mutual submission

SEX PARADOX? MAYBE NOT

In Part 1, I explored the main reason why I don’t believe there’s any special kind of paradox found in 1 Corinthians 7:3-4, that instead, it’s just a matter of which spouse is more mature in their holiness and humility.  The definition of a paradox is something that, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.  I believe that’s true of lots concepts found in Scripture:

We live when we die (John 11:25)

We are at our strongest when we’re at our weakest (2 Corinthians 12:10)

We get through giving (Acts 20:35)

I don’t believe 1 Corinthians 7:2-4 fits the criteria of a paradox.  In Part 2, I want to build onto that idea.

* * *

In almost every instruction concerning marriage, God follows a pattern.  When He address the couple, He speaks to the wife first1:  Submit to your own husband.  Then secondly, He tells the husband:  Love your own wife.

But, in these particular verses, even though God’s subject is marriage, He’s not using any of the same language that He normally does – words like:

  • Love (agapaō)
  • Reverence (phobeō)
  • Submit (hupotassō)

Switching It Up: 1 Corinthians 7:2-3

In 1 Corinthians 7, God draws our attention by changing the order – He addresses the husband first.  If He was following the established pattern, the verse would read, let each wife have her own husband, and let each man have his own wife.  But God didn’t frame it the same – He reversed the order by addressing the wife second.

THEN in verse 3, He puts an even finer point on His intention when He presses in on the responsibility – He continues aiming at the husband, The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs […].  Again, her responsibility is stated second, like a response to him, and likewise also the wife to her husband.

This isn’t a new method for God – we see Him doing it in the garden, right after the fall.  Both Adam and Eve were hiding from God, but He specifically called-out Adam individually, the one with the responsibility.  He speaks directly to the one who’s accountable for their responsibility at that moment.

Switching It Back: 1 Corinthians 7:4

But at verse 4, God does it again.  He pivots back to His original pattern of addressing the wife first.  His subject has changed.  He’s not talking about desire anymore, but about giving up control, The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does[…].  How does the husband have control over his wife’s body?  He controls the power to seduce her.  She controls the power to succumb to that seduction.

Think about the last time you had sex – when did you have the most authority over your husband’s body?  When he was in crescendo – during his climax/orgasm – and afterwards.  This is the time when, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

God isn’t prescribing the rules of who gets to demand or command sex; He’s describing the responses of male and female sexuality, the way He created desire in each of us.  As He drills down on the deepest level of relationship, He’s unfolding a transcendental experience of how sexual desire works: It is cause and effect.

First to Experience Desire

Eve’s creation was a response to a missing component2 in Adam’s life – she’s a responder to his whole being because she’s everything he’s not. 

Adam recognized that there was no one for him through the experience of naming the animals in pairs. He was able to identify an absence, which shows that was looking for something else: his pairing for procreation. He was looking for – her. He had already begun to feel desire first

Husbands go first simply because, more often than not, they’re the first to feel the desire3 for sex.  So, it becomes theirs to plan out, to execute the completion of the task.  All the euphemisms about sex back up this idea, such as – “men are like microwaves and women are like slow cookers” – there’s a reason for those sayings.  They’re all rooted in a fundamental truth: men’s erotic desires are concrete and sit close to the surface – thus easily accessed.  While the erotic desires of women are abstract and buried deep within our emotions, which makes it necessary for them to be drawn out to the surface.

God placed a massive capacity for expressive sexual reciprocity within the heart of women – a veritable red hot burning fire; but a husband will rarely see it unless he’s willing to seduce it to the surface to match his.

Pick-up Artists

Sadly, it’s the PUAs who’ve got it right.  These men know the secret truth about the game of sexual tension – but they use it wrong, that’s why women hate them.  They know that once her fire is ignited, it’s almost impossible to turn off.  Using their masculine energy, they CAUSE sexual tension which generates the EFFECT of female sexual desire.

