I realize that scripture says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself up for her (Eph. 5:25),” but that does not mean that wives are not called to do the same. Likewise, I realize scripture says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22),” but that does not mean that husbands are not called to mutually submit to their wives.
Married or not, all Christians are called to love and submit to one another, as Christ did when He walked on earth.
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples (John 13:34-35).”
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21).”
“Submit to one another” in Ephesians 5:21 is addressing the marriage unit. We know this because verse 22 does not have the word “submit” in our earliest manuscripts (written in ancient Greek). Therefore, verse 21 supplies the verb for verse 22. The verses must go together. Regardless, it is evident throughout the New Testament that all believers are called to submit to one another (to give in to one another’s wills).
Life in Jesus is all about loving and sacrificing for others, as Jesus Christ did for us.
It is incorrect to teach that wives are not called to love their husbands as Christ loved the Church, as all believers are called to this sort of love. A Christian marriage is meant to be a shining example of mutual love and mutual submission. This is why “gender roles” are not a biblical concept. As a Christian, I am called to love and submit to others, no matter my gender and no matter my marital status.
It is imperative to recognize the culture in which the Bible was written to understand why Paul encouraged wives to submit to their husbands several times in the New Testament. The setting was extremely patriarchal, and the new sect of Christianity majorly challenged the norm of “men ruling over women.” It was Paul who wrote,
“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal.3:28).”
Further, Jesus said,
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10).”
Men do not have authority over women and husbands do not have authority over wives in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Apostle Paul writes,
“Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13:13).”
As Christians, we bring heaven to earth when we choose to love one another. It is not love for wives to focus on a role of submission, but avoid sacrificial love. Likewise, it is not love for husbands to focus on a role of sacrificial love, but avoid submission.
As believers we are all called to yield to one another’s wills. Scripture does not give man or woman the final say or the status of “leader.” Christ alone is the leader when we bring Heaven to earth, and He alone has the final say.
The truth is that human beings crave power and authority over others, but we must resist this temptation, because this is not love. When we read the Bible in a way that gives power to one person over another person, we have allowed our sinful natures to interpret God’s Written Word.
But doesn’t Scripture say that the husband is the head, as Christ is the head of the Church?
Yes, it does; but, there is almost no linguistic or contextual evidence that “head” means “chief” or “authority over.” It is more likely that the word “head” in this passage means a literal head. In other words, Paul is giving the church of Ephesus a metaphor in hopes of encouraging husbands and wives to be unified. In the metaphor, husbands are told to love their wives as they would love their own bodies.
A head and body must submit to one another to function properly.
Remember, husbands and wives are supposed to be one flesh:
“But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together (Mark 10:6-9).”
But why does the husband get to be the head in the metaphor? Why is the husband compared to Christ and the wife compared to the Church?
Well, because husbands had all the power, authority, and control in New Testament culture. Paul is not commanding husbands to be the leader of their homes; they were already the leaders of their homes.
Ephesians 5 is about using power privilege to lift up those who have no power privilege.
Today, in 2016, wives have gained more equality, as the universe moves towards redemption. We still have a ways to go and husbands must still use their power privilege to exalt their wives as fully equal in both worth and authority, but wives are most certainly called to love their husbands as Christ loved the Church. In fact, all believers are called to love one another as Christ loved the Church.
Just as a marriage unit should be unified, the women and men that make up the Church should be unified. This sort of unification happens only when we each have a “you first” attitude.
Any theology that gives authority to men over women is not only unbiblical and wrong; it is a recipe for disunity, dysfunction, and destruction. Why? Because it’s not just, and human beings were made in the image of a just God.
Our beings cry out for justice. This is why we are all called to use whatever power privilege we have to lift up others with less power. This is Christian love and it is only by Christian love that marriages and the Body of Christ can function peacefully and properly. May we each learn to love as Christ loved His bride (Christian men and women), so we can glorify our God and be a shining example to the world watching us.
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Being in a series in Colossians, yesterday ended with 4:1, I must say I like your thinking a whole bunch!! Yep, LOTS! You make sense. I get it. Actually, at 70+, I feel like I’ve always “gotten it”, but seldom, if ever, was it preached. And it certainly isn’t preached at my current church. In fact, a couple of years ago, it was said (twice from the pulpit) that wives were SUBSERVIENT! Wow! That’s a really strong word! That was the Sunday I nearly RAN out to the car before I burst into tears. My husband casually approached him the next Sunday, and the pastor said, “Well, that’s what it says.” End of discussion. Normally, the pastor is very clear thinking, and on target with his teaching; however, he has just resigned, so this is a whole new ballgame. We’ll see what comes next……but I’m ready to bail, if necessary! 🙂 Just wanted to extend my appreciation for your words today!!
Thank you, Judy. I appreciate that so much!
Thanks, Jenna! Xo
Dr John Gottman, who has spent over 20 years studying couples and their marriages, was asked for one piece of advice for husbands and one piece of advice for wives. He said he recommended that wives speak their minds more often than they are inclined to, and that husbands allow their wives to influence them. He said that not doing these two things caused the most trouble in the thousands of couples he studied.
When I heard this I thought how said it is that the most common advice in the evangelical world is the opposite of what works.
