I thought I would have written on this, studying Ephesians last year, but I haven’t yet. This is another difficult topic and I will just say that the highlighted verses should really be understood in context of their respective books (and in the context of the whole Bible, in its entirety).
Helpers and marriage
“It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” – Genesis 2:18, on the creation of Adam and Eve.
What do we think of when we think about helpers. Some in our group answered domestic helpers. Some would say, a less intellectual, inferior person in some way. Yet, God is referred to as our helper and our strength in numerous Psalms, as Jesus was leaving he spoke of the Holy Spirit as the helper, in particular in teaching and reminding them of what Jesus has taught (14:16, 25), and the Holy Spirit as one who helps us in our weakness and prayers (Romans 8:26). Helpers in daily life too, doesn’t equate to inferior individuals. The surgical assistant is often one of us interns who doesn’t particularly know what they are doing, but just as often the “assistant” is actually the consultant surgeon who is helping the surgical trainee. Or the anaesthetic team who work together with the surgical team, sure they don’t do the cutting but neither can you do much surgery without anaesthetics.
I would imagine for this to happen in marriage life you would need a common goal, and for Christians that will be a God-centred goal. That it would require the two people to know each other well, and would require a great deal of others-centredness, of encouragement and reminding, of having strengths and skills herself that will complement his. I’m sure there are more things, and I don’t have the authority to speak on these matters. Though I do believe too, even if marriage is a long way off, we can learn to be encouraging helpers particularly in the family of God – for example, to our Bible study leaders.
(Side tracking – on the topic of domestic helpers. When I lived at a homestay some years ago, I had much spare time and missed having certain foods, so some days I would help cook and clean up though there was a domestic helper who lived with the family. One day a relative came by, saw me doing those things, and asked whether I was the maid. Haha, I was deeply offended. But then, I always ask myself too, what was there to be offended. It’s unfortunate that our society places a status, a value on people, based on their profession.)
Lead and follow
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. – Ephesians 5:22
Out of reverence to Christ, wives are to submit to the authority of husbands, children to parents, workers to employers, and citizens to governments. Why does the man lead and the woman doesn’t, why is it not the other way round? I don’t know but I suppose if it were then the same question would still exist.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… – Ephesians 5:25
Loving leadership of Christ meant that he gave his life for the church. Husbands are called to love likewise, and to love and care for her as much as he would for himself. See, the boys taunted when we were in Sunday school – girls should submit! Did you even read the next part, we would have said, if we were still children. Being a husband in the Bible’s model of marriage, is not an easy calling either, and involves much sacrifice and others-centredness, in a way that is different to that of the woman.
However, each of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. – Ephesians 5:33
As the church, submission and respect are voluntarily given to Christ who has loved and made us holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:27). Though our sin distorts our relationships, our roles, with the example of Christ and the church, it is not too far a stretch to picture that respect and submission to the husband, and love towards the wife, are beautiful things in marriage.
These passages often remind me of dance. There is a lead, and a follow, and it’s hard to make it work with two of either. Last year I did a beginners salsa class and it was fun, but dancing with guys who didn’t know how to lead was frustrating. Before I say more, I was just learning too, and I do sympathise that it is rather hard to lead and think ahead about the next steps, and communicate that non verbally. Anyway, there were people who yanked until your arms hurt, or people who didn’t push or pull in the right direction at all. You ended up doing your own thing, doing different spins, not going anywhere at all, or stepping and bumping into each other. It’s not a perfect analogy but I think, life is a little like that.
If / when the time comes, please do hold me accountable to what I have written, to live according to God’s words.