PODCAST: A Deep Dive into Ephesians 5–Why Hierarchy in Marriage Doesn’t Work

by | Nov 3, 2022 | Podcasts, Theology of Marriage and Sex | 29 comments

Ephesians 5 and hierarchy in marriage
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I’m going to get personal, and emotional, in today’s podcast. 

We had a whole other podcast planned for this week, and I even recorded it last weekend, but just didn’t like it. And then three things happened.

First, I did an Instagram live last week that went really big, explaining how the Bible doesn’t actually command men to lead their wives. A number of people asked me to put that up on YouTube and to put it somewhere where it could get a wider audience.

And second, I just had a really rough couple of days (I explained a bit on Facebook on Monday). I wasn’t in the emotional headspace to re-record the podcast we had planned.

But third, I’ve been following the protests in Iran, and I’ve been so moved by the plight of Iranian women, and by their bravery. And I’ve been so discouraged that what Iranian women are fighting is actually so similar to how evangelical fundamentalists talk about women.

So I took all those three things together, and I decided to record a really personal podcast on why it’s so important to me that God loves me, as a woman. 

This isn’t my normal podcast. It’s just me talking. But I hope you hear my heart. This one’s a little nerve wracking for me because I am getting vulnerable. But I hope it helps some people.

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:

Timeline of the Podcast

0:10 Sheila’s story on why she’s so passionate
27:00 IG Live on Ephesians 5
35:40 The verb ‘submit’
48:15 Book recommendations
51:10 Women preaching from Q&A
57:30 Scripture readings

Women’s Equality–and a Deep Dive into Ephesians 5

I tell bluntly why I had a major crisis of faith at age 16. I truly loved God. He was my safe space. But I started to realize that the Christian community didn’t want me listening to Jesus. As a woman, I’d always be under a man. I couldn’t teach the things I was learning or hearing. I had to listen to men. And when married, no matter what I heard from God, I’d have to follow my husband.

So even though I wanted to be intimate with God, He didn’t want to be intimate with me. He was saying, “You can try to hear me and try to know me, but ultimately you can’t trust what you hear. You need to follow another human being, and THAT human being is the one I’m trusting to hear me.”

I didn’t know how to handle the fact that the God I loved wnated to keep me at arm’s length.

That started my journey into looking into the Greek and the context of these passages, and finding freedom. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Kari Torjesen Malcolm, who wrote a book I read at 16, saved my life.

I then explained how my views on abuse really solidified when a close friend left her husband who had been abusive–and I had had no idea at the time. I had seen the red flags, but they hadn’t computed.

Something had to change.

We cannot read the Bible without taking context into account.

My Instagram Live last week was inspired by the conversation around this Fixed It For You. People were saying I was fixing Scripture, because I crossed out “lead your wife.”

I shared that lead your wife is not anywhere in Scripture. And we need to understand what Paul was doing in Ephesians 5 to understand the message.

Paul was not trying to overthrow existing power structures when he was writing household codes in Ephesians 5 and 6. He was trying to say–given the way society works, how can we live like Christ? So he didn’t overthrow slavery, and he didn’t overthrow patriarchy. But that doesn’t mean he agreed with either of them.

We read Ephesians 5 wrong because we think that it’s all about hierarchy. But that was the backdrop, not the command.

Paul was saying–hey, women, you’re already submitting, because you have to. Now I’m asking you to do it as unto God.

But men? You’re the ones who really need to change. It is men that the majority of words, and all of the actual commands (in the imperative case) in Greek are given. The way we were to overthrow power structures was men choosing to love sacrificially rather than exercising power.

So let’s look at the context, and at what Paul is actually asking men to do, and we’ll see that it’s not about setting up gender hierarchy. It’s about undermining hierarchy and teaching us how to live as Jesus taught, in Matthew 20:25-28; in John 13:35; how Paul summarized Jesus’ attitude that we should emulate in Philippians 2. That’s the point of the gospel, and quite frankly–too often we’ve totally missed it.

I shared a part of my Instagram Live, too, but it was much longer, and if you want to watch the whole thing, you can right here! (and yes, you’re looking at a couch for the first 30 seconds. Sorry about that).

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Things Mentioned in the Podcast

Ephesians 5 Deep Dive Podcast

Have you changed your thinking on this? Have you ever felt far from God because of what you were taught in church? Let’s talk in the comments! 

Transcript

Sheila: Welcome to The Bare Marriage podcast.  I’m Sheila Wray Gregoire from baremarriage.com where we like to talk about healthy, evidence-based, biblical advice for your marriage and your sex life.  Today’s podcast is going to be a little bit different.  It’s just me, first of all.  And I have some things that I just want to share.  Some interesting things happened on social media last week, and I’ve had a number of messages and just meetings with people in real life that have just taken me back down memory lane.  And I think there’s some things that I would like to share with all of you about how God first got my attention about the whole issue with how much He loves women and values women and why I’m so passionate about this now, why I’m so passionate that we understand that both men and women are made fully in the image of God.  And so I want to tell you about one of the defining moments in my life.  And to do that, what you need to understand is that as a child God was my safe space.  

I was often lonely as a kid.  I wasn’t always happy.  I had an amazing mom.  I had a really great extended family, but I was often lonely for different reasons.  And I would go for walks, and I would talk to God.  And I would feel God.  And God was this constant presence in my life as a kid.  I started reading the Bible at a very young age.  I just wanted to know God, and I felt God’s pleasure.  And I felt God’s presence.  And I felt God drawing me to Him even as an 8, 9, 10-year-old child.  In high school, I sought out a church with a good youth group in Toronto because I had experienced that at my aunt’s house in Kingston, about 3 hours away when I visited her.  And I wanted that for me too.  And so we found a church.  My mom and I found a church like that.  I was super involved in the youth group.  I had great Christian friends.  I went to Christian camps.  And I did mission work.  And I really, really loved God.

And then when I was 16, I went through a major crisis of faith.  Probably one of the worst ones that I ever have been through.  And it started because I began to realize that in my church there were so many things that women weren’t allowed to do.  And as I asked more about it, I realized this whole model of women being under the authority of men was everywhere.  And this threw me through a real tailspin.  And it wasn’t—so many people say, “Oh, she was just being rebellious because she didn’t want to listen to authority.”  And it wasn’t that at all.  And please understand me as I tell you this.  It was that I really—I really loved Jesus.  And I needed Jesus so badly.  And the goal of my life was to know Jesus more.  You know those verses that Paul writes.  “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection.”  All of that meant more to Him than everything else.  That was my heart’s cry.

And yet, what I felt like God was saying to me with all of the stuff about how women are under men’s authority is that, “Yes.  Sheila, I want you to know Me, but you need to understand that you can never be sure that you actually hear Me because you must listen to what other people say about Me.  Not what you hear Me say.  So no matter how close you get to Me you need to always second guess yourself.  And you need to always assume that you’re wrong because, as a woman, you can never hear from Me in the same way that a man can because a man can hear from Me and then direct his family but a woman can’t.”  And I thought, “How can I live with a God that I desperately want to know who doesn’t actually want to know me?  I love God.  God is my whole life.  And yet, God is saying I want to keep you at arm’s length because you’re a girl.”  And that’s what was my crisis of faith.  It was that I had this God that I loved and that God would never fully reveal Himself to me, would never really tell me anything that I could be sure of simply because I’m a woman.  And it was my job not to follow the voice of God that I was hearing, but instead to follow the voice of other people and what they think God is saying.

