Role of husbands and wives in Ephesians 5

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1 Role of husbands and wives in Ephesians 5 Summary The aim of this study is to help us think about relationships between men and women. It is meant to get us thinking about how we should behave in intimate relationships based on God s word in Ephesians 5. So whether you are talking to a group of people who are single, dating, married, young or old, it will help us be more intentional about the way we approach romantic relationships, and maybe even other relationships as well. Notes for the leader of the Study These notes are the basic outline, feel free to stick to them, add to them, use more relevant illustrations to your context, etc. Please note that this study is designed ideally, but not exclusively, for a group setting with lots of discussion. These are the notes for the person leading. Introduction When it comes to marriage and the role of husbands and wives, there is a whole range of opinions, but at the basic level it can be summarised into two main positions. Some Christians believe men are in charge and their say is final, while others think women and men are equal and no- one should take the lead and assume all authority. Our beliefs on this subject will affect the way we treat each other in intimate relationships. Our dating, marriage and family dynamics are partly based on our attitude towards the role of men and women in relationships. If we think men should lead, then men will probably make the first move in asking a girl out and will feel the need to decide what they do and when they meet up, etc. If we think it is about equality then the decisions will be more discussion based and the initial date could be initiated by either gender. So often we coast along, doing things and making decisions without ever thinking about why we make them. The way we view our potential date and their potential role will affect the way we build our relationships. So is our approach a godly one? Here is a list of 4 real life couples/stories. We will read them in pairs and discuss them then feedback as a group. Couple 1) This first couple is married, and the man believes that his word is final. He makes all the decisions and thinks he should be listened to no matter what, even if he was being horrible and unloving towards his family. He is a bully and emotionally abuses his wife and daughter, but his 1

2 excuse is I am the man, the Bible says you must respect me. He thinks it is his birth right as a man to lead no matter what. Couple 2) This married couple believe the husband is in charge and should lead. For example, if the husband has something to say and the wife does as well, he would bang his hand on the table and she would instantly stop talking and submit. The difference is that they have a very happy marriage. She feels loved and cared for and her husband looks out for her. Even though he has all the authority, he tries to lead the family based on love and the wife is happy to follow him. Couple 3) This couple are all about equality and no- one leads. This relationship is a joint effort based on communication and compromise. They talk and make decisions together. For example, they disagreed over whether their kids should be baptised and whether they should be told Father Christmas is real and celebrate the commercial Christmas. After much debate they compromised. The husband eventually got his way over baptism, and the wife got her way over Christmas. There is no leader in the traditional sense, and they are both happy and been married for many years. Couple 4) Our final couple also base their marriage on equality, but they are miserable. They constantly argue over who is going to do the cleaning and who is going to run certain errands. There is no- one to lead, no healthy avenue to make decisions, and so they are not happy. What do you think about the 4 couples we have just read about? Who has the best dynamic? Is there a best or is everyone different? What type of relationship do you think you would want to strive for? Why? Think about your past relationships, and/or your friends and family s relationships. What dynamic did they follow? Was it good or bad? Why? We are going to look at what God s word has to say on the matter. What would Jesus say if he was sitting here giving his view? Some of you may think that it does not really matter because you are not getting married yet or any time soon. But let s not make the mistake of thinking that on our wedding day God will snap his fingers and make us perfect. The way we date and relate to each other now will form behaviours that we will find hard to change in the future. If we were in London and wanted to go to Scotland, we would not go via Portsmouth. Our goal inevitably affects the way we journey. So the way we date now will affect our later relationships Some of you may be married, or have been dating for a long time and think that you have it sorted, so why analyse the relationship? Discipleship is all about constantly changing our hearts and actions to reflect Christ. Relationships are such an important and personal thing that we don t like to think we are doing it wrong. But God is a God of grace who asks us to draw near to him. If we need to change he will help us. He does not ask for perfection, but humility. Watch this video, and think about what the guy is saying, and whether his view is appealing or not. 2

