27 November 2015Ephesians 5:21-33
"Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ." (v.21)
Psalm: Psalm 135:15-21
The original Greek text of the Bible has no verse numbers, no
section headings and little punctuation. As a result there has been
a debate among scholars about whether verse 21 belongs with this
'household code' or with the previous section, which ends with how
a person should live while filled with the Spirit. The NRSV
translation of the Bible includes it with this section, as
otherwise, verse 22 has no verb (it is implied by the "submit" in
Thus we see that the first and most significant part of this 'household code' (first identified as such by Martin Luther) is mutual submission. What a difference taking that seriously makes to the rest of the passage. All other forms of submission within this code (in this section between women and men) need to be read within a context of mutual submission out of reverence for Christ.
An understanding built on a foundation of mutual submission leads us to challenge traditional 'male headship' views of marriage, which ignore the demand for equal and mutual submission to the other. Such a foundation might open us to new shades of meaning to the gospel of reconciliation. But is this idea of mutual submission valid beyond marriage?
Perhaps we can see submission to human authority in Jesus as he willingly went to the Cross? Perhaps in that there is a call for submission in the way we submit our lives to Jesus through discipleship and he responds with love for us?
Maybe, just as we are being called to submit to each other in marriage out of reverence for Christ, we need to submit to others in different aspects of our lives. Maybe the gospel of reconciliation needs to be lived out through our submission offered to others - submission that ideally becomes mutual by being accepted by others.
Such a life would require a surrender of power and authority - a seeking of what is good for others rather than ourselves. It seems mutual submission is required for a Christian marriage and, if successful there, then why not follow the example of Jesus and use it elsewhere?
- How do you feel about a call to submit to others?
- In which relationships might this be most challenging, most fruitful, most scary?
- What costs might result for you from exploring mutual submission in your relationships?
- Where might you try this out?