Is Ephesians 5:22 A Whip?

Are too many husbands misusing this verse? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday, our pastor gave a wonderful sermon on the house rules in Ephesians 5 starting with verse 22. If you don’t have your Bibles right there, it’s the verse that tells wives to submit to their husbands as to the Lord. Too many husbands have used this passage as if it was a whip in order to get their wives to do what they want. “You are to submit! The Bible says a wife is to submit to her husband!”

Now to be sure, I am one who thinks it is a husband’s role to lead and yes, I do think that wives should submit to their husbands, but I also don’t think husbands should be tyrants. If a husband believes that he is the king of his castle, then he owes it to his wife that he end up treating her like a queen.

As our pastor pointed out, often when house rules where written in the ancient world, wives were told what to do with their husbands. Children were told what to do with their fathers. Slaves were told what to do with their masters. Very rarely if ever were husbands told what they were supposed to do.

Yet guess which person Paul speaks at the most in this passage….

You see, wives have one command here. They are to submit to their husbands.

What are husbands told?

Love your wives as Christ loved the church so you can make her holy and cleansed and to present her as radiant before God.

Love her as your own body, which includes feeding and caring for her.

Leave your father and move and cling to her.

More is said to the husbands and there are more reasons why these things are said.

Naturally, the passage ends with pointing out that a husband is to love his wife and a wife is to respect her husband. After all, love matters most to a woman and respect to a man.

Our pastor brought out that husbands who use Ephesians 5:22 as a whip are really forgetting something. instead of focusing so much on what it means to have a wife submit to you if you’re a husband, try focusing more on what it means for you to sacrifice to your wife and love her as Christ loved the church.

Wives meanwhile can say “Well maybe when he gives me some loving, he’ll find he gets some respect.” Of course, husbands can have a similar attitude, but it is just as wrong. If you focus constantly on what the other person needs to do for you, you’re only going to have it end in pain. Focus on what you can do for the other.

Also, at this point, before anyone says anything, if you want to charge me with hypocrisy on this point, I say guilty as charged. I do not claim to be a perfect husband and this is something I still work on. It’s so much easier when things go wrong to focus on the other person instead of taking a long and hard look at yourself. Yet if I only waited until I was doing things perfectly in marriage to speak, I would never say anything.

I also think it’s important to look at why it is your spouse does something for you or with you. What is their intent? Do you really want to say anything negative about their intent. For instance, it can be hard for me when Allie wants to play some of her music for me. We have completely different tastes in music. I need to do what I can to realize she’s trying to share with me something she enjoys. Of course, there’s no obligation that I enjoy it. Chances are, I won’t, but I need to appreciate her attempts to share something that interests me. (And yes, as I write this I’m really kicking myself for not recognizing this earlier.)

Some people have a view that marriage is supposed to be 50/50. It’s not. It’s supposed to be 100/100. Each person is to give all that they can to the relationship. If you find something really matters to your spouse, make that a goal to do that. Allie for instance has realized if she mentions something she really likes, that I am prone to be plugging it into my memory and looking on Amazon as soon as I can. (And besides, her love language is gifts)

In fact, for us, yesterday’s sermon ended with Allie and I going out for lunch and just discussing what love and respect and sacrifice and submission looked like. They’re requests that I hope we can put into practice.

And again, for Christian men who are married or dating or engaged or anything like that, if you want to be a good husband now or in the future and you’re on Facebook, find me and let me know. I do have a group just for Christian men to learn how to love their wives as Christ loved the church.

Marriage is something that takes work, and it’s easy to put all the work on the other person instead of on yourself. Yet for each of us, that is where we must begin. You can influence the other person, but the only one you directly change is yourself. Get started today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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