Heather got me thinking about a few scriptures about the role of the wife in the Christian realm – and here is what conclusion I have so far come to (again I am open on this one).
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands” (Eph 5:22)
“But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything” (Eph 5:24)
This is where the story begins in this discussion – women being subject to men in marriage. I have no problem with the idea – subject – but I would say the obvious here – men also need to be subject to their wives (in everything). Marriage is about compromise anyways – but we have grown to see it works both ways now. I think back in Paul’s days this was not the case – women may not have been as educated as the male populace or part of the working class so much – this has changed dramatically in the 21st century (women and men are partners in all things in the household from bills to child-rearing).
“Husbands, love your wives” (Eph 5:25)
“So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it” (Eph 5:28-29)
Husbands are commanded here to ‘love’ and ‘look out for the best interests’ (nourish and cherish) of their wife – as they would for themself. But the idea is to love your wife and not objectify her – or treat her as a 2nd class citizen because she is ‘part of you’ (even if women were considered lower then men in that society – this was the new norm). It is possible that in this era women were recieving a less than better class than they deserved and I think the writer is pointing to the idea of equality for the woman – or at the least – a huge step up.
“each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband” (Eph 5:33)
I think this sums it up beautifully – love and respect are to be present in the marriage. One can take the stand of inequality on these passages but the summary is quite clear – men are to treat women as themsleves and women should respect their husbands – I think this can put each other on equal footing if the man does what he is supposed to and actually ‘loves’ his wife. What is love? – see I Cor 13:4-8 but apparently it is kind, patient, not jealous, not arrogant, is prudent, forgiving, not provoked, seeks the interests of the other, rejoices in truth, perseveres, is faithful, hopes all things, endures, and never fails. That sets a good course for both people involved irregardless.
“You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7)
I think Peter backs up the point also – even he speaks of the ‘subject’ idea – but his central point is that of understanding and honor the wife as a ‘fellow heir’ of life. The idea is equality – since they are ‘joint heirs’ in this faith and work to the betterment of society around them. Peter even mentions overlooking the ‘weakness’ of women here – if this means the societal status of the woman or strength I am not sure – but what is clear it is not the focus of the marriage and needs to be set aside for unity.
“However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.” (I Cor 11:11-12)
Again we see Paul talking about men and women in the context that both are equal (in some regards) in this faith. A lot of the stuff in this same chapter seems to point to cultural norms of the day concerning women and what is correct – but Paul’s point in the matter seems to suggest men and women are equal – even from a Genesis point of view – they needed each other – and neither is independant from the other.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28)
I think this is the idea behind the majority of the teaching – problem is it is so coded in cultural teachings for certain regions and for establishing a ‘norm for the people’ it gets lost. But Paul makes it abundantly clear here that male or female is not to be regarded as determining one’s status in the faith – they’re all equal (one) in the same faith system. This is the ideal I shoot for in my own theology – I am quite aware that Paul was dealing with a whole new system of teachings and needed to lay down some ground rules for the people to treat one another decently – people (gentiles) that were new to this faith system and likely had ideas about women that were not so progressive as Paul’s. If Paul doesn’t go far enough in the marriage teachings – he does here. And BTW – he also mentions slavery as something not to be considered a status marker of the faith either!
So am I off? Am I on? Just what do you think is being said in the passages?