Tagmarriage

“Husbands, Love Your Wives” (or, Men and Women Are Different)

A couple of Sundays ago while we were on the way to church, Kristi noticed some rain to the south, heading right toward our church building. And sure enough, a block away from the building the rain began to pour. So, I drove under the portico, dropped Kristi off at the front door, and then parked. Since I am not exactly fleet of foot, I got drenched on my way into the building. A few minutes later, the rain stopped.

After worship was over, we were about to head to the car, when all of a sudden it started raining – again. So, I waddled out to the car and got soaked – again. As soon as I picked up Kristi and turned out of the parking lot, the rain stopped. It was like a scene from a sitcom!

I wasn’t alone, of course. Many other husbands were doing the same thing – they just had the good sense to have umbrellas (how long have I lived in Florida without remembering to get one?!?). Those fortunate enough to have teenage boy could foist the job onto them. But it was almost always men who were “braving the elements.”

This doesn’t mean that women are incapable of doing so. Many of our ladies at church are single, like my Mom was, and had to park for themselves. One of our ladies is married to a man who uses a walker, and so she had to drop him off and pick him up. And our young mothers routinely have to fend for themselves and their children as they run various errands through the week, especially if they also work outside the home . But all things being equal, if a husband and wife were driving together during that Sunday’s downpours , it was the man who sacrificed for his wife and walked in the rain, not the other way around.

Why is this the case?

Is it a matter of an arch-conservative religious culture?  Well, I see commercials and TV shows all the time that depict men holding umbrellas for women, and I assume these portrayals aren’t all written by Bible-thumping fundamentalists! Is it merely a matter of social convention? I don’t think so. While everyone agrees that gender roles and customs vary from culture to culture, even the most “woke” feminist would have been troubled if wives were the ones trudging through the rain instead of their husbands.

The reality is that men and women are different, and those physiological differences substantially (though not exclusively) account for many of the different roles we fill. The mantra of the radical progressive movement is that sex is based on biology but gender is determined by social convention and personal identity. No one questions, of course, that the expression of masculinity and femininity varies greatly from culture to culture. But it is also indisputable that many social customs are largely determined by the biological differences that intrinsically exist between men and women.

On average, men are larger, stronger, and faster than women. There are women who tower over me (like my wife), who can bench press more than me, and who can outrun me (all women, in fact!). But generally speaking, by virtue of biology, men have the edge on women when it comes to size, strength, and speed. And that is why, generally speaking, in culture after culture, it is men who are expected to fight in wars, investigate strange noises in the middle of the night, and endure the rain after parking. Biological sex creates many of our social conventions.

There is a dark side to these biological differences, however. Since men are stronger and larger than women, it is all too easy for men to exploit their physical advantages. Women are three times more likely to experience abuse, rape, assault, or stalking than men. Are men sometimes abused by women? Of course. But on average, it is men rather than women who are far more prone to perpetrate this sort of violence, and the simple reason is biology.

This is also why, in culture after culture, there have been gender-specific activities. In more primitive times it was the first big hunt. For millennia it often involved athletic contests. In many cultures right up until today it has taken the form of boy’s and men’s clubs and societies. These male-only activities are not inherently designed to denigrate women (although they can be perverted into doing precisely that). To the contrary, they serve the purpose of helping to channel male energy and aggression into virtuous responsibility and respect. They also create an environment in which men feel free to open up as men without the additional complication of male-female dynamics, which paradoxically makes men more open and available to women. Done well, these kinds of clubs and societies make better men, husbands, and fathers.

What I have just summarized reflects the wisdom of thousands of years of human tradition. And I can testify personally to the powerful affect my participation in sports, in camps, and in fraternal organizations has had on me as a man. Many of you can as well. And while I haven’t explicitly said this, it should go without saying that many of my female readers can testify to the same blessing they have received from various girl’s and women’s organizations. This is what true diversity looks like – celebrating the flourishing of men as men and women as women for the common good of both. Vive la différence!

