Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Mystery of Submission - Ephesians 5 (part 13 of 16)

The Husband's Body

Verse 28-31, In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, people have never hated their own bodies, but they feed and care for them, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."

See how Paul does not mince words over what husbandly submission looks like! Messiah submitted himself to the mission, to the cross, to our sin, to our livelihood. He washed our feet. He calls us siblings and says that our Father is his Father. He came down to bring us up, to raise us to the very highest place of humanity.

Notice what Paul says next by playing on the word “body.” He said husbands are to love their wives as they love their own bodies, echoing the second commandment of loving neighbor as oneself. Again, this submission runs deep in the home. Paul speaks of the husband’s literal body, and then turns it into the larger metaphor of the church body, meaning the assembly of believers.

When talking to wives, Paul accentuated the “head.” Talking to husbands, he accentuates the “body.” But, again, this isn’t “authority” over the body, but giving life to the body. The husband gives life to his wife by loving her as his own body, serving her, not demanding sex to meet his own needs, not throwing his weight around, not belittling, not the boss. Rather, he is gentle, kind, loving, peaceful, looking out for her interests (read Gal 5:22-23—the fruit of the Spirit). This gives life. Christ does the same with the church, his “body.” While the parallel of the wife and the church are not “exact,” it is close enough. Metaphors can never be exact. Jesus is the vine means Jesus is our source of life, but if the metaphor were exact then Jesus would be green and twiggy, too.

Continuing the discussion, Paul turns to the very first marriage in Scripture: Adam and Eve. He quotes Genesis 2:24 and tells us that the man’s body and the woman’s body are seen as “one flesh.” [1] This ancient passage informs Paul’s idea that a husband is to love his wife as he loves his own body. It is grounded in the Garden of Eden before the Fall when the unbroken way was all perfect submission as “one flesh.” One flesh is one that cannot be divided. One flesh is harmonious. One flesh is a metaphor of not knowing where one ends and the other begins. One flesh is one entity, not two entities lording over the other, not one side of the flesh controlling the other. Jesus said that no one should put asunder what God has put together (Matt 19:5-6). Yet asunder is what happens when one spouse is rendered less important than the other.
The next phrase in this section seems a bit out of place at first.

In my next post, we'll look at the "profound mystery."

[1] Note that in the story of Creation and the Fall in Genesis 1-3 that there is no mention of the man being in “authority” over the women until God declares judgment on them. If “authority” over the woman was always part of the design for man, then it wouldn’t be declared a judgment. Is Paul noting that Messiah has undone this judgment like he has undone the judgment of death? Is he following Jesus tradition that we ought to look to the Garden of Eden for our model of marriage? (Mark 10:1-12)


Mandy Orozco said...

Great point about God designing marriage to bring two together to become "one flesh" and how that pertains to our identity (blurring the lines of it, that is) and harmony in that. If we truly reflected on this great challenge I think we would be less distracted by who needs to submit and more focused on how we can make life more, as you adeptly put it, "harmonious."

Dale Fincher said...

Mandy, that's it. I think the question of who is in charge wouldn't even arise if we were focused on love (an admonish also given to men AND women in 1 Cor 13 and other places) and washing one another's feet. When when love isn't present, even still, authority won't help one proceed as much as encouraging one another to follow Jesus.

Marital cooperation has fallen on hard times in some evangelical sectors. We separate men and women (assigning them different planets) and pretend we're so different than we just have to make do. This is an area where the church can lead in the culture rather than be 20 years behind it.

Men and women working together is a powerful human argument.

Philip said...

Man and Woman working together is the essence of marriage. One flesh doing whatever it can to live. Somewhere else someone mentioned how if we focused on love, we wouldn't really be having this conversation. I agree. Love, in the agape sense, means submission to or being under another. I loved how you mentioned in a post about how opening the door for a women was originally meant to be a sign of love and respect for the life of the other. To me, that is my goal in all of life, especially with my wife.

I haven't spent much time lately on this debate mainly because I came to the conclusion that it comes down to Savannah and I loving each other in anyway needed and putting the other first. Looking at your exegesis of this passage sustains this for me. I am to act as a savior to my wife, and she is to come and undergird me. I am doing all I can to help Savannah start a photography business and likewise she is encouraging me and supporting me going back to school. We are both willing to put our own dreams aside for the other as long as the other doesn't give up their dreams. It's fun, humbling, vulnerable, and Christ-honoring.

I look forward to your love and respect post. I have some thoughts about it already.

Dale Fincher said...

Philip, you are the kind of person that finds this view of Eph 5 as common sense... and I think it supposed to be taken that way, especially as we experience it in the gospel. Sometimes I think theologians have their noses too close to the page, parsing out words, that they miss the metaphorical intelligence and the larger picture of the Kingdom.

On love and respect, one thing I don't mention in the next post that I think I should include in later writings is that if "respect" is the summation of a woman's role in the home, then that's the nuance of submit we should take. And if that's the case, it is even less dubious that 'submit' is always a position of 'under authority.'