Dr. Gottman’s views are bleeding obvious to women…it is certain men who cannot handle this…they innocently marry their attractive servant and as long as she dots all his i-s and crosses all his t-s he thinks SHE is happy…never a thought to her heart…how she feels, what she thinks, what her dreams are, where she wants to go…he has his life planned and is waiting for her to make it great…
The wife, above mentioned, is disrespected (by the way, because of the indifference to who she is), ignored, treated with indifference and feels so very misunderstood…until another man comes around and with simple normalcy smiles at ‘her’, appreciates ‘her’, listens to ‘her’, thanks ‘her’ focuses on ‘her’…acts that shouldn’t make a difference AT ALL…but to ‘her’ they are ‘romance’ because the fool husband has made her vulnerable to this stranger who actually notices ‘her’…jokes with her…encourages ‘her’…
Complementarianism is so very unattractive to real women…and sows the seeds of divorce…so go on being one…just be prepared for a disappointed wife.
WOW, that is sad!
Very excellent post, Jory!
This should be taught in every venue where there are Christian men!…women already know this…they are just waiting for the men to live the Christian life as taught in the Bible…not just in a few selected subjectively intepreted verses.
This alone is a primary reason we NEED FEMALE PASTORS…to balance the message.
Thanks friend! Yes, we NEED female pastors!
I listened to this rude and sad repetition in this “piratechristian” mockery that shows all that is wrong with so many men in the church leadership. Arrogance. Entitlement. Superciliousness. Contemptuousness. Condescending disdain. Patronizing. Scornful. Pompous. Raw and unbridled pride.
I hope these men come to see that their “pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall”… If this man really believed what he was teaching is the truth, he wouldn’t be acting this way…a true pastor would be concerned for Jory and would KINDLY try to set her straight…instead he makes a show of trying to upstage her and put her down…his spirit PROVES he is nothing to fear and more to be pitied than resented. There is more resemblance to the Taliban in his teaching than to Christ. He knows very well that he is playing with the Bible and he even lies about the early church fathers regarding Junia…when Chrysostom clearly called Junia a female and praised her as an apostle…mistranslations of the words “diakonos” and “prostatis” regarding Phebe are also misrepresented. The two women called by Jesus, the woman apostle he sent to the Samaritans and Mary the apostle to the apostles…are forgotten. He would be better to listen carefully to his tone and learn how really to be a pastor, not a cheap entertainer.
I would like to thank Jory for her pastoral manner of seeking to help women who have been browbeaten and kicked around in the churches for centuries and for seeking to bring them back to Christ while men like this are content to drive thinking women away from the church to protect their ‘booty’…very disappointing to know such men continue to deceive women and ignore the Bible’s full-orbed teaching about women, instead of bringing the 5 radical interpretations of Paul’s writing into line with the full teaching of God who hates oppression, bondage and who came to set the captives free…which He blessedly has…Glad you mentioned this…this is what women are up against in the churches and why they are leaving in droves…
P.S. I bet Complementarians don’t and CAN’T take such lovely photos of their marriages…as the one at the beginning of this blog…beautiful representation of MUTUAL submission and the happiness and blessing from God that it brings…Egalitarianism is God’s way…for He says “As for me, is not my way equal, is not YOUR way unequal”…well He was also speaking to Complementarians here…but they blithely go on pushing their power and losing everything else along the way…sad how Satan keeps them in darkness.
Like many things in the American Church things are pretty messed up because we begin with US as the locus – and our power. My mentor Dr. Darrell Johnson preaches often from the Sermon on the Mount on “Living right-side up in an upside-down world” = hos the Gospel flops things on its ear- well as you have aptly noted – so too with the marriage relationship in mutual submission and love.
About to remarry to a really strong, spiritually deep and gifted woman we find (it’s our dynamic – not suggesting it is normative) that she rather likes me to lead slightly ahead into the wind – but that it is very much a side-by-side relationship wheere we look to mutually defer to each other. The level of res[ect shown (and felt) for the other is – well – like nothing I have ever experienced/ It is good-humored so no one really cares about being right and a lot of that has to do with how over-shadowed we feel by Christ’s own presence daily.
Jory, you are certainly correct (great point) that Laura is also called to love me as Christ loved/s the Church -dying to Self. I am guessing you will agree that Paul was hitting us in our weaknesses for we men are selfish and self-serving if not constantly challenged to die – and perhaps the best way to ruin a good man from within is to disdain him.
I really liked your post. I have to sit with your final conclusions on Power having not yet read your thesis (which I will have to do before school starts up again). I have a deep backgrund on that issue from my work witht he Homeless having actually run and lived in a Homeless camp and being very effected by the theological richness of the idea of “kenosis” from Philippians 2.
I’m open – and surely we need as much dialog as possible given all the heaps of abuse and the damage done in the name of the faith by fear-driven men incapable of love, devoid of real faith who have foisted that bad theology of “roles” and subservience on not just women – but moronic men as well (hapless, witles victims in their own less tragic way).
Being a divorced woman (I can feel some churches already pointing a finger here) I have always looked up to my parents successful relationship of 35 years. My mother submits, my father loves. But I knew there was a secret ingredient I was missing through observation alone…
Your article nailed it for me. My parents live out this example, they do on to each other, as they want done unto themselves. And I love the fact that you use Jesus’ words to pull the “long debated debate” together in a loving and truthful (non argumentative) way.
God bless you for sharing this, as a lot of these points will be my prayer points for the man that God wills for me in future.