Day 328 “A Matter of Honor” Ephesians 5 -6
November 25, 2021, 11:17 PM

Day 328 “A Matter of Honor” Ephesians 5 -6

Love. Hate. That’s how these passages come at us from Paul. We love them or we hate them. He says some things that take my breath away—when he spoke about the church as the Body of Christ, when he writes about how a community is to love each other, telling us that we are the fragrance of Christ to God. I love them. I carry them with me. I remember them.

Then there are the challenging verses. “Wives, be subject to your husbands!” Or maybe “Put on the armor of God!” The last one, about the armor, has become kind of a classic, but it uses a military imagery that we can’t just ignore. There are child-sized plastic pieces of armor to help children understand the ‘armor of God’ verses that can seem kind of charming until you realize that you are dressing your child as a soldier, you know, with a sword. A sword.

I’m not going to defend these verses, but I want to dig into them a bit more so we don’t stop at the surface and simply reject these ideas.

First look at verse 21 to see that Paul is actually telling both men and women to be subject to one another. He then goes on to speak to both men and women and some of what he says needs to be understood in context. Women were considered property (I am hating that whole phrase, just so we are clear here) in the time of Paul, and his admonition would not have seemed strange to the Ephesians. They would have nodded and said “Right. We need to keep the correct order of things.” And that is certainly what Paul is always concerned about, keeping the order. However this does not mean that what Paul is saying is prescriptive for us today, right now. Women are not property. Women have voices and gifts and jobs and responsibilities.

In addition, you can’t just look at this verse about wives without reading the verse about husbands too. Context means keeping things where they are, and the verse about women is then followed by the verse about husbands who are supposed to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (5: 25). To give oneself up means giving up our agendas, our plans, our goals, and our ambition in order to foster a healthier marriage and partnership. If a spouse truly gives himself up for his partner, that is at least as challenging as submitting or showing deference. If I am willing to give myself up for my spouse, I am saying that even my life may be sacrificed for the love and care of someone else. That’s literally what Jesus did, and what Paul is saying husbands need to be ready to do.

So we can’t just talk about submitting without also talking about sacrificing. We don’t have one without the other.

And then that armor stuff. Put on the armor of God. Of course all the items are symbolic—the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness and the shoes of peace. Why does he use these images of a battle, of being ready for war? Well, I have come to accept that being a Christian actually IS a battle at times, and that I need the kind of strength, or I need to find the kind of strength that Paul writes about in order to keep fighting the battle. Seriously. Have you ever felt that way? Some days when I want to do the ‘right’ thing, whatever that may be, it’s like an uphill battle both ways. Everything seems to conspire to stop me, to prevent me, to distract me so that I can’t actually do the thing I know I need to do, or should do. Like this crazy, wonderful blog for example!

I wrote the very first line of this blog last night, for example, with so much enthusiasm but late at night, and within ONE MINUTE I was asleep. I wrote one line. And fell asleep. I knew I should fight off sleep, stay up, keep writing—it is the right thing to do!! But I simply couldn’t and then I got so annoyed when I woke up this morning and I still only had one line written. Then there was the turkey prep and we had to listen to Alice’s Restaurant on the radio at noon, and then stuffing and vegetables, then the meal itself—a battle I tell you! It was a battle!

More seriously, I think of Christians who are compelled by their faith to  rescue teens from sex trafficking, people who work with migrants, those who house foster children, who feed the hungry, who care for the disabled, who volunteer to staff suicide prevention hotlines, who answer their phones at 2 am even though they know how much they need to sleep so they can talk with a friend who didn’t know who else to call. Every one of those actions has an easily accessible opposite: ignore the teens and the migrants, think of yourself as being too old to take in a foster child, assume everyone has enough food, make the disabled responsible for themselves, don’t worry about the desperation of loneliness and depression in other people, put your phone on silent. But we battle back, fighting ourselves, and yes, sacrificing ourselves, in order to show people what it looks like when the battle has been won. Because it has been. Jesus won the war, but we are still in the fight, aren’t we? Because the world doesn’t know. But you do. And so you’ve got to strap on whatever armor it takes to go back out there and be a ‘good’ Christian, which means that you are ready to love until it hurts, to pray until the words run out, to serve until you’ve got nothing left. And that, my friends, is a battle. Every day.

So I am finishing this on Thanksgiving night, a full 24 hours after I started it, a day later than I intended, but thankful all the same for the ability to wrestle with these words from our brother Paul. Thankful, but not comfortable. Thankful, but not complacent. Thankful all the same.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,


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