A computer scientist and a Google engineer created an algorithm to search the internet and rank the most influential people in history. As resistant as our culture seems to Him, Jesus still ranks #1. There are more websites that reference Jesus, more searches made of Jesus, and more information on Wikipedia about Jesus than any other person in history. What does this mean? It means that people are still interested in Jesus.
There are people in your life who are searching for Jesus and would welcome your conversations about Him. People are not interested in religion. People are not interested in debating your beliefs, but they are interested in Jesus. How can you help the seeker in their search?
The Bible speaks of an awful, coming judgment. Every prophecy of judgment in the Bible climaxes in a terrifying paragraph in Revelation 20:11-15. This vivid scene of the Great White Throne Judgment is not shared to inform us, but to warn us. The language of this text invites us to stand in the scene and see it for ourselves.
In contrast to this awful judgment is an inspiring scene of triumphant salvation shared in Revelation 21. Every reader has a choice to make before it is too late.
In this series of posts we are looking at Jesus’ shocking statement concerning lust in Matthew 5:27-30 and gleaning from it 4 ways that pornography short circuits intimacy. In the previous post, I discussed the first way. Pornography short circuits intimacy because to justify it we ask the wrong question. If we ask the wrong question we live the wrong answer. In this post I want to share the second-way pornography short circuits intimacy: pornography objectifies people and turns them into bodies.
With Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:27-30, he moves the conversation off of the finish line of adultery and moves it onto the starting line of lust. Adultery is the sin of ending up in someone’s bed. Lust is the sin of letting it get started in your heart.
What is lust?
Lust is not noticing that someone is attractive. Lust is imagining what it would be like to have them. Lust is not seeing someone, it is dwelling on them. Lust is misplaced desire.
An interesting thing about the word translated “lust” in Matthew 5 is it is the same word translated as “earnest desire” in Luke 22. The scene in Luke 22 is Jesus preparing to take Passover with his apostles.
And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”
The same word used to describe a deeply meaningful act of devotion in Luke 22 is used in Matthew 5 to describe a dirty thought that could potentially turn into someone more.
The problem is not desire, but direction. We all have desires. The question is not whether or not you will have them. The question is what will you do with them?
The Prayer You Don’t Want to Pray
A typical early response to a message like this is for someone struggling with lust is for them to want to pray, “Lord, please take away these sexual desires.” Do you really want God to answer that prayer? I don’t think so! That prayer would be like someone struggling with gluttony to pray, “Lord, please take away my hunger.” The problem is not in the desire. The problem is in the decision.
They call it sex drive, but is sex drive really just our desire for sex? It isn’t. Our sexual desires are more complex than just the physical act of sex. If we just wanted sex for the sake of sex, then people hooked on pornography, or people who sleep around, or people in prostitution would be the happiest people on the planet. But they’re not. Why not?
Because in our sex drive there is also the desire to be loved, to be known, to belong, to connect, to be affirmed, to be satisfied, and to be secure. Our sexual desire is one of the most complicated, but deeply meaningful parts of being human.
The problem with lust and pornography is that a desire becomes a demand. A person just wants sex without the messy work of love, communication, building intimacy, trust, connection, forgiveness, and grace.
Maybe your marriage is not so good right now. Maybe the two of you are not getting along. But you still have desires, right? The right way to fulfill that desire would be to reconnect with your spouse. The right way is to work on communication, talk through the issues.
But that takes time and work. So a decision is made. I still have the desire, but the right way is not an easy way. So, that desire becomes a demand. You bypass your spouse. You pull up an image or a video. You lust after a body.
When you bypass the messy work of connecting with your spouse and fulfill your desire through the demand of pornography, you effectively do what they did with the rubber hand illusion (see my previous post). You take one of the most complex desires God has given you and you transfer all of those connections onto something that isn’t real.
That person on the screen has a name. That is someone’s son or daughter. That person has needs and desires of their own, but with pornography you don’t need affirmation, you just need a body. With pornography you don’t give security, you just take an image. With pornography you don’t develop trust, you just click a button.
The person on the screen has no identity, it’s just a body.
You have taken your God-given desires and turned them into demands. The more you do this, the more you like this, and the more you believe you need this. The more you bypass the messy work of fulfilling God-given desires and settle for just making demands; this becomes dangerous! You have short-circuited intimacy and turned a person into a body.
There is a television show called Brain Games that conducts all sorts of fascinating experiments designed to reveal the interesting ways that our brains process reality. One of the experiments is called the rubber hand illusion. In the rubber hand illusion, a person’s brain is tricked into transferring feeling and response into a rubber hand. Check it out.
The rubber hand illusion shows the powerful ability of the brain to take something it sees or imagines, and make it a part of you. If your brain can be tricked into thinking that a rubber hand has feeling, imagine what pornography does to our psyche. Sin is psychological long before it is physical.
