A couple days ago, I began a series about an article I read by Jaclyn Friedman about how the misunderstanding of what “masculine” means is a big factor behind rape. I began by detailing where I believe she is right, and where I feel she is wrong. Yesterday, I laid out a working definition of Biblical manhood, focusing on the characteristics rather than activities. Today, we’ll look at how those characteristics should affect our interaction with women.
Colossians 3:19 ESV
Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
1 Peter 3:7 ESV
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
Ephesians 5:22-33 ESV
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
I realize that these texts are directly applicable to a marriage relationship, but I think that there are some principles we can take away that will help us treat women well in general. Whether that be fellow Christians whom we treat as “sisters” (1 Tim. 5:2) or non-Christians to whom we try to portray Jesus well.
The two roles we see here, as far as Christian women are concerned, are that of a wife or a sister. Though they are different roles, we are still to treat Christian women like family. Let’s be honest, men and women stress each other out. We live in a broken world, it happens. Yet, we are given the command to “not be harsh” with women. This is where the meekness and self-control come into play. For the most part, men are going to be physically stronger than women. So, we are given the command to control that strength and to be gentle with them. We are commanded to do this because they are the “weaker vessel.” Now, before we move on, we need to realize that the language here isn’t just talking about physical weakness. The Greek for this phrase is the same word as for “porcelain.” This speaks to the value of women. You wouldn’t take your mom’s china and throw it around the house, at least not if you want to see another sunrise. Most of the time, you’re going to use two hands, walk slowly, and look around corners to make sure you don’t trip or run into something and break the china, because it is more valuable than the other dishes.
Not only are we supposed to be gentle with them, but we are supposed to sacrifice for them. The measure of this changes when a woman’s role shifts from “sister in Christ” to that of a wife, but the end goal is still to pursue her sanctification. Now, the way we do this for a sister is probably different than for a wife, but at the very least it means that it should be our desire to sacrifice our desires so that they will see Christ in us. This is still pursuing their sanctification, even if it’s indirectly. This is where humility comes in. It takes a lot to put another person’s welfare ahead of yours.
Now, I don’t want to get into a gender roles war here, but when we look at the role of men and women in marriage, the text says that the husband is the head, and that he leads. First, this does NOT mean women’s feelings, opinions, and convictions don’t matter. Second, this does NOT mean that women should stay in abusive situations of any type. If a man’s being abusive, he’s already disobeying Scripture. If you’re in that situation, call the police and get the elders of your church involved. If they don’t do anything about it, find a better church. Yes, I said it. A church with elders too weak or unwilling to stop a man from abusing a woman isn’t a church I could recommend.
Part of what “Complementarian” means is that women effectively fill the other half of the puzzle. Which means that just as we are to treat them as valuable in being gentle to them, their opinions and convictions are valuable. Men are to lead, but we are to lead as Christ leads. Christ didn’t abuse His authority; He sacrificed Himself for His bride, the Church. He was and is the ultimate leader, and He leads by serving.
It’s important to realize that when Paul lays out the “husband is the head of the home” structure in Ephesians 5, the language in Greek is almost military. It’s no coincidence that Paul uses this language before Ephesians 6 when he talks about spiritual warfare. So, Paul is literally saying “line up in this way before you go into battle.” This means that the purpose of the husband being in front is so that when the enemy fires, the husband takes the hit instead of his wife and/or family. When the team moves from behind the team leader, the leader as to spend more time focusing on organizing chaos instead of looking out for the enemy.
So, Friedman was right when she said that Toxic Masculinity is a problem. But over-correcting just makes us crash into a different problem instead of driving straight. Instead of focusing on what men do, we need to focus on who men are.
The solution isn’t just to teach men that it’s ok to say they like reading and football is dumb. While it is ok to say that (even in Texas), that doesn’t address the problem. Let them play football if they want to, but teach them meekness. Teach them the value of women, and pray the Holy Spirit would give them self-control. Teach them to be humble, and not lord their leadership over people. Teach them to submit to authority, to submit to Jesus. Teach them to lead as a servant, not a dictator. Teach them to stand against those who do abuse and neglect women. Teach them to stand for and seek justice for the poor, the weak, and the abused. Teach them forgiveness and grace for those who do wrong.
If I’ve been in any way unclear, feel free to leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to elaborate further. If you’d like to hear more on this topic, I highly recommend Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Marriage and Men message.