I’ve read it, you’ve read, we’ve all read it. You’re scrolling down your facebook feed, or glancing through a news archive, when you spot it. In bold text, its an article about how chauvinistic and backwards Christianity must be. Sarcastically they ask, “Do you really want to have a traditional, christian marriage?” then they’ll quote Ephesians 5:22-24:
“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.“
I can almost see them now. Angry fingers pounding on keyboards, fiery article flying about on the internet. “Wives, submit to your husbands?!?!” They’re bounding about like little androids, sirens buzzing, machine guns flaming. Yelling as loud as one can, dripping with as much ridicule as the internet permits, they claim they’re burning the banner of chauvinism.
It is articles like these that make me stop and offer the simple response. To state the obvious. Like a parent speaking through clenched teeth at their child, as he begins rolling about on the floor of the grocery store, yelling and screaming, “Yes, little johnny, Paul did say that, but you need to be nice and let the man finish.” They’ll protest. They’ll yell back, shouting about all the injustices of the world and the crumbling state of every pure and perfect thing. We’ve all seen children in the candy isle.
But what if we looked at the verses following Ephesians 5:22-24? What would happen if we at least, in showing a bit of decency, let Paul finish his thought?
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
May we let that sink in for a moment? These are the very following verses. This isn’t some obscure passage at the other end of the Bible, twisted by some obscure interpretation that requires doctoral spectacles to understand. This is simply evidence that people WANT to misinterpret the Bible. I don’t believe this is improper hermeneutics, it’s much more personal than bad academics. Contrary to popular opinion, wives submitting to their husbands isn’t a one-way street. The verse does not say, though everyone insists upon it saying, “Wives, submit to your husbands, and husbands you have a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card, and as much authority over another person as you can imagine.” Quite frankly, the husband must love his wife as God loved his church…. And read that second part… “and gave himself up for her.” Think about that… What did Christ do for his church? If anyone knows anything about Christianity (which most of these people who write these popular articles don’t), it must be, at minimum, that Christ was nailed to a cross for his church. But if we took a second glance at Christianity, we would know that Christ not only died for his Church but died, “While we were yet sinners. (Rom. 5:8)” Imagine that… Christ loved and died for His church even though we didn’t deserve it.
If we could take these two passages as a single thought and reduce them to a single sentence, we could say, “Wives submit to your husbands, and husbands love your wives as God loved his church – loving her even if she doesn’t deserve it and willing to give yourself up for her.”
Sadly, this is the difference between someone who wants to misinterpret the Bible and someone who wants to understand it.