Spirit & Truth # 273
“Christian Homes: As to the Lord”
By Greg Smith
Some denominations practice infant baptism. Others prefer to dedicate their babies to the Lord, and leave the baptisms until an older age. On Mother’s Day, three families in our church dedicated their children to Jesus. Meanwhile in southern India, some Hindus practice a similar dedication, giving their young daughters to the service of the goddess Yellamma. But unlike Jesus who asks for our love and devotion, Yellamma asks her devotees to give their bodies to the terrible practice of temple prostitution. As young as four years old, girls are dedicated. Around the onset of puberty these girls begin to service the male worshippers at Yellamma’s temple. Fortunately, Christians are sharing the truth of the Gospel with them and helping those who convert from their old life to find new homes, employment, and a new identity in Christ.
In the ancient city of Ephesus, life was much the same for the young temple prostitutes who were dedicated to Artemis. Ephesians believed that when a male worshipper joined with a prostitute whose body was possessed by the goddess, he was uniting with Artemis herself. You can imagine how popular the Artemis cult was with male Ephesians, and the level of degradation that these young women experienced in the name of religion. The sex cult of Artemis affected not only the prostitutes, but nearly all the women of Ephesus. Imagine being married to a “pious” man who felt justified in his many trips to the temple! All of this contributed to the degraded status of women in Ephesus.
You can understand how attractive Christianity became to the women of Ephesus. Christianity offered forgiveness of sin and renewed purity for those who became the “bride of Christ.” In addition, some reports say that Jesus’ own mother who feared for her life in Jerusalem had relocated to Ephesus. If these accounts are true, then Mary’s presence must have elevated the status of Christian women even more. Surely she took these former prostitutes under her wing and became a living example of what a Christian woman should be.
It is with all this background that we approach Ephesians 5:22 which says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” While offensive to many modern Americans, this verse and the following two verses must be understood in its context of Ephesians 5:21, which says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Wifely submission is in the context of mutual submission. Husbands must submit to their wives as well, as we’ll learn in next week’s scripture. Rather than advocating male domination of women, verse 22 instead originally gave hope to Ephesian women. “Submit yourselves to your own husbands” sounded awfully good to former prostitutes who had once submitted to everybody’s husbands. Now, these newly converted women simply had to submit themselves to the care and nurture of Christian husbands who wanted to heal their physical and emotional wounds and help them become the pure women God created them to be.
“As you do to the Lord” reminds women that their husbands are not their masters. Rather, Jesus is Lord of their lives. Colossians 3:24-25 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Submit to God, the apostle Paul says, and the rest of your marriage will take care of itself. Next week, we’ll continue to examine the joy of mutual submission within marriage as we talk about the husband’s role. I hope you’ll join me then.