Given the rubber hand illusion, it should be no surprise as to the radical solution Jesus offers in dealing with lust.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you thateveryone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right-hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
There is a sense in which Jesus’ statement is much like the rubber hand illusion. Jesus is using hyperbole. No one is going to lose a hand, but this verse still hurts. It hurts because we realize that lust is a common problem in our sexually charged culture, image-driven, culture. We live in a society in which pornography is normalized, and then Jesus says this! But his statement is important because:
We are all affected by pornography. Male and female. Young and old.
If your brain can connect with a rubber hand, think of how pornography connects you to a fantasy – to something that is not emotionally or sexually real. There is plenty of data that points to how pornography rewires the brain. Sex is designed by God for a deep connection between husband and wife. Pornography takes all that God has designed and connects it to a screen. Because of pornography we are losing the ability the connect intimately with our spouse.
Pornography is not only short-circuiting our intimacy with others, but it is short-circuiting the church’s connection with God. Couples are lacking intimacy. The church is lacking holiness.
As shocking and radical as Jesus’ statement seems, if we can take it to heart we may see a lot of marriages saved as intimacy is restored. If you take Jesus’ statement seriously, you may learn to enjoy your spouse like never before.
So how does pornography short-circuit intimacy? In the next couple of posts, I want to glean from Jesus’ statement on lust in Matthew 5:27-30 and share four ways pornography short-circuits intimacy.
#1 – If we ask the wrong question, we live the wrong answer.
When it comes to sex, our culture conditions us to ask the question, “How far is too far?” That’s the wrong question.
The context of Jesus’ shocking statement about lust is the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is inviting people to follow Him. In doing so they will move past religious legalism into real life change. He can take broken people (Matthew 5:2-11) and transform them into salt and light (5:12-15) who become His witnesses in the world.
His way is not a new way. His way is about returning people to God’s intention. In Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus teaches the He is not doing away with God’s commands. His followers are to fulfill them.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Jesus then gives 6 examples of how his followers will fulfill God’s commands (5:21-48). Each example is introduced with the formula, “You have heard it said . . . but I say to you.” Jesus’ statement on lust is the second of the 6 examples.
The problem with God’s commands is not in what was said. The problem is in what humans do. We like loopholes. We like to explore the technicalities, ask questions, create exemptions and exceptions. The adultery command is a marquee example of how people take God’s plain command and create loopholes.
Where’s the man?
There is a story in John 8 in which religious leaders throw a woman down at Jesus’ feet and then bring an accusation against her. “This woman has been taken in the act of adultery.” We are familiar with Jesus’ response. He begins scribbling in the sand and then he says, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone at her.”
But have you ever read that story and wondered, if she was taken “in the very act of adultery” where was the man?
The reason there is no adulterous man brought to Jesus in John 8 is because the religious leaders had created so many loopholes in the command that adultery was a problem for women, not men.
A man could be married, but have mistresses. Adultery was regulated to sleeping with another man’s wife. As long as a woman was not married, she could be your mistress and that was not considered by some to be adultery.
There is even an example in some Rabbinical writing that a man’s daughter was blamed for the adulterous actions of a man because she was so beautiful. It’s no mistake that they brought to Jesus an adulterous woman but not an adulterous man. Adultery was her problem, not his.
How Jesus closes the loophole.
In Matthew 5:27-30 Jesus closes the loophole by internalizing adultery. As long as someone can self-righteously point a finger at others, adultery is her problem, his problem, but not my problem. But if the fulfillment of the command is in not committing adultery with her “in his heart,” adultery is not about what others do, but about what is going on within yourself.
You and I look for ways to avoid a command. Jesus desires for us to fulfill it. These are two very different approaches.
When it comes to sex, the question of “How far is too far?” is the wrong question. How far can I go and not commit adultery . . . that’s a terrible approach to God’s command.
Aren’t you glad that when you’re flying in a plane that the pilot doesn’t ask the tower, “How low is too low?”
Aren’t you thankful that your doctor doesn’t ask you, “How sick is too sick?” Are you more interested in a doctor who wants to help you be well or in one who wants you to be less sick? Take your pick!
In making adultery a female problem the men of Jesus’ day were a LONG way from when Moses first gave the adultery command in Exodus 20. How does that happen? It happens with the approach of avoidance rather than the approach of fulfillment.
“How far is too far?” is an avoidance question. With avoidance questions the line is always moving. Culture pushes the line. Comparisons move the line. Personal choices blur the line.
“You have heard it said.” So what have you heard said when it comes to sex? Who or what draws the line for you?
Is it your seemingly uncontrollable sex drive? Your line is justified with relief.
Perhaps you blame your activity with pornography on a spouse that doesn’t satisfy.
Is it that the two of you are not getting along right now?
Some would point to the sheer availability of pornography.
Is it what you’ve seen or heard others do?
Who or what draws the line for you? How far is too far? That’s avoidance.
“But I say to you.” Now let me show you how different the questions are with fulfillment. Instead of “How far is too far?”, fulfillment asks:
How can I sexually behave in a way that pleases God?
