Monday, August 24, 2009

"Wives Should Be Subordinate..."


“Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.” Why would an independent-minded woman like myself enjoy this scripture?

I happen to love this entire passage because it presents a view of a whole, holy family with two parents at the head who cherish and honor each other. Just as we should obey Christ because He loves us and wants what is best for us, we should obey our husbands who likewise receive a lofty charge. They are to act as Christ, loving their wives with their entire hearts and bodies, protecting them from all harm whether from themselves or from others.

This is quite an undertaking for a man to act as a man of God and yet let himself take on the tasks of being a man of the world, exposing himself to the dangers that he does not want his wife to take on for herself. The wife who can be humble enough to allow him to be his protector stands in a place of grace, innocent in mind and body, and able to concentrate on keeping her family “in the world, but not of the world”. She must be able to trust in her husband entirely, praying daily that God will give him whatever grace he needs to keep on with his duties.

Like a good king who loves his people, the man who cherishes his wife will not abuse his God-given authority. In most things he will ask her opinion and respect it. He will only “put his foot down” when he really thinks it is important. Family decisions will be made jointly, with him having the final say.

I often feel quite lucky in that I found a man who is likeminded with me, and we rarely have cause to disagree on anything. If life is properly prioritized, discord should be kept to a minimum. Any two people who love each other and have Christ as that “third strand” to make their rope strong, should be able to adhere to this Biblical passage and benefit from it.

Ephesians Chapter 5 (NAB)
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Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. 6
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Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.
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For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body.
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As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.
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Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her
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to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word,
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that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
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So (also) husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
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For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church,
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because we are members of his body.
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"For this reason a man shall leave (his) father and (his) mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."
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This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.
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In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.

10 comments:

Aussie Therese said...

It is one of my favourite readings. I think so many women overlook the responsibility a man has when it comes to that reading.

~ Judy ~ said...

One of my most favorite passages.
Thank you for the beautiful insights you add to it.
It is so true, isn't it, that the more we allow ourselves to be "confined" by God's ways...the more FREE and UNITED we become!

Lisa said...

So often, we forget our mens struggles, concentrating mostly on our own. This was a beautiful reflection. Thank you for sharing it with us

bettyl said...

Most people don't bother to understand that it's a 2-way street: He has to do his part before she can truly be subordinate.
I know of a lady who doesn't know why it isn't working that she is being subordinate but he doesn't realize his part.

Thanks for sharing.

Loren Christie said...

Elizabeth, I really struggle with this letter, and I've studied it. I think and hope maybe something is lost in translation, and the word "subordinate" is not really not a fair interpretation of the original Greek word, or in whatever language Paul wrote the letter. I think of my husband and I more as being on the same team, although we have different roles, I can "put my foot down" as soon as he can. If that were not the case, my marriage would be a prison for me. I accept and invite him to be head of our family, but he is not the head of me, and he respects me more for it.

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

I believe that this scripture is part of the reason why the Church feels so strongly about not using artificial birth control. I know this is a very tricky area for alot of people and don't believe in shoving it down their throats but I can see where they are coming from on this issue. Part of submitting to each other is not putting anything between you or holding anything back. It's kind of like rock climbing with a partner; you are really putting your life in each other's hands.

Loren Christie said...

My understanding is that a couple practicing NFP communicates and respects feelings. Again, the word "subordinate" on the part of the wife doesn't really fit in terms of the idea of NFP. I mean that the word has a negative connotation, and this letter is not used in videos about NFP that the church shows couples in the Pre-Cana program. It would be interesting if you expanded on that idea in a future post, since the letter does have an important place in scripture. I'd feel a whole lot better if the word "supportive" was substituted. "Subordinate" implies a boss-employee relationship, or a sense of ownership over a another person's actions. However, I know that I can not edit the Bible. I wish I had that letter written in it's original language to study.

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

I'm sure you could find something that explores the original language and its translation for this text. I'd love to see you explore this in a post as you feel so strongly about it; feel free to openly disagree with me on this! I think the conception of mutual submission is a beautiful one. It means that you have total and absolute trust that your spouse will do what is best for you.

Loren Christie said...

That feeling of mutual trust you describe is a gift.I think the word subordinate, taken out of context, is a dangerous word. We are all subordinate to one another before God.

This Friar's post makes me feel much better about the reading. You might like his blog.
http://afriarslife.blogspot.com/2009/08/wives-be-subordinate-to-your-husbands.html

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

Thanks Loren. I went to his post and left a comment. I think the notion of being subordinate to one another in Christ is beautiful. I know this whole thing is difficult to wrap our heads around especially as we and our husbands are not perfect. I think St. Paul's words were meant as an ideal to be reached for, maybe never really attained... just as he was felt hopeless to never sin, he left this kind of marriage as the ideal to look up to.