Tru316.com Blog post: “What the book Love and Respect gets wrong,” by Bruce C. E. Fleming
Focus on the Family co-published and recommends Love & Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs. This book was named the most harmful resource in the survey of more than 20,000 women by Sheila Wray Gregoire in her book The Great Sex Rescue.
What’s wrong? The words in the book title get the words in the Bible verse all wrong! The author focuses on relationship recommendations. He points to one verse and builds on what it supposedly says. But it doesn’t.
I wrote the book about this passage in Beyond Eden, Ephesians 5:15-6:9. The words from the book title refer to one verse in that passage. It is Ephesians 5:33. The problem is that people are claiming God’s guidance based on an incorrect interpretation of this verse. And a verse taken out of context can lead to serious errors in doctrine and in practice.
Here’s what’s wrong:
1. This verse isn’t primarily about marriage!
2. This verse is in no way the main idea of the passage!
3. This verse links us back to something very different from what’s in the book!
First. This verse isn’t about marriage! What’s it about? What are the main points to take away, to put into practice? We ask these questions of a verse, in the context of its passage, so we can put into practice what it is teaching.
The main idea of this passage is not in verse 33. The main idea is in the verse that precedes verse 33. The main idea is in Ephesians 5:32. In 5:32, Paul reveals the Great Mystery. It is the previously hidden mystery of how we can live in union with God. It is the revelation of the relationship of Christ and the church.
Here’s the big idea. That Christ and the members of the church are united in one spiritual body. This idea is so big it couldn’t be summed up in just one verse. So Paul points back in the previous verse to the great relationship of the Garden of Eden. There, in Genesis 2:24, Adam and Eve were united gloriously as one, emotionally and physically. This is a great verse to point to. It has to do with our relationship in marriage as a couple.
But Ephesians 5-6 goes beyond Eden. It tells us of the big idea in 5:32 in one big passage from 5:15-6:9. It tells us about the great relationship believers and Christ share together. The relationship of Spirit-filled husbands and wives is an illustration of the great relationship shared by Christ and the church.
Second. This verse isn’t the main idea of the passage! Verse 33 is sewn into a detailed pattern of thought that is strung together in a pattern we might call Hebrew poetry. The verses in front of the center verse, and in the verses following the center verse, all point to the central verse which is Ephesians 5:32 and is about our relationship with Christ that goes beyond Eden in unity and richness. Verses 22-31 and verses 5:33-6:9 illustrate this unity.
In 22-31 Paul gives us three “as Christ with the church” examples. In 5:33-6:9 Paul gives us three “as in the believing family” examples. Here’s an important point. While both sets illustrate the union of Christ and the church, both sets also point back to the launching point of the passage which is 5:21. Dr. Kenneth E. Bailey called this kind of pattern a “high jump.” The “high jump” arcs from 5:22 up to 5:32 and lands in 6:9. The launching point for this arc is verse 21.
Do you know what Paul did in verse 21? He redefined a vertical relationship and made it into a reciprocating horizontal relationship. He took the over/under concept of vertical submission and remade it into what we as Spirit-filled believers are to experience in the body of Christ. He told us to be submitting ourselves one to another. This submitting was in relationship to the activity of 5:19a as defined by Colossians 3:16. As all Spirit-filled believers are teaching and correcting one another (19a), believers are to reciprocally be submitting themselves to this teaching and correction (21).
This redefined action needed illustrations and a central principle to make it understandable. The two strings of illustration on either side of the principle in 5:32 do just that.
As to the first string of illustrations, verse 22 refers directly to the reciprocal submission of verse 21. How? It shares the same Greek verb. There is no verb used I verse 22. According to Greek grammar this forces the reader to go back to the previous verb and use that one. And that verb is the redefined and transformed one of verse 21. Thus, verse 22 starts the section of 22-31 with a reference to wives and husbands submitting reciprocally one to another in Christ.
As to the second string of illustrations, verse 33 also refers directly to the reciprocal submission of verse 21. How? It shares the key Greek words of the first string of illustrations and of verse 21 itself. Paul talks about Christ’s “love” in verse 25b. Paul talks about our fear, or “respect” for Christ in verse 21. The love and respect of verse 33 tie in to the love of Christ and the respect of Christ we are to practice with one another in the body of Christ. 5:33 is not a verse about marriage and principles for marriage. It illustrates our relationships in church and with Christ.
Ready to go deeper? The very best way to do that is to dive deeper into the passage of Ephesians 5:15-6:9. We do that in my book Beyond Eden, Ephesians 5:15-6:9. I invite you to read more about Ephesians 5:33. It goes beyond what is offered in that other book, Love and Respect. Here’s a link: https://amzn.to/36QTioV