If God created me with sexual desire, how does He intend for me to control and satisfy those desires?
How can I restore sexual intimacy?
How do I sexually, emotionally, spiritually, and intimately connect or reconnect with my spouse?
The question is not “How do I avoid adultery?” That’s avoidance. The question is “How do I satisfy my God given sexuality within the boundaries of God’s command?” That’s fulfillment.
Pornography short-circuits intimacy because we live in avoidance rather than fulfillment. The line is always moving in a self-justifying direction. If you’re asking the wrong question, you’re living the wrong answer.
In the next post I will share the second way that pornography short-circuits intimacy; because we turn people into bodies.
In a culture of #MeToo and misogyny, in which women are fighting for equal rights and equal pay, the Bible brings a command that seems out of step with these struggles.
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”
When placed agains the backdrop of the rhetoric of our political climate, those words seem so bad.
The conversations we are having are also affecting the way the church approaches this verse. Rather than embracing it and encouraging women to obey it, we are backing off. This is in part due to a rash of bad behaving men who have taken advantage of women in “Jesus’ name.” Numerous allegations of sexual misconduct have come to light in the church and it causes us to question, what gives the right for any male to encourage a woman to “submit” to any other man, even her husband?
You won’t find a 13 week study at Lifeway entitled, “Wives submit to your husbands.” If you attend a marriage retreat you will find sessions on communication, intimacy, and finances; but you will have to look long and hard for a breakout session on submission. Submit is a word we are even leaving out of weddings.
Even the church is uncomfortable with this command.
But as uncomfortable as we are with it, there is on thing we can’t deny. This command is in the Bible. As such, we can take one of three approaches.
We can remain uncomfortable with it, confused by it and choose to not take it seriously. Sure, Ephesians 5:22 is in the Bible, but let’s exile this command to the same place we sent the Nephilim of Genesis 6. Who knows what they are? It’s too hard to explain, furthermore the Bible says a lot of other things that seem a whole lot better for women, and a whole lot easier to explain to women than telling them to submit.
We can be offended by it, reject it, and discard it. Let’s just place it in a scrapheap of other seemingly archaic statements the Bible makes that we don’t like. God created the world – unscientific. Homosexuality is a sin – homophobic. Wives, submit to your husbands – misogynistic. Scrap it.
We can commit to obey it. Isn’t obedience what all of God’s commands require of us? If this is the case, we should ask of this command what we ask of every command. Why is it that God thinks that this command is good for us, particularly for women?
What is Good About God’s Commands?
God’s commands are good. Despite the commands sounding extremely negative, we trust that they are very good. After all, as stated previously, they come from a good God. “Do not kill.” That sounds extremely negative, but as a command it is very good. God values life. The same God who has given us “wives, submit to your own husbands as unto the Lord” also gave us “Do not commit adultery.” No adultery is a command that is good for men, women, and marriage. Perhaps the same is true of “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”
Obeying God’s commands is a witness to our culture. Scrapping or ignoring bits and pieces of the Bible does not endear us to the culture, it makes us dishonest. Moses told the Hebrew people in Deuteronomy 4:6-8 that they would be admired by the pagan nations because of God’s commands. They would be in awe of the society that God’s Word would create when obeyed. If this is the case, perhaps there is actually something in Ephesians 5:22 that the world will admire if Christian wives obey it.
God’s commands bring us to Christ. In Galatians 3 Paul discusses how the covenant of law served to bring us to Christ. There is a principle here to which we should pay attention. Any command in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, reveal our insufficiency and our need for Christ. Perhaps there is something wonderful for women in Ephesians 5:22 that brings them to Christ.
These things being true of God’s commands, I think it wiser for us to study Ephesians 5:22 than be content to be confused by it or uncomfortable with it. There is nothing in God’s Word, Nephilim included (and we know that’s a weird one in Gen. 6;4), that God has given us a hall pass on so we may ignore it. And if we just start rejecting commands we do not like, there will be no end of it. There is a reason Satan began the conversation of temptation with the question, “Has God really said?”
So let’s study Ephesians 5:22 and make sure that we are not misunderstanding it to be something that encourages misogyny. Let’s make sure that our discomfort is not just cultural conditioning. If it is, let’s find the blessing of it. Like every command, let’s embrace the good of it and shun the evil it saves us from. Let’s seek to live it and in so doing become an admired witness before a culture in desperate need of a better answer.
Ephesians 5:21 does not demean women, it values them.
The command of Ephesians 5:21 occurs in a string of teachings on relationships as the new Christians of Ephesus are trying to navigate social order in light of the gospel. Notice that in the layout of the Book of Ephesians there are 6 chapters. 3 chapters are doctrinal, teaching us what to believe. 3 chapters are practical, teaching us how to behave.
The original audience of Ephesians is people who were being called to Christ out of a 1st century Roman culture in which women were little more than the property of men, children were insignificant, and slaves had no say. It is this cultural backdrop that makes the passage revolutionary.
