“The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.”
1 Corinthians 7:4 (NIVUK)
When approaching a junction drivers are expected to be prepared to yield to other traffic. Not only is it common courtesy to do so, but also it makes sense if we want to avoid accidents and confusion.
The concept of “giving way” to others applies in all human relationships, especially in marriage. This was a controversial idea that Paul introduced to the Corinthians.
At times it can be hard to grasp what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 7. Yet it is one of the most liberating chapters when you consider it in the light of the customs of Paul’s time. Part of the discussion is about sexuality. Men felt that they had the right to do whatever they desired sexually because their bodies were their own. Women, however, were not in the same situation because, according to the prevailing culture, their bodies belonged to their husbands. Against that background Paul makes the revolutionary comment above. His words would have upset both the Jews and the Gentiles. It’s not about the rights or the absence of rights for either the man or the woman: it’s about yielding to one another. This was a bombshell of a statement.
Paul developed this idea in his later teachings. An example is in Ephesians 5:21-26. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” is a general instruction to believers. The emphasis in our relationships should be on listening to and on putting others first, not on claiming our personal rights. Paul illustrates this concept in the marriage setting: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord…as the church submits to Christ”. This is not a comfortable or politically correct thing to say today, is it? “In the Lord” implies a compassionate and moral framework in this mutual submitting. Note Paul’s next point: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it”. That means, sacrifice everything for your wives. It’s about yielding, giving way to each other’s wishes, and about respect.
It’s time to give way.
Help me, Lord Jesus, to sacrifice myself for my spouse, my family, and for everyone with whom I come into contact. Help me to surrender to you in this. In your name.
Study by James Henderson
About the Author:
James Henderson is the National Ministry Leader for Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland. This weekend James is speaking in our Camberwell and London congregations. You are welcome to attend any of our local congregations. For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.wcg.org.uk under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.