I don’t know about you but I have seen Christian women oppressed, humiliated, assaulted and dominated by their husbands. I have spoken in churches where the pastor’s wife could not sit at the front with her husband, I have spoken into cultures where the wife must walk behind her husband and all because the Bible says so… yeah right!
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. Ephesians 5:22
I think if we are honest, the above Scripture and the similar one in Colossians are generally interpreted as “wife, do as I say, when I say and how I say because God has given me authority over you”. This interpretation comes in varying extremes, but a large percentage of the Christian male population expect their wives to do as they say.
I have heard wives say “I am really trying to submit” when their husbands are acting like total fools.
Who does the Submitting?
Starting in verse 15 of Ephesians 5 Paul lists some advice on how to go about living as a successful believing community; then as a foot note he says in verse 21 “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” So who is to submit (hupotasso)? Everyone, by considering each other as better than themselves. The idea is to have no one trying to be the boss, but rather preferring one another out of reverence for Christ.
A community of servants
The church is a community where everyone submits one to another, and that submission operates not only in the gatherings but in the lives of every person, including the husbands and wives. This then leads into verse 22 where Paul singles out the wives. Why? Because within the Ephesian church there were a group of women who had come out of the Diana cult and believed themselves to be superior to men, they had to realise that men and women are joint heirs with Christ.
My wife should submit to me as the church does to Christ
The wives are indeed told to submit to their husband as to the Lord. But what does that mean? To start with I am to treat you like Jesus, and wives are supposed to do that for their husbands, and husbands are to do that for their wives, and we are supposed to do it for one another. The irony is that the men I see demanding that their wives submit are not submitting to the Lord themselves. This isn’t about the wife blindly obeying her husband’s version of the Ten Commandments, after all the church submits to Christ by trusting in His unyielding and unmerited love for us, not by fearfully carrying out His perverse whims (that’s if He had any!).
But Mark, the husband is the head
In our 21st century mindset we fix head and authority together which develops the “you will do what I say” attitude from husbands to their wives. However in the culture the letter of Ephesians was written to head meant something quite different. In ancient cultures it was believed that decisions were made in the heart or the stomach, not the head. The word head means source ‘not sole decision maker’ or ‘he who must be obeyed’.
The woman in the man, the church in the Saviour
Genesis tells us that the woman came from the side of the man, and this is a type of what Jesus achieved on the cross. Jesus went into the sleep of death, a spear was plunged into His side, blood and water flowed and from this the church was created. This is worth some prayer and consideration, but in my humble opinion this is the point being made, it is not about being in charge but where we came from. Don’t forget Paul was challenging the Diana cult teaching, that taught Diana was superior to her twin brother Apollo because she was born first.
If I love you, I won’t want to dominate you.
Love your wives
Final thoughts – the wife should submit to her husband as to the Lord and the husband should love the wife as Christ loves the church (verses 25-30). Submission doesn’t stand unilaterally; it is part of a bigger picture of a marriage that flows with love, respect, submission and passion. When these qualities are seen in some measure within a marriage, something of the mystery of Christ and His church is revealed to the world, and that is truly beautiful.
Well done readers!
Congratulations to all of you (from all over the world!) who have managed to stay up with this series, this will be the last on the topic for now but please let me know if you have questions, comments or would like me to write a post on another area of this vital subject.
Love and blessings 🙂