Equality of the Genders

John MacArthur supports the “traditional view of women,” but he has a nice summation of the equality of the genders before God, in his book Different by Design.

The prevalent Jewish tradition about women did not come from the Old Testament, which makes it clear women are spiritually equal to men in that:

They Had the Same Responsibilities as Men: To obey God’s Law (in Exodus 20 the Ten Commandments are given to both men and women), to teach God’s Law (Deuteronomy 6:6–7 and Proverbs 6:20 indicates both are responsible to teach the Law to their children, which means both must first know it), and to participate in religious festivals (e.g., Exodus 12 and the Passover).

They Had the Same Protection as Men: Penalties given for crimes against women are the same as those for crimes against men (e.g., Exodus 21:28–32). God equally values the life of a man and the life of a woman.

They Took the Same Vows as Men: The highest level of spiritual commitment available to an Old Testament believer was the Nazirite vow, which was an act of separation from the world and devotion to God. Women as well as men could take that vow (Numbers 6:2).

They Had the Same Access to God as Men: God dealt directly with women in the Old Testament; He didn’t go through a man when He wanted to communicate with a woman. For example, the Angel of the Lord (a pre-incarnate manifestation of Christ) appeared to Hagar (Genesis 16:8–13) and Samson’s mother (Judges 13:2–5).

The New Testament, like the Old, teaches the spiritual equality. Galatians 3:28 teaches the absolute spiritual equality of men and women in Christ. The New Testament does not treat women as spiritual inferiors:

They Had the Same Responsibilities as Men: All the commands, promises, and blessings of the New Testament are given equally to men and women. We have the same spiritual resources and the same spiritual responsibilities.

They Had the Same Access to Jesus as Men: The first person Jesus revealed His messiahship to in the Gospel record was a woman (John 4). Jesus healed women (Matthew 8:14–15), showing them just as much compassion as He did men. He taught them (Luke 10:38–42), and allowed them to minister to Him personally (Luke 8:3). The first person to see the resurrected Christ was a woman (Mark 16:9; John 20:11–18).

He goes on to explain that roles between men and women were different, but I do not agree with his position on leadership and ordination being limited to men alone. When a woman is called by God into the ministry, she has an obligation to follow that leadership and calling as much as any man.

Patrick Morley, in his book Man in the Mirror has a chapter on how to be happily married and brings up roles.

If a man’s greatest need is to be respected, then submission is the appropriate response to a husband since the opposite of submission is resistance. The main problem with marriages on this topic is that men don’t know what it means to love as Christ loved the church. Biblical love is a decision, not a feeling. He adds four types of marriages in in a submit/resist and love/hate matrix:

  1. Love and Submit (Ozzie and Harriet Nelson): these couples share life together and share responsibilities. Biblical examples could be Abraham and Sarah or Mary and Joseph.
  2. Hate and Submit (Edith and Archie Bunker): this may be the most common type of marriage that is not working. The husband does not get it (Colossians 3:19, 1 Peter 3:7, 1 Timothy 5:8, Ephesians 5:28-29).
  3. Love and Resist (The Lockhorns comic strip, or the BBC’s Keeping Up Appearances): this is about a wimpy little guy dominated by a strong willed and screechy woman. Perhaps this has grown out of the feminist movement, but even a “housewife” is not immune to this. It is the man’s responsibility to love her irrespective of his wife’s response.
  4. Hate and Resist (JR and Sue Ellen Ewing): she nags him, idles the day away, contends with his authority, disrespects him, she is sarcastic towards him. He treats her harshly, doesn’t consider her feelings, and disrespects her. More than likely those in this type are already divorced, except for one partner hanging in there to make it work.

I’m not an expert on marriage but have been with the same godly woman for over 30 years.

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Five Troubled Marriages

God uses marriage as a chisel to chip away your character flaws. Rick Warren once tweeted something like “marriage is the original on the job training.” The only guidebook is the Bible, and so many people don’t crack it open.  God intends both partners to move from selfish to sacrificial behavior, reflecting the sacrificial love of Christ. If selfishness creeps in, marriage is in trouble. I read this information by June Hunt, which gives the characteristics of five troubled marriages:

The Make-believe Marriage—lacking honest and intimate communication by:

  1. Not working through problems (stubbornness)
  2. Not accepting responsibility (defensiveness)
  3. Not acknowledging your mate’s feelings (rejection)
  4. Not concerned about your mate’s needs (self-centeredness)
  5. Not displaying affection (apathy)

Make-believe marriages are marriages in name only. To enjoy intimate communication is to be as concerned about your partner’s needs as about your own. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”

The Maladjusted Marriage—experiencing sexual difficulties because of:

  1. Frigidity (fearfulness)—from false guilt, sexual abuse, psychological problems
  2. Impatience (insensitivity)—being demanding, coercive
  3. Infidelity (selfishness)—indulging in adultery, pornography
  4. Fatigue (exhaustion)—caused by excessive busyness or overcommitment
  5. Anger (bitterness)—unforgiveness, manipulation

Maladjusted marriages fail to experience the unique expression of physical oneness. As an act of love, God’s design is that both partners yield their bodies to one another. True sexual fulfillment comes through seeking to provide pleasure to the other. The Bible says, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife’ (1 Corinthians 7:3-4).

