Submit? You’ve got to be kidding!

coupleAs a young independent woman raised in the United States, I had some negative reactions to Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:

“…you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.” Ephesians 5:24b

Submission was not something I was looking for. “Submit? In Everything? You’ve got to be kidding!”

Still, I believed then, as I do now, that the Bible’s words come from God, and as God is front and center in my life, I need to take his words seriously. In the past 43 years of marriage to one man, I have spent a lot of time reading Hebrews 5, but not just verse 24—I’ve read the whole chapter—and I realized that my negativity came from taking this verse out of context.

“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us… And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

“For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word… As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

As I was researching and writing an historical novel, I tried to imagine putting myself in the patriarchal culture that Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth lived in. It made me realize how radical these words would have been to them:

“Husbands, love your wives as much as you love yourself.”

The commandment to love stated that women were not merely property but valuable as people in and of themselves. That is the fundamental seed of women’s empowerment, and it was a part of Hebrew laws given to the Israelites about 1500 years B.C.

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