Who could possibly object to this tradition of boy’s/men’s and girl’s/women’s hobbies, activities, or clubs? Only those who are in the grip of ideology (which one writer has defined as “the systematic way of ignoring reality”). In this case, the ideology is extreme egalitarianism which allows for no genuine differences between men and women, and therefore cannot tolerate the notion of male-only or female-only organizations or activities. This radical egalitarianism is intolerant in the extreme in its pursuit of sterile conformity. Like the Borg in Star Trek who go from solar system to solar system demanding assimilation into the collective, egalitarians poison everything they come into contact with because of their narrow and dogmatic fixation.

There is a deep internal incoherence embedded in this ideology, however. It claims to support the notion of equality, but it inevitably undermines equality. How so? Here’s one example. Egalitarians purport to support women’s rights. But radical egalitarianism denies that there’s any true difference between men and women. If that’s so, then does it even make sense to speak of women’s rights? Obviously not. Gender is just a social construct, remember? But all ideology eventually gives way to biology. Remember the famous line from Animal Farm (a novel about egalitarianism). “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than other’s.” Radical egalitarianism inevitable leads to a crass power struggle, and when it comes to gender, who does that tend to favor? Radical egalitarianism always exacts a heavy price from women.

You can actually see this playing out right now on a very modest scale in the recent decision of the Boy Scouts to change the name of its parent organization to just “Scouts” in order to include girls as well as boys for membership. From what I can gather, the organization still intends to offer boy-only and girl-only activities. I hope that this is the case, given how vital they are to the development of young men and women. But it should be no surprise that the Girl Scouts perceive a threat in this move:

Girl Scout leaders said they were blindsided by the move, and they are gearing up an aggressive campaign to recruit and retain girls as members…

The overall impact of the BSA’s policy change on Girl Scouts membership won’t be known any time soon. But one regional leader, Fiona Cummings of Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois, believes the BSA’s decision to admit girls is among the factors that have shrunk her council’s youth membership by more than 500 girls so far this year.

She said relations with the Boy Scouts in her region used to be collaborative and now are “very chilly.”

I have no idea how this will all play out. Maybe the organizations will find a way to resolve this in a manner than truly is the best for all the children involved. But I think it is fair to say that this decision by the Boy Scouts illustrates the collapse of many cultural institutions that once helped to affirm and enhance the unique and diverse potential of young men and young women.

It is paramount for Christians to intentionally fill the gap left behind by this cultural collapse. Older men need to mentor young men, and older women need to do the same for young women (Titus 2:2-6). And more than ever in this age that is hostile to boys (as books from a wide array of authors attest, such as this one and this one and this one), mature Christian men need to step up as fathers and older brothers to help guide young men into the unique responsibilities God has assigned.

And that task is a noble one. It is the call to love, serve, and give, just as Christ loved us. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). This is what it means to “act like men” (1 Corinthians 16:13). More than ever we need to be a “band of brothers” to build in one another the gallantry and courtesy Christ demands of us as men.

 

 

 

 

 

Marry Someone to Suffer With

(Yesterday I spoke in the chapel service of my alma mater, Florida College. Here is my talk. You can also watch the complete service online at this link).

 

I will be reading from 1 Corinthians 7:25-28-

Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.

You sophomores are studying 1 Corinthians this semester, so you’ll discuss various interpretations of what Paul means by the “present distress.” I don’t really know for sure, but his primary point is clear. This crisis will exacerbate the “worldly troubles” all couples face – so much so that Paul, who in other places says marriage is a blessing from God to be received with thanksgiving, in this context says it is better to remain single.

We may not live in what Paul described as “the present distress,” but we do have worldly troubles – and those pressures exert tremendous stress on married couples. Paul wanted the eyes of the Corinthians to be wide open as they faced these hurdles as husband and wife. And what he says here raises a crucial consideration for those of you who are single as you think about the sort of person you’d like to marry. You need to find someone you want to suffer with.

