Friday, April 30, 2010

Ephesians 5: 22 - 33

Another one of those 'trouble' verses is Ephesians 5: 22 - 23. But, in order to really understand what is being said, you need the entire section, which I provide here, along with the notes from my Bible.

22. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.+ 23. For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be subject to their own husbands in everything.

25. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26. that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27. that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

+5:22-33 - The model is Christ and the church (v. 32), which is then applied to marriage. Yet Christian marriage helps us understand the mystery of the Church.
(1) For wives, concerning headship (vv. 22-24): In both the Church and marriage, there is one who acts as head, who leads. As Man, Christ is first among equals, not superior to us in nature; yet He alone is the head of the church (v. 23). Likewise, wives are called to submit to their husbands, as equals.

(2) For husbands, concerning sacrificial love (vv. 25-31): Paul writes three sentences to wives, but writes at greater length to impress on husbands that they should love their wives. Just as the wife's submission is to accept the headship of the husband, the husband's submission to his wife is to sacrifice himself for her. In ancient Israel, the bride would bathe and dress and be escorted to the bridegroom by his friends. In the Church, baptism is that bathing and dressing in which we put on Christ (v. 26), and the groom Himself, Christ, escorts us (v. 27). In the Church, the baptized are one humanity, one flesh with Christ; in marriage, husband and wife are one flesh with each other.

Okay. So that's clear then, right? No more need to discuss. :)

Ah, you guys know better than that. Though I do like the way Fr. Farley put it in his notes. It's my understanding of the deeper (and more important, imho) meaning of the verses (in regards to Christ and the church), only put better.

Anyhow. First, let me say how amusing I find it that out of eleven verses, people focus on the three that mention women. That's...28% of these verses, and it gets at least 95% of the attention. What about the other 72% of the passage? That's all about men, and what their responsibility is toward their wives. But most people, in my experience, don't bring those up. They focus (either negatively or positively) on the wife's submission to her husband. *rolls eyes*

Okay. So. Wives are supposed to submit to their husbands. But what does that mean? For me, that doesn't mean that your husband has the final word on everything, and you just blindly obey, without thought. A marriage is a partnership of equals. As one of my favorite characters says, "Marriage, in my view, should be a balanced stalemate between equal adversaries." Which, okay, you don't have to be as martial as Amelia about it, but it's a balance between equals. If one party has all the power, it doesn't work out. And each couple has to work out what works best for them. 'Marriage' is not a monolithic concept. Every couples marriage is going to be different. That's why the first few years of a marriage can be rough. You're working out what works for you as a couple.

Right. So. Wifely submission. For *me*, I take that to mean that in a situation where there is a disagreement over what to do, the wife backs down rather than start a fight. But even that doesn't work for all situations. I mean, if the husband is clearly going 'off the rails' and is endangering himself or others, don't back down. It's a situation by situation call. But even that is assuming a Christian marriage with people who are committed to each other and to God. My understanding may not be what St. Paul meant, it may not even be the most 'popular' interpretation, but it's how I understand it.

I, however, find the husband's instructions much more interesting. Read it and really think about it. Men must love their wives as Christ loved the church. Christ sacrificed *everything* for His bride. He *died* for us. St. Paul is telling men that you have to love your wife enough that, not only are you willing to sacrifice everything for her, you have to be willing to die for her. Your wife is a part of you, just as you are a part of her.

*That* is the level of love and devotion and dedication that a husband must give to his wife, let alone his family. I think St. Paul spent so much more time emphasizing the husband's role because the men weren't doing it. They didn't know that that's what they needed to do, that that's how much they were called to love their wives. It was a shift of the entire paradigm. Rather than property and chattel, wives were to be loved and cherished. They were to be so close that each was a part of the other. Not something to be discarded at the drop of a hat, but something to be fought for.


  1. I really like your explainations. They make sense :)

  2. After reading certain people on blogs demanding their "rights" to marry more than one woman and my wondering how in the world you intimately love more than one woman, it's refreshing to see how Paul instructed men to love and cherish these beings they previously considered property! This is why I love the concept of leaving father and mother and two becoming one. I think some religions cheapen this by allowing more than one wife at a time. I'm sorry, but you cannot intimately love and be there for more than one wife at a time. Even the OT prophets/characters who had more than one wife saw how it caused conflict. I genuinely don't believe polygamy was God's ideal for His creation.

    Enjoyed this!

  3. LK,

    Thanks. At least I know they make sense outside of my head. :)

  4. Susanne,

    While I stayed out of *that one* (two, three, many posts has that one innocent post generated now?), I have been reading it. Yeesh. Some people...just...ugh.

    (Y'know who I saw being a troll over there? Two guesses.) Anyway.

    It's clear that one cannot love more than one person at a time equally. The call to devotion between spouses is clear. While I get that some choose polygamy and honestly believe that it's the best way for them, as I see more and more about it, I feel more and more that it just causes far more pain than it is worth.


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