Scripture: Ephesians 5:21 Be subject to one another (husbands and wives) out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. 24 Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…
Observation: Here the apostle Paul offers counsel that was considered quite progressive for its time. In a patriarchal society, in which wives were often considered property of the husband, it would have been understood that a wife was submitted to her husband. What was revolutionary was the idea that the husband would submit to the wife as well, as Paul states in v.21 “be subject to one another”. In addition, the husband is called to “love” (agape) his wife as Christ loved the church. This is not a romantic love, but a love that sacrifices oneself for the other. Jesus literally died for the church. That’s a pretty high bar for any husband.
Application: Many people, reading a passage like this, would immediately dismiss it as outdated. Clearly the expectations of marriage today are very different than in the ancient world. Yet, despite the patriarchal context of ancient times, there is great value here. I find myself particularly challenged by the call of husbands to “agape” their wives as Christ “agaped” the church. It calls me to lay down my life for my wife (and others as well), to make her a priority over myself. Do I love my wife in this way? Do I love my children in this way? Do I love my neighbor/co-worker/siblings like this? Sometimes. Sometimes not. I can’t help but think how relationships of all kinds could be strengthened should people adopt this counsel to “agape” one another.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you gave yourself for the sake of all people. You took our sin with you to the cross and to the very depths of hell – so that we might live. In a “look out for #1” world, give us grace to agape one another: husbands, wives, children, brothers/sisters, family, co-workers, and friends. Amen.