In all the hype over same sex marriage, I’ve noticed a resurgence of the call for the submissive wife. And in the goal of making these unsubmissive wives submit, the single most often used section of the bible is Ephesians 5:22-24. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this passage, I’ll quote it for you.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
–Ephesians Chapter 5
Now, taken like it is written, you might think that it’s laid to rest. After all, there isn’t much ambiguity in this is there? If you’re a wife, you should submit to your husband. Period.
But like most things in the bible, this isn’t as clear cut as many would like for you to believe. See, like all so many who want to change your behavior with the bible, they take a quote out of context. I’ve talked about that before. So, in the fairness of all things holy, let’s look at the rest of that tidbit.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy,cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[b]32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
–Ephesians Chapter 5
So, let’s go through that. At first, it’s a command for husbands to love their wives. That’s not so hard. But look at the rest of the passage… Husbands are to love them as their own body, to cherish them, to make them holy… to in effect, submit to their needs and keep them cared for and safe. Yes, I said submit. Depending on which translation you use, some even replace love in verse 25 with submit. And that’s the big secret. Wives, biblically, should submit to their husbands. Husbands, biblically, should lose themselves in their wives. So this isn’t a case of master and slave, but of two people becoming one flesh. And that’s an ideal I think any moral person can get behind.
It’s so universal, it even applies to same sex marriages. I mean, it really is the perfect relationship concept. Two people, merging their talents into one focus. It really doesn’t get any better than that, does it?
Except, of course, it’s unattainable. Like one of the basic tenants of Christianity, we should strive for sinlessness even though we are sinful. This is another unattainable ideal to strive for.
And like most things in Christianity that looks so bad on the surface, when you get down to it… it is only bad until you get down to it and realize flesh and blood human beings are the ones perverting it to something nasty.