I don’t mean someone who causes you to suffer – although I can assure you that in marriage you often will hurt each other. But what I’m talking about today is committing your life to the person you want by your side more than anyone else when adversity strikes. And it will.

Just a few months after my wife and I married, we noticed a horrible odor coming from our basement – it was an old house, so really more of a cellar. We thought an animal had gotten inside and died. When we went down to investigate, we discovered that the problem was much worse. The sewage drain from our house had ruptured, and our basement was flooded with raw sewage. We had to work for hours to get this horrible mess cleaned up.

Kristi and I have talked about this many times, it was at that very moment – as we both stood in a bunch of poo – that we knew we had married the right person (wouldn’t that make a romantic Valentine’s Day card!). But seriously, it was hard to imagine how we could have to face anything worse together, but my wife didn’t flinch. It confirmed that she was the person I wanted to face the trials of life with.

A few months later, two weeks before our first anniversary, it did get worse – Kristi lost her job. Then, two days before our first anniversary, we found out it could get much worse. Kristi was diagnosed with advanced cancer. But as I have witnessed her courage, her determination, her faith in God, as she has encountered these worldly troubles, I know this is someone I want by my side as I face my own.

And you will face yours. So as you get serious about someone, ask yourself, is this the person I want to suffer with? You can’t predict with certainty how your guy or girl will respond to adversity, but here’s what you can look for. When the class gets tough, do they double down to see it through, or do they drop it? When they get a bad review from the boss at their job, do they take personal responsibility to correct their mistakes, or do they just quit? Are they patient with you when you are at your worst, or do they withdraw and avoid you? When you are alone with each other, do they show the strength of commitment to purity and honor, or do they let the impulse of the moment override their convictions?

Traditional marriage vows say “in sickness and in health, in prosperity and adversity.” These are not mindless platitudes. They are descriptions of what life is really like. And when you say “I do,” you are vowing, THIS is the person I want to face suffering with, and I am pledging to see it through to the end. When you’ve got a person like that by your side, you are indescribably blessed.   

Thinking Through Faith and…Marriage

As 2017 draws to a close, I want to thank those of you who took time this year to read the blog. I started this primarily to force myself to be a more disciplined and consistent writer, but your feedback has been enormously helpful. As of today there have been over 36,000 views of the blog this year – exceeding my wildest dreams! By the way, if you haven’t do so, subscribe to the blog by entering your email in the box you see on the left so that you can get these posts delivered to your virtual mailbox.

Over the next couple of days I want to pull together links to the articles from the past year that mean the most to me personally. First up: various posts about marriage.

The “Mystery” of Marriage – a look at Paul’s understanding of marriage as a model of the eternal plan of redemption.

Love, Marriage, and Commitment – a survey of love songs over the years and what they tell us about the changing understanding of “love”.

The Degrading Plague of Pornography – one of the gravest threats to marriage in our culture.

Marriage, “From Here to Eternity” – placing marriage in the context of eternal realities.

Put on the New Self…In Marriage – applying the description of a transformed life in Ephesians 4 to marriage in particular.

“To Have and to Hold…Until Death Do We Part” – a tribute to two heroic examples of sacrificial love in marriage.

In Sickness and in Health – a personal story about love in the midst of illness.

A Second Look at Mike Pence’s “Rule” – those who believe marriage is a sacred covenant with God take special care to protect it.

 

A Second Look at Mike Pence’s “Rule”

Back in March the Washington Post ran a profile of Mike Pence’s wife which mentioned his longstanding practice of not socializing alone with women other than his family. News of this practice was met with scorn, outrage, and derision by many critics. In their view, this was an affront to the equality of women in the workplace – or worse (this is the rape culture at work!).

