mutual submission

Ephesians 5:21 – Authority is Delegated, Not Divided, Part 3

  • “Officer, I was only doing 5 kms over the speed limit and besides there’s no kids even at school this time of day, you’re not being fair!” Says the motorist to the police officer that just wrote him a ticket.
  • “I won’t wear these ones, I want Nikes.” Says the child to the parent that only has $100 left for groceries for the 4 of them.
  • “We’re not going to listen to you, we’ll choose the plays.” Says the players to the coach.
  • “You’re preaching it the wrong way, you should do it this way.” Says the congregation to the Pastor.

* * *

Wherever you turn in the world, there’s always a design for keeping the law – rules to maintain order, or acceptable codes of conduct.  We don’t get to break the laws of the world because we don’t like them, think we know better, find them inconvenient, believe they’re unfair, or think they don’t apply because we are the exception.

Nobody lives in a void so long as we’re on earth. Unless you’re Chuck Noland from Cast Away, you belong to some type of social construct that requires order.  For any sect of society to move forward in a cohesive group, there’s a hierarchy of power that’s been designated, by someone.  There are positions for leaders and followers in every group.

The laws, whether for our natural world or the spiritual world, are in place for a reason and when they’re not followed, they hold consequences.

The construct of marriage is no exception.

The Failure of Mutual Submission

Marriage is the most foundational structure of organization that we have; it also has a hierarchy of power to enable smooth function, unity and forward growth to its members. (Eph 5:22-33; 1 Tim 2:12-15; 1 Peter 3:1)  If we remove this authority structure and apply mutual submission, shared power, to any social structure … especially marriage … it devolves instead of moving forward.

God knew we’d need an example of this.  So, at the very beginning of the marriage narrative, He gave us a baseline of how NOT to structure the one flesh relationship – He showed us the failure of mutual submission in Genesis 3:6:  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.  She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

“… she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”  BOOMFailure.  Now we live in the consequence of it: death.

Why would anyone want to follow a marriage paradigm that was the catalyst for humanity’s spiritual death?  Adam was right there with her and had the responsibility and authority to assume the power, but he didn’t.  Instead, he shared it mutually, by deferring to her.

Adam submitted to Eve by following her lead instead of doing what he knew was right.

Mutual Submission:  Peer to Peer

I cannot find a verse instructing a husband to submit – to his wife, or instructing a husband to learn about submission – from his wife.  Submitting to one another is for all of us when we’re under the hierarchy as a group.

For instance, law enforcement hierarchy: the police are the role with the authority and the law applies equally to everyone else.  No one has more power within the civilian group, the law applies equally, all civilians submit to it.  Those are the roles that are being played.  Not the equality of any particular person.

Or, the education system.  Schools have changed a lot since the 1800s (see here and here), but what hasn’t changed is the hierarchal structure of the classroom:  The teacher is still the position of authority in the classroom.  Mutual submission is for the group of students that are under his/her authority.

Or, a church.  The Pastor is the head of the church.  He’s the one that prepares the sermon for Sunday and delivers it from the pulpit.  The congregation doesn’t instruct the Pastor by exchanging out the structure of power to equalize the subordinate role of the congregation with the authority role of the Pastor; mutual submission is for the congregation.

Mutual Submission:  Usurps Power

When you remove the governing structures of authority and submission, the result is never order and unity – it’s chaos and division. The police are never in submission to the motorist.  The guards are never in submission to the inmates.  The coach is the authority, the athletes submit.  The surgeon is never in submission to the nurse, the head chef always leads the sous chef … the patient never tells the EMS how to drive the ambulance or what roads to take.

Regardless of who is in the role – the role itself has the power of authority.  Can you imagine your child deciding that they don’t go to school anymore?  And you must submit because you believe in mutual submission of the family structure.

… our world just doesn’t function that way.  Someone sits in the position of power with the authority to make final decision – the same person carries all the responsibility.

Power by Proxy

Before I was married, I used to work for Corrections Canada.  When my boss was away, I ran the office for him – he proxied his authority to me before he left.  I sent memos and letters, sent and received inmate files, made phone calls; all on his behalf.  When he returned to the office, I stepped out of the position of authority, back into my designated role under his authority.  The name for this action of aligning yourself under an authority is called, hupotasso.  From Vine’s Dictionary, hupo means “under,” tasso means “to arrange.” – primarily a military term that denotes a position of subordination; our English word:  to submit.

