Ministry Resources

Coffee Stains: Me Tarzan, You Jane. Woman Obey!

Author: David Porter

I used to read those verses about wives submitting to their husbands and I think I felt a bit intimidated. If my wife didn’t ‘obey’ me was I less than a real man? Was I ” horror of horrors ” henpecked?

‘Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.’ (Ephesians 5:22-24, NIV)

So my response as a young husband (because I really didn’t know what I was doing) was something like, ‘Me Tarzan! You Jane! Woman obey!’ Try that guys. Your wife will really like it. I’ve been married nearly 39 years now and I don’t worry too much about it anymore, partially because my wife isn’t lippy, but also because I’ve got so many problems trying to obey the verses that come after it that I don’t have nearly as much time to worry about if she’s obeying her verses.

“Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church” “a love marked by giving, not getting.” Ephesians 5: 29, The Message

Through the years, and with lots of chances to practice, I have noticed a few helpful principles in these verses in Ephesians five. *The Bible doesn’t tell me to make her submit. Those submission verses are her responsibility. Part of Eugene Peterson’s rendering of Ephesians 5:22 says, ‘The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing.’ Whoa! That’s a whole different way of doing it.

In the New Testament, The Bible doesn’t tell the wife to obey. Some of you just fainted in front of your computer screen. But look at the texts. It says ‘submit. Look it up. In Ephesians 5:22Colossians 3:18; and 1 Peter 3:1 the texts use the word ‘submit.’ ‘It’s the same thing,’ you say. Then why did he tell children to ‘obey’ their parents and slaves to ‘obey’ their masters? (Col. 3:2022) It’s a nuance, I know, but the word is different in Greek.

The woman is neither a child nor a slave. Her obedience,– because Sarah did obey Abraham (1 Peter 3:6)– is voluntary. Maybe we could say that the Bible idea of submission is willful obedience. If I do my job, it’s ten times easier for her to do hers. She sees that I love her like Christ loves the Church, and that I’m giving up myself so that she can be happier. She knows that even if I make a mistake I do it because I think the decision I make will be best for her and for our family. If I’ve got half a brain, I’ll listen to her and take into account what she says. Maybe I’ll do as she thinks we should as often as I do what I think is best. She should be my most trusted counselor because she’s vitally implicated, with our children when they’re still at home, in all the decisions I make. Hey young fellow. You don’t have to be macho to be the head of your household. Humble gets it better. Listening and reflecting leads better than shouting and demanding. Fear and intimidation never win love. And if he’s stupid, what do you do ladies? Yell louder than him? Nope, you go into the bedroom and tell the Lord about it.

He’s much more effective in communicating your point than you are. And, with much respect, and a normal tone of voice, you try to talk to your husband when you think it’s important. If the husband loves an un-submissive wife like Christ loves the Church, he’s still blessed by God. It’s her that loses the blessing. And if the wife submits to her husband like the Church submits to Christ, she receives the blessing of obedience that the Lord gives, whether the husband does his part or not. (Cases of repeated adultery, abuse or when the husband pushes her to do something against God’s Word, are different. Talk to your pastor or someone mature in the Lord for advice). Sir, try to please God in all your ways. Keep a tender heart towards your wife and think how your decision will impact her. You’re married and you can no longer act as if all your decisions and actions only involve you. Not even Tarzan’s monkey Chita, is impressed when you strut and bully. Love her like you love yourself. Et m’aam, I know he’s hard to take but if you can’t be submissive to him, do it because you love the Lord. The result is worth it.

Hmmm …

Worry is backwards prayer.’ Unknown

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