Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Mystery of Submission - Ephesians 5 (part 9 of 16)

Details for Husbands

Paul turns from the wives and launches into details for husbands.

Verse 25 says, Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...

Remember when I mentioned earlier that the culture was strongly patriarchal and that women were largely inferior to men across the Mediterranean world? Now imagine you are a man in that kind of culture. You have no problem with “submitting one to another,” especially if it is other men. But is Paul announcing here that you are supposed to submit to women in the church (v. 21)? That’s raises eyebrows in that culture and in his. [1] But this is what Paul is saying as he pushes the point to husbands. Even submit to the one you’re closest to, your wife—the one who knows your secrets and your vulnerabilities.

Only when I saw this passage as a whole did I begin to see that Paul’s admonition for husbands to love is also a form of submission. It’s what submission looks like in the Christian community. One of the struggles I had to overcome was to stop thinking Bible-versely and begin thinking Biblically. Bible verses are good but usually interrupt context and interfere with the meaning of the author. Thinking Biblically is stepping back and seeing the larger picture, seeing the writer’s words but only in light of his many sentences.

Don’t forget Paul’s thesis statement for this section, “Submit to one another out of reference for Christ.” He’s now going to tell the husbands what submission looks like for them in marriage. “Love your wives.” That’s the bombshell. Love your wives; will your wives’ good; seek to bring them life.

In Paul’s day, men were not expected to love their wives. They married them, viewed them as property, and used them for pleasure and procreation. Demosthenes of Greece put it this way, “Mistresses we keep for pleasure, concubines for daily attendance upon our person, wives to bear us legitimate children and be our faithful housekeepers.” [2] Women were not equal to men in the Greco-Roman world. Even Aristotle put them as opposite to man as darkness is to light. But what kind of love is this that Jesus the Messiah brings to his followers in marriage? Romantic love? Flowers and candy? Holidays at the beach? No, he uses the deepest metaphor for love that Paul has in his tool bag, “…just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

What did the Son of God do for the church? Read Philippians 2. It started when he submitted freely of himself (there’s that idea again!) and became a servant in human form as the Messiah. And He vulnerably let himself be misunderstood everyday and ultimately destroyed by evil men. This is love.

Paul conjures up this image in the minds of husbands in Ephesus. Give your lives up. Submit freely of yourself. Be willing to be misunderstood and even wrongly treated. Give up your life for her, your reputation for her, your control of her. Think of the Messiah. Give her space to choose, to grow, to flourish. This is all included in giving up your life. It ran against the grain of the way these men were brought up from boyhood—strength, domination, control, power. [3]

We'll continue our look at verse 25 in the next post....

[1] I find it humorous when people say that today’s culture doesn’t like the idea of “submission” (as in obedience) and so they resist what Paul is saying. The irony is that yesterday’s culture did like submission (as in obedience) and Paul is working at dragging them out of it. If it was otherwise, Paul would say, “I commend you, church in Ephesians, for your expertly work on wifely submission (as in obedience), I see I don’t have to articulate it to you!”

[2] Demosthenes, “Against Neaera,” in The Orations, p. 9.

[3] As I analyze some men’s movements today (what I call the “new masculinity”) it sometimes reminds me—often in subtle ways—of those pagan cultures now resurfacing in the name of Jesus.


Angela said...

Dale, thank you for doing this study. I've been lurking on Jonalyn's blog for a few months, and worked my way over here. I really enjoy reading both the Fincher Blogs. Keep up the good work.

Meliss said...

Good sub-point [1]!

Dale Fincher said...

Angela, thanks for stopping by!

Meliss, Glad you liked the point... and thanks for the noting the spelling error. ;)

Lin said...

Sub point 3 is exactly what I have been thinking.

Great post. I am loving this series.

Dale Fincher said...

Lin, thanks! More needs to be written on the "new masculinity" movement. It has captured the imagination of so many Christian men, it is difficult to even shine in a different side of the gospel.

I just noticed your series on elders and authority. I've been doing some thinking and research on that topic this year and look forward to reading your series!