Authority isn’t divisible – it’s delegated …

When Darrell arrives at work, he’s just moved into a different hierarchical paradigm:  he’s no longer the one with all the authority as he is in marriage and family.  He’s now in submission to the owner of the company.  However, his boss has transferred authority to him so when he steps into the plant, the men are in submission to him.  Not because he’s Darrell, but because of the position he fills by ownership’s authority: Plant Manager.

When my husband leaves for work in the morning, I step into that position for him.  In fact, refusing that proxy of authority is not optional for me – as his wife, I become the guard of the house (oikouros) in his absence.  As an unfortunate side note, the English translations have diminished the capacity of the oikouros by redefining the position to mean ‘what the wife does’ instead of ‘who she is.’  Primarily, I become Darrell’s eyes and ears while he’s away.  I am a guard – I do the domestics.

In his absence and with his full authority – he proxies me his power.  It’s not my decision to just take it because I want it; I receive it as a responsibility.  Nor do we share it, I’m acting on his behalf.  When he returns to the sphere of our marriage, the authority also returns to him.

Any hierarchy of authority has nothing to do with equality or fairness, and everything to do with positional structure of roles.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and he is the Savior of the body.  Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. (Eph 5:22-24)

Christ died for the church – He never submitted to her

Jesus submitted to God by doing His will by coming to earth to establish His headship by defeating death.  Founding His church on earth was the act of leadership … not submission.  Appointing the apostles as the foundational layer of His church was His first act of leadership; it was done with the full power of God’s authority.

The only time Jesus practiced submission on earth was in acknowledging the hierarchy of power within the family:  The authority of His parents.  (Luke 2:51)

Jesus is the head, the apostles are the body

Our clear example of how marriage functions isn’t how we broke it in Genesis – it’s the demonstration of Christ’s submission to God, and the relational dynamic between Jesus and His apostles.

If I want a clear example of how a wife should submit to her own husband, I need to follow the example of the body, the apostles who were the first members of ‘The Church,’ submitted to Jesus.

Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. (Eph 5:24)

The apostles never shared authority of headship with Jesus, He led them.  In fact, Jesus corrected two of them for thinking they could sit at His level.  Not because He thought He was better and they were lesser, but because He knew they would not be able to handle what He was going to do; He told them no to protect them.

Mutuality in relationship will never happen while we’re on this earth – as long as we are in human form, our fleshly nature will always get in the way.  The equality that mutual submission seeks will only be found in heaven … when all sin has been removed.  It’s not safe here on earth, in Satan’s world, that’s why God has given us structures to follow.

SOUL-utions

  • Stop thinking that your submission depends on your husband’s ability to daily emulate Christ’s execution.  Jesus didn’t die every day for his apostles, he died once for every believer’s redemption. 
  • Start studying true submission by following the pattern established by the founders:  The Apostles.  Understand how they responded to Jesus and interacted with Him.  How they trusted and obeyed Him.

 

 

 

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Ephesians 5:21 – The Muck-up Continues, Part 2

After reading PART 1, Ephesians 5:21 – The Muck-up, it’s obvious that we (Darrell & Robyn) aren’t fans of the egalitarian paradigm, it almost killed the both of us and our marriage.  In retrospect, we found it to be nothing more than a mechanism to negotiate a tally count of 50/50 – a way to gauge perceived equality and fairness.

The egalitarian paradigm appears to equalize power under the guise of sharing it.  But what it does instead is, systematically neutralize the power found in the role of a wife* – her femininity, by:

  • FEEDING HER FLESH:  It requires that we watch each other for fair treatment.  All of us have a battle between the flesh and the spirit that rages inside of us; the flesh demands equality for self, the spirit demands equality for others.  You could be right.  You might even be right, but your man won’t hear it** from you, he’s been instructed to remove your spots and wrinkles – the church doesn’t wash Christ, He washes her. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
  • KEEPING HER FEARFUL:  At the very least it’s immature faith – it’s childishness to believe we know what’s best instead of just exercising a little humility and acknowledging that we’ll probably be the ones to be deceived.  At most, it demeans your husband, it’s foolish to seek to govern over him the way you would a toddler – as if you’re training him (1 Tim 2:13-14).  At worst, it’s seeking to control even God because you don’t trust Him to work it out.
  • LOCKING HER INTO PROVISIONAL GIVING:  Keeping an eye for equality and fairness chips away at true generosity and kindness – it’ll be impossible for either of you to just to receive and enjoy the gift.  Generally, women are the more detail oriented of the two genders, that mental tracking and measuring spills over onto everything including every act of generosity and kindness, forcing suspicion with unspoken conditional strings.  Giving becomes restricted to depend on how your husband gives.  Instead of becoming more Christlike and living from the Spirit (1 Cor 13:7), you become more human-like – living from your flesh.