Logically we know, a woman doesn’t magically change just because she becomes a wife.  Yet there’s this idea perpetuated that says, when a man gets married he now gets a “pass” when it comes to creating that sexual tension – just like in the game of Monopoly: automatically receiving that 200$ for doing nothing more than “passing GO.”

There’s where we find the disparity: female desire is created out of sexual tension.  Yes, it’s a game – a game of cat and mouse, not Monopoly.

Think Howard Wolowitz from The Big Bang Theory.  Sure, we laugh at him because he’s so bad at it – lecherous, explicit and down-right corny.  You know why it doesn’t work on Penny?  She’s outside his numbered zone so there’s no attraction and – she’s not his wife.  Corny works on wives because the attraction has already been established, otherwise there wouldn’t have been a wedding.

Conversely, if a PUA used the same lack of approach as some husbands do … they too, would never get laid.  It’s not a Christian secret, God created all men with the same aptitude to be sexual aggressors and wired all women to respond to seduction4.

Reducing 1 Corinthians 7:2-4 to prescriptive behaviours that are found within the roles of husband and wife, completely misses what God intends for His description on sexuality.  Instead of bringing sex to life in its fullest substance, a red hot steamy ride in living colour, fully experienced through its power — it gets sanitized through legalism – dehumanized to basics and turned into the most elementary form of sexuality.  I can think of no faster way to kill desire.

 

 

 

NOTES

1-first.  Address the wife first: Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-21; 1 Peter 3:1-7

2-component.  I don’t mean that the wife is an afterthought.  God already knew He was going to create the woman, He was waiting for Adam to realize that he needed her, before God created her.  God said, “it was good” after He finished creating Adam and the animals.  Then, He said it was, “not good that man was alone.”  In order for man to be in “Our” [God’s] image and according to “Our” [God’s] likeness (Genesis 1:26-27) Adam had to be a relational being.  Yes, he could function in the Garden and cultivate it, this was good — but “alone,” he couldn’t be in relationship nor could he populate the Garden.  In order to complete Adam’s creation process, he would be changed from a “he” to a “we”.

3-desire.  There’s a small margin of women that have a higher drive, but it’s rare and usually an anomaly.

4-seduction.  Luke 18:6 – And [his] master praised the dishonest (unjust) manager for acting shrewdly and prudently; for the sons of this age are shrewder and more prudent and wiser in [relation to] their own generation [to their own age and kind] than are the sons of light.  And, Matthew 5:45 – To show that you are the children of your Father Who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and makes the rain fall upon the upright and the wrongdoers [alike].

 

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SEX PARADOX? MAYBE

I recently read a post by John Piper that calls 1 Corinthians 7 “paradoxical counsel to married couples”.  However, as I read further on into the post, he says that it’s the husband who has the power to solve this problem,

“The leadership of the husband is defined by Paul not mainly as demanding his rights but as laying down his life for the good of his wife (Ephesians 5:25).  Therefore, the predominant resolution of the sexual paradox is that the husband gently and tenderly takes the lead in seeking to maximize his wife’s pleasure, taking her longings deeply into account, rather than pressuring her to adapt to his.”

I find the idea of any paradox intriguing and even more so because it’s about sex.  As I was reading his  post, two questions kept popping up for me.  First: Is this really a paradox?  And second: If it is, why is it only the husband who can resolve it; there are two people in a marriage?

At a first read, 1 Corinthians 7:2-4 could sound like a confusing D/s script.  The wife’s the dominant she’s got the authority over her husband, he’s the submissive.  No wait, that’s wrong, it’s the wife that’s the submissive, the husband has the authority …

… back and forth the verses read.

It does seem confusing yet I know that’s never God’s intention with us.  Also, I’m convinced He’s got good reasons for revealing information to us the way that he does.  So, what’s the reason?

Is The Husband Really More Effective?

While John Piper’s interpretation that a godly man, through his role of husband is able to break the paradox – isn’t it just as true, that a godly woman through her role as a wife, possessing equal ability from the same Holy Spirit, could also break the paradox?