Paul first addresses the women, then the men. He speaks to the children, then the parents. He addresses the slave (more akin to an employee in the American economy than to a slave in American history), then the master. Paul addressed them as people with an identity, who had a choice in the matter, and a critical role to play in each relationship. In 1st century Rome, the gospel represented a major progression of rights for women, children, and workers. Women found something more meaningful in Christian community than they found anywhere else in Roman society.
It is ironic what is happening to women in our culture. Women are being intellectually imprisoned by the progressive movement. A woman is not considered intelligent, liberated, and she will not be listened to unless she is pro-choice, Democrat, and left-leaning. She is devalued if she chooses to work with her children in her home. If a woman gets married, there are many who claim that she surrenders her identity. We are even to the point that a female does not have to think of herself as a woman at all. She can identify as a man. How is this progress for women if we are jumping genders?
I cite as an example the reaction to the recent passing of our nation’s most aggressive anti-abortion legislation in Alabama. Joy Behar on The View and actress/activist Alysa Milano on Twitter, began to call out the men who voted for the legislation. They referred to them as sexual predators and went so far as calling for them to have forced vasectomies.
While there were a marked majority of men who voted for the legislation, Milano and Behar gave no consideration to the 8 women of the Alabama legislature that voted for the bill. They gave no consideration to the woman who brought the bill forward from the Alabama State House to the Alabama State Senate. Furthermore, they did not acknowledge that the Governor of Alabama who signed the bill into law is a woman. If you need an explanation as to why Governor Kay Ivey is not a good candidate for a vasectomy, Google it, then send the link to Joy Behar.
Is it that every woman’s voice has the right to be heard in our culture, or is that that only certain viewpoints will be considered? Does every lady have a right to the public square or only left leaning ones?
We live in a culture that is dictating to women their identity, sexuality, and mentality. But then comes the Bible that addresses a woman by saying you have first choice and a voice in Christian marriage.
Ephesians 5:21 is addressed to the woman, not the man. She is created uniquely by God. She is valued and man is in desperate need of her. The marriage needs her and she has an important choice to make. This brings us to our next point that will help us better understand this command.
Ephesians 5:21 is not for every woman and it is not for any man.
In the 1st century context, marriage was not doing well. Men had wives who stayed home and bore children, while they also had mistresses they chased for pleasure and power. In Ephesus stood the Temple of Artemis, the goddess of love. Within its pillars were hundreds of prostitutes that men would use for “worship.” The Ephesian culture was extremely decadent and demeaning to women.
A Roman man could easily divorce his wife and leave her financially, socially, and sexually vulnerable. In 1st century Rome, marriage was not good for women.
And then here comes this radical new way that the gospel calls for a man and a woman to be married.
Christian marriage is the place where 2 disciples of Jesus begin to flesh out with one another what Jesus has done for them.
Notice in the Ephesians 5:21 command that the wife does not submit to her husband for the sake of her husband, she does it as unto the Lord. Submission is something she does for the Lord, not for her husband. There is NO MAN on earth worthy of a woman’s submission in and of himself. It is not masculinity or that calls for her submission, nor is it femininity that requires it. Submission is a matter of Lordship and discipleship.
This command is not for every woman. It is only a command for Christian marriage. Ephesians 5:21 is a command for a woman who is seeking a Christ-centered way to relate to a man she is going to relate to as her husband.
Not a command for ANY man.
Notice that the command is addressed to the wife, not the husband; the lady, not the man. It is also important to note that the verb “submit” does not actually occur in verse 22; it is supplied from verse 21. I will speak to the implications of this more fully later in the post. But the tense of the verse means that this is an ongoing decision that a woman in Christian marriage must make. Submit is a decision she makes daily. And she is the ONLY one who can make that decision. The Bible does not tell the husband to submit his wife. The call is for the wife to make that decision of her own volition, not under compulsion from her husband.
The Bible calls for all of us to observe order and authority. In such cases these are holistic calls that are necessary for existence in Christian community. That said, the Bible never gives a man any direct authority to submit any woman to himself. Men are mistaken, in marriage and in church, to believe that they have any Biblical authority to make a woman feel inferior. Men do not have the Biblical authority to be unchallenged or unquestioned. Men using the Bible to gain a false sense of superiority over women in Christian community is dangerous, ridiculous, and heretical. In recent years it has led to men behaving badly in church.
Men Behaving Badly in the SBC
Every denomination seems to be responding to men behaving badly as of late, but this is especially true in my own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. #MeToo has made its way into #ChurchToo. I believe God is bringing three gross sins of men in the church to light.
We use biblical language but behave in an unbiblical way. Men in the church have embraced the perverted and pornographic sexual behaviors of the world rather than repent of it. This is not news. We knew this was happening. The problem is that the church has seen it as unfortunate, but has not engaged in the difficult, dirty work of redemptive church discipline with badly behaving men (including leaders).