And I didn’t know how to compute those two things.  How can I love God and follow Him?  And how can God honestly love me if what God is telling me is that, “You’re not actually supposed to follow me.  You’re supposed to follow these other people who are following me.  And so you are at arm’s length”?  I was very blessed at that time—well, I still am—with a wonderful aunt.  And I talked to her about these things.  And she gave me a book called Woman at the Crossroads by Kari Torjeson Malcolm.  I still remember.  It was published in 1982.  So this was a couple years after it was published.  It gives me great pleasure that I can still remember her terrible name because maybe one—maybe some of you will still remember my name in decades to come.  And that was the first book that showed me that maybe, just maybe, this way of seeing women wasn’t actually biblically accurate.  And there were other ways of looking at it.  And she referenced some other people in her book.  And then I looked up those other people, and I bought this book called Women, Authority, and the Bible edited by Alvera Mickelson.  I bought it when it came out in 1986.  And I just—I read through it.  It’s very academic.  And I read through it.

And I noticed there were a bunch of footnotes about all kinds of different Greek words, specifically this book was looking at 1 Timothy 2:11-12, which appeared to say that a woman is not allowed to teach or exercise authority over a man.  And the book was saying, “Well, if you look at the Greek, does—is that actually what it says?  If we look at the context, if we look at how Paul actually acted and how Paul actually promoted women teaching, is this what it said?”  And this book had a lot of footnotes to journal articles.  And so I walked myself—my little 16-year-old self down to the University of Toronto library.  And I asked to see those journals.  And they wouldn’t let because I didn’t have a student card which made me very frustrated.  And so that summer I went to visit my father out in Vancouver.  And he was a professor at the University of British Columbia.  And so I asked him if we could go to the library—if I could come to work with him one day and we would go to the library.  And he could get all these journals out for me.  

And so I spent 2 days in the library at the University of British Columbia devouring all these journal articles about Greek words and context, and it just opened up the world to me.  The following year I went to Urbana 87.  It’s a big missions conference that was held in Urbana, Illinois every 3 years at that time.  There were about 20,000 young Christians who went.  Run by InterVarsity.   And I met Kari Torjeson Malcolm there.  And I went up to her, and I said, “I don’t say this lightly, but I think you saved my life because you gave me Jesus back.”  And I just want you all to understand what it’s like to love God and to feel like He keeps you at arms’ length.  That’s not a nice feeling, and that’s not what God wants for us.  And that makes God sad too.  

And I say that because on Saturday I had an interesting conversation with a very good friend of mine.  We’ve been friends for 23 years now I think.  It’s a long time anyway.  Our families were very close.  And one of the biggest regrets of my life is that as close as we were I didn’t see because my friend left her husband about—a couple years ago.  And when she did, she called me to tell me about it—that it was because she couldn’t handle the abuse anymore.  And I just hadn’t seen.  I was there.  I was right there.  I saw—I did see some red flags.  But they never computed to me because she seemed so happy.  And I asked her about that on Saturday.  I said, “I regret not seeing.  But I really thought you were happy.”  And she said, “Yeah.  Because I thought I was happy because my whole life I was told that what would make me was to be a wife and a mother and to submit to my husband and have this man who is this great spiritual leader.  And that’s what it looked like I had.  And my church was telling me this is what was going to make me happy.  And my family was telling me this is what is going to make you happy.  And my husband was telling me this is what is going to make you happy.  And so all of these voices told me this is the pinnacle of life to be married to a man who is your spiritual leader and who takes that seriously.”  

And she said, “I had that.  And so, obviously, I’m happy.”  But she wasn’t because she wasn’t allowed to be herself.  And he controlled her, and I didn’t see it.  And then one day, she starts to realize, “Wait a minute.  I’m not happy because part of me is dying.  And I try to express who I really am, and it gets knocked down.”  And this went on for years and years and years until she finally broke and couldn’t do it anymore.  And we were talking, and she said, “I look back, and I wonder.  What was it about me that made me think I deserved that?  What was it about me that made me think that was okay?”  And what she came up with is just this is how she grew up being told that this is what God wants.  That God wants you to be with a man who will lead you.  And so she just didn’t think that she was allowed to speak up.  

That’s what I hear so much from women who get out of abusive marriages is they tell me that it takes 3, 4, 5 years after you leave to even start to figure out what you actually like because your whole marriage you trained yourself not to think about what you like and what you want because your orientation is around what your husband wants and what your husband thinks.  And so you don’t even know who you are.  You just know that you can’t handle what you were in.  The evangelical world has a real problem with abuse, and I don’t believe that we can truly address it until we get to the underlying theology that allows abuse to flourish and that primes for putting up with it.  

What studies have found—and I’ve quoted some of these on other podcasts—is that men who believe in gender hierarchy are more likely to say that they perpetrated interpersonal violence against their partners in the last year.  The Institute for Family Studies had a world family map that they put out in 2019 that found that the—if you divide the population into people who are highly religious who believe in gender equality and people who are highly religious who don’t and then secular people who believe in gender hierarchy and secular people who don’t and then mixed—people where one person is religious in the couple and one person isn’t—the group that is the most likely to perpetrate gender based violence is secular, who believe in gender hierarchy.  The second most likely group is religious, who believe in gender hierarchy.  And the least likely group to perpetuate interpersonal violence is religious, who don’t believe in gender hierarchy.

So religion is not the problem.  It’s the gender hierarchy that’s the problem.  Other studies have shown that it’s not necessarily that religious women experience abuse at higher rates than secular woman.  It’s that religious women stay, and religious have a much harder time getting out because they’ve been told their whole life, “This is what will make you happy.  To have this leader.”  And when this leader becomes controlling—because I am aware that not all men who espouse leadership are controlling.  I know that.  But when it happens, they can’t get out because they can’t see the difference.  And that’s really what increasingly I’m seeing.  A number of people have sent me an Instagram reel by a very popular male author.  Not one that I’ve critiqued before.  And he’s talking—the Instagram reel is really meant to call out husbands who aren’t treating their wives well.  And his basic message is, “Look guys.  Your call to authority over your wives—God gave you the authority and responsibility for your family.  But God will not honor your prayers unless you use that responsibility and authority for her best.  If you are not using your responsibility and authority for her best, then God will not listen to you.  And you are doing something terribly, terribly wrong.”  And that sounds really good, doesn’t it?  Look.  He’s encouraging men to dedicate themselves to their wives’ best.  

But as I’m listening to this, I’m hearing echoes of 15, 16-year-old Sheila, who is saying, “But why does somebody else get to hear from God what is best for me instead of both of us just going to God and asking God to show us what is best for us?”  Because even in these really nice ways of putting it, we’re setting up a system where it’s assumed that the husband knows what’s best for the wife.  But the wife doesn’t.  So the husband is able to hear from God what is best for the wife, but the wife isn’t.  And even if the wife speaks up and says, “Hey, I think you’re wrong,” ultimately, the husband can say, “Honey, I know you think that, but God has put me in authority.  And you need to trust me on this that I know what’s best for you.”  

