21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her
28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;
New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Eph 5:21, 22, 23, 25, 28). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
A superficial reading of the above verses may lead some people to think Jesus is against women. The Feminists may read the above to mean Jesus is for male domination. The average guy may just think God is telling him that husbands make the rules.
None of this is true.
Verse 21 says that we are all to submit to one another. Some Bibles separate this verse from the marriage instructions that follow. This is misleading.
Since structural divisions of the text are made by man and not by God, I feel I can suggest a change. I think that this verse belongs with the verses below it, talking about submission. Not only that, but I think it is a headline and a summary of what follows about submission.
In verse 22 the words “be subject to” do not appear in the oldest texts. The words “be subject to” are “borrowed” from verse 21 according to The Commentary Critical and Explanatory of the Whole Bible. This fact implies the connection of verse 21 to the following “submission” verses.
In verse 23 what does the husband’s “headship” over his wife look like?
The husband as the head leads his wife in their mutual serving of each other by serving her highest good above his own. He is an example of giving up his desires to meet her needs. A wife will many times gladly submit to someone who truly demonstrates by consistent actions that his top priority is her highest good.
Compare this view to the superficial understanding of “wives submit to your husbands” which the Feminists rightfully reject. If in verse 25 a husband is giving up his life for his wife, where does male domination come in? It is actually just the opposite of male domination. The wife’s needs are the driving force and the husband gives up his rights in order to serve those needs with everything he is.
So how did Jesus demonstrate his headship? Jesus never dominated the church. He never said, “God made me in charge over you, so you have to do what I say.” He relinquished all his rights: to justice, to fairness and even to life and he did what we the church needed most. He died an excruciating and humiliating death to give us life forever with him. And when he gave up all his rights, he entrusted himself to his Father’s care. And the Father raised him from the dead. And gave Jesus a Name above all names.
So how do husbands and wives serve each other’s needs?
33 Nevertheless, 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.
New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Eph 5:33). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.a
Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ book, Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires, the Respect He Desperately Needs is based on verse 33. My quick synopsis of the book is: Men need first unconditional respect, women need first unconditional love. If what is needed first is missing the “Crazy Cycle” is born. Women usually recognize that they deserve “unconditional love.” They might not understand however, that men need “unconditional respect.” A woman who gives her husband “unconditional respect” will see him flourish. Otherwise, he will wither. A husband who gives his wife “unconditional love” will see her flourish. Otherwise, he will see her wither.
The Crazy Cycle – When either spouse does not get what they need (either love or respect) they respond in a way to the other that the other interprets negatively as not meeting their needs. And on and on it goes.
So “is Jesus a Feminist?”
Jesus is just as concerned as Feminists that women aren’t dominated by men. In fact, Jesus ONLY gives husbands the authority to serve the best interests of his wife, not to dominate her.
Note: Wives submit to their husbands “as to the Lord.” The Lord never abuses, and wives are not to submit to abuse. Seek shelter and get healing. Only if you are healthy can you help anyone else.
Click below for Part 2 of this essay: