by Michael Maciel
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word…In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself…Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right…”
– Ephesians, Chapter 5.
The key to understanding these teachings is in Ephesians 5:32—”This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”
The Bible is written from four different perspectives, from the most mundane to the most mystical. Here, the writer is careful to say that this is a “profound mystery,” which means that it cannot be understood with a mundane mind.
Profound mysteries are meant to be internalized, meaning that every element—the people, the places, the actions—are all parts of us individually. There is the “husband” part, the “wife” part, and the “children” part. All are aspects of ourselves.
On one level, the Bible is about societal relationships—the relationships we have with each other and the relationship between society and God. But on the “profound mystery” level, it’s about our one-on-one relationship with God and, in a sense, our relationship with ourselves.
Just because the writers of these epistles lived almost 2000 years ago doesn’t mean that they were primitives. They understood the soul perhaps better than we do. They knew that there is that part of us that is conscious of daily life, the part that interacts with other people and takes care of necessities. But they also knew of the internal aspect, the deeper part of us that does not readily show the cause and effect relationships that make us do things that we cannot explain.
Today, we have sophisticated names for these internal aspects. We call them the conscious and unconscious minds. This is the “profound mystery” that the writer refers to. The “husband” is the conscious mind; the “wife” is the unconscious mind; the “children” are the things we do that we cannot explain.
On the surface, the teachings of Ephesians 5 reflect the patriarchal, hierarchical structure of the times and places of that day. But the “inner” message is timeless and universal. The inner message teaches us that the thoughts we harbor by day will haunt us by night. What we do not resolve openly will come back upon us disguised as inexplicable circumstances.
And those “circumstances” cannot be forced back into the box out of which they came, just as “children” cannot be coerced to behave, not without driving their problems further underground. The only way we can change our lives for the better is by closely watching the thoughts that we allow ourselves to think. Just as thoughts of injustice will create feelings of anger and despair, so does the conscious mind “dictate” to the unconscious how it will feel—”husband” to “wife.”
The husband loves his wife as his own body when the conscious mind realizes that the world reflects back to him (or her) the thoughts they think into it. “Be it done unto you according to your belief.” This is the profound mystery—our words are made flesh (children).
We dishonor the Bible if we constrain its teachings to mundane affairs only. By doing that, we imply that it no longer applies to we who live in the modern world. The mundane teachings of the Bible are but poor reflections of its higher mystical truths—those teachings that truly are deeper and universal. It was written for all people and all times, not just as a code of ethics but as a handbook for our inner life, the soul.