That Troublesome “Obey”

LeRoy Koopman

READ : Ephesians 5:21-24


If I hadn’t committed myself to writing this month’s meditations on the entire letter to the Ephesians, I’d skip these verses. No matter what I say about them, I’ll make somebody angry. So I’ll just go ahead and make somebody angry.

There are two extremes, it seems to me, in interpreting the “wives, be subject” verse. One temptation is for men to use it as an unholy whip to demand subjection on the part of their wives, and for wives in turn to use it as an excuse for abdicating their responsibilities as decision-makers in the marriage.

The opposite temptation is for couples to view this as a relic of primeval times, with a result that some husbands are failing to play a significant leadership role. They spend their evenings watching television or at the bar or still at work, leaving discipline and decision-making to their wives, and providing a role model for their children equivalent to pink gelatin.

The overriding principle which speaks to both extremes is verse 21, “Be subject to one another.” A marriage needs two strong people who are willing to concede to each other, who are prepared to yield to each other’s wishes, who out of love will not demand their own way. We are called to be both responsible and submissive, which is no easy task.


Father, in a day of confusing and sometimes disruptive changes in marriage roles, help us to seek a healthy balance of mutual responsibility. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.