Word for the day by Christian Education Forum
Family:An expression of the Kingdom of God
Ephesians 5: 21-33
vs 28–30: “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body.”
With the start of Ephesians 5, we find ourselves entering a section referred to as the household codes. In this section, Paul gives the proper ordering of relationships in the household between husbands and wives, children and parents, slaves and masters. Authority is God’s gift for the proper ordering of our relationships, and it is a gift to be received gladly and stewarded faithfully before God. As we study this household code, we must remember how it fits within the context of the book of Ephesians.
That word “submission” is interesting; we don’t usually use it today—it’s somewhat archaic. We have to remember that, in Paul’s day, the Greeks and Romans had a strict hierarchy between men and women. The household was governed by the basic dichotomy of ruler vs. the ruled; husbands ruled over their wives and the wives submitted. Husbands often “held absolute and unquestioned authority,” and we can see the rhetoric in the ancient literature that the “household code” was focused “on the patriarch controlling his wife, children and slaves.” In these relationships, submission went in one direction, from wife to husband, and never the other way around.
Paul’s call for all of us to submit to one another would have struck any of the first hearers as strange. Both men and women have to submit to each other and the submission goes both ways. This idea goes against the very fabric of their society but it is grounded in what was accomplished in Christ. This is so important because everything we see in this passage is tightly bound to Christ and his love for the church.What is beautiful here is that Paul uses a word for love that would not have normally been used in such a way. The word he uses is agapē love, which is never used in any household codes elsewhere.
Agapē love is Paul’s main word for selfless love—unconditional love. It can’t be earned, nor is it deserved. It is a love that is self-sacrificial and other-oriented: it turns the focus away from the self and onto the other. It is a love that seeks the other person’s good—it is a submissive love! This love is patterned after Jesus who selflessly laid down his life for us all. Scholars have pointed out that in Paul’s culture there were explicit ideas and stereotypes about how men worked in the public sphere and women in the domestic sphere—far more so than we see in today’s culture
It is not that Paul is calling for a reversal of roles and responsibilities, but rather he is calling men to imitate Christ in his low status and servanthood—to lay down their male privilege in the home and meet their wives where they are and serve them. The vision Paul has for marriage is not one where the wife is now in control, but instead, it is one where the husband and wife are servants of each other. When we look at the marriage between Christ and the church, the secret ingredient is selflessness—it is selfless love. In the same way, the key to healthy marriages is selfless submission.
Heavenly Father, help us fulfill our duties as husbands and wives in a way that brings glory to your name. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Thought for the Day
Jesus wants to meet us where we are and use our marriages to reflect himself to the world. May our marriages shine the light of Jesus in our communities.
Marthoma Church of Greater Washington