Paul said What?!

“Wives submit to your husbands”… now there is a Hallmark card for you. Did you pick that one up for mother’s day? Ephesians 5:22, “Wives submit to your husbands as TO THE LORD.” Is Paul crazy? Can you just see this hung on one of our banners at church? Perhaps a new song on your Christian radio station. I can only imagine the letters that would be written.

What do we do with scripture like this? There are a couple of things that are done with it.

  1. We take it just like it is and use it to dominate others.
  2. We justify it away and say, that was a cultural writing only applicable for that time and no bearing on our society today.
  3. We assume Paul to be a misogynist and only embrace the stuff he writes that we like.
  4. We look at the broader parameters of the scripture and find out what is really being said here.

Number 4 is the right answer, but too often we live out the first three. The problem with the first three is that we lose scriptural authority and unloose a thread that could unravel without end. But that is a blog for another day and I want to talk about submission.

Cultural influence does play a role here but if we look at those cultural roles and rules we would see that Paul was quite ahead of the curve when it came to respecting the humanity of others. The culture at the time was male dominated.  There was really no reason Paul would need to say, “wives submit to your husband.”  It was understood. Women had no property rights, voting rights, or much authority at all. So what was Paul saying?

The letter of Ephesians was couched in the framework of serving one another, creating healthy community, through the imitation of Jesus Christ. Paul was not telling women to treat their husbands as “gods” but to submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ… which the Church does out of response to Christ’s acts towards us, acts of service, acts of love, acts of commitment. It is what Paul says to the husbands that is radical. “Husbands, love your wife as Christ loves the church.” Jesus died for the church… remember? This was a radical thought then and remains so now. Christ did this with no thought as to if we would respond or not, he did it because it was the right thing to do that would bring about life.

What would happen if we lived toward one another in a way that was not dependent upon other people’s response, but upon the right thing to do that would bring about life in them and ourselves?

As we prepare for worship this Sunday, let us read Ephesians dressed in what Paul says in Ephesians 5:1

“be imitators or God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

With that lens, how does this change your commitment to your spouse, your friends, your enemies? To allow God to transform you, means making the most out of the opportunities to practice his love. The best place to begin that practice is in your home.

Pray and pay attention:

  1. That God would continually transform your heart and mind.
  2. That you would learn how to imitate Christ,
  3. That you would see the opportunities he presents and practice his love.
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