We have not taken marriage seriously. I think this is the case for both men and women in the church. We need to realize that Christian marriage is counter-cultural. It is unusual and requires a filling of the Holy Spirit that is supernatural (Eph. 5:18). Couples in the church need to realize that Christian marriage is more about holiness than happiness. It is more about exemplifying Christ and the church than it is about “just” staying together. Unless we are willing to take our marriages “next-level”, Ephesians 5 level, we are going to remain disillusioned, dissatisfied, and be prone to sexually misbehave.
Ephesians 5:22 is one of several passages that have been perverted by men that has resulted in women being disadvantaged in the church. To correct and clarify confusion and misinterpretation our convention put together The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. This council was designed to not only clarify confusion and misuse of these passages but to address the abuses women have suffered in the church at the hands of badly behaving men. You can research the council and its statements here.
Before I leave this topic, allow me to make a very clear statement. Ephesians 5:22, in no way, calls for any woman to submit to abuse of any kind. The Bible does not call for you to submit to a man who is sexually, verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive. If you are a woman in an abusive situation you should be able to inform your church leadership and find a safe place of redemptive intervention. The church should rise up and deal righteously with abusive men.
So that leaves us with this question. If we have established what the command is not, what is it? What good is the command?
Ephesians 5:22 prevents misogyny in marriage.
In short, misogyny means to hate women. This word, like others in a divisive and political “gotcha” culture has been misused and misapplied.
When words like misogyny, sexist, racist, and prejudice get misused and misapplied the real victims of these abuses are not rescued. Their stories are hijacked by others who desire attention or power. The word gets diluted and real situations get ignored.
The other unfortunate misapplication is when a word like misogyny is applied to men who do not hate women. There may be a man of whom you do not appreciate his opinions, politics, decisions, or morals, but that may not mean that he hates women. It is easy to take a politically and emotionally charged word like misogyny, apply it to a person, and marginalize them.
It should be especially true of Christian women that they do not want to get caught up in mischaracterizing men who are not misogynistic. As Christ followers we are to be people of truth. We should deal truthfully with misogyny where it really does exist. We should refrain from name calling and deal truthfully in dialogue and disagreement where misogyny does not exist.
Ephesians 5:22 In Context
That said, if we look at the context of Ephesians 5:22, it calls for a man to think of a woman, especially his wife, in the best possible way.
The context of the passage is the need for God’s people to be filled with the Spirit so that they may relate to one another in a Christ-like way within Christian community (5:18). The context of the Book of Ephesians is how Christ creates “oneness” when he redeems people out of divisiveness (Eph. 2. Pay particular attention to verses 15 and 16). In Ephesians 5 Paul now shows us how the “creation of one new man in place of the two” works in the relationships of husband/wife, child/parent, worker/employer.
The governing text for this relationship section of the book is Ephesians 5:21, “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” It is not just the wife that submits to her husband, but the text also explains how a husband submits to his wife.
Husbands submit to your wives – sacrifice.
For the husband, submitting to his wife looks like sacrifice (Eph. 5:25-32). It looks like love, attention, nurture, communication and a concern to become one flesh with her.
The Ephesians 5 man is the furthest thing from a misogynist. This is a Christ-centered man who loves his wife.
This passage is important to Christian husbands because it corrects an otherwise Christ-less man. Another passage that helps us understand the call of a Christian husband is 1 Peter 3:7.
Likewise husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
1 Peter 3:7
The wife is equal, but she is not the same. She is the weaker vessel. This does not speak to her lack of talent, intelligence, or identity. Weaker here refers to her general stature.
“Weaker vessel” could be used in speaking of the difference between a brick 3 bedroom rancher and a rose bush. The brick rancher is the stronger structure, but the rose bush is by far a more beautiful and intricate creature. “Weaker vessel” is an observation of the nature of things, not a derogatory comment.
Because men are generally stronger in stature than women, a man may be tempted to use his physical strength, commanding voice, or unflinching emotion to intimidate or dominate a woman. But here comes Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3, in Christ, putting a whole new parameter on men. Husbands, men, are not to be mindful of themselves – to use their frame to their own advantage, but they are to be mindful of women, especially their wives.
Can men be misogynistic? Absolutely. But in Christ, a man is called to use what he is for the sake of another. Christ-like sacrifice is the greatest preventative of misogyny.
So if the benefit of this command in context is that it corrects a Christ-less man, how does it correct a Christ-less woman?
Ephesians 5:22 prevents a morbid end of a marriage.
In Ephesians 5:23, Paul provides a metaphor to help us understand how mutual submission works in Christian marriage. The man is the head and the woman is the body. Being that the goal of Christian marriage is that the two become “one flesh (v. 31b)”, then the Head/Body metaphor is fitting. This metaphor is critical to a husband and wife’s understanding of the word submit.
The popular cultural understanding of “head” in reference to the man is one of leadership, but this fails to honor the metaphor. Let’s try to apply this understanding of the man as the head/leader and the woman as the body/follower to popular understandings of the passage.
Who’s the boss?
