By Jerry N. Duncan, Ph.D., ABPP
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — How many of you had the opportunity to attend a Bill Gothard week of teaching in the past? I know that some would swear by some of the principles he teaches. I also know that some would swear at what he teaches.
Regardless of which camp you might fall into, he tells an interesting story about a couple he met with. The husband has initiated the meeting because, he tells Bill, she doesn’t understand the concept of submission.
She then proceeds to explain a very clear understanding of what she has been taught that the passage in Ephesians means. She goes on to say that she has also been taught what “loving your wife like Christ loves the Church” means and declares that her husband does not love her that way.
The husband’s response is, “Well, if she was submissive to me, then I could love her like Christ loved the Church, in a sacrificial/servant kind of way.”
To which, she responded with, “Well, I assure you, if he was loving me in a sacrificial/servant kind of way, I would have no problem being submissive to him.”
Bill took both of them to the passage in Ephesians and read the verses out loud and declared that the commands were intended to be individual and non-contingent. Each was commanded to do his/her part as an act of individual obedience to God, not only when the other person did his/her part but totally independent of the other person’s behavior.
We are taught that we are to do our part in a relationship as long as the other person is doing their part, but if they are not doing their part, we are free to withdraw from our responsibilities in the relationship. What a setup for disaster in relationships with fallible human beings.
If our choices for our behavior are going to be based on someone else’s choices before us, we allow a negative cycle of behaviors to perpetuate itself and lose track of where it originated. As long as we blame or hold the other person responsible for the problem, we lose the power to be able to change it.
Jesus talked a lot about one-way thinking and one-way behavior: “Love your enemies, be kind to those who despitefully use you.” — Luke 6:27-28
His description of the prodigal son’s father describes a response that does not match the son’s treatment of his father. His prayer to the Father at the cross to forgive those who were brutalizing Him does not seem to match the retaliatory, vengeance-based response portrayed in most action movies.
It is not easy, but it is right. We will not have a lot of support in our culture to do the right thing in our relationships in spite of the other person’s behavior. We can enjoy the same kind of clear conscience that Paul describes he had because he knew he had done his part (Acts 24:16).