to offer my thoughts: ephesians 5:21-6:9

November 14, 2006

On Tuesdays Kyle usually posts at the open house site about the discussion he anticipates us having when we gather together at his place. Tonight i am kind of leading so I thought I’d do the posting instead. [haha, i laugh at that description because i am leading but uncomfortable with the idea… not because i don’t think i should, but because i am still unsure if teaching/leading is the right task for me in the grand scheme of things… but i won’t know until i try, right?] Here goes my thoughts.

Please take into account that this is how I am attempting to understand this passage. I do not pretend to think I have it completely figured out, but this is where I am at in my journey and I want to share my thoughts with you.

As we all attempt to understand God’s word; as we attempt to figure out how it relates to us and more importantly, what it is telling us about God Himself, may we do it with a heart seeking the truth above what merely feels right or affirms our opinions, having a willingness to be humbled at any sign of rebellion, repenting of our short comings, and striving to live a life patterned after Jesus. [2 Tim 3:16]

Tonight we are studying a passage that is very personal to me. Interestingly, it was only a few years ago that I found myself interepreting this passage quite differently than I do now, believing a pre-requisite for any guy I would date/marry would be that he would be able to lead me spiritually and i would submit to this leadership. what does that even mean? i don’t know, honestly. i guess i thought that i had to date/marry someone who would make sure i was reading my bible, praying… not terrible ideas, really. but a bit misguided i began to think. but isn’t this what ephesians 5 was about?

Let’s consider what we have talked about over the last few weeks: that Paul is urging the Ephesians to embrace unity. Unity in purpose, in diversity, in relationships with believers, and now, in household relationships.

Typically we tend to view this passage as mandating a hierarchical relationship between a husband and wife where she submits to his leadership and he leads the marriage, and that this trancends cultures and still should be enforced today. In summary; men lead, women submit, the bible says it, and that settles it.

Thats it.

Or is it?

If we leave it at that one idea, I believe we miss something very important, even more important than assigning gender roles, I would argue. Let’s consider the subversive nature of the passage. Maybe there is something else Paul is getting at in light of his call for unity. Maybe he wants to change something from within.

Here is some cultural context for you:

  • men typically married women much younger than themselves. they had to then educate the girl (who was about 18) in the ways of his household.
  • marriage was about child-bearing rather than love and because of this men (and occasional even their wives) were promoiscuous.
  • women were to typically remain in the homes while men were priviledged to roam about in the public.
  • women were to be excused from dinner when discussion turned to public matters (not to mention she was not allowed to sit at the table with her husband and his friends, but at a bench in the room).
  • men were to exercise absolute rule in their households (not abusively, though this probably did occur).
  • for any Greco-Roman man to allow his household be run any differently would bring much shame and disgrace upon his home, as this culture operated on an honor/shame scale.
  • death by cruxificion was shameful, and to decide to follow a God who died in such a manner, brought much shame to a man and consequently, his home.

Perhaps, in light of a desire for unity, Paul is not seeking to abolish the cultural norms (of men being in charge of the home) but to transform the relationships within these structures.

  • that instead of women submitting because they are less valuable than men, they submit because they appreciate and respect their husbands for their provision.
  • that instead of men believing that their wives only serve the purpose of child-bearing and running the home, they love and serve their wives by being even willing to die for them (huge paradigm shift, in this context).
  • that men empower their wives rather than devalue them.
  • that instead of ignoring their children, they are to cherish and discipline them in the ways of the Lord
  • that instead of obeying a master with bitterness and resentfulness, slaves obey selflessly and generously.
  • that instead of nourishing relationships outside of marriage, come back to the idea that a husband and his wife have become one flesh and care for your wife rather than another woman.
  • that the master extends respect to their slave.
  • that the man of the home serves all under his authority, rather than rules over them.

again, its subversive. Paul is encouraging the Ephesian household patrons to change the structures culturally imposed on them from within their own homes. And isn’t this where Christian practice begins, in our homes? Not in abolishing governmental rules or regulations, or in attempting to crush cultural norms and create our own for others to model. It begins when we practice it in relationship with one another.


2 Responses to “to offer my thoughts: ephesians 5:21-6:9”

  1. Herschel Says:

    so i really appreciate this…thanks…and your post on transparency as well

  2. Herschel Says:

    yeah this is what i read

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