Does head mean that the man is much like a boss and the woman much like an employee as the body in the sense that she carries out commands? Boss worker relationships sour and end all of the time. It is unfortunate and inconvenient, but not tragic.
Is the man a “head” and the woman the “body” in much the same way as an executive with an assistant? The relationship is much closer in mission and respect, but there is still that of a leader/follower mentality present in the metaphor. And again, the ending of an executive/assistant relationship is inconvenient and unpleasant, but it is not tragic. People move on. It happens all of the time.
So, let’s just call it Head/Leader and Body/Follower. Leaders quit leading and followers quit following all of the time. Again, unfortunate but not tragic.
But if you separate a head from a body, it is horrific and tragic for a “one flesh” relationship.
A better understanding of head is one of supply and responsibility rather than leadership. Is leadership involved? It is. But a woman’s role is not to dutifully follow her husband, but in mutual submission to connect with him and him to her.
I have referenced it, but if you read of the man’s description of submission to his wife in Ephesians 5:25-32, it is a heavy responsibility. His focus is on her. Her welfare. Her sense of belonging. Her sense of beauty. Her sanctification. Her nurture and needs.
I Don’t Need a Man!
And many women will respond to this, “I don’t need any man to take responsibility for me.” And as far as life and well-being, that is probably true. I would say most women are fully capable of making it very well in life without needing a man to take responsibility for her. But here is the caveat. Remember how the woman submits to the husband, not because of him, but as unto the Lord? Even here, the woman does not allow a man to take responsibility for her out of personal need, but out of obedience to the Lord.
And it is this very fact, that a woman does not need a man to take responsibility for her, that submission is necessary in Christian marriage. If he is seeking to do all that he is called to do in Ephesians 5:25-32, and she doesn’t need him, she will be a miserable woman and he will be a defeated man. It will be a morbid end to the marriage.
Why wives need to submit.
If you go back to the curse passage in Genesis 3, you will read God articulate how the introduction of sin will cause a struggle between women and men. To the woman God says:
Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.
If you read the passage correctly, God is not giving the man and the woman a correction. He is articulating the curse. A man ruling over a woman is not the relationship God intended for man and woman. This is that relationship flawed. Now that there is sin, misogyny is a possibility. A man may try to use his stronger frame to rule, or dominate a woman. This is a far cry from the intended creation of woman as a helper “fit for him” in Genesis 2:18 or “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” as she is described in Genesis 2:23. She was not called Woman because she was to be ruled by man, but because she came from him. “Rule over you” is hardly the relationship God intended between the sexes.
Likewise, “your desire shall be for your husband” is not a correction but a curse. This does not describe the new world order of a woman suddenly needing to be a dutiful wife. This is the description of a woman who will try to dominate a man.
“Your desire shall be for your husband” is much like the words God uses to warn Cain in Genesis 4. As Cain is about to be overcome by his anger and fall into sin, God warns him.
If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.
In short, “your desire shall be for your husband”, is the articulation of the attitude a woman will struggle with, because she doesn’t want or need a man taking responsibility for her.
The only way that a man with a sinful nature that wants to dominate a woman, and a woman with a sinful nature that desires to overcome a man, can become one flesh is for them to submit to one another.
Ephesians 5:21-33 in every conceivable way corrects our Christ-less selves.
The only way that a woman can become one flesh with a man is for you to let him do what God has called him to do. Let him take responsibility for you, not because you need for him to, but because that responsibility corrects the Christ-less him, and your submissive response corrects the Christ-less her.
What if she doesn’t want to submit?
As we said, “submit” is a supplied verb from verse 21. An English statement needs a verb for it to be a complete sentence. Your 3rd-grade grammar teacher harped on this. In Greek grammar, there is no issue with a verb-less sentence. If the verb space is left blank, you supply it from the previous statement.
But for argument sake, let’s leave it blank. Let’s erase submit and fill in some other alternatives.
Wives, LEAVE your husbands. To decapitate a marriage is messy. That is not a good option.
Wives, PROTEST your husbands. That seems to be the climate of our culture and it is not helping the two become one flesh.
Wives, COMPETE with your husbands. She may be fully capable of winning, but it will not be good for the husband she is losing.
Wives, RESIST your husbands. There is nothing more deflating for a loving, sacrificial man than an unresponsive, resistant woman.
Wives, CHANGE your husbands. Yeah, that always goes well 😉
The Bible describes the sins of a woman who seeks to be overcoming rather than submissive. The Bible’s Book of Proverbs gives us the nagging, controlling, demeaning, demanding, withdrawing woman. Then the Book of Proverbs ends with a mother showing her son a true picture of beauty in Proverbs 31. Essentially the book ends with momma counseling her boy, “Son, take your pick.”
Submit to one another as husband and wife, true romance.
If a husband and wife submit to one another, he uses his strength to sacrifice for her. Ephesians 5:33 calls this love. And she, being every bit as capable as him, submits to him by responding to him and encouraging him in his responsibility as head. She connects with him as the body. Ephesians 5:33 calls this respect.
