Read | Ephesians 5:21-33 and Colossians 3:17-25, NRSV|
Our focus readings today make difficult readings for many people, perhaps because the passages have been misused over the centuries and even quoted to justify bad behaviour including slavery and abuse. But Paul was addressing the Christian household in the wider context of the Christian’s submission to Christ and to each other. Ephesians 5:21 and Colossians 3:17 often get ignored but they are vital verses and set the context for the verses that follow. Also, both of our focus readings should be read in the further context that we are all equal in value before God. We are all made in his image; the woman, the man, the child, the master and the servant. Though persons might have authority over us, we are not to be considered as less valuable than our authority figures before God and mankind.
When planning for my wedding, I asked that Ephesians 5:22-33 be read at my wedding ceremony. The minister was surprised. He commented that the reading was certainly not popular amongst brides, especially professional ones. Whilst I was fully aware of verses 22-23, “Wives be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife just as Christ is head of the church” if I am to be truthful, I was more focused on verse 25, “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”. (NRSV). It’s interesting that when we read these verses we highlight the parts that are more convenient to us. For example let’s take the Colossians passage, husbands tend to focus on “wives, be subject to husbands”; wives tend to focus on “husbands love your wives and never treat them harshly”; Children might focus on “fathers do not provoke your children”; and parents might focus on “obey your parents in everything”. (NRSV).
As women, we might really struggle with the instruction specifically addressed to wives in these focus readings. We think, why then does the husband have the final authority? Without spiritual maturity the answer may seem unfulfilling, but it is given in 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 and 1 Timothy 2: 13; it is the order of creation. It is part of the mystery – that from the beginning marriage was to be used as a pointer to the marriage of Jesus to his Church. It was to serve as an indicator that Jesus, the Bridegroom, is head of His bride, the Church.
There are also practical logistical reasons for authority heads. In any organisation or institution there is a head. This is true whether in the public or private sphere. Someone needs to have the final authority when it comes to decision making. Without final authority there will be chaos. A good head will utilize the authority given to carry out the responsibility of caring for those who are entrusted to her or him. Within the context of marriage this caring is to the end of cultivating an environment which fosters the bride’s capacity to enter into the fullness of who God has purposed her to be. Indeed that is what Jesus did for the church, using His authority to lay down His life so that she could be rescued from danger, restored to her intended identity as His effective image bearer in the earth and brought into a profound and mysterious unity with the Godhead (bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh). (John 10:18 and Ephesians 5: 25 - 32). It is to this kind of a loving authority that we are called to submit.
Submission is not an invitation to become a “non person”, shrink or be less than we are. It is an invitation to support the Christ-centered and Spirit facilitated leadership of our husbands. In the office of a wife, our submission to our husbands is a consequence of our submission to God. A husband exercises legitimate authority over his wife, only in as much as that authority is given by God and is directed towards God honoring purposes. We must not think that all submission is by default God honoring. It is God honoring only if it is in agreement with God’s clear redemptive, reconciliatory, life giving, flourishing and sustaining purposes in the earth. And how does it profit the Kingdom of God if the wife puts herself or her child in a position to be pummeled continuously by her husband? It doesn’t.
Our world is yet healed. Everywhere we look, it is easy to spot the symptoms of its sickness, i.e. strife, envy, jealousy, anger, greed, violence etc. In marriages, this sickness can manifest in the head. The result being, a corruption of what God had in mind when He brought the two to become one. (Ephesians 5:30 and Genesis 2:24). Instead of a flesh and blood illustration of Christ’s sacrificial love for the Church, we see a bride whose body is broken on account of a sick head. Instead of a picture of Christ’s practical commitment to the cultivation of His character in the Church, we see a bride being aggressively fashioned into a lesser image conjured in the mind of a sick head. Instead of a model of Christ’s provision for the tangible and intangible needs of the Church, we see a bride unseen, unvalued and abandoned. (Ephesians 5: 25 - 30).
Yet, Jesus Christ still holds the standard. He is our head undefiled by sin and sickness. (2 Corinthians 5:21). He is our head-all powerful-yet never terrifying to His Bride. He is a faithful covering. He is a safe place. Beloved, are you broken and worn because of the decisions and actions of a sick head? Come from under the terrifying fist and enter the embrace of your Groom. He longs to remind you of the good news, to bind up your wounds (spiritual, emotional and physical) and set you free from bondage (spiritual, emotional and physical). (Isaiah 61:1). He is a head like no other.
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1. 800.799.SAFE (7233) or TTY 1.800.787.3224
Learn the truth about power and control and break free from abuse:
Teach the girls in your life about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships:
For our sisters in Jamaica:
Address: 4 Ellesmere Road, Kingston 10
Phone: (876) 929-9038
Fax: (876) 926-9418
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Montego Bay Affiliate
Address: 53 St. James Street
Phone: (876) 952-9533-4
Hours: Monday – Friday, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
How does today’s sharing invite you, as a child of God, to live? (Hint: use the categories below to help you reflect).
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Carolyn Sinclair McCalla is a daughter of God who believes that as we seek the truth of God's Word, and humble ourselves to live in agreement with it, that we will experience the transformation which allows us to enter wholistic wellness: spirit, soul and body. She is the Founder and President of EarthBasic and leads its Be-Held Community: a group of women seeking, living and being transformed by the truth of God’s Word together.