Monday, September 30, 2013

Luther, Natural Law, and a Wife

Luther on 1 Peter 3:7

Likewise you husbands, live considerately with your wives, bestowing honor on the woman as the weaker vessel, since you are joint heirs of the grace of life, in order that your prayers may not be hindered.
Woman is also God’s vessel or tool, says the apostle; for God uses her to conceive, bear, feed, and look after children, and to manage the house. The woman should do works of this kind. Therefore she is God’s tool and vessel. God created her for this purpose and implanted this in her. This is the way the husband should regard his wife. Therefore St. Peter says: “You husbands, live considerately with your wives. Do not rule them recklessly.” To be sure, they should live as the husband rules. What he commands and orders, this should be done. But the husband should also see to it that he treats his wife with kindness and consideration. He should be tender, and he should honor her as God’s weakest vessel.
A man is also God’s vessel, but he is stronger than a woman. She is weaker physically and also more timid and downhearted in spirit. Therefore you should deal with her and treat her in such a way that she can bear it. You must take care of her as you take care of another tool with which you work. For example, if you want to have a good knife, you must not hack into stone with it. Now it is impossible to give a rule for this. God leaves it to everyone to treat his wife considerately according to each wife’s nature. You must not use your authority arbitrarily; for you are her husband to help, support, and protect her, not to harm her. It is impossible to set specific bounds for you. Here you yourself must know how to proceed thoughtfully.
Luther, M. (1999, c1967). Vol. 30: Luther's works, vol. 30 : The Catholic Epistles (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (30:91). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Here is why I love Luther.  He acknowledges nature.  Woman was designed to conceive, bear, etc.  However, when rubber meets the road, "Now it is impossible to give a rule for this."  Why?  Because people are different - the impacts of sin and the frailities of this world hit us differently.  Therefore, do not set some rule from nature and say, "Wife, to this you must hold", but rather consider her and show her love. 

Great approach.

Of course, I take a "weaker vessel" not to be a statement of frailty, per se.  A weaker vessel is a way of speaking of fine china -- it is precious and not to be abused, it is to be honored.  That is the woman's honor - as that which is most precious in the house.  But that's just me.

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