Wednesday, November 4, 2009

“In Everything” Christianese, Part 1

Sometimes a biblical passage is explained repeatedly to the point that the passage begins to take on a meaning other than that stated by the biblical text. Ephesians 5:22 and 24 are an example of this phenomenon. “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord…Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”

In Christianese, the words IN EVERYTHING and AS TO THE LORD mean: submit when you disagree, submit as if you are the stupid one, submit when he is being nasty to you and/or to your children, submit when you know what he is insisting is unwise, submit when you know it will ruin you both financially, submit when he’s walking all over you and taking advantage of you, submit when his demand is hurting or even harming other people, submit when he is demanding that you break a promise or contract, and etc.

The context of the passage is in the whole book of Ephesians. Chapter 4, for example tells us to walk worthy of our calling, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love. Endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. Our actions are to build one another up, to edify the body of Christ, to behave in such a way as to promote peace with one another. Husbands are to love their wives self-sacrificially as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. This is in keeping with those earlier verses. The passage also reminds us of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.

Yet those words to wives are lifted out of their context and spun to mean something else entirely. The way they are spun nullifies the words to husbands and wipes out the whole of Ephesians for husbands in relation to their wives, and replaces it with a doctrine of domination and authority over their wives. It is as if Ephesians is written only to wives, or as if every passage has an exception clause—“except toward your wives.”

Ephesians 4:1a-3 would read, “I…beseech WIVES to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with YOUR HUSBANDS in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Ephesians 5:1-2 would read, “Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, EXCEPT TOWARD YOUR WIVES, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us…”

Many husbands—backed by their pastors and entire congregations—behave as if the false paraphrases above are what the Bible actually says, and that only the directions to wives, from which they derive husband headship and authority, are applicable. They think AS TO THE LORD and SUBMIT IN EVERYTHING mean a wife is to submit NO MATTER WHAT the husband does or demands, since we submit to the Lord in everything.

But they fail to take into account that since the Lord NEVER behaves sinfully, nor acts selfishly, this verse cannot possibly mean “no matter what,” unless Christians are willing to make sin acceptable. There is no way she can submit AS TO THE LORD when her husband’s behavior is selfish, mean, or sinful. A husband whose behavior is not Christ-like, is following the lead of his father, Satan. To require a wife to submit to a man who is following Satan, in essence is requiring her to submit to Satan. In order to submit AS TO THE LORD, she must submit to self-sacrificial, Christ-like love.

They also fail to recognize that because husbands are told, in addition to the rest of the commands in Ephesians, to love their wives self-sacrificially even as Christ loved the church, that the command to wives to submit IN EVERYTHING and AS TO THE LORD, when read in context, means that a wife’s submission is to be in response to her husband’s Christ-like behavior. She is NOT to encourage sin, even if her husband is not saved. If EVERYTHING has any other meaning, the wife is being forced to encourage her husband to disregard all of Ephesians, except for those verses to the 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. Please visit

No comments:

Post a Comment