"The man is the head of the home!"
What comes to mind when you read that statement? To most it is an authoritarian father demanding subservience from his family. When you read the statement, it usually sounds quite arrogant and angry and can actually sound like more of a threat than anything else. This statement is one that will send even closet feminists into twitches, second only to:
"Wives, submit to your husbands."
What comes to mind when you read that statement? To most, there is a picture of a Victorian chambermaid sweeping the ash from before her Lord's hearth. A battered woman pleading for her master's mercy. Or maybe a timid little wife tending the dishes in silence while her husband and his friends smoke cigars and sip brandy. Whatever comes to mind, it's not usually good.
Our culture's vehement hatred for these phrases is not because of the Bible saying them, it's because of the meaning people have read into the verses to support their own agendas. (We see the damage of this attitude with militant Islam; Jihad was originally written as a spiritual contention within a man's own heart.)
We will start with the second: wives, submit to your husbands. Note that it DOES NOT say, "Husbands, make your wives submit." Submission is not an act of force, it is an act of will. Further, it is not just an act of will, but an act of heart. If two children fight and their mother says, "Apologize to your brother!" And they apologize, have they submitted? I can promise you not... trust me, my brother and I proved that one. Submission isn't just about doing what you're told, it's a matter of purposefully lifting someone else above you. Supporting them in a way that raises them, not because you have to, because you want to. It means putting aside your rights for theirs and yes, even obedience. Something like this can start with choosing what you don't necessarily feel, but it doesn't need to stay there.
The major thrust of this little monologue, however, lies in the first thing I quoted, "Husbands are the head of the home." Most translations say that the husband is the head of the wife. The sad part of people using this quote to justify themselves is an ALL TOO COMMON case of "screw the context".
Yes, the Bible says that the husband is the head of the wife, but if you read the WHOLE section (context) you notice something....different than common understanding. You see, if you wish to impose one part of scripture and tout it as God's word, then you must also be willing to bow to another because it is God's word. If you're only willing to do the one, then you really don't care at all that it's scripture.
It says "husbands, love your wives." And the more pious among us may be willing to read to that extent and hold in their minds some awkward balance between forced submission and affection. But to understand what scripture says, we must examine the whole portion, else we do not understand the context and cannot understand the message.
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her." Few may actually read this far and attempt to love his wife by apply giving of himself for his wife, as long as she submits. But think on this: give yourself to your wife just as Christ gave himself to the church. Christ is king and lord and God and saviour and and and and... so it fits that the Bible would equate Christ to the church as the husband to the home. Except it's so much bigger than head and submission!
The depth of this only comes in truly looking at what Christ's giving meant. How did He prove his love for the church? He died for her. Most men understand the concept of sacrificing themselves for their family. But wait! There's more!
Yes he died for church. How did this happen? On the cross. The most vile and violent and humiliating form of torture known to a people who were very, very good at killing. In fact, there was no word to describe the pain suffered on the cross as flesh and bone rubbed on rough wood and major nerves were pierced and crushed. So they made a new word, excruciating. It literally means, "out of the cross".
So not only did Jesus die for his church, he was tortured for her, violently. He was abused for her. He was humiliated for her. Silently. But wait! There's more!
Jesus said that he could call legions of angels to rescue him, but he didn't. He could have stopped the pain and humiliation, but he didn't. He CHOSE to suffer this so she could have a CHANCE at something better.
And finally, Jesus says that his Father sent him, that he knows his Father's face and will be seated with Him "again". He left heaven. For this. The king and creator of all abandoned his home, his glory, his life, and his very RIGHTS for the benefit of his beloved. He had the right to be served, to live in luxury, to use the earth as his cushion! Every right he had he gave up. For her.
So... husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.
And wives, submit to your husbands, because really, if your man lives like that for you, it's really not going to be that hard to lift him up.
But what if one doesn't do his or her part? That sucks, it truly does, but you have a role and duty apart from what other people choose. And who knows? Maybe your knight in shining armour doesn't know how to be your knight because he's never been treated like it? Maybe your maiden doesn't know how to submit to you because she's never felt safe?
Peace to you.