This is the third in a series of posts on marriage and the family.
Now it’s the husband’s turn, and what Paul instructed for them was pretty radical for that culture. Paul goes into more detail about the role of the paterfamilias in a Christian family than he does the wife’s role:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind — yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish.
In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body…
Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:25-30, 33, NRSV)
Telling the Paterfamilias to love his wife as himself and in a self-sacrificing way was completely revolutionary for that day. Also radical was what Paul wrote in the introduction to this section of Ephesians on family ties. He wrote this to husbands and wives: “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21, NRSV)
He’s telling the paterfamilias to be subject to his wife! I’ll bet that raised some Roman eyebrows! Paul also refers to the husband’s role as spiritual head of the household in that he is to look out for the spiritual welfare of his wife. Paul compared Jesus preparing his bride, the church, to the role of the paterfamilias to care for his wife spiritually. I think the message for us today is one of harmonious relations based on mutual love and respect, and knowing each has important roles to play. Moreover, the husband is to look out for the wife’s welfare, especially in the spiritual area (which unfortunately I don’t think happens in too many families today).
Paul gives this instruction to children in his epistle to the Ephesians:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” — this is the first commandment with a promise: “so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:1-3, NRSV)
You never stop being the child of parents. For example, in Matthew 15:1-9, Jesus criticized the religious leaders for being hypocrites by not honoring their older parents. These religious leaders were giving the money to the temple that could have been used to support their elderly parents. This outraged Jesus, because they were using a religious practice to dishonor their parents and break one of the Ten Commandments. If course it is up to the parents to bring children up with the proper teaching and discipline, and train their kids to show respect to them and any adults.
More on this topic of marriage and the family in a future post.