A final noteworthy point, in consideration of household codes, is the fact that the call to peace between Jew and Gentile mirrors Paul’s later call for peace between husband and wife; child and parent; and master and slave. Yoder argues that the household codes promote peace and, at the same time, undermines its own hierarchical structures. In the same way, Paul applies the principles revealed through the mystery of Christ to the barriers dividing Jews and Gentiles, arguing that they are to be dismantled when they fail to establish unity, the very principle on which they were founded. Given Yoder’s argument, there is a clear parallel between the performative function of the household codes and the work of the mystery, which Paul is called to administer.
Household codes embody the tension between unity and the temptation to undermine destructive modes of identification. On the one hand, household codes as explained by Yoder, have an inner egalitarian logic that undermine hierarchical power structures, while on the other, they promote cohesive relations between members of society. Paul negotiates a fine line, arguing that Christ subverts identity structure, and encourages believers to identify as a determinate group or person. A well functioning community requires its members to make determinate decisions regarding ethics and identity. Without these decisions, the unity Paul desires to see made present in the world would remain an abstract principle. Yet, these determinate actions must also be suspended when they fail to live up to the principle of unity, which they endeavor to embody. Thanks to the power of Christ, movement is now possible between determinate actions and the principles they make present. Identities are not decreed by fate or immune to change, rather they must be negotiated in a context, responding to historical needs of a community or individual.
In summary, Paul reveals the possibility, by means of Christ’s work, for humanity to hold social expectations and identities in question. Now that we sit with Christ over and above all social ideals and norms, it becomes legitimate to reevaluate and negotiate social expectations placed on wives, children, husbands etc. The mystery reveals that one should always hear a temptation to undermine the social order if it proves inadequate to justly deal with the particularity of each new situation. It is this relativizing mystery enacted through wisdom and love that sets the stage and provides the paradigm through which we should understand the household codes in Ephesians. In the case of Ephesians, an egalitarian reading of Paul can remain consistent, demonstrating that contemporary biblical readers do not need to rely on material external to the epistle to explain the temptation or call that provokes the need for household codes.
Perhaps we should end this paper by pointing in a constructive direction for living in community with difference. To do this it is necessary to hold our names loosely, names that include: Gentile, Jew, Canadian, Christian, Muslim, male, female. In this way acknowledging that while they may enable us to relate, when they become hostile barriers, we must be able to respond to wisdom and love and renegotiate new, more adequate names. It is my suspicion that Paul recognized the radical nature of his discovery and it was for this reason that he did not create a systematic theology or book of doctrine. Rather Paul chose to write letters, addressed to specific communities that dealt with specific problems. Paul was more concerned with attempting to describe a mode of being in the world that was wise, sensitive to the spirit, and capable of discerning healthy human conduct, than constructing a social ethical system to be followed in his age and all the ages to come.