In honor of the noble martyr Valentine, whose day we celebrate today, I would like to propose a meditation on Ephesians 5: 22-33. In this text we learn that a husband plays the role of Christ and the wife plays the role of the Church (or, to put it even more strongly and in vocational language, the husband is a mask of Christ and the wife is a mask of the Church).
When this passage is usually contemplated, the discussion stops at “submission,” that just as the Church submits to Christ, the wife should submit to her husband. But it seems to me that there is much more to the parallels than this. I propose that we discuss the passage bracketing the question of who has to obey whom and focusing on the other implications.
Here is the passage:
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a]28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
So how are wives like the Church and how are husbands like Jesus? For those of you who are married, how does this manifest itself?
Wives are told to submit to their husbands while husbands are told to be like Jesus in sacrificing Himself for the Church. Don’t both of these involve denial of the self on behalf of the other person? What are the similarities and the differences between submission and self-sacrifice?
What do verses 26 & 27 ask of husbands?
What does it mean for two people to be “one flesh”?