Below is the edited text of a message I sent to a listserve that I'm on a while back. A friend suggested that it might make a good post.

Howdy folks!

So why do wives have to submit to their husbands? Because your God said so. It works for me.

The lightening rod passage that makes feminists around the world, and in the church, gnash their teeth is Ephesians 5:22, "Wives submit to your own husband, as to the Lord." (NKJV) As with many things in the Bible context is everything. Without the context of the rest of the book of Ephesians (and the rest of the Bible) one might be able to argue that Paul was a woman hating freak and that Christianity is all about the subjugation of woman.

But if you started reading at say Eph 5:15 you would have to come to a different conclusion. In my Bible the section heading reads, "Walk in Wisdom". The last verse of the section, v21, reads, "submitting to one another in the fear of God." Now why, I wonder, does no one take issue with this verse? Serving one another is an important aspect of the body of Christ. Our unity and self-sacrifice are some of the key things that are supposed to set us apart from the rest of the world. So why is it an issue that women are called to serve their husbands for the purpose of the unity of their families and the glory of God? Why is this so much more offensive than say submitting to your Bible study leader or your pastor or your project team leader? Are husbands some lesser being not worthy of a wife's loyalty?

You could blame all of the submission angst on the influence of feminism and secularism but I think it is much more basic than that. We are a fallen people living in a fallen world. No matter how much we say we love God and want to do his will there is a part of us that rebels and wants to have things our way. For many women this means taking issue with the God given headship of men within the marriage relationship. Yes, I said "God given headship." (No I am not in the "women should be barefoot and pregnant" crowd unless it's the "women should be barefoot and pregnant on a tropical beach with a cool drink under a nice shady tree with a nice cabana boy to bring them all the food they can eat" crowd.)

Before Adam and Eve got themselves tossed out of Eden God cursed them saying, in part, "Your desire [Eve] shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" Gen 3:16b (NKJV). Now some commentators take this to mean that there will be a power struggle within the relationship with each party seeking to dominate the other rather than each party seeking to serve and up lift the other as God had intended. And I agree. This is not to say that wives are called submit to the leadership of their husbands because Adam and Eve screwed up. The leadership of the husband in the marriage relationship was established before the Fall (see Gen 2:18-25). It was a part of Creation that God called good.

Now things would really suck if that were the end of it but guess what folks! We got Jesus! Within all of our relationships Jesus acts as mediator subjugating the ugly, selfish, sinful nature and allowing the image of God shine through. Thereby making us acceptable to God, to each other, and to our spouse.

Here's a thought, usually at this point in any discussion about submission someone points out that after the infamous submission verses the rest of Eph 5 talks about how husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. While these verses represent a radically positive change in the way men related to their wives at the time Ephesians was written they should be irrelevant to how wives today relate to their husbands. Our obedience to God should not be dependant on what we can get for our obedience. Take for example Jesus' disciples, for their submission to God's leadership they were martyred. A wife's submission to her husband's leadership should not be dependent on how good a leader he is.


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