Wouldn’t equality indicate that the influence found in the role of a wife would be just as powerful as the strength found in the role of a husband?  Influence and power are completely different kinds of abilities, but that doesn’t make the wife’s influence any less effective in solving the paradox.

Yes, for sure, God fitted the husband’s position with the responsibility to lead in the hierarchy, so he should go first, but it rarely happens that way.  The truth is, due to immaturity from brokenness and living in a world that’s wrecked beyond repair; it takes our whole lives to grow up – not just husbands but also us wives.

The Real World Experience

I think most Christians would agree that John Piper is a well-developed believer and a pretty mature husband, so I mean no disrespect.  I agree with him when he says that stalemates in marriage “are real life.”  But, when he presents that there’s only one solution — and that it’s found, only in the husband’s role, he’s omitting the possibility that the wife’s role might be just as valid to solve this paradox.

It’s confusing for some wives to hear that this paradox can only be solved by the husband.  The reality for some wives, is that their husbands don’t have the maturity to recognize that they’re the head and bear the responsibility of leadership.  To those wives, a one-sided solution is a completely unworkable proposition.

Sacrificially Serving the Lord

There’s an alternative for wives when their husbands won’t step up to the responsibility of leadership – it’s just not a popular alternative:  Biblical Wifely Submission.  It’s sad that postmodernism doesn’t understand the power that submission wields.  In marriage we can’t just sit in a state of perpetual “stalemate” without devolving into a toxic mess – it will inevitably lead to divorce.

When the husband is more mature, then the solution of, laying down his life for the good of his wife ” will work.  This is commonly known as servant-leader.  In John Piper’s example, it’s the husband that’s more mature, which makes him capable of leading with a servant’s heart.

On the other hand, when the wife is the more mature spouse, she will act fully within her role of wife and be willing to sacrifice herself to break the stalemate.  The wife will be laying down her life for the good of her husband”  As the more mature spouse, she is just as capable of submitting with a servant’s heart.

How would it look if the wife was more mature?  Let’s stick with the original application that John Piper used, but instead, giving equal ability to the wife:

“The leadership submission of the husband wife is defined by Paul not mainly as demanding his her rights but as laying down his her life for the good of his her wife husband (Ephesians 5:25 24).  Therefore, the predominant an equal resolution of the sexual paradox is that the husband wife gently respectfully and tenderly willingly takes gives the lead in seeking to maximize his her wife’s husband’s pleasure, taking her his longings deeply into account, rather than pressuring her him to adapt to his hers.”

Competition of Self-sacrifice

At the end of his post, John Piper concludes,

It is resolved in the mystery of love that discovers even here, when our physical pleasure is more prominent than anywhere else, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). There is a holy and humble and self-sacrificing competition to make the other maximally glad. The logical stalemate is broken by the miracle of grace: With God all things are possible.

He’s saying that the paradox is solved by the correct leadership of the husband — what I’m saying, is that it can also be solved by the correct submission of the wife.   It’s not a competition or a race for the role of who will lead and who will submit…it’s a competition of who fulfils their own role first.  The question is, Who will go first in this competition of self-sacrificing?

Clear to See

Often, this verse is erroneously quoted as some kind of baseline for mutual submission – the removal of all power and authority.  A cursory read makes it look like there’s absence of power — it seems like one statement cancels out the other:

  • the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. He owes her.
  • the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. She owes him.

I don’t think God’s intended outcome is mutual submission, a stalemate or confusion; I think the intention is to sift the heart of a person, through a relationship of the closest proximity – one flesh, to expose their heart.  It’s an example of a verse that enables the selfish spouse enough rope to hang their flesh (Romans 12:19-21), and the mature spouse (or perhaps, the less selfish one) an opportunity to grow in a bit more grace.

SOUL-ution

Ask the Lord to show you if your the one with the noose around your neck. Or, if you’ve been humble enough to submit by laying down your life for the good of your husband.

 

 

Part 2:  Sex Paradox?  Maybe Not

 

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.

 

 

 

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.