And even if he’s a great guy, that is inherently dangerous in three ways.  The first is that it can easily switch to controlling behavior, which is what happened to my friend.  When someone is told, “You are the one who knows best,” it’s very easy for that to become, “This is what I think is best.  And so we are all going to do this.  And if you don’t, you’re rebelling against me.”  And that’s a very dangerous dynamic that we see over and over again.  It also sets up men and women as not being able to go to God together.  This is something where she is supposed to listen to him rather than using both of their gifts.  And so it’s inherently limiting.  And we know, in the Bible, that two are better one.  And yet, it’s taking away those benefits.  But the other one is just a far more basic one.  And that if women are in a situation where we believe the husband is the one who takes responsibility, the husband is the one with authority, the husband is the one who ultimately hears from God about what is best for me, then we can stop trying to figure it out ourselves.  

We may think it’s not our role to wrestle with God in prayer for these things.  We may think it’s not our role to hear God.  We may just gratefully trust our husbands with this.  But in doing so, we are abdicating our responsibility to go to God ourselves and to keep that relationship with God where we know we’re supposed to hear from Him for what is going on in our lives.  And there is nothing in Scripture that says that God speaks to men more than women.  And in fact, over and over again in Scripture, God uses women to tell men where things are at whether it’s Zipporah with Moses or Huldah or Deborah or even Mary telling the disciples, “Hey guys.  You know how you abandoned Jesus and we stuck with the tomb?  Well, guess what?  He is risen.”  Over and over again, God uses women.

And yet, we are systematically training ourselves not to hear from God.  And that may not be fair.  A lot of you may feel like that’s not a fair thing to say because you love God.  And you’re following God.  And you’re studying Scripture.  But when you are in a dynamic where it is assumed that what you think is secondary and you may have something to offer but, ultimately, he decides, then it becomes a dynamic where it is—your walk with God is not actually about hearing Him in the same way.  That just makes me sad because we’re meant to have such a big life.  God wants to use His daughters.  And that doesn’t need to look the same for every family.  That’s why we need to listen to God because it doesn’t look the same for every family.  And God has given all of us different gifting and different talents and different circumstances.  That’s why we all need to be listening to God, and we all need to be following after Him.  And God wants us to have unity.  And God has created marriage so that we can support each other as we chase after God.

But when we turn it into a hierarchy, it’s like we put women in a very vulnerable position.  And we give men power that Jesus actually railed against.  And we can dress it up in really, really happy things.  But the fruit of this is really clear.  Our study of 20,000 women found that when men make the final decisions, even if they consult with the wife first, even if he and the wife agree but the final decision rests with the husband, they have a 7.4 higher divorce rate.  And a lot of that is because women in those marriages often report that they don’t feel heard.  And when women don’t feel heard, they’re 26 times more likely to get divorced.  How are women supposed to be feel heard in a marriage where ultimately he makes the decision?  You might be able—like my friend—like she said, she was happy.  She convinced herself she was happy for a long time, but she was slowly getting erased as a person.  And my friend mattered.  My friend is a precious human being.  And God gave her such amazing insight and wisdom and compassion, and that was slowly being ripped away because she wasn’t allowed to be heard.  And when you’re not allowed to be heard, then slowly you stop thinking, and you feel yourself getting erased.

And no.  Not everybody who sets up their family like this will experience this, but it is so much more common.  It is so much more common, and the research—not just ours— but multiple, multiple studies have found that one of the key things in marital success is a husband and wife partnership where they’re seen as equals and where there isn’t any kind of authority or hierarchy.  Right now there are huge protests going on in Iran, which is another reason why I’m very emotional today.  I’ve just been following that quite closely.  And the slogan that many marchers are yelling is, “Woman.  Life.  Freedom.  Women.  Life.  Freedom.”  The protests were started because a woman didn’t have her hijab on properly, and the morality police arrested her and killed her.  And now more and more and more people are being killed, and more and more and more women are ripping off the hijab and saying, “No.  We are real people.”  

It’s amazing when you read the Gospels how Jesus reserves His harshest words for the religious leaders.  And that’s, I think, because when you look at what is happening in Iran and the control that they’re trying to have over women and the lack of choice that they are giving people and just every day things in their daily lives, so much of it resembles what I see in some of the fundamentalist Christian circles.  The fundamentalist Christian circles look way more like Iran than they do like Jesus because the aim is the same.  To control people.  And they may use different Scriptures, and they may use Jesus’s name instead of Allah’s name or instead of Mohammed’s name.  But the aim is to control people.  And Jesus railed against religious people because that’s never what it was about.  It’s about this intimate relationship we’re supposed to have with God where we follow after Him with our whole heart and where we serve one another, where we have this attitude of service to others, where our life is about bringing the kingdom of God to earth as it is in Heaven.  And we will do that by chasing after God, by listening to Jesus, by running the race looking unto Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, that He is the One that we look towards.  And we don’t have a mediator between God and us except for Jesus.  Women do not have a husband as their mediator. 

And I don’t think that we’re ever, every going to be able to touch the problem of abuse in the church until we get over this idea that women have a mediator.  And I don’t think we’re going to be able to be effective as a church until we believe that God speaks to women too.  And not just give lip service to that but really live it out.  Last week on Instagram I did an Instagram Live on Ephesians 5.  And a number of people wanted me to run that.  And so I thought today I would just share some of the things that are on my heart because it’s been a heavy weekend.  I’ve got to admit.  And I want to share this Instagram Live with you which isn’t as heavy.  I’m sounding much happier in it.  And I hope it helps.  

A few things in the Live I kept saying Ephesians 5:35 when I meant Ephesians 5:33.  I was doing all of this from memory, and I’m sorry about that.  But I am forever grateful to my aunt, who showed me that book that led me on this road to knowing that God valued me and actually did want a close relationship with me.  He didn’t want to keep me at arms’ length.  I’m forever grateful for that author who wrote that book.  And I hope—I hope that for some of you I’m playing that role in your life too because God does value you.  And He does love you.  Woman.  Life.  Freedom.  Let’s listen in.

I was telling the story about my fixed it for yous and how, in last week’s fixed it for you about Dale Partridge, people were criticizing me because they said that I was fixing Scripture.  And the reason they were saying that I was fixing Scripture—I finally figured it out because I wasn’t fixing Scripture.  I was fixing it when he was saying that you should be leading your wife on a journey to Christ.  It was because I cut out the portion where he said lead your wife.  And they were saying that was Scripture.  And I’m thinking that’s not Scripture.  Lead your wife is nowhere in Scripture.  And people didn’t believe me.  I was saying that.  That there is no command in Scripture to lead your wife.  And people didn’t believe me.

And so I thought it was worth doing an Instagram Live and talking about this because, obviously, this is something which has a lot of confusion around it.  And I think many of us grow up assuming that the Bible says stuff that the Bible doesn’t necessarily say.  So I would like to take us on a journey right now through Ephesians 5 and a couple of other passages, tell you what I have learned about it, and, hopefully, this can help you as you are thinking about it too.  

