So, I get a newsletter from a man I've only met online ... someone who has previously provided food-for-thought. And in this newsletter, he writes something that I find to be -- shall we say, contorted (even as I recognize that it's what I once believed myself!).
Here's what he wrote:
Leadership in God’s Ekklesia
In Christ man and woman can live harmoniously—and should. But where leadership is required—and some form of leadership is essential where two or more are involved in a common cause—the man surfaces. Paul confirms this in Ephesians 5:22. He is not talking about dictatorial headship, but rather a loving leadership.
This seems to be the message in Genesis 3, where Eve was told that her husband would “rule” over her. “Rule” is not a good English translation. The woman is to show deference to her godly husband, and the husband is to respect and honor his wife. In every era of God’s people, the man is considered the foremost leader. We can take the “politically correct” position until the cows come home, but in the end God still places the man in the leadership role.—Buff.
Now, nevermind for the moment that my understanding of the ekklesia (or "church") differs from his (I see it as the 40-year generation who were called out of the old covenant, into the new covenant, during the first century) ... and that I see no more need for institutional leadership in this current covenant ... what I really want to address is the confusion over the verses that he references. A confusion that has done much to malign the nature of God, not to mention wrecking havoc with male/female relationships through the centuries ... causing untold damage and pain toward women in particular, as well as burdening men with a dominion that they were never meant to shoulder.
Here's my response to him:
Dear XXXXXX -
I appreciate that you are a man of integrity - a man who values truth -- who wants truth more than he wants to be right. I admire that about you, and I share that aspiration with you.
May I share something I've discovered in my own journey? Something that has brought me both joy and liberation? If what I share bears witness in your Spirit-to-spirit connection, wonderful. If not, then do with it as you're so led ...
I notice in Genesis 3:16, after the fall (or "turning" as I have come to see it), God is here addressing the woman, Eve ("And he will rule over you."). IF God were giving a command, for the man to rule over the woman, then God would address the man directly (this is consistent throughout Scripture). Instead, I notice that He addresses the woman. What I see is that He is not commanding the man that this *should/shall* happen, but He is warning the woman that this *will* happen, due to the condition of the man's heart now ... IOW, now that the man has chosen to turn from a God-focus to a self-focus, he will surely abuse his relationships ... and God wants to warn her, so that when it happens (as it inevitably will), she will understand that it's not about her - it's about his own self-tainted nature. From this verse, we have made a command out of a warning - a doctrine out of faulty decision.
Regarding Ephesians 5:22 -- are you aware that there is no verb in that verse (seriously - check it out in Strong's concordance - notice the utter lack of it in the Greek*)...? Hupotasso ("submit") is only found in verse 21. So, whatever it means in verse 22 (where it is implied), it derives its meaning from verse 21 (where it is defined).
Here's how those verses read in the NASB:
21 and be subject to one another in the fear [reverence] of Christ.
Marriage Like Christ and the Church
22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
I see that in verse 21, the notion is all about mutuality -- mutual submission (IOW, the Christ in me recognizes, and honors, and submits to the Christ in you).
The insidiousness of the traditions of man (which continue to nullify the word of God), is that not only is this singular thought broken down into two verses, but many translations further abuse the text by putting in extra-biblical sub-headers (see above, and also in the NIV, the New Irrational Version, as an example)..!
Women in that culture had to obey their husbands, by law -- they were considered as property -- barely above cattle. They wouldn't dream of disobeying, without severe consequences. BUT, this entire letter of Paul's (which really must be read in full, to perceive the full contextual meaning) is about going beyond the *doingness* of a thing, into the *beingness* of a thing ... IOW, it's not about what to do, but about the heart's inclination. He's saying, in effect, "Wives, I realize that you already know our society calls upon you to obey your husbands ... and yet Jesus is showing us that in the Kingdom (which is at hand), there is no male/female distinction -- all are one. What I want to impress upon you is that God wants your hearts inclined in mutually-submissive love toward your husbands ... not to merely conform to outer obedience, as our primitive culture now dictates, but to also yield, voluntarily, to an inward submission, out of the recognition of Christ who is in all. Oh, and husbands -- this is critical -- you are to see your wives as your partners, not as your property -- you are to love her as you love yourself ... as Christ loves His own Body ... you are to treasure her as a priceless porcelain vessel -- the type honored for special occasions, and not merely used as an every-day earthen vessel. We in the Kingdom are not to limit ourselves to the dictates of our current world's culture, but to move into the higher/deeper realm of the Spirit, of the Kingdom."
Consider the absurdity of the husband who reads these verses through the understanding of the traditions of man. In verse 21, he is taught that in the Body of Christ, there is to be mutual submission ... and so he would see all the other women in the Body as his spiritual equals. However -- regarding his own wife, imagining (due to what he's been taught, and his own dominating inclinations) that he is to consider his wife as submitting to him alone, he would then, in effect, put all other women in the Body *above* his very own wife ... relegating her to the lowest position amongst all other women...!
We have learned to read & interpret the scriptures through the lenses of our misogynistic collective mindset - that which goes back for millennia ... rather than allowing the Spirit to show us what He both inspired and now interprets to our own spirits. Reading the letter of the law, we miss the deeper nuances of truth, which indeed set us free.
What if it's time we questioned the traditions of man, including their tainted agendas, and discovered the "too good to NOT be true" nature of our God, and to discover what He's been communicating to us ... that which we could receive if we would but put aside the traditions that blind us.
Thanks for listening ...
*Here's the link to that Strong's entry: http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Eph&c=5&v=21&t=KJV#conc/22