The Ephesians 5 Woman: Not a Doormat

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now, as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

—Ephesians 5:22-24 (ESV)

No set of verses seems to stir up more controversy among those who aren’t Christians—and even those who are—than the passage in the fifth chapter of Ephesians related to the role of a woman in marriage.  I’ve been studying Ephesians for the past several days during my time with God, and I arrived at the fifth chapter around the time that the daughter of one of my good friends was preparing to marry her fiancé.

As I began thinking and praying about this passage, God began to impress upon me the importance of this passage.  In considering this passage and dismissing it as archaic and outdated for today’s sophisticated and modern world because of the word “submit,” I’ve come to realize two things.  First, this passage remains relevant in today’s world, perhaps even more than we realize.  Second, this passage cannot be cherry-picked from the Bible and utilized on its own.  To adequately understand its import, you must read what comes after it.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I not only had to have a post about this particular passage but about what comes after it, as Paul discusses the role of the man and of the couple.  In this post and the next two that follow, I hope to paint the picture of what an Ephesians 5 woman, an Ephesians 5 man, and an Ephesians 5 marriage looks like.  And, rather than be blasted by irate comments, I hope that this set of posts will engender a thoughtful discussion about how marriage should look.

Now that all of the introductory stuff is out of the way, what does an Ephesians 5 woman look like?  As I prayed about and thought about the verses listed above, I came up with five qualities.

She’s submissive.  As I said above, this one word can generate a firestorm of controversy.  However, I think it’s important to examine what this word means.  In the dictionary, I found that it means to give over or yield to the power or authority of another.  To yield means to give place or precedence.  The Ephesians 5 woman is one who recognizes that two people struggling for power in a marriage will result in chaos.  When she accepts a marriage proposal and then takes her marriage vows, she chooses to yield headship (e.g., leadership) of their marriage to her husband.  No one forces her to marry her husband.  Does that mean she’s a doormat and essentially disappears into the marriage, never to be heard as an independent voice again?  Hardly!

She speaks her mind.  Many things draw a man and a woman together.  Hopefully, one of the qualities a man finds attractive in his mate is the fact that she’s her own person.  She has her own opinions, her own ideas, and her own tastes.  Just because she gets married doesn’t mean that those things disappear.  The Ephesians 5 woman is someone who voices her thoughts.  She has opinions, and she shares them readily.  She negotiates when decisions are needed, and she’ll stand her ground when she thinks the decision her husband wants goes against what God wants them to do.  When they disagree, what does that look like?

She respects her husband.  It always pains me when I hear women say, “I love my husband, but I don’t respect him.”  To me, the two go hand in hand.  The Ephesians 5 woman recognizes that God placed the man as the head of the marriage so that the husband and wife won’t be locked in an eternal power struggle.  When the two disagree, the Ephesians 5 woman will speak up, but she’ll do so in a manner and tone that shows respect, even if she maintains her stance on a particular issue.  When with other women or even in his presence, she doesn’t name-call, doesn’t belittle him or tear him down.  She sticks to the facts, like, “We’re agreeing to disagree” or “I didn’t agree with his decision, and he knows that.”

She remains capable and talented.  The Ephesians 5 woman comes with many different talents and abilities.  Maybe she’s a mom who raises her kids at home.  Or a working mom.  Or a career woman without kids.  Regardless of her role, God has given her talents and skills that enrich a marriage.  Most likely, she runs the household (translate:  good time management and organizational skills).  She has gifts that God gave her, such as musical ability, craft ability, or the analytical abilities needed in the engineering profession.  She’s also a giver, of time, of money, of herself.  God has equipped her in so many ways for her life.  Why?  She’s His creation as much as any man.

She loves the Lord.  The Ephesians 5 woman had a first love before she ever met her husband, even if she became a believer afterwardsShe recognizes that not only did God make her but that He loves her beyond description.  As a result, she desires to follow him and sees the Bible crucial to understanding not only how to live her life but also how much her heavenly Father loves her.  She seeks after Him, as she recognizes that she is not perfect, and she understands the need for Jesus in both her life and her marriage.  Her first loyalty and love is to Him, and if her husband decides to go against Scripture, she stands up for what she believes.

I know what many may say.  “I’m not even finished with reading this post, and I know I’m a failure.”  Trust me when I say you stand in good company.  God knew that too.  That’s why He sent Jesus to die for our sins.  He asks us to honor Him, part of which consists of understanding and following this passage in Ephesians.  For those who are married but don’t know Him, I ask that you consider these five qualities and how they play out in your own marriage.  I also urge you to consider Jesus and the grace he offers when you fall short.

For ladies reading this who are single, I beg you to choose your husband wisely.  Even the best of marriages have difficult patches, and when a couple is ill-matched because they rushed to the altar for their own reasons, it can spell disaster.  Take your time, even if it seems impossible to do so.  Search for those qualities of the Ephesians 5 man (see the next post).  Get to know your future husband in good times and when he’s stressed.  Only when you feel comfortable with him should you take your vows.  Then, as you begin your lives together, remember one thing.  Grace covers all.

Next Post:  The Ephesians 5 Man:  Not Your Average Man

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