So first of all, let’s start with Jesus because that’s always where we should start when we are interpreting Scripture.  One of the things you’ll notice about Jesus is that He was not here to overthrow power structures, okay?  He actually deliberately—and this surprised people.  Because remember, the disciples and everybody assumed that he was going to overthrow the Romans.  And they were really quite disappointed at first when they figured out that wasn’t what he was there to do.  They were all waiting for Him to overthrow the Romans even to the very last night of His life.  Remember?  Peter took out a sword because they were thinking this is supposed to be something where we overthrow the powers that are over us.  And Jesus said, “No.  That’s not it.”  And so Jesus was not here to overthrow the power structures.  Jesus was here to give us an upside down kingdom, to show us how we are supposed to live our lives, how we are supposed to orient ourselves to others.  And then in so doing as more and more people take on that role and take on that way of seeing things and take on a heavenly mindset, we will, in turn, overthrow power structures, okay?  But Jesus did not come to necessarily overthrow power structures.

And when Paul was writing Ephesians 5, it was the same thing.  Paul was not saying, “I am going to overthrow power structures.”  He was saying, “Given the power structures that we have, how are we to live?”  And that’s why Paul didn’t actually advocate for ending slavery.  That’s why he was talking at the end of Ephesians 5 how—what slaves should do for their masters and things like that.  How in Ephesians 5 and 6, all of that about how we’re not actually overthrowing slavery.  He’s just talking about how slaves should act and how masters should act.  Does that mean that Paul approved of slavery?  No.  It doesn’t.  And we know that as people started to understand the Gospel that slavery was wrong, and that’s why we ended up overthrowing slavery.  But Paul, himself, knew I can’t overthrow slavery right now.  But what I can do is I can show people how to live out the kingdom in the context of where they are.  So remember that because that’s going to have an impact on how we see what he’s talking about marriage.

He was not here to overthrow unfair power structures.  He was here to say, “Given the power structures that we have, how are you to live?”  And that’s in line with Jesus’s words in Matthew 20:25-28 where He is saying, “Look.  It’s the Gentiles that are worried about power and authority and who is in authority and who has power.  It is not supposed to be that way with you.”  Okay?  And He talks about how the Son of Man came not to save His life but to lose it and to give His life as a ransom for many.  And the whole point is that we are to serve.  Okay?  That is what Jesus was saying is that we are to serve.  And that—and not worrying about who has power and not trying to have power.  

So it’s the same thing with Philippians 2 where Paul says that Jesus didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped but made Himself nothing.  And so Jesus’s orientation that He is trying to teach all of us is how not to worry about power and authority but instead how to serve.  Okay?  Now a bunch of people are asking if I’m going to record this, yes.  This will be recorded, and I will post it so you can see it later.  So with that context, let’s turn to Ephesians 5:22.  Actually, let’s not because isn’t that where people normally start the passage.  If you open up your Bible to Ephesians 5, most translations have a heading between 5:21 and Ephesians 5:22.  And between Ephesians 5:21 and 5:22, the heading will say something like rules for marriage or household codes or something like that.  

There’s only one problem.  In Greek, you can’t divide Ephesians 5:21 from Ephesians 5:22.  They are all the same thought, and I’ll tell you why.  There should not be a division there.  Ephesians 5:21 says, “Submit one to another out of reverence for Christ.”  Okay?  We are all to submit to one another.  Every Christian is to be in submission to other Christians.  That is the whole thing that sets up how—Paul then goes on to talk about marriage and slavery and parents and kids, et cetera.  Okay?  Everyone is in submission to everyone else.  That means that submission is not about decision making because that wouldn’t make any sense, would it?  If submission were about who makes decisions, then no one is going to—it doesn’t make any sense.  Submission is not about authority or power.  It’s not about saying this person is under someone else.  It is simply about saying I am going to consider your needs.  It is about saying I am going to put myself under what you need right now, and I am going to consider you first.  And I am going to worry about your welfare.  I’m going to pray that the Lord’s will be done in your life, and I will work to make sure that I am an instrument of that happening.  Okay?

So this is about how it was supposed to be.  We’re all supposed to submit to one another.  Now Paul does something really funny in Ephesians 5:22.  If you look at your Bibles, it says, “Wives, submit to your husbands,” right?  It doesn’t say that in Greek.  There is no verb in the Greek.  No verb.  And this isn’t—this doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot in the sense that Paul wasn’t saying that wives shouldn’t submit.  But in Greek, it’s quite a common practice that the verb isn’t repeated if it is carrying the meaning from the previous sentence.  And so Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit to your husbands,” there isn’t actually a Greek word for submit in Ephesians 5:22 because it is carrying it’s meaning from 5:21.  So however submission looks as every believer submits to one another, that’s the same way that submission looks for wives to husbands.  You can’t say that the verb means something in verse 21 and then something entirely different in verse 22 because the verb isn’t even in 22.  It takes its meaning from verse 21, okay?  

Because a lot of people will say, “Well, yes.  We’re all supposed to submit to one another.  But wives submit in a way that no one else does.  And a wife’s submission means that a husband is in authority.  And so a wife’s submission is about authority,” except that it can’t mean that because that’s not what it means in Ephesians 5:21.  And that’s where it gets its meaning from, okay?  So we need to stop with all of that.  All right.  That’s point number one.  So wives are supposed to submit to the husbands in the same way as everyone submits to one another.

Now here is something else that’s kind of interesting.  And I learned this from Cynthia Westfall, who is the author of Paul and Gender.  I’ll show you that book later.  I have that book.  And I had her on a podcast awhile ago, and we were talking about how unconditional respect isn’t a thing.  And she was talking about the Greek for Ephesians 5—is it 35?  I’m blanking on it now.  The verse that Emerson Eggerichs loves to use.  How men respect—men, love your wives.  And wives, respect your husbands.  It doesn’t actually say that.  And we went through—Cynthia Westfall and I went through that verse.  And what it—there isn’t actually a command for women.  Now, let me explain what I mean by this.  In English if I say, “You submit to your husband,” and I say, “Submit to your husband,” the verb submit is the same in both cases.  S U B M I T.  So you submit to your husband and submit to your husband is the same.  But in one case, I’m describing something.  I’m doing a present tense.  You submit to your husband.  In the other case, I’m commanding something.  Submit to your husband.  So in English, they look the same.  In Greek, they don’t.  In Greek, there is something called—well, it’s actually called—it’s not called a command case.  But I’m not going to get into all the things that it’s called in Greek, okay?  

But there is a specific form of a Greek word that is used when you’re issuing a command.  And in the entire passage, there is not a single verb that is like that for women.  Okay?  There is not a single verb in the command case.  There are many verbs that are like that for men that are commands.  There aren’t for women.  What does that mean?  Well, maybe what it means—remember how we were talking about, at the beginning of this video, how Paul wasn’t trying to overthrow household codes?  He was trying to tell us how to live within household codes, all right?  And when you look at the household—at how houses were functioning then, wives were already submitting.  This was normal.  Wives were under their husbands’ authority.  So what he was describing was—it was kind of like he was saying, “Wives submitting to your husbands like you’re already doing.  Wives are doing this stuff.”