However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
The Good of the Command in Conclusion
The good of the command is that of every command. It calls us beyond ourselves and makes us reliant upon Christ. There is no way that a woman can submit to her husband and respect him, or a man submit to his wife and sacrifice for her, without Christ. Ephesians 5:18 calls this being filled with the Spirit. And Spirit-filled marriage works well in mutual submission.
This command is a witness to the world of what marriage is supposed to look like. Sacrifice and respect. Love and admiration. Christ and the church. A submissive marriage is a living witness of the gospel.
Our culture should be able to look at Christian marriage and see a strong woman who has made a choice to submit and a man who his making a choice to sacrifice for the sake of the Christ who has called them into this marriage. He is not a misogynist and she is not a sexist. They are a picture of Christ and the church. Admirable. Exemplary. Romantic. Different.
Check out this article by Sarah Sumner from Christianity Today on Ephesians 5:22
You can seek to develop your child. You can even discipline your child. But you will only mislead your child if you do not demonstrate the values and beliefs you are seeking to instill in your child. A parent must be believable. Make no mistake, your children hear you, but they also watch you. And it is amazing how they replicate what you demonstrate.
My Daddy is Going to Kick Your Dog in the Teeth
One Mother’s Day the girls and I had set up the perfect picnic for their mother. We had just finished up at church. I felt I had preached a solid “A” sermon before a large crowd of mommas and I was now working the plan to honor the mother of my children. The plan included fried chicken, and a nice picnic spread beside a creek at a nearby park.
There were lots of other people in the park also enjoying a great Mother’s Day. All was well. Enter the dog!
Apparently, on this Mother’s Day a young athletic, 20-something-year-old man had decided not to bring his mother to the park, or any female, or any person for that matter. His great idea was to bring his dog to Mother’s Day in the park. He pulled up and parked about 100 yards away from us, but on the other side of the creek from where we were set up. As soon as he opened his car door a large brown Lab came springing out of the vehicle and made clear his intentions. He was going for a swim.
“Splash!” About 75 yards up the creek from where we were having our picnic, the dog hit the water. While the dog found the creek, his owner found a stick. Dog + Stick + Creek = an amazing show. The more the man threw the stick into the water the more the dog loved it and would retrieve it, greatly anticipating another throw into the water so he could do it again and again. The longer this continued 1) more and more people gathered to watch the dog and 2) the closer and closer dog-man brought the show to us.
At the time my girls were small and they were not big fans of dogs. They were getting a little nervous. But most importantly, my wife REALLY disliked dogs. I could tell that my girls and their wonderful mother were doing less chicken eating and more nervous dog watching as the dog show approached.
So, wanting to be a big strong dad and husband, I had a John Wayne moment. “Girls, I am not going to let that dog hurt you. If it comes near us, I will kick it in the teeth.”
Not 30 seconds later Mr. Dog Show threw the stick straight at us and you can now see the scene unfolding in your mind. “Splash!” Here comes Sparky the wonder dog. My girls immediately got up ready to run. Shannon shuttered back, very nervous of the approaching dog. The owner realized what he had done. He had interrupted what had become an almost postcard type scene of a preacher and his family, in their Sunday best, sitting beside a creek eating fried chicken for Mother’s Day.
“I am SO sorry!”, Mr. Dog Show yelled from the other creek bank. Now all eyes were on us. There were probably some people gathered into this scene who were guests at our church that day who had heard my solid “A” sermon. At that moment, it seemed as if all of nature stopped and the world grew silent and still, awaiting my reply to Mr. Dog Show.
On cue, my three-year-old daughter Kiley stood up in her beautiful Mother’s Day dress with a chicken leg in her hand and announced to Mr. Dog Show and all of his fans, “My daddy is going to kick your dog in the teeth!”
You are not raising a child. You are raising a recorder! Your children repeat you! They watch you. Parenting involves development and discipline. But with parenting also comes the pressure to demonstrate. You must be believable.
Parenting is Modeling
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is commonly referred to as Shema. Shema is the Hebrew word translated “to hear.” These verses are recited daily by devote Jews and remind them of the singularity of God and their allegiance to Him and Him alone.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
While these verses are doctrinal, the following verses are practical. How do you pass this on to your children? How do you demonstrate that you are truly singularly devoted to God and that you love him with your all?
And these words I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 describes a home with a steady stream of discipleship and Biblical teaching. Notice that this home doesn’t have “Bible time.” What they believe is all of the time. This IS them. They walk it. They talk it. It forms their day. A Bible is not something they have, it is something they live.
I am a pastor. What I am about to say is going to be a shock for some and it is not for all. You may do it differently than I do it, but we’ve NEVER had a consistent, regimented, family devotional time in our home. Do we encourage and practice private devotion? Yes. Have we tried a dedicated family devotional time? Yes. Did we fail miserably? Yes! And when I mean fail, I mean crash and burn, call 911, epic fail! My kids hated it every time we tried it.
