“If you hit your wife you will not inherit eternal life,” said Peter, quite out of the blue as he walked with his friend Jonah towards his boat. “What?” Jonah asked absent-mindedly.
“I said, if you hit your wife you will not inherit eternal life,” Peter repeated, more bluntly this time. Jonah squinted into the sun as he looked back at Peter. “Where’d you get that idea?”
There was a pause as the two reached the water where Peter’s little white boat was anchored. Peter let out a whoop and dived in, feeling the cool water cover his entire body. Jonah chuckled. There was no need for such antics. It was low tide and Jonah waded towards the boat, wincing as the cool water crept up his legs.
With the dripping Peter and half-soaked Jonah inside, the little boat was soon moving out of the bay towards Peter’s favourite fishing spot. Why there? “Because,” as Peter patiently explained to his non-fishing friend, “that’s where the fish are!”
“I’ve read the Bible through three times,” Jonah continued “and I’ve never read the ‘thou shalt not beat your wife’ text. You know, Peter, I’m getting tired of people like you reading every popular idea into the Bible and then making it some kind of new doctrinal orthodoxy! Women suffer as the price of sin.”
“Death is the price of sin,” Peter retorted. “That doesn’t mean we have a right to kill people.” Jonah thought for a second; “Sure, but the Good Book says ‘thou shalt not kill’, where’s your wife beating commandment, Peter?”
“Christ left one test for His followers, right?” replied Peter slowly. “Yeah, they are the ones who keep His commandments—none of which say anything about wife beating!” Jonah interjected triumphantly.
“Not so fast, Jonah. Jesus said that He gave us a new commandment, that we love one another,” Peter continued. “Jesus said the whole law is to love God and love each other—‘do unto others’. The way I read it, the difference between true Christians and false Christians is love.”
“Yeah, of course, we’re all about love,” Jonah sighed with exasperation. “That’s why we have the law of love. And it says nothing about hitting your wife!”
“Wrong!” For the first time Peter raised his voice. “It says everything about it! Love is treating others like we want to be treated. And I am 100 per cent sure no-one wants their spouse to hit them. So if you hit your wife, guess what, you aren’t acting in love. And if you aren’t acting in love, you can’t be a true Christian. And if you aren’t a true . . .”
“OK, OK, OK, but answer me this,” Jonah butted in. “Women are subject to their husbands. And how’s that going to work if husbands don’t, you know, enforce their authority?”
“The Bible tells us that husbands are to love their wives like Christ loves His church,” Peter replied. “Think about Jesus—I mean, He didn’t even hit back when people spat in His face and when they flogged Him. Did He have authority? You bet! Not by beating people up but from the strength that comes from true love, a spirit of sacrifice and service. Can you imagine Jesus hitting a woman?”
Jonah stopped for a second. Peter had a point. But still . . . “I mean, what if I keep the Sabbath, pay tithe, and if I serve as an elder or even a pastor? You really believe I won’t inherit eternal life just for hitting my wife?”
“Read 1 Corinthians 13, Jonah—you can even die for the faith and still lose everything if you don’t have Christ’s love in your heart. And Christ’s love is patient, kind and gentle. There is no way that hitting your wife is consistent with having Christ’s love in your heart. And if you’re still wondering what Christ’s love looks like in a family, read 1 Peter 3:7 where we’re told to love our wives and not be harsh with them. I mean, it’s obvious isn’t it? Hitting our wives shows we don’t have Christ’s love in our hearts. Without His love in our hearts what have we got? Nothing! And if we’ve got nothing, we aren’t going to heaven!”
The two men arrived at their fishing spot. Jonah looked down into the crystal clear water. Sure enough, Peter knew where the fish would be.
Shame, Jonah thought. He was vegetarian.