Rachel Held Evans did a week-long series on her blog on ‘mutual submission’, addressing the NT verses allegedly commanding wives to submit to husbands, children to their parents, slaves to masters, etc.
The supposed ‘patriarchal household code’ interpretation of those passages never fully made sense to me. After all, though Paul instructs wives to submit to husbands, he immediately turns around and instructs husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. And how did Christ love? He taught that anyone who wants to be first should be last and that whoever wants to be great must be a servant. And Jesus demonstrated this type of love himself. So it always seemed to me that the NT taught that husbands and wives should mutually submit and serve one another.
And that’s basically what this guest writer on Rachel’s blog talks about in her post: Aristotle vs. Jesus: What Makes the New Testament Household Codes Different. She considers the “household code” passages in light of culture, context, and author intent and comes to the conclusion that the established Greco-Roman code gets remixed when Jesus is in the picture, and no one is actually “in charge”.
Before we were married, Keith and I had several discussions about what our own household code would look like. I happen to appreciate feeling taken care of, and I don’t see myself ever being the career-driven, bread-winning type of woman. I told Keithy I’d be completely content relinquishing that responsibility to him so that the home and children could be my domain… But Keithy said he preferred to have more of a “partnership” wherein there is no one head-of-household; we just work together for a common goal. Seeing as how I happen to be really great at setting goals, organizing our life, and making decisions, I seem to have willingly and comfortably taken on the role of Keith’s ambition behind all of his dreams. He has the big picture dream in his head of what he wants to do and where he wants to go, and I seem to be making all the navigation decisions to get him there. When we disagree about something along the way, we lay it all out on the table and come to an agreement. It really is a relationship of mutual submission.
Growing up, there was never a clearly defined hierarchy in our household, either. I mean, the brothers and I were expected to obey our parents, of course, but we weren’t raised to unquestioningly obey authority. We were taught that respect is earned. My parents had reasons for and willingly explained everything they did and expected us to do. If I disagreed with my parents, I felt free to voice my opinion and act on it. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t disciplined. I was. (I also blatantly disregarded discipline if I felt I had good reason. There were a handful of groundings that I accepted and followed through with! haha!) I had friends whose parents
had thought they had a firm grip on them, and thought their children were adhering to all their rules and thou-shall-nots, but if only they knew what their sneaky kids were doing behind their backs and all the lies they were being told! lol. My parents talk about how I’ve been blatantly defiant since I was a toddler and Dad told me to pick up my crayons. I told him no. He ordered me again to pick up my crayons so I looked him in the eye and slowly poured more of them out. I’m sure it’s stressful raising strong-willed children but I will say this about my brothers and I: We are each authentic and honest. We don’t sneak, cheat, lie, or bullshit. What you see is what you get. My brothers turned out to be such unique, inquisitive, independent thinkers. I am so proud of them on a daily basis! My point of this whole seemingly off topic rant about my family is just that I’m thankful we weren’t raised to be Yes Men! I’m thankful I didn’t have to be a quiet unquestioningly submissive child, nor do I have to be a quiet submissive wife. I’m free to be open and honest, and to voice my opinions and make decisions in humility, love, and respect.
I’m thankful Jesus taught humility and sacrifice and has blurred the lines of culturally accepted social orders!
“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’ He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.'”