But what I can tell you is that we pray together. We talk about the Lord. We do doctrinal teaching. We exhibit devotion. But it is all a part of our daily conversation. For Shannon and I, Christianity is not something we mandate, it is something we model. We talk with them about the Lord and we let them watch us.
We let them watch us fail. We ask them for forgiveness. We pray for them and with them. We struggle with the Lord’s will before them. We celebrate the Lord’s goodness when it is evident. We seek the Lord’s direction in decisions. We make our girls a part of the ongoing conversation we are having about and with the Lord.
What makes a Christian home is not that you have a Bible. It is not even that you have a Bible time. A Christian home is a home of discipleship and modeling. It is a place in which Scripture is not mandated, but demonstrated.
So, Did I Kick the Dog?
I didn’t kick the dog, but Kiley let everyone in the park including the dog’s owner know what I said. While that story is funny, it reminded me. She repeated nothing I said in the sermon that day, but she repeated perfectly what I said to her. What I said to the congregation wasn’t nearly as important to her as what she sees from me and hears from me with my family. She probably won’t remember 5 of my sermons. She will remember EVERYTHING about me being her dad – good and bad.
The transfer of your faith from you to your children will not be possible if you are not believable. You are raising a mini-recorder! Give them great content to remember!
Here’s a great article on the power of a dad being a role model for his daughter.
The first “D” in the 3 D’s of Biblical parenting is DEVELOP. Develop is about creating an environment that consistently reinforces content that helps your child discover who God wants them to be. “Develop” only works if there is discipline.
Necessary to the development of a child are boundaries. There must be discipline when boundaries are crossed. When it comes to discipline, many parents consider it begrudgingly. The Bible looks at discipline lovingly.
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
Every parent must remember, you may have a beautiful child, but you are raising a natural born sinner. If you love your child, you will discipline your child.
Many people mistakingly equate discipline with abuse. The Biblical discipline of a child does not put them in any sort of physical danger and is in no way abusive.
Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.
Discipline is not manipulation. You don’t discipline a child because he or she annoys you, interrupts you, or frustrates you. As a parent, you discipline yourself before you discipline your child. You should never punish your child out of anger, but out of heartbreak. You also must be careful that the child understands that they have not just done something to disappoint you, but they have ultimately sinned before God. A parent is a servant of God, not His replacement. If we use discipline to point our child toward the Lord, the child will develop a higher sense of accountability. If you help a child understand that they are ultimately responsible before God, not just to you, they will respect God’s authority throughout their lives.
Discipline in Balance
When it comes to discipline we cannot be too soft or too harsh. Proverbs 22:15 says that folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but that the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
Discipline is a positive and a negative. It is exposing wrong and reinforcing right. If folly is truly to be driven from the heart of a child, there has to be a tipping point. Your value has to become their value. If folly is bound up in the heart of a child, that means they innately do not understand why something is wrong. You simply getting angry or disappointed is not discipline. Discipline involves discipleship. Your child is unlearning folly and replacing it with the Biblical values you reinforce.
If folly is bound up in the heart of a child, being their friend won’t help. God has called you to be a parent, not an enabler. A soft parent doesn’t want to hurt or to offend. In doing so, a soft parent only fosters the folly in their child’s heart and the older the child gets the more difficult it is to drive that folly very far!
Your child may not be happy with you when you discipline them, but they will be thankful for you in the end. Hebrews 12:11 says that discipline is painful and not pleasant, but that it yields “the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Part of your problem with discipline may be that YOU don’t like it! It should break our hearts to discipline our children, but remember, it’s not about you, but about what’s best for them.!
Discipline is Shepherding
At the heart of discipline is not enforcement, but shepherding. Discipline is not breaking a child. Discipline is about loving guidance with consequence. A parent must realize that discipline is not as much about spanking, grounding, or whatever method you use, as much as it is about connecting with a child’s heart. They have to see that the choice they have made is not a good choice. It is one that has hurt them and others. You as the parent help them through discipline to realize that the world is not all about them.
Discipline cannot be too harsh. In Psalm 103:13 the Bible uses the example of a father’s compassion for his child to illustrate the compassion God has for those who fear Him. If we separate discipline from love and compassion all we have left is physical abuse and emotional manipulation; and that is not at all a loving parent.
Children will fail. Discipline gives a child a safe place to fail. If a parent lovingly disciplines a child he is safe. His folly will not be allowed to forfeit his future. His mistakes will turn into teaching moments. His failures will not destroy him, but disciple him.
Children need boundaries and loving discipline that brings them back when they cross the line. Discipline is like a guardrail on a highway. When you hit them at high speeds there will be a sudden and perhaps painful collision. But think of what a guardrail saves you from. Had you not hit the guardrail you may have ended up in a ravine, wrapped around a tree, or at the bottom of a pond. Guardrails are not pleasant or beautiful, but they are safe. A home without discipline puts a child in greater danger. Discipline brings them back. Loving discipline creates a much safer place to fail.