But what he was really emphasizing wasn’t what wives should do but what husbands should do because wives were already doing this.  And he was saying now, “Okay.  You’re already doing this because you’re forced to do it, wives.  Now I want to ask you to do it because you are doing it willingly unto Christ.  So it’s not just that you’re forced to do it.  I’m asking you to do it willingly unto Christ.”  And I think that’s what Paul is trying to get at.  That you’re doing it willingly unto Christ.  But the point—if you look at the Greek, the real emphasis in this passage is on what men should do because men were the ones who weren’t doing it.  Okay?  Paul’s demand that women submit to their husbands—women already were.  Paul command that husbands love their wives—that was what was new and revolutionary.  Okay?

And so then Paul goes on, and he gives all of these instructions to husbands.  Now where we were getting into it last week was I had many people telling me that God was calling husbands to wash their wives in the word and cleanse them and sanctify them in the way that Ephesians 5:25 talks about how husbands should love their wives as Jesus did with a washing of the word, et cetera, et cetera.  There is no command for husbands to wash their wives in the word.  There is no command for husbands to sanctify their wives.  We are already sanctified.  Wives are not more in need of salvation than men.  And men do not need to complete women’s salvation.  Women are already saved.  Jesus did that work.  And men do not need to do that for women.  Okay?  

The command there is for men to love.  And then Paul gives an illustration that men love in the same way that Jesus did when He loved with His body, when He gave up everything.  And it’s interesting that the verbs that Paul uses for how men are to love and how Jesus loved are feminine verbs.  Think about it.  Washing, cleansing.  These are all things that women would have done.  And Paul is saying, “Men, love your wives as Jesus did through the washing and cleansing of the word.”  He wasn’t saying that men are the ones who are going to finish women’s salvation or that women need, as Dale Partridge said and as my fixed it for you addressed—Dale Partridge said that men are to take her on a journey to Christ as if men need to complete that journey for her because Jesus hasn’t done it.  And there is something lacking in her that husbands need to make up in a way that isn’t lacking in men that wives need to make up.

No.  No.  That’s not how it works.  Women are equally saved.  We are equally in the image of God.  We already have everything that we need for life and godliness.  Okay?  Women do.  We are not missing something because of our sex that men have to make up.  All right?  So in this whole thing, the verbs that Paul is using for women are more like continuous action.  These are things we know you’re doing.  Keep doing them.  But this time, do it was unto the Lord.  So don’t just do it because you have to but do it with the right attitude.  So that’s what Paul is saying to women.  You got it.  Keep doing it.  But men, you need to completely change the way that you’re living your life, and you need to completely change your orientation in marriage.  Because up until now, there was no orientation in marriage for men to love or be nice to their wives.  And Paul is saying, “No.  You need to love and cherish her.”  

And then we come to that famous verse at the end that Emerson Eggerichs uses where it—where he quotes it as, “So husbands, love your wives.  And wives, respect your husbands.”  But as Cynthia Westfall said in the Greek, there is no command for women.  There is no command to respect.  Instead, it’s a hina subjunctive clause, which is—it’s complicated to understand.  But it is better translated, “Husbands, love your wives in order that wives should respect their husbands.”  So it’s actually conditional, all right?  And that’s what she’s arguing.  And many women have actually argued this.  And many men too in translation committees, but they’ve been overruled.  But more and more people are speaking up of that is a better translation.  And I think in some of the newer translations we’re going to start to see that in the English in Ephesians 5:35 because in other verses in the Bible hina translations and hina subjunctive clauses are not translated with just simply an “and” and then a command.  They’re translated like “in order that”.  And we see that over and over again in the New Testament.

So it looks more, to me—and this is what Cynthia Westfall says—who is a professor of New Testament and Greek at McMaster Divinity School—is that Paul is saying, “Husbands, love your wives in order that wives would respect their husbands.”  And in fact, that respect word that is used there—and I learned this from Robin Thanks, who has an amazing Substack.  I’ll try to link to her in Instagram at some point.  But her point was that the root of that word respect is different in that one verse than it is elsewhere, and it’s actually the same root for phobia.  Like fear.  And it’s kind of like in order that wives wouldn’t fear their husbands.  It might be another alternate translation, okay?  

So this whole concept that this passage is so much weaponized against women is really strange because as Cynthia Westfall says, “In English, the marriage passage begins with a command to wives.  ‘Women, submit to your husbands.’  Or, ‘Wives, submit to your husbands.’  And it ends with a command to wives.  ‘Wives, respect your husbands.’  But in the Greek, there are no commands to women there.  Again, in Ephesians 5:22, it’s inferring its meaning from Ephesians 5:21.”  So we’re all submitting to one another.  And then Paul is saying, “Wives, you’re already doing that.  Now let’s do it willingly to Christ—in order to follow Him.”  And then at the end, it isn’t a command either.  It’s a subjunctive clause.  So this is actually really key because we’re getting this so wrong.  There is also more that I can get into because if I ask people, “Well, where does it say that the husband should lead the wife?  Where is the command for husbands to lead the wives,” what they’ll say is that, “Well, the husband is the head of the family.”  First of all, it never says that.  There is nowhere in the Bible that says the husband is the head of the family.

It does say the husband is head of the wife.  But what does the Greek word head mean?  And I’ve done podcasts on this before.  But just in a nutshell, there are several Greek works that in English we translate head.  Just like the Inuit in northern Canada, okay?  They have 63 words for snow or something, and we have 1.  Okay?  But they have all different kinds of snow.  They have the slush.  And they have the stuff you would make snowmen out of.  And they have the really icy stuff.  It’s all different.  And similarly in Greek, there are several different words that in English we translate head, but they’re not the same word in Greek.  So there is one word that’s archon, which is head of a corporation or head of an army that has authority and power.  That is not the word that Paul uses. 

Instead, Paul uses the word kephale, which some people argue that it’s better translated source.  Sort of like the husband is the one who takes the initiative, who is the beginning.  But it’s not an authority idea.  Or you can translate it as unity.  It’s literally your head.  Head means head which makes sense because, if you think about all the head and body metaphors—just as the body can’t exist without the head, the head can’t exist without the body and this kind of thing.  But it’s not about authority.  It seems more to be about unity.  And isn’t that what Jesus prayed for His disciples?  That they would be one.  That He prayed to His Father that they would be one “just as You and I are one.  So as I am in you.”  That is what Jesus is praying is that we would be one.  And isn’t that more in line with this idea of unity?  Jesus said that it is the Gentiles that worry about power and authority.  That isn’t from Jesus.

