the outworking of our sin, is ever-present within each one of us. Ever since God told the woman,
Genesis 3:16 …”Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
men have sought to “rule” their wives. The point here is that, in our sin, we seek to dominate those that we are married to. It's our sin working itself out every day in our most important relationship. We want to dominate and force ourselves (sometimes in every way) upon our wives. Some act this out, as it appears Green did, and some simply suppress it with varying degrees of success. No matter which we are, we are weighed down by it. What is the answer for us? Each and every one of us is driven back to the Cross to seek forgiveness and the power to be godly. And then we are pointed firmly to our obligations as husbands,
Ephesians 5:25-30 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church– 30 for we are members of his body.
Husbands, let you wife worry about 5:22-24 – that's her responsibility so let her look after that. There's more than enough in our own 6 verses to last a lifetime of self-discipline. Of course, such loving leadership means, at times, making tough decisions and sometimes our wives may not be happy – but when we find ourselves there let's be very careful to check our hearts. Perhaps I might write more about this in the future. but for now let's not make the mistake of sitting back safely in the knowledge that we are, somehow, “better” than Green. If we criticise him for emphasising Law over Grace then it can do us no harm to fall back once more upon grace ourselves as we urge Green to do the same.