Published May 6, 2010
Bible Studies for Life, May 16
One of the most anticipated “rituals” at our house is the quarterly “counting of the piggy-banks.” This process, as with most small children, is an early exercise in basic mathematics and economics.
On the economic side, one of the most basic and yet apparently difficult concepts to grasp is quantity vs. quality. For example, oftentimes one child cannot seem to understand why having more coins does not amount to having more money than another.
Likewise, when it comes to understanding the roles within the marriage context, oftentimes well-meaning adults forget this basic economic precept: amount of coins, or in this case, roles and responsibilities, does not equate to worth.
In summary I want to state clearly for Ephesians 5:21-33 that men and women (whether married or single) have equal worth before God but possess various means of expressing it. As an additional example, no one would say that four quarters are “better” than 10 dimes; likewise, no one can biblically say that one gender is superior to another in God’s eyes.
Understanding submission - Ephesians 5:21-24
There are two obvious statements that need to be made from the outset. First, submission is not and should never be identified with slavery or any practice similar to it. Second, this passage contains a parallel between the marriage covenant and Jesus Christ’s relationship to the church and should not be taken to the extreme notion that a man is a “savior” figure for a wife. Only Jesus can save (John 14:6).
In light of the many arguments, concerns, and misunderstandings regarding this passage of Scripture, allow me to share three simple observations regarding submission.
Length: The instruction to the husband in this passage is twice as long as the message to the wife; therefore, the burden of obedience lies heavier upon the husband.
License: Often this passage is seen in light of “righteous rebellion,” in other words, “I know what it says but that is not who I am.” This passage is not to be ignored but obeyed by both parties, not just emphasized to one.
Liberty: What appears on the surface as a passage of limitation, particularly to women, is in actuality a passage of great freedom. How you ask? To quote my wife when we are faced with a difficult decision, “Honey, remember God made you the leader, my job is to agree to follow – you better hope you are right because I do not have to answer for the decision.”
Mutual submission (v.21) is just that, submitting to one’s role to each other in light of one’s relationship to Jesus Christ. Neither is of more importance, both are of equal.
Understanding love - Ephesians 5:25-30
On more than one occasion while counseling a marriage on the brink, I have heard this statement come from either or both parties: “I just do not love him/her anymore.” What is really being communicated is this:” I do not have the ushy-gushy feelings for them like I used to.”
Allow me to be frank; love (as defined by a feeling) is nowhere to be found in Scripture as related to marriage. So the question(s) that arises is what is love? And how is it to be expressed in a biblical context?
Look up: In order to express love in a biblical sense to one’s spouse, they must look to Jesus Christ as Savior before looking to anyone else, including himself or herself. Just as Mark 10:45-46 describes Jesus’ purpose as not His own, one’s purpose in marriage is not their own or even their spouse’s pleasure or satisfaction, but God’s.
In other words, the question to be asked in every situation is this, “What would God have me to do?”
Look out: Biblical love between a husband and wife must move outside of the parameters of feelings. If one decides to base their contentment with life (whether in the context of marriage or any other scenario) on feelings, they are destined for disappointment. Marriage, as salvation, should be seen in light of the facts rather than the feelings.
Look down: The true definition for biblical love comes from the word “agape.” The King James translators translated this word as “charity.” This does not indicate “helping the unfortunate” as we often define it today; rather, it means to place another’s regard above your own.
This is the word in Scripture used to define the marriage covenant. The husband is placing the wife’s regard (after God’s) above his own and likewise the wife is to place the husband’s regard (after God’s) above her own. Biblical love is sacrificial and selfless – there are no feelings for this kind of love.
Respect and honor - Ephesians 5:31-33
These are words we all are familiar with, but rarely see pictured. Allow me, because I am a husband, to picture what is means to “honor” a wife. I believe if honor is demonstrated then respect will come naturally.
My wife, at my request, is a frequent patron of a pedicurist. However, as much as she enjoys the “pampering” that this endeavor brings during all three of her pregnancies she did not desire to be “publically pampered during the last trimester.”
The following “ritual” began with our first pregnancy and ended with the third (this was a situational example). She asked me one night, just weeks before delivering our first child, “Will you give me a pedicure?”
Honestly, the first time I saw my wife I fell madly and crazily in love with everything about her. However, in complete honesty, there are no “madly and crazily in love” or “ushy-gushy feelings” while your nose is 6 inches from someone’s toes. Simply said, if honor is given respect follows.
Question: How can the Christian community better communicate the biblical admonition to “submit?”
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