3 What do you think of the video? What did you agree with? What did you disagree with? Is it strange that God wants married people to show the love he showed us? Is this important? Why? It s now time to look at Ephesians 5, but first we must look at the context it was written in. How did the first century Roman Empire view women, and did Paul s letter confirm or challenge this view? A Brief Background of the Roman Marriage Biblical scholars, such as Catherine Clark Kroeger, have shown that around the time Ephesians was written the only reason most Roman men would get married was so that they could have legitimate children and keep the house in order. The husband owned concubines so he could have good sex whenever he wanted. If he sought good company and mental stimulation he would get companions ; these were women who would attend dinner parties (where wives were prohibited) and had quick wit and discussed philosophy with the male guests. In addition, the husband and wife had different friends and social circles and did not spend much time together. All of this resulted in wives being neglected socially and sexually. This practice even forced Solon the Law giver to decree that a husband should visit his wife s bed at least three times a month! Wives were ill- treated and unloved. They were there to supply children and raise them; apart from that husbands thought they could be neglected and forgotten. This is the context Paul was writing to. What do you think about this context? Would you say it needed to be changed and challenged? Ephesians 5 Read Ephesians 5:22-33 So remember, we are thinking about how men and women relate in intimate relationships. This is the longest passage about Marriage in the New Testament and gives the most detail about marital attitudes and mindsets. It reveals God s desire for marriages. Read 5:22-24 again. In the context we just read about, wives would have been expected to submit to their husband. Do you think this command by Paul was challenging the status quo? Read 5:25-29 again. Husbands neglected their wives and treated them badly. Yet Paul commands them to love them. Not only that, but to lay down their lives and show them the same sacrificial love and care Christ showed on the cross. Do you think this command by Paul was challenging the status quo? What can we learn from this? 3

4 When Paul tells the women to submit to their husbands, he is not telling them to do anything they were not doing already in that culture. However, when he tells the man to love his wife, this was radical. Men did not love their wives or even treat them with affection, yet Paul is telling them to love their wives like Christ loves the church, with self- sacrificing love. This was extremely liberating for women and also stood against adultery; if you love your wife with everything, like Christ loves the church, you won t upset her by sharing your love, body and feelings with someone else. But in the context our discussion, it changed the way people in intimate relationships had to relate. It was like a competition: who could serve more? Women would submit and serve the man. Then the man would lay down his life serve the woman. Then the woman would submit and then the man would lay down his life, etc. It is like a holy limbo. In the same way Christ gave up all his glory, stepped out of heaven to become human and died naked and humiliated on a cross. He decided to sacrifice his rights, riches and comfort and lay it down for the ones he loved. In the same way, God asks us to put aside our pride, selfish desires and put our husband/wife before our own needs. God wanted sacrifice, love and affection to mark marriage. 1 Corinthians 7:1-4 also has the idea that the needs of the one we marry should come before our own needs. If the couple look out for each other in love, then both will be happy and cared for. Do you think this teaching is good? Why? Do you think relationships should be marked by sacrificial love? Why? What do you think is needed for this to be achieved in relationships? (e.g. forgiveness, love, etc ) How can we practise/start preparing these characteristics in our friendships, dating or married relationships? Conclusion You may think men should lead in church or not. You may think men and women are equal or not. In a way that is a related, but nevertheless a side issue. This is specifically about how men and women in love should treat each other. Even if you believe men should lead, what should that leadership look like? Should it be marked with selfishness and the right for men to do whatever they want no matter if it s horrible and manipulative? Or should it be marked with love, sacrifice and putting others first? Jesus said leadership should be marked with putting your own needs last and others first (Mark 9:33-37; Luke 22:24-27). Even if you think relationships are about equality, and man and women are equal, should we use that freedom to get whatever we want and make sure our rights and comfort come first? Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love others. How will you put their needs before your own? 4

5 In the context of marriage (forget about the other issues for now) Paul seems to call for such a radical selflessness that the question is not really about leadership and who is in charge, but how much are you serving, submitting and laying down your life? How would this work practically in marriage? (e.g. you may clean the toilet because they don t want to) How would this work out practically in dating? (e.g. you watch a movie you don t like because you know they want to see it) What can each of us start doing differently, not only in our dating but also in our friendships? Response Have time for a response Do whatever you thing is relevant. You could put on some music, and ask them to write down past relationships that have been bad, or attitudes that have been ungodly, and get them to hand it all over to God. Then they could pray for forgiveness and strength for future relationships. 5

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