Ephesians 5: Abused Chapter

Ephesians 5: 22-24 is possibly the most abused three verses in the Bible.  If anyone wants to find evidence for misogyny in the Bible, this is generally the first place to go.  The fact that sexist preaching is common with these verses doesn’t help any.  Worse, many people forget to keep reading on to verses 25-33.  Convenient that.

Before discussing Ephesians, let’s go back about 4000 years to Genesis.  In chapter 3, we find Adam and Eve succumbing to temptation.  This culminates with curses upon the serpent, man, and woman.  Gen 3: 16 “To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.  Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.'”  Please note the nature of the curse.  Childbirth will suck, there will be a desire for her husband, and he will rule over her.  The word for desire here suggests a yearning or stretching out after.  Realize that this exists in the context of a curse.  This will be a yearning for something that is resisted or entrapping.  It is only in a cursed state that women are subjugated to their husbands.

Moving back to Ephesians 5, let’s start one verse early: 21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  This is the prelude to the discussion of the marital relationship within the context of being Christians.  Further, part of Christianity is being redeemed.  The context for verses 22-33 are found in 21.  “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  Husbands are to submit to their wives.  Wives are to submit to their husbands.  Whatever statements follow CANNOT violate this principle.

We reach 22, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”  If you were to stop reading here, and forget that we are looking for the curse to be lifted, this would seem to cement the subjugation of women to men.  However, verse 23 immediately turns this idea on its head, “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.”  How was Christ the head of the church?  He DIED for it.  He sacrificed himself for it.  He gave up his dignity, his station, his rights, everything.  The husband is to, as in verse 21, serve his wife.  This is further reinforced in verse 25, “Hustbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,”.

Here is the simple reality, for a wife to be a “slave” to her husband is for her to be under a curse, and unloved by her husband.  To enslave your wife as a maid and sex object is unloving.  Instead, you should be looking to serve her.  Doing the dishes, cooking, doing a load of laundry, these are things you can do to help your wife out.  Christ washed the feet of his disciples, the nastiest job a servant could be assigned, so you can certain massage your wife’s feet.

Finally, in verse 33, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”  Men, wives need an emotional bond with their husbands.  You need to cherish her, lift her up, make her feel special.  Courtship doesn’t end when you exchange vows.  Women, husbands are fragile, insecure beings.  The need to know you respect them.  It isn’t enough for you to love them, they desperately need your respect.

It is possible that anyone who has read this far may think I’m full of it (and you know what “it” is).  I’ve been married for six years now, and I can tell you with certainty that my wife’s respect for me is a powerful support.  I care more about her opinion of me than anyone else’s.  I can also tell you that one of the greatest honors in my life is to help my wife.  My wife is a good cook, but I still like to cook for her from time to time.  The chore I enjoy the most, however, is changing the kitty litter.  She has a keen sense of smell, while I don’t.  Further, kitty litter is heavy.  For me, I think changing the litter for her is a chance to save her an unpleasant chore.

Love on your wife.  It’s a wonderful feeling, and she will respond.  Love her.  It’s a verb, not a feeling.  Love her.

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