the-pink-and-yellow-girl asked a question:
With the “wives submit to your husbands” verse, how do you understand this? My pastor has explained it to me before, but as a woman I often end up feeling kind of sad or frustrated by it when I don’t think that’s what I’m supposed to feel.
Hey dear friend, I wrote a pretty big post on this once before, I commend it to you here. Of course, please feel free to disagree or dialogue with me.
My short answer is this: The word “submit” in Ephesians 5:22 isn’t originally in that verse in the Greek language. Seriously. Check it out. It says, Wives to your husbands as to the Lord.The word “submit” is actually implied by the previous verse which says, Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. So first you need to know, there is mutual submission between husband and wife. Paul starts off by commanding both to submit to each other.
Here’s my longer answer:
There’s a much bigger picture here that makes these verses “better” in one sense, but much harder in another.
A few verses after the whole submission thing, Paul says, Husbands love your wives as Jesus loved the church and gave himself up for her. The Greek word for “gave himself up” is paradidomi, which can mean “surrender, commit, give myself away, hand over.” To some extent, this is an even stronger word than submit. It expresses what Jesus did on the cross when he died for us. So husbands have the task of dying. Wives submit, husbands both submit and die.
Now it does say somewhere in there that the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church. Here’s the thing. Do men realize how big of a responsibility this is? Why would any man ever be using this verse as some kind of authority badge? That verse is meant to inspire leadership, not abused as a veto. It literally means that if the house isn’t in order, then the husband isn’t being a good head of the house. Taking this further, if a church isn’t in order, either Jesus isn’t there or the people aren’t working with Jesus.
In the end, Paul says he’s not really talking about marriage, but using marriage as an example to talk about the church. So in one sense, yes, he’s prescribing a good marriage. But in another sense he’s prescribing what it means to be a community of God. For people to elevate these verses out of context misses what Paul was doing here: he was saying that in a Christian community, there is mutual submission, a call to leadership, and obvious fruit when we get this right (and lack of fruit when we don’t).
What surprises me is when someone says, “Your Bible is so outdated, it tells wives to submit to husbands in there!” Ironically, an argument that misreads the verse this way is validating the wrong interpretation of this verse. It’s like if I argued against pro-life by saying, “The Bible endorses attacks against abortion clinics!” No, it does not, but a bunch of people might actually believe that to be true if you keep saying it is.
We need to actually talk about what the verse in question, not the socially perpetuated mythology of the verse. The Bible, after all, has way more difficult and problematic passages than this one. By now, I just assume that if someone brings up Ephesians 5 as a problem, either someone else convinced them it was a problem without looking into it, or they haven’t really read it at all, or they see the Bible as an instruction manual of random fortune cookie proverbs instead of within the overarching story of a God who loves us and wants for our best.
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