Our Bible passage today is Ephesians Chapter 5 verses 22 to 33 and is the first of 3 describing different relationships within the extended household of that time. This first passage has gained a certain amount of notoriety (along with Paul the writer) because of the instruction of wives submitting to their husbands, which in our so-called enlightened times with ideas of equality is rather unfavoured, and there is a fear that it promotes domination if not abuse.
A few thoughts in response to this, which come out of a right way of understanding the Bible, that we shouldn’t take a single verse out of its immediate context and also its wider context of the rest of Scripture.
So verse 21 which the NIV translation includes in the previous section about ‘Submitting to one another out of reverence to Christ’ would seem to apply to everyone, including husbands.And yet Paul says there is also a God-given order within a marriage relationship of headship of a husband over his wife, and therefore submission of a wife to her husband, because that is a picture (vs.23-24) of a greater marriage relationship between Christ (the bridegroom ) and his church (the bride).But this submission has to be taken hand-in-hand with the instructions to husbands from verse 25 onwards to ‘love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy’, ie to live a sacrificial life and ultimately a sacrificial death in order to deal with our unholiness, to forgive us our sins and cleanse us.I have heard it said that the instructions to the husband here are actually more demanding than that to the wives, because they are being urged to follow the example of Jesus, which is a tall order. And of course such teaching was completely revolutionary in that era and in that culture, and sadly still pretty revolutionary in our culture today, with a lack of commitment in relationships, absent fathers and the like.
So there is no permission here for domination and abuse, but rather a challenge to sacrificial love. I remember a husband in a troubled Christian marriage once saying to me as a church leader, ‘Make my wife submit to me’. I can’t remember how I responded, but as I think about it, a good response could have been, ‘When you love your wife as Jesus loved His church, then I won’t need to tell your wife to submit to you, she will do it naturally. It will be a delight, as it should be a delight for all of us to submit to Christ.’
Will probably come back to this passage again tomorrow.
In our cycle of prayer, let us pray for 2 of our overseas contacts, praying for their ministries and their personal lives,- Hannah in Tunisia- Fidel and Christine, Amani and Joy in Kenya