We’re still on earth – not in heaven

Trying to create utopia through equality on earth, thinking this foundation of marriage will set the stage for happiness is a recipe for disillusionment and disaster.  When it comes to humans, the world is a broken place, there’s widespread unfairness, inequality, and injustice.  We did that, not God.  We broke each other and the world when we stepped out of God’s hierarchy trying to make it better by our own methods (Gen 3:6-7).  Finding fair reciprocity in any relationship on earth is difficult, still, we strive for it. (Rom 12:16-21)

But it’s not going to happen in marriage, you can’t reciprocate with someone you are connected to.  One flesh means connected – marriage is two becoming one, it’s synergy. … not tit-for-tat.  Think:  three-legged race – there’s not 4 legs anymore, but 3 … two of the legs have become one.

However, that doesn’t mean there’s still not a natural world full of designed order that we can see.  Nature follows its design – a dandelion will always produce more dandelions. The environment follows its design – the moon will always control the tide. Even though these systems are complex they’re also clear and concise.  They are not equal, they follow a design of strategy created for a purpose – just like humans.  We were also created for a purpose, and it’s not earthly living.  We were created to live in the eternal:  in heaven.

With the focus on equalizing the gender roles, the egalitarian paradigm lends itself to a lot of comparing of who’s doing what in the roles of husband and wife, all in the name of fairness – even though we’re told not to compare ourselves to anyone except Christ (Gal 6:4).  In order to make sure that the 50/50 of no one being ‘in charge’ is maintained, the watchful eye of equality usurps Christ’s position as King of the marriage.

However, with a complementarian view, it’s about God, me and the role of wife that I willingly accepted the day I got married.  It’s not reciprocation – I don’t get to blame him and say, when he’s a better husband, I’ll be a better wife.  In her book, The Power of a Praying Wife, Stormie Omartian, relays how she tried to get God’s attention off herself and onto her husband by praying, God, look at him!  Look what he’s doing!  Just look at how he treats me!  And God kept saying back to her, Stormie, look at yourself.  Look at what you are doing.  Just look at how you treat him.  (If you’ve not read the book, you should.  If you’ve read it, you know I was paraphrasing to make a point.)

Pleasing God in my role as a wife while I’m here on earth, has nothing to do with how my man fulfills his role of husband.  This technique of blame was already eliminated by Adam, he tried to pawn off his behavior by making God the excuse!  Eve also tried to excuse her choice by blaming Satan:

The man said,

“The woman whom YOU gave to be with me, SHE gave me the fruit, and I ate.”

The woman said,

“The SERPENT outwitted and deceived me, and I ate.”

(Genesis 3:12-13)

… God didn’t accept excuses from them – and He won’t accept them from us.

My role, his role … God does the growing

It was through complementarianism that we each began to thrive in our own rite:  me as a wife through respect and submission and Darrell as a husband through leadership and love.  The more we follow the complementarian paradigm the better spouses we become.  The better each one of us gets at our own roles – not concerning ourselves with what the other is doing wrong – the stronger God makes our marriage.  I’m not responsible for making our marriage better; Darrell is not responsible for making our marriage better – God does the growing:

I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. (1 Cor 3:6-7)

SOUL-utions

-A marriage license isn’t permission to poke around inside my husband’s heart and mind to change what I think needs to change.  It’s a visible invitation from God to stand by in support as God removes his spots and wrinkles.  Trust Him.

-Fighting for the scraps of masculine power from the table of worldly women, just changes you into a Red-eyed Ood.***  Accept that the design of a female is already endowed with super-abundant power from God – He created you in it when you were conceived.  You’re not a victim, know it.

NOTES

wife* – It also eliminates the real power from the husband as well but I’m not writing to husbands.

won’t hear it** – An invited opinion isn’t the same as unsolicited harping.

Red-eyed Ood***  In Fandom, Red-eye was originally thought to be a disease found amongst enslaved Ood on their homeworld of the Ood Sphere. Its symptoms were bright red eyes, rabid temperament and anti-human sentiment.

(now you all know I’m a Doctor Who fan) 🙂

Ephesians 5:21 – The Muck-up

“Why do so many people concentrate on Ephesians 5:22-23 and skip over Ephesians 5:21?” – asks Christian marriage blogger Sheila Wray Gregoire, in response to this Pinterest post.