When we are following Christ, we’re not worried about power and authority.  We are focused on serving and about unity.  And this is what is missing.  And I just find this so interesting that people thought last week I was fixing Scripture because I took out, “Husbands, lead your wives.”  That’s nowhere in Scripture.  It just isn’t there.  It is, instead, about how we can live in servanthood and service to each other.  And that is what was meant.  And when you read the Bible from a patriarchal lens, there is lots to show that men should be in charge because the Bible was written in a patriarchal culture.  But remember, as I said at the beginning of the video—and if you’re just joining in live, I really recommend watching the beginning because I set this up.  But remember, as I said, Jesus did not come to overthrow power structures.  He came to change our hearts.  And as hearts were changed, as we understood that we are all made in the image of God and that we all are to serve one another, and that we aren’t supposed to be jockeying for power and authority, then we would overthrow those power structures.  And that is how slavery got abolished.  That is how we are starting to recognize the humanity of women.

And so I just wanted to say that because there was so much confusion about that.  I am happy to answer questions.  So if you want to pop a question into the question box at the bottom or if you want to type out comments, I will try to get to them.  I do have a couple of books to recommend.  Cynthia Westfall, who was on the podcast awhile ago—Paul and Gender.  Excellent book.  Going all over Ephesians 5, 1 Corinthians 11, 1 Timothy 2, all of the problematic passages.  She is a university professor and a divinity professor, and this is a very thick book.  Okay?  It’s very academic.  So it’s amazing.  My husband just loved it.  He especially loved the stuff about head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11, which made so much more sense.  But it is very academic.  If you want something that is more accessible and quicker to learn but doesn’t go into the Greek and doesn’t go into things in as much detail but is really easy to read, I would highly recommend On Purpose by Julie Coleman.  And I had her on the podcast recently too.  And this is a great synopsis of all of the different passages that are often used to tell women that we must stay subordinate.  

The other big resource I recommend constantly—and you will always see me tagging her—is Marg Mowczko.  She doesn’t have a book yet.  I think she’s working on one.  But Marg Mowczko has an amazing website where you can just look up different Scriptural passages.  And there are tons and tons of different—all of her blog posts on each of those passages.  So her blog is organized by Scripture passage.  You can look up 1 Timothy 2.  You can look up Ephesians 5, et cetera.  And so Marg Mowczko is M O W C Z K O.   It’s awful to spell.  Even worse than Gregoire, and there’s not a lot worse than Gregoire.  But M O W C Z K O.  Marg Mowczko.  Okay.  The books—Paul and Gender by Cynthia Westfall.  All right.  Paul and Gender by Cynthia Westfall.  Yes.  And On Purpose by Julie Coleman.  Both really, really good books.  Okay.  So there’s many others too.  But those ones are great.

And I just wish that we could get away from this idea that women have to be under men in some way.  I shared this on—I’m going to get to your questions in just a second.  But I shared this on Twitter today that, “Complementarianism is always saying they’re about different roles for men and women, but they’re not because there are no things that women are allowed to do that men aren’t allowed to do.  But there are things that men are allowed to do that women aren’t allowed to do.”  So even though they say it’s about different roles, it’s not.  It’s simply about restricting women.  That’s what complementarianism is about is restricting women.  And we should start talking about it that way instead of saying different roles because different roles sounds nice.  But it’s not about different roles.  It’s about saying that.  Oh, someone is saying, “What do you say when asked if women can preach?”  Paul had women preach.  Paul wouldn’t command that women can’t preach and then have women preach.  And he was praising Priscilla for teaching Apollos.  

The idea that—Marg, again, has all of this written really well.  But specifically, there is no command that women can’t preach.  There is only a command that women can’t teach in 1 Timothy 2:11-12, but Paul, himself, had women teach men.  And so if women were teaching men—if Paul was praising women for teaching men calling those women coworkers, then he wouldn’t go around and give a blanket condemnation.  And that’s why we need to see things in the whole context.  There are a lot of different interpretations of 1 Timothy 11.  I think the most likely is that he was talking about a specific woman, but we need to remember that in Ephesus—and Timothy was in Ephesus.  And Paul was writing to someone who was in ministry in Ephesus.  There was a cult of Artemis where women were really leading men.  And there was a heresy—or a thinking that women were created first.  And so a lot of people believe that 1 Timothy 2 is Paul writing about a specific woman, who is spreading heresy in Ephesus.  And he is saying, “I don’t permit her to teach.”  So anyway, you can take a look at Marg Mowczko and see some of those interpretations because they’re very interesting.  Okay.  

Hello, Emily.  Emily from Thriving Forward is here.  So someone is saying, “My husband advocates that preaching and teaching are different which is misunderstood in Christianity.”  We need to remember that in the early church preaching and teaching were the same thing.  We didn’t have set church services in the way that we do now.  And in fact, the person who headed the church was often the person in whom—in whose house the church was.  And we know of at least three women who led—who had churches in their homes.  Lydia did.  Mark’s mother did.  And the woman that John wrote to.  I think it was 3 John—is likely a real woman, who had a church in her home.  So when you’re saying that women can’t teach or preach, we need to remember that women were the leaders in many of these house churches.  If you want to see—if you want to have fun—okay.  This is getting a little bit off topic.  But do a word study and take a look in the book of Acts for Barnabas and Saul.  And you’ll see Barnabas and Saul, Barnabas and Saul, Barnabas and Saul, Barnabas and Saul written over and over and over again until Paul gives his first major sermon.  And from then on in the book of Acts, it is always Paul and Barnabas.  

So until then, Barnabas and Saul, and then it is Paul and Barnabas.  And in Greek, it was normal that the person who had the most authority—outward authority and was acknowledged to have the most authority and knowledge was the one who was mentioned first.  And so until Paul gave his first sermon, Barnabas was actually the leader in terms of the Christian community.  But after that, Paul became the leader.  And so Luke switched the order of the names.  Now, Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned 9 times in the New Testament.  They were a married couple.  And it was Priscilla who taught Apollos.  And what you will notice is that it is Priscilla and Aquila 7 out of those 9 times.  And every time they are mentioned in conjunction with the work that they are doing with the Gospel, Priscilla is mentioned first.  The only 2 times that Aquila is mentioned first is when they’re talking about their actual home.  Okay?  So the person who was the most important, who was doing the most teaching and leading, was Priscilla.  Not Aquila.  And the Greek tells us that.  And Paul had no problem with us knowing that.

Romans 16.  Paul is saying hi to a whole bunch of people, okay?  He’s like, “Hey, I am writing this last letter to the Roman believers before I’m executed.  And there’s a whole bunch of people that I want to say hi to, and I want to acknowledge.”  And I think he mentions 29 people in total.  And 10 of those are female.  And of those 10, 7 of them are mentioned in conjunction with the work they do for the Gospel.  So 70% are mentioned in conjunction with the work they do for the Gospel.  A higher percentage than the men.  So more women are mentioned because of their colabors and because of what they’re doing.  And if you—I just wonder how many evangelical pastors today—if they were to write a letter about all the people who are helping them in their ministry—not just with little things but with the big things—how many of them would mention over a third women because that’s what Paul did.  And that’s what the early church was like.  

