Exploring Ephesians




Ephesians Chapter 5:23-30 has stirred much controversy over millenia. To circumvent conflict in marriage as to "who's boss" before it can threaten husband-wife relationships it's essential to delve into careful and correct interpretation of these scriptural passages.

The culture of Paul's time encouraged men to dominate women, in marriage and without. Unfortunately such a chauvinistic attitude continues to this day in societies representing people of disparate faiths, including Christianity. Unwarranted male dominance and ignorance have resulted in abuse and divorce, discrimination in education, job, property and sports rights as well as negatively influencing female freedom to choose a spouse.

However, the strength and aggressiveness and other characteristics God built into the male makeup need not be at the expense of women to the extent of eroding marital relationships in the Christian context. To the contrary, a closer look at spousal roles from a proper Biblical perspective can buttress unions.

In the book "Rocking the Roles, the authors write that Paul, drawing from the life of Christ, "colored" male headship in marriage with responsibility, not rank; sacrifice, not selfishness and duty, not domination. And they go on to identify the ideal husband as more of a "servant-leader," rather than a power-obsessed "lording leader."

God gave man a "helper" not a slave, a partner every bit his equal whose gifts compensate for his weaknesses. He may be the head but there are occasions when the wife has a responsibility for influence and input, such as when she has a higher level of insight and experience. Caution must be observed, however, and tact and diplomacy are recommended in exercising such prerogatives. Both partners should humbly share views and advice paving the way for marital harmony.

In some cultures, even in walking along a sidewalk or street, the wife invariably remains silent and unobtrusive, remaining some distance behind her husband, indicative of what takes place in their everyday male-female relationship. But in God's plan, wives function alongside their mates. Marital servant-hood should be more like, "I'll be your butler and you'll be my maid and together we'll staff a happy household and avoid tension and conflicts." It's not a matter of supremacy of husband or wife as much as building and maintaining compatibility through cooperation, candid communication and caring love.

Of inestimable value in heading off confrontations and conflicts in marriage is praying for and pursuing the type of love exemplified in 1 Corinthians 13:4-13: Love is patient, love is kind, etc. Jesus also emphasized its importance in his lifestyle and in his preaching and actions. The greatest commandment, he declared, is to love the Lord your God with your heart, soul, strength and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. And who, of course, is a man's closest neighbor but his lover and mate?

Jesus demonstrated his love and servant mentality in washing and drying the feet of his disciples, astonishing considering the culture of Judea at the time. His deep-seated love for women, dimensions beyond affection, is indicated in Bible stories relating to the conversion of water to wine at Cana, the woman who anointed Jesus' feet to the consternation of conservative, hypocritical Jews and the raising to life of a widow's only son.

It's incumbent to reflect on love and servant-hood in establishing and maintaining a proper foundation for marriage. Is it necessary to quibble over the meaning of headship or dominance in unions? Obviously not but it happens and it is vital to have an understanding of what the formula should be to ensure harmonious relationships. And love in marriage can be preserved and energized by how well males serve their mates with a "Jesus" approach, succinctly phrased in Philippians 2:5: "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."

Wise men exercise patience and persistence in attaining joint decisions in full cooperation with their wives. This spirit of synergy opens the door to God-given feminine talents, compassion and instincts to complement gifts their husbands bring to the negotiating table. As such, wisdom, intelligence and judgement combine from both sides to plot a less rancorous course leading to improved relationships and judicious final decisions. (In this connection, it is useful to keep in mind that in some marriages wives are better educated and more knowledgeable than husbands) In this way, wives can take satisfaction in knowing their contributions and special talents are getting full consideration and respect. By melding male attributes of strength, confidence, security for his wife and others God designed the marriage scale can be maintained in equilibrium.

Sharing of duties and workload is a prickly issue on the garden path to happy marriages. It is well to keep in mind that our society is long past the pat definitions and walls partitioning male versus female responsibilities and duties in marriages and families. In decades past, the men worked in fields of family farms, caring for livestock and maintaining houses and barns while wives did the cooking, cleaning and child care. Roles today are dramatically different and demanding. Wives are often busily engaged in full-time employment outside the home. They additionally face what is essentially a second-shift fulltime job attempting to balance hours of hard work to carry out household and other husband and family duties.

Consequently, even in cases where the exterior duties of wives might be nil or part-time, a wise man does his part to feather his nest, so to speak. He gladly wears his servant hat to pitch in with domestic duties, to the emotional satisfaction of his mate, so often smothered by a pressure-cooker existence.

In such circumstances, a woman feels loved and appreciated. She revels in her lover's giving attitude and willingness to make her life easier. Sacrificing convenience and investing time for a wife is not specifically the way Jesus paved his road of existence as a human but he did allude to laying down a life for a friend. And a loving wife is a far more valuable friend than the favorite household animal, though the way women are treated in some societies indicates the reverse is true.

Jesus is the best example, making "himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant" Paul wrote in Philippians 2:7. Rich Warren, in his book "The Purpose Driven Life, " wrote: "No task is beneath you when you have a servant's heart." And husbands and wives can learn from Albert Schweitzer, who said, "the only really happy people are those who have learned to serve."

God designed Adam and Eve-and us-for a lifetime of unique relationship with Him and each other. No other creatures enjoy this kind of union. Tragically the first two humans God created made a wrong choice and sin entered the world. But God has given us His instruction manual in the Bible and His Holy Spirit to carry out his redemptive plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, whose shed sacrificial blood compensates for our sinful natures and restores us to the Father.

God intends that marriage be permanent, an eternal relationship in which partners irrevocably cleave as "one flesh," in scriptural terms, joined as one spiritually, physically and emotionally. That kind of unity is energized by an attitude in which partners fuse their day-to-day relationships into a healthy lifestyle of love, open communication and servant-hood to the other. Achievement leads to the harmonious relationship, sexual satisfaction, joy and peace God desires for all married couples. Such gifts bolstering happy marriages will also nurture and ensure security for the children their unions bring into the world and on into eternity.