***

Interesting question.  First, it’s not really a question, it’s a statement of assumption veiled as a question.

Second, I don’t think it’s a matter of, “so many people […] skipping over ….”   I think it’s a matter of Bible exegesis.  Some people (like Darrell and I) interpret the marriage paradigm as a complementarian, believing that verse 21 is a concluding sentence for Ephesians 5:1-20.  They’re not ‘skipping over it’ from ignorance or even fear, they simply believe it’s not part of the instruction to wives and husbands.  Others, that interpret marriage from the egalitarian paradigm, believe that verse 21 is a topic sentence for Ephesians 5:21-33.

Complementarian or Egalitarian?

It’s an important question that’ll make a big difference in your marriage:  Are you a complementarian or an egalitarian?

In simple terms, complementarians favour specific gender roles for husbands and wives, each with their own power and purpose.  Sometimes it’s referred to as Biblical hierarchy, bridal paradigm, or Christ’s bride/body.  While, egalitarians favour interchangeability of power and gender roles because they don’t define a leader; but also favouring a designated role split. It’s referred to as equality, mutual submission, or 50/50.

To be fair, the Bible doesn’t refer to either classification – we call them these names to differentiate between the two schools of thought.  Complementarians interpret verse 21 to be the conclusion of corporate instruction.  Egalitarians interpret verse 21 to be the preface for the marriage instructions.

The quick response to Sheila’s statement is:  Verse 21 has nothing to do with marriage and everything to do with the corporate body.  By hinging these two sections of Scripture on one verse, you not only blurr marriage into other relationships – lowering its significance, but, you also complicate submission into a dysfunctional mess.

A slower, researched response, is more involved …

GRAMMATICALLY

It’s repetitive and confusing to say:  “everyone submit to everyone wives submit to your own husbands,” see, it makes no sense.  In all of the thought for thought translations (modern versions), you’ll see verse 21 driven into to the next paragraph so it joins the marriage part.  To make it happen they’ve replaced the colon, semicolon, or comma with a period so that the section will complete with verse 20.  Yet in the word for word translations, (KJV, NASB) you’ll find the punctuation left intact making verse 21 the concluding sentence for the previous section.

VOCABULARY

In verse 21, Paul is concluding his general address that targets everyone in the assembly.  We know it’s a corporate address to a body (a group) of believers because he doesn’t name a subject by a noun, instead he uses pronouns in the plural form:

  • (v2) us – “… has loved us and given Himself for us …”
  • (v3) you – “…let it not even be named among you …”
  • (v5) you – “…For this you know…”
  • (v6) no one, you – “let no one deceive you with empty…”
  • (v8) you – “… For you were …”
  • (v14) you – “… Awake you who … will give you light…”
  • (v15) you – “… that you walk circumspectly …”
  • (v19) one another, your – “… to one another… in your heart…”
  • (v20) our – “…in the name of our Lord …”
  • (v21) one another – “…submitting to one another …”

Paul includes verse 21 with all the preceding plural pronouns

But in verse 22, he changes up his target audience. Notice how he signifies his change?  He’s not speaking corporately any more.  He’s not using plural pronouns anymore.  He could’ve said something like, “Now, all you who are married … “  Or, “Those of you who are married…”  Or even, “Any of you who are spouses …”  But he didn’t.

Instead, he distinguishes those who are married by calling them out separately from everyone as well as individually … he speaks directly to wives then directly to husbands:

  • (vs 22-24) Wives, submit to your own husbands …
  • (vs 25-32) Husbands, love your wives, …

Then in verse 33 he wraps up his instruction to all those who are married using a concluding sentence.  He signifies switching back to plural, but not everyone only corporately to those married.  He’s capturing the attention of, every husband and every wife, Each one of you in particular:

  • Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Paul makes special delineation for marriage, above the instructions for everyone else.  I think he wants us to know that the relationship rules that apply to everybody, similarly apply to marriage; however, there’s extra weight when you get married.  The aspects of love and submission he’s been talking about up to verse 21, that apply to everyone …  are now going to change.  Love and submission look different in marriage.

SOUL-ution

  • Prove it to yourself.  Let your own marriage be the litmus test, not what I say or what others say.  Yes, take in information – but see if it brings unity.  Find what brings the peace of Christ, the peace that you cannot comprehend or understand … even though you’re experiencing it.  Ultimately, that’s the light you want the world to see.