This post concludes the study of Husbands and Wives from Ephesians chapter five. It is a short study, as verse 33 represents a summary statement from Paul. Though a summary statement, it gives opportunity to strongly peer at ourselves in our respective roles.
33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. NASB
33 πλην και υμεις οι καθ ενα εκαστος την εαυτου γυναικα ουτως αγαπατω ως εαυτον η δε γυνη ινα φοβηται τον ανδρα WHNU
To love one's own wife as himself is not a statement of narcissism. It is treating her and caring for her as if she were his very own flesh (which mystically and in reality, she is). Christ loves the Church -- the community of those to whom He has given eternal life -- and the Church is His Body. He loves His Body as Himself, as we are members of that Body. In the same mystical way, the wife is a member of the body of the husband, and he should love her as though she were his own physical flesh and blood -- not in a narcissistic nor abusive manner (for such is rooted in hate and fear, not in Christ), but in the most nurturing, caring, tender manner.
Paul remands the wives "the wife must see to it that she respects her husband." In the Greek the phrase is "η δε γυνη ινα φοβηται τον ανδρα", which is literally translated, "and that the woman might fear the man". Before we get caught up in the literal, let's expand our understanding. First of all, the word translated 'that' is ινα, which has an imperative sense most often translated as 'in order that', 'with the result that', 'toward the end that'. The man's loving of his woman as Christ loves the Church has intent, just as Christ's love for the Church has intent, that she might fear her man. OK, now that word 'fear' which has been mentioned, what about that? The verb here is from the Greek verb φοβεω from which we get 'phobia' -- fears. In the context of Christ and the Church, of husbands and wives, this understanding or simply literal translation of the word does not make sense here . The English language borrows from so many languages that 'foreign words' are adapted for specific meanings for clarity, and are often only a secondary or tertiary meaning of the word in its original language. With that in mind, we have to dig a little deeper to see how the Greeks used the verb φοβεω in various contexts.
The verb φοβεω carries the ideas of fleeing/taking flight, fearing/being terrified, and in its tertiary use, revering/venerating/giving deference/reverentially obeying (Thayer's lexicon). Of the three, only the tertiary meaning makes sense as it relates to Christ and the Church, husbands and wives. This is not natural for a woman, any more than a man loving his woman as Christ loved the Church is a natural tendency for him (men are more task-driven). In fact, women have recoiled against this notion since the Garden, for it was Eve who craved ascendancy and first ate from the Tree. Yet, here the Spirit, through Paul's hand, reminds the woman to resist her natural tendencies to usurp and at the same time of her intended role as companion, advisor, and confidant.
Both admonitions, the one to the husband the and one to the wife in verse 33, challenge our human nature to arise to the highest Christ in God has for us as husbands and wives. Men, God holds us accountable as leaders in all phases of the home -- not as dictators, but more as shepherds. Women, God holds you accountable to understand the role for which you were created, to support the man and help him in his role -- yet joint-heir in all things with him.
Easy? No, not in the least. Humility and surrender is required by both the husband and the wife. The accountability for each the husband and the wife is Christ alone, and in Him each must abide for the relationship to be as it was intended by God before the Fall. Pray for one another, always.