My wife and I had Ephesians 5:21-33 read at our wedding. From our perspective, there is no better description of practical marriage than these verses. But some of our friends were taken aback by this choice. They wondered how we could possibly believe such an outdated, patriarchal, male dominated view of marriage? Twenty-two years later and this section of Ephesians often provokes a similar, if not even more heated, response. However, when we take time to really read and understand what Paul is saying we realize that what may appear at first glance as oppressive is in actuality life giving.
For starters, we need to make sure we don't ignore verse 21, which gives us the full context of what is to follow. Paul says, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Paul is about to describe a number of different household relationships (husbands and wives, parents and children, slaves and masters), but the underlying principle for all of them is mutual submission. Now this may sound like an oxymoron. When we hear the word "submission," we automatically think of a power differential, of one person imposing his or her will on another person. That was the world Paul lived in, and it is the world we live in today.
The Rev. Eric Zolner
Father Eric is a 3rd generation Anglican and the Rector of All Saints Anglican Church in Springfield, MO.