Husbands, don't forget context!

by Kyle
published February 4, 2013


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If you’ve been reading your Bible carefully, and perhaps more so if you haven’t, you may have noticed that it says some things that don’t exactly agree with the prevailing attitudes of our culture.

The Bible’s message has, especially in the last century, increasingly come under fire for its perceived male-centric message and male locus of authority. Feminist theologians have balked, while less thoughtful potential husbands have reveled, at reading passages like, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22)

Paul goes on in Ephesians 5 to describe marriage as an analogy for Christ’s relationship to the church. The wife, being the church, is called to submit to her husband as the church is called to submit to Christ.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of any way to get around believing that Paul meant exactly what he said, and I refuse to repudiate Scripture. The Apostle Peter agreed with Paul, and in 1 Peter 3:1-2 actually called wives to submit to their husbands whether they deserve it or not, even when they’re jerks. However, Paul only uses 51 words in the New International Version translation of Ephesians to address wives. He uses 160 words in the same translation to address their husbands.

To borrow from Bob Hall, an elder at my church, the verses quoted above are not a bill of rights for husbands, but a bill of responsibilities for wives. Ladies and gentlemen, the reverse applies below.

Paul spends three times the ink addressing the way a husband should treat his wife as he does instructing the ladies. He begins with the imperative, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 2:25) Do me a favor and remember what Christ did and does for the church. Or, for the sake of shortening the list, what does Christ do for himself rather than for the benefit of the church that he loves?


If we pay attention to the context and keep reading beyond verse 24 — the feminists bane and the Neanderthal’s joy — we see a high calling for us husbands. It terrified me when I got married because I was certain I could not do this alone. Let me sum Paul’s thoughts up clearly for us, then go read Ephesians 5:25-33 for yourself.

We, as husbands, are called to use everything that we are, everything that we do and every resource at our disposal to ensure that the love of God is made manifest and tangible to our wives. We are to serve them in the same way as Christ serves us. The same way he washes our feet, we are to cleanse them “by the washing with water through the word.” The authority implicitly bestowed upon husbands a few verses ago is now explicitly to be used for the benefit of the wife, for the sake of representing God’s love to her.

Why does the church submit to Christ? Because he deserves it. He put in the work to be able to call us his. He sacrificed ultimately of himself for our own good rather than for his good. Can you read the accounts of his death and not desperately want to serve someone like that?

Your wife should feel the same way when she sees the account of your life.

Men, we are called to deserve our wives’ respect. While Scripture commands our wives’ respect whether we deserve it or not, do not ignore that the reason the church submits to Christ is because he deserves it.

I just finished Ephesians this week in my personal Bible study. When I study, I typically read a chapter twice, then move on. My second time through Ephesians 5 this week, I felt compelled to put my thumb over verses 22-24. It matters less to me what the Bible commands of my wife and more what it commands of me. I desperately want to be the sort of husband my wife wants to respect rather than the sort she begrudging submits to out of pious commitment or, worse, just gives up and walks away from.

While it is true that Ephesians 5:22-24 really doesn’t leave any room for the feminist ideal of marriage, please do not ignore the context.

Ephesians 5:25-33 leaves even less room for misogyny, machismo or authoritarianism. Christ bled out and died for the church. Men, we are called to bleed out and live for our wives.

What do you think?

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