There are letters from Romans—from the Romans in the first, second century where they’re describing the church as the church of women and slaves because women were so predominant in the church.  And this was a common epithet, like a common insult, for the early Christian church.  It wasn’t until the church got institutionalized under Constantine that women really started being held back in the same way.  And so the first apostle—here’s something else.  The first person that knew that Jesus was coming in the flesh was Mary.  The first person that Jesus told specifically that He was the Messiah was the Samaritan woman.  And the first person that Jesus appeared to after His resurrection was a woman.  And He told that woman to go and tell the men.  So the first apostle was a woman.  The first person, the first missionary, was a woman.  And she announced and told the men.  And that was deliberate, I think, because a woman who ushered in the story of the resurrected Christ.  And yet, we have largely silenced women.  And we need to ask who does that benefit?  Does that benefit God?  Or does that benefit Satan?  And I think it’s kind of obvious.  Okay.

I’d like to end this podcast with some Scripture, if I may.  This is Matthew 20.  “Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.  It will not be so among you.  But whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.  And whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.  Just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.’”  

And now some readings from Philippians starting in chapter 2.  “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete.  Be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord, and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.  But in humility, regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited but emptied Himself taking the form of a slave being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  That’s our attitude.  All of us as Christians towards one another.  

And jumping to chapter 3, Paul writes, “Whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.  And more than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For His sake, I have suffered the loss of all things that I may regard them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.  Not having a righteous of my own that comes from the law but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.  I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the sharing of His sufferings by becoming like Him in His death.  If somehow, I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal.  But I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me His own.  Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But this one thing I do forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind.”

That is God’s plan for all of us.  That we press on to Jesus.  That we consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord.  And I hope that that is your heart cry for all of us, women and men, boys and girls, all of us.  For that is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.  Bye-bye.

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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29 Comments

  1. Mara R

    I don’t know how many times I’ve pointed out to people that the four letter ‘L’ word used in Ephesians 5 was always “LOVE” and was NEVER “lead”. Never.

    But the blinders are so strong in the male hierarchy loving leaders of the Evangelical movement that all they can see is Lead. It is more important to them than love. It has become an idol to them. Though they have eyes to see and ears to hear, neither their eyes nor their ears are tuned into what Ephesians is really saying. They love their idol so much, they have to protect it and make it their hill to die on. Very sad.

    Now, onto watching your podcast on YouTube. I so appreciate you. You have no idea.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      thank you, Mara. I appreciate that. And, yes, the command was to love, not lead. And it was to serve, not have power and authority.

      Reply
  2. Nathan

    As we’ve discussed here before, some people like to defend male patriarchy by saying that countries don’t have two Presidents, and businesses don’t have two CEO’s, but a marriage is fundamentally different from a company or a corporation.

    Completely unrelated yet fun fact: A friend of mine works at a company where the old site tolovehonorandvaccum was blocked because they claimed it was a “sex education” site. However, they don’t know about the name change to baremarriage, and now he can go there!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s interesting! Yes, I knew Covenant Eyes had blocked TLHV. I’m glad so far we’re still safe!

      Reply
  3. Viva

    Dear Sheila,
    You are seen.
    You are known.
    You are loved.
    I am so glad that you know that because you know that Jesus loves you.
    The suffering that you enter into on behalf of abused women in particular is evidence of your living out your desire to know Jesus as you are known by him.
    I know that you and Joanna and Rebecca have had moments of rejoicing as your research is recognized and affirmed.
    You have my gratitude for the work you all continue to do.
    I am relieved to know that you are not doing this work alone.
    Because I see and hear your desire and your suffering, I believe that you will press on and continue to uncover the abuse that women are suffering that is so much deeper and more pervasive in the church than has yet come to light.
    I speak from personal experience.
    As a woman who has been struggling to escape abuse for over a decade and is still suffering, I thank you for your faithfulness.
    You press on because Jesus has already made you his own.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Viva! And that last sentence really is one of my favourite verses (I know I teared up reading it!)

      Reply
  4. Serena

    Thank you so so much for your vulnerability in this podcast. It’s so powerful and relatable and important. And it will help so many people.
    Thank you again.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      thanks for your encouragement, Serena!

      Reply
    • Emma

      I just listened to your podcast Bare Marriage

      Episode 166: A Deep Dive into Ephesians 5 – Why Hierarchy in Marriage Doesn’t Work

      I cried. As you explained how you loved God and your deepest desire was to have a relationship with him then you learned that “God wanted to keep you at a distance because you are a woman” and you went through a faith crisis, people saw it as you being rebellious.
      I cried because this has been me. For years. I so deeply desire to be close to God and hear him but years of wrong teaching, abusive marriage etc had had me constantly questioning if I even hear from God.
      Thank you for sharing. Your books and teaching has opened so much up to me. Thank you.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I’m glad you liked it, Emma! You are definitely not rebellious. It’s just been terrible, terrible theology.

        Reply
  5. Laura

    Excellent podcast and I could easily relate to your 16-year-old self because I had been there. When I got saved at 17 and first heard the message about submission in marriage, I thought the God of the Bible was a male chauvinist and thought less of women. Yet, I did not read my Bible and only went by what the pastor and other church members said. How could I believe in a God that saw women as less than men? Maybe that’s why I refused to read the Bible and did not want to have anything to do with organized religion for years. When I returned to church during my early 20s on the prompting of my ex (who was my fiance at that time), I did not hear that message preached from the pulpit but it was preached in our premarital class. Our assigned book was His Needs and Her Needs by Willard Harley. I thought that book was sexist and outdated (I got married in 1999 and the author wrote this book like he was still living in the 1950s). Still, I kept going to church but I just could not agree with submission in marriage even though my ex (now husband at that time) shoved that message down my throat. I divorced him 20 years ago.

    I am appalled that this message is still preached. You’re right Sheila, there is nowhere in the Bible that tells husbands to lead their wives. A lot of people look at the Bible through patriarchal and cultural lenses. Your blog and podcast have shown me that believing in submission in marriage is not the litmus test of my faith in Christ. I struggled with that for years and thought I had a rebellious heart because I just could not agree that once I got married I had to follow my husband’s lead. Even if I was a Christian longer or older than him. I am thankful that I don’t have to follow that view and Jesus still loves me just as I am. We need to understand the heart of Jesus more than anything else. At least that’s how I feel.

    Thank you so much for sharing your heart.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Laura. It’s interesting how we’re so often called rebellious when really we just have discernment and know that God is not like that!

      Reply
  6. Tim

    Always blows my mind that people read Ephesians 6 and somehow think it’s asking more of wives than husbands!

    Reply
    • Tim

      Sorry, I meant Ephesians 5 if that’s not obvious.

      Reply
  7. Ian

    Hmm, I generally don’t comment on issues so commonly discussed as this. I’m not likely to say something anyone hasn’t heard before. But there oughta be someone pitching in for the complementarian view so let me make one point 😛
    A deep dive into the language, context, and meaning of Ephesians 5 is great. And I agree in large part with the evaluation – it is absolutely making a greater countercultural command to men than to women. Submission is to be mutual and together man and wife submit to Christ.
    But let’s not forget that a.) Ephesians 5 does not repudiate the idea of male headship or a husband’s responsibility to lead his wife and family; you’ve just demonstrated that it shouldn’t be used as a proof text, and b.) Scripture has an awful lot to say about marriage and headship in an awful lot of other places! We need to take counsel from the whole narrative of Scripture, not just debate the bahari out of one passage.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Absolutely we need to take the whole of Scripture. And it doesn’t say it anywhere else either. I’d recommend looking up passages at Marg Mowczko’s site, because she goes into the Greek and the context in all of them.

