Whenever I hear the word “submission” I am immediately transported back to my childhood home. We were staunchly rooted in a conservative, Christian tradition, and my family prided itself on having a high view of Scripture. There were a number of beliefs affected by this high view of Scripture (which, for the record I still hold to!), but few made their way into the everyday vocabulary of my family more often than submission. We were instructed to see complementarian gender roles as one of the foundational building blocks of a godly family, and ensuring a healthy sense of submission was front and center when building that foundation.
Whether through sermons or wedding vows or Christian books, we have been conditioned to see different primary roles for husbands and wives. Many churches teach that a wife’s role is one-way submission to her husband. Sometimes we are vague about what submission means, but feel strongly that there is hierarchy in marriage and that it is of utmost importance. The apostle Paul’s letters are often the basis of these teachings. Yet, is Paul advocating hierarchy in marriage, or is he encouraging mutuality?
A man and woman are seen on stage. The man has two envelopes in his hands. The words "To: Husbands" are written on one envelope, and "To: Wives" is written on the other. The
man holds the envelopes so the audience can read the inscriptions. He takes the message from the envelope marked "To: Wives" and reads it quickly.
Upon first acquaintance with Ephesians 5:21–33, I was pretty turned off. The husband is the head of his wife? How could this be taken as anything other than an insult to women? My reaction: I already have a head, thank you very much. It may not be perfect, but it’s at least comparable to that of any male I know.
I recently wrote a book about marriage. It is a mix of personal narrative, cultural commentary, and biblical reflection. As it turns out, you cannot write about marriage from a Christian perspective without addressing texts such as this one.
Gifts and callings are hand-selected by God, for you, to bless his church and impact the world around you. Yet sometimes, even with this knowledge, we can experience a spirit of fear regarding what God has called us to do.
This is the third in our sermon series called “Breaking the Silence,” where we’ve talked about some hard issues, such as mental health, suicide, and now, domestic violence. These three things are somewhat interconnected, and one thing they have in common is that they cross racial, gender, and socioeconomic lines.
Some of us come from traditions where you don’t ask questions of the text. If you ask questions, that means you are questioning God, and that’s not allowed. I want to expose you to the two typical ways this passage has been understood.
Several months ago, I was invited to preach on Ephesians 5:21–6:9. I was thrilled—finally, there’d be a sermon on this passage that I actually approved of, even if I had to be the one to give it (public speaking is not my thing).