Reflecting on Ephesians 5:21-32
It’s been a long, hot, deadly summer. And now comes the deadliest New Testament section in the whole lectionary, the instruction about the roles of women and men in marriage.
When you look at those words, Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord, you may feel like those disciples in the gospel today. Like them, you might decide to return to your former way of life, and no longer accompany him.
Anyone who “speaks for Jesus” and doesn’t love women just doesn’t know Jesus very well. His friendship with women is everywhere in the gospels. He has dinner with them, and heals them, and on the day of his resurrection reveals himself first to Mary Magdalene.
But years before these gospel accounts were written, it fell to Paul to take this radical message of inclusion straight into the heart of the Roman world. Phoebe, Lydia, Priscilla, Junia, and Chloe are just a few of the fascinating characters who make up his faith communities. I suspect that it was his women friends who put up the bail to spring him out of jail in Caesarea, and maybe other places as well.
But even with all that, is the author of Ephesians ready to take on the heart of Roman patriarchy? Actually, yes. Because any man who loves his wife “as he loves his own body” is not going to abuse or hurt himself by dominating his wife. And where there is no dominance there is loving submission, one to another.
Imagine a world where every person loves as Christ loves the Church. Now that’s a marriage made in heaven.
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I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).