      It’s also important to acknowledge how many women are being hurt by this. Not just abused, but pushed away from Christ. I’m noticing you haven’t done that.

      Reply
    • exwifeofasexaddict

      1. Headship isn’t a real word. 2. There is only one passage in the Bible that’s exclusively about marriage (1 Cor 7) and it’s completely mutual.

      Reply
  8. Mara R

    I did finish your podcast yesterday. And I get your frustration with those who insist on teaching that women are second class citizens in the Kingdom of God. Because I share that frustration.

    Sometimes a verse in 1 Timothy 6 pops into my mind when I think of these guys that want to keep putting women down and prop men up. In verse 5 it talks about conceited men who think godliness is a means of gain. But it’s the wrong kind of gain. They use scriptures to gain authority for themselves which flies in the face of the teachings of Jesus concerning authority.

    I also sometimes think of that scripture in Romans 12:3 warning people to not think more highly of themselves than they ought to. These men think more highly of themselves just because they are men. They think that being men makes them better than women.

    So much error in these teachings. So many men using scripture wrongly to make gains for themselves and prop up their ego rather than paying attention to what Jesus really taught about authority. So many men ignore the places where Paul warns about thinking godliness is for personal gain or warns about not propping themselves up. They would much rather hyper-focus, misinterpret, and misuse other portions of the Word to control women. They appear to be in it for what they can get out of it.

    Reply
  9. Sarah

    Thank you Sheila for what you do! It’s truly breaking so many chains. The Son who sets us free to be free indeed is with you. I appreciate all you do so much. You’ve helped me come to a new and better understanding of the role of women in God’s kingdom, and although I hear the hurt in your voice due to the oppression of women, I am grateful for your passion. May God strengthen you, and I pray you’ll have a restful weekend.

    On another note, I was thinking the other day of Rebecca’s comment responses when she was superintending the blog while you were on holiday, and how unfiltered a lot of them were to — I loved it! So here for women no longer having to be meek in calling out injustice. Considering subscribing to Patreon just for the unfiltered podcasts 😂

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Sarah! 🙂 I did see some of rebecca’s comments when I managed to get internet. Yep, that’s pretty much what she’s like in real life! 🙂

      Reply
  10. Willow

    Sheila, thank you for sharing your journey. I also had a gender-based faith crisis, though I was older. In my case, it happened after enduring career-ending sexist discrimination, harassment, and bullying. Reflecting on what I’d always been taught – “Jesus suffered everything you did!” – it seemed very untrue. Jesus was never a woman, never knew what it meant to be a woman in a male-dominant society, not to mention never experienced not just pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing; but never experienced something as basic as menstruation. I then wondered: why did God choose to incarnate as male only, particularly knowing how this fact would be used to harm women for generations to come? This led me to the darkly unorthodox musing of whether God indeed attempted to be born a girl, but was killed by female infanticide or other gender-based violence before ever reaching adulthood; or whether the story of a homeless, miracle-working woman was simply never retold and written down by men. Fellow Christians telling me, “The Father and Son are male, but the Holy Spirit is female!” didn’t help. I don’t want to gender God, and I certainly don’t want to gender attributes like exerting power or being nurturing.

    Though I passed through a dark valley, eventually I emerged to believe that the Holy Spirit, the Breath of God, inspires equally in all humans; that all of us (as you said), female and male, hetero and LGBTQ+, humans from all over the world in every color and hue, each of us is created in the image of God; that we would never be able to perceive God except by looking at the mosaic that we make collectively; only then, through perceiving how each of us in our own way reflects the Divine, can we begin to understand God. Each one of us reflects an important aspect of God that no one else could convey.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I have thought the same thing many times–that Jesus didn’t understand what it is like to be a woman. It has been difficult. The idea of a God who could understand cramps would go a long way. But then I see how He treated women, and how He took such care to see everyone as equals, but mostly how those who were marginalized actually enjoyed hanging out with him. That gives me comfort too!

      Reply
      • Anonymous305

        If God came as a woman, it wouldn’t be as shocking that she respected women, but the world needed to see a man respecting women. And he suffered worse things than cramps.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Great point!

          Reply
  11. Connie

    I just listened to the podcast and couldn’t believe I was not the only person who read “Women at the Crossroads” many years ago! I still have it because, for me also, it was the beginning of a shift from what I’d been taught. It was in the early 90s and I went into a Christian bookstore looking for anything presenting another perspective. I bought that book and “Woman in the Bible” by Mary J. Evans. Both books (one chronicling a personal journey and one looking into the text of the passages) were instrumental in a new broader understanding (and freeing) of my role as a woman. Thank you for sharing your very personal journey.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I really do think that book was so important to me at that time in my life! I’m glad I wasn’t the only one.

      Reply
      • Anonymous305

        Also, YAY URBANA!!!! Back when I was young enough for Urbana, I was too single to notice how the evangelical church hurts married women, but was struggling with guilt over the privileged side of my identity, guilt for being white, and God comforted me through multiple Intervarsity events. There were a few IV events that added to my white guilt, but more good experiences than bad. It wasn’t an accident when the Bible verse fortune cookie had Ephesians 2:14 ❤️.

        Racial unity and gender unity belong together ❤️!!

        Reply
  12. Phil

    Hey Sheila – appreciate your spiritual journey story and also the fun learning from your live feed. Here is what I am now able to put together as a result of the podcast. I have had this rolling around in my head for quite some time but now I can put it all together in One statement. Here it is: Interpretations of the bible from greek to english or other languages has given us misperceptions of what Paul meant when he wrote. Further revision and misinterpretation has provided various versions of the bible that has taken the true meaning further out of context. Often we read these versions because the language meets our needs. The problem is we loose the true theology and we forget or misinterpret what is truly meant. From what I have learned, Paul was spoken to directly by Jesus and what he wrote is unequivocally the truth. One could argue if there are errors in the bible and that would make for an interesting argument. I say none of that matters. Here is why: IF we read the bible in any other context other than WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? Then we are misinterpreting the Bible. The Bible IS BECAUSE of Jesus because of the EVENT. The resurrection was for everyone. The bible is for everyone so that they too can see the documented story that Jesus came and died for all. All us equally. That my friends is the absolute TRUTH.

    Reply
  13. Anonymous305

    I felt comforted by your explanations of this topic long before I admitted to my husband that I was questioning whether he actually had “God-given authority” over me. Before I admitted it, I was thinking about his feelings, but eventually, I started thinking about all the women who are still being hurt. I should tell him before I tell his friends’ wives…That, and he wanted to know more about my walk with God (very, very dangerous question lol).

    He thought it shouldn’t have an effect because he never used his authority against me and he only pushed me to listen to church regarding love, grace, and forgiveness (that is equally given to women). I explained that it affected my fear of confronting problems in marriage, and that people besides me are being hurt, 2 reasons it matters.

    And if he wants me to listen to church, maybe church shouldn’t give conflicting messages, like maybe not mix perfect love and grace with you’re just methadone to use.

    Reply

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