Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Itching Ears, Part 5 (Authority)

Every time I hear a man explain that Ephesians 5 is talking about the husband being the leader, I get the sense of someone who is trying very hard to convince me he does not believe in being the ruler of his wife and that being a leader is somehow different. Those men may have convinced themselves, but they do not convince me. What they describe still reserves for themselves all the privileges and rights of one who has the authority to make and enforce the rules and decisions against his wife’s wishes. Because the bottom line is that she is to submit and to allow him to make the final decision. Thus men deny the reality of what they do, and attempt to deceive others into believing their emphasis on “leading” is scriptural. In other words, they say one thing, and do another while they try to pull the wool over women’s eyes in particular.

In this post I’ll begin to look at how the word “authority” is used as a replacement for “head.” If Paul meant authority in Eph. 5:23, he would have said, “For the husband is the authority of the wife as Christ is the authority of the church.” But Paul used the word HEAD, not authority.

There is a church in my community that makes a big deal about husband authority. I attended a wedding of a couple from that church, and the men kept referring to the authority of the husband and men in general. They said the young man who was getting married had done the right thing in following the counsel of his authorities, and now he was to be an authority who others would look to. The young man was 25, so apparently a man only becomes an authority when he marries—according to that group. One of the lay preachers (because of input from me—yes, our work IS paying off.) preached with emphasis on the sacrificial love of the husband toward his wife. Then the regular preacher got up and did not mention the love of the husband even once. It was all about the wife submitting, and included how-to details of the husband’s authority role. He never mentioned the husband deferring to his wife, or even loving his wife, but repeatedly spoke of the wife doing what her husband wanted, serving him, how nice it was for the husband to come home to a hot meal after a hard day of work, and how the husband was to rule his wife. The preacher didn’t call it “ruling,” but that is what his statements implied.

A glance at the concordance shows that the New Testament use of the word authority usually gives the idea of someone with the right to command, to rule. “Privilege, force, capacity, competency, freedom, mastery, delegated influence,” are the words Strong’s uses to describe authority in many of the verses. Note that this word is not used in Ephesians 5:23, so I would expect the meaning is also not to be used as a description of a husband’s relationship to his wife. Yet this is the meaning abusive husbands push on their wives. They insist on male privilege--their right to be served, to only do work of their choice, their freedom to make the rules and break them if they choose, and their right and privilege to force their will and their desire to be master onto their wives.

And those who insist that “head” means “leader” but not “ruler” end up referring to this same meaning; privilege, freedom, delegated influence, capacity.” They deny that they believe in “force” and “mastery” toward their wives, yet their insistence that all Christian wives must submit ends up as collective force and mastery of husbands over wives.

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" a story about a woman who grapples with her husband's demands that she submit--no matter what.
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