The Mixed-up Marriage—having conflicting values over:

  1. Opposing religious beliefs
  2. Opposing parental responsibilities
  3. Opposing marital commitments
  4. Opposing friendship choices
  5. Opposing moral principles

Mixed-up marriages produce power struggles, tension, and criticism. With basic values in conflict, the couple has great difficulty developing oneness of mind, heart, and will. However, Philippians 2:2 says, “Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”

The Money-troubled Marriage—experiencing financial disagreements over:

  1. How family income will be earned. . .and spent
  2. How credit cards will be used
  3. How credit card misuse will be handled
  4. How the budget will be followed
  5. How the lack of money for essentials will be handled

Conflicting answers to these questions and other financial difficulties can result in an unhealthy focus on money and material needs. However Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.”

The Misaligned Marriage—failing to recognize/respond to God-given roles

Failure of the husband:

  1. To be a spiritual leader
  2. To be financially responsible
  3. To make wise decisions
  4. To seek to solve problems
  5. To be attentive to his wife

Failure of the wife:

  1. By not having a gentle spirit
  2. By trying to control her husband
  3. By becoming involved in power struggles
  4. By withdrawing emotionally
  5. By being bitter and sarcastic

God’s design is for the husband to feel significant through providing for his family and receiving the respectful love of his wife. He fulfills her need to feel secure through his love, acceptance, and sensitivity to her desires. It may sound old fashioned, but these verses are right out of the Bible. Once we have a proper understanding of love and submission, it’s not such a bad deal. Ephesians 5 paints the picture:

“And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her ” (Ephesians 5:21-23,25).

This is information I discovered from June Hunt, the founder and CEO of Hope for the Heart.

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Just Lead Me

There is a great debate on roles within a marriage. The issue probably causes more conflict than anything else since people will often enter marriage with differing expectations. Those more conservative tend to focus on the leadership of the husband and father and the submission of the wife; those more egalitarian see the marriage as a partnership with no one person being the head or the leader. A partnership is a great way to go (Philippians 2:3-4, Genesis 2:24, Ephesians 5:25, 28, 31, 33), the two becoming one. I heard an old preacher once say that “anything with no head is dead and anything with two heads is a freak.” So without getting into that debate, (although I probably opened myself up for one) I have discovered that leadership is often misunderstood.

If a wife and mother says to her husband, “I wish you would take on more of a role of spiritual leader in our home,” I can guarantee she is not saying that she desires for him to be the boss over her, make decisions for the family, or tell her what she can do or where she can go, what to believe, what to cook, how to dress, how to raise the children, or how often she needs to make time for him. If a husband really leads and loves his wife as Christ loved the church, there is no way to lead with such abuse, bossiness or selfishness.

Look at the context of her statement. How many wives attend church alone and bring the children into God’s house without her husband? Or maybe when he comes, he’s thinking more about the game this afternoon than about how the truths he is hearing can change his life, his marriage and his kids? I suspect that what she desires is that her husband lead spiritually by taking the initiative to pray together, to go to church together, to demonstrate the love of God in the home and set the pace for her and the children.

I’m haunted by the lyrics of this Sanctus Real song and thought you all might allow God to speak to you through these lyrics. If you want to hear the song, [ Click Here ]

I look around and see my wonderful life
Almost perfect from the outside
In picture frames I see my beautiful wife
Always smiling
But on the inside, I can hear her saying…

Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, what about us?

Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone

I see their faces, look in their innocent eyes
They’re just children from the outside
I’m working hard, I tell myself they’ll be fine
They’re in independent
But on the inside, I can hear them saying…

Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, but what about us?

Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone

So Father, give me the strength
To be everything I’m called to be
Father, show me the way
To lead them
Won’t You lead me?

To lead them with strong hands
To stand up when they can’t
Don’t want to leave them hungry for love,
Chasing things that I could give up

I’ll show them I’m willing to fight
And give them the best of my life
So we can call this our home
Lead me, ’cause I can’t do this alone

Father, lead me, ’cause I can’t do this alone.

Men, that last section is addressed to the Father. Read it again, we cannot do this alone. Don’t leave you wife and kids hungry for love. Don’t let them stand alone because people stumble and fall when they are alone. Remind your wife that she is the love of your life. Tell your kids just how important they are to you. Make time for the important things in life.

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