“Getting married? Just learn to say ‘I’m sorry’ a lot.” That line sums up what most young men hear as they are preparing to get married, throughout their reception, and often non-stop through the first year. Married men in church often begin introducing their spouse by saying phrases like “my better half” and “I’m so thankful she puts up with me.” These expression may seem harmless, but they all add up to portray a culture of conflict avoidance where we assume women are unreasonable and that peace in the home can only be maintained through the self-deprecation of men and the patronizing of women.
We Confuse Our Curse for God’s Command, Women ARE Equal
This world has not been kind to women. When Jesus Christ was born into this world, women suffered a status worse than what we often find in the middle-east. Our curse to “toil against the earth” which came as consequence of the fall has meant that men have had an advantage in power as women relied on them to for survival. Because of this, men have treated women as property and as “lesser people” for much of our history.
The technological age has begun to help women in two ways. First, women need men less and less for provision and survival. Second, men are beginning to see that women are better suited for many professions. In many ways our technological advances are due, in part, to progressively better treatment of women. What the church has misunderstood is that the curse of Genesis 3 was not God saying “this is how things SHOULD be” BUT RATHER “this is how things WILL be” and it is what Jesus came to reverse.
If we got our teaching of gender roles in the church right, it would look like this:
BEFORE: “Your desire shall be [against] your husband, and he shall rule over you.” – Genesis 3:16b (ESV)
AFTER: “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” – Ephesians 5:33 (ESV)
In the Kingdom of God, we are not in roles of domination but partnerships of teamwork and cooperation.
We Need to Reject Patronization and Passive-Aggressive Conflict Avoidance
We may get a chuckle with our little “guys are stupid” and “women are crazy” jokes, but they are pointing to a major problem. The picture often painted by church culture is that women are unreasonable and over-emotional. Therefore, the only way to a healthy marriage is seen as the man just making sure to be “humble” and apologize a lot. This kind of thinking leads to growing resentment on both sides.
Men and women often see things from very different perspectives, when these insights are combined, they become very powerful. When they are used to war against each other, they are useless. Our goal in any relationship is to acknowledge our own weaknesses, our strengths, and now we can complement each other. In a truly Christ-centered relationship, no one feels unheard, diminished, or minimized. We feel like we are contributing and benefiting equally.
The Moment of Truth
The moment of truth in a relationship is when one person becomes weak, discouraged, or hurt does the other person use that opportunity to gain dominance or lift the other up? Too often, when women are at times of weakness and vulnerability, men will use the to reinforce their “superiority.” Of course, then when the man is weak he experiences the “nagging” push back. This is how a fallen relationship looks, not how a Christian one should look.
There Is No “Better Half”
It is not “Christian” to seemingly insult yourself just to make your wife “feel better.” If you respect your wife as a peer then neither you should ever feel “indebted.” You are not being humble or being “sacrificial” to imply your wife is incapable of working with you as a team or partner. The Church needs to stop encouraging men to patronize women, but train couples to see each other’s strengths and weakness to be “equally yoked” and build a future as a team, not as a “hero with a sidekick.”