At the time, I pointed out that while Pence’s scruples may seem highly unusual to some, this was a widely accepted safe-guard among those of us who are labeled “evangelicals” (it even has a name – the “Billy Graham Rule”). For those of us who believe that marriage is truly a sacred commitment before God, maintaining clear boundaries around marriage is just common sense. I recognized then (and now) that not everyone shares the same religious convictions about (what used to be commonly referred to as) “holy matrimony,” and that even among those who do, not everyone follows this cautious principle. But I argued that surely even those who disagree with how Pence and his wife approach this matter of judgment could at least see why they do so, and maybe even feel a certain sense of grudging admiration for such conviction. Continue reading

In Sickness and In Health

One night last week my wife was working late, so I grabbed a bite by myself at one of Plant City’s landmark restaurants, Fred’s. As I was getting back into the car to go home, I noticed a man helping a woman into a van. She did not appear to be old enough to be his mother, and the way they interacted almost certainly indicated that she was his wife.

And she was in poor health. She used a scooter to get around, and she was also on oxygen. In order for her to get into their van, she needed her husband’s help. I watched as he positioned the scooter in order for her to stand up and then navigated her into the passenger seat. This took a long time, and obviously took a lot out of her. Then, he moved the scooter to the back of the van, and (after some effort) mounted the scooter on the brackets that held it in place. Continue reading

“To Have and to Hold…Til Death Do We Part”

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

The New York Times broke the story about Harvey Weinstein’s vile pattern of sexual abuse just after the Vegas shooting. In the days following the nightmare in Vegas, stories were beginning to emerge about the heroes in the midst of that horror, but thanks to the Weinstein bombshell, those stories were quickly lost in the shuffle. This only adds to the tragedy of the events in Vegas. So in this post, I want to draw attention to two heroes.

Those heroes are Jack Beaton and Sonny Melton. Continue reading

Put on the New Self…In Marriage

Yesterday marked 28 years for me as a preacher. My first work was with the Oak Hill church outside of Mount Sterling, Kentucky, and my first Sunday with them was May 14, 1989. I have many wonderful memories of the people there, and love seeing them every time I get the chance to go back and preach in the area. An added blessing for me during that time was the friendship of fellow minister John Smith, who preached nearby in my hometown of Winchester. We got together almost every week, sharing sermon ideas over lunch. In this post I want to pass along one of his ideas that I think is great. But first, some background. Continue reading

Marriage, “From Here to Eternity”

Recently I have been teaching the book of First Corinthians in our adult Bible class at church. The seventh chapter contains Paul’s responses to various questions raised by the Corinthians regarding marriage, divorce, remarriage, and celibacy. Paul’s general recommendation is that in view of a crisis the Corinthians were facing – something he calls “the present distress” (v. 26) – that it is better to remain unmarried if a person is able to live in celibacy. But he also assures the Corinthians that if a person is not blessed with this capacity that marriage is not a sin. Continue reading

The Degrading Plague of Pornography

Yesterday I read a statistic that astounded me. In 2016 porn viewers watched 4.6 billion hours of pornography on one website alone. Americans accounted for forty percent of this. This was stunning to me, but it should not have been. It makes perfect sense given the dominant values of our culture – individualism, consumerism, and materialism. If an individual should be free to do whatever gives him pleasure, and if customers should be able to get whatever they are willing to pay for, and if sex is nothing more than a physical act, then what could possibly reflect the times better than rampant porn use?

Christians are not immune to this problem – as any preacher or elder who has counseled couples in marriages nearly wrecked by porn use can testify.  And given the easy access to pornography through the internet, this problem is only going to get worse. Although this is an awkward subject to address, it is crucial for those who follow Jesus to be aware of this issue, and to have clear convictions about what is wrong with it. Continue reading

Love, Marriage, and Commitment

Here’s a story about love in four songs.

First, a song from 1925 by Irving Berlin-

I’ll be loving you always

with a love that’s true always.

When the things you’ve planned

Need a helping hand,

I will understand always.

Always.

Days may not be fair always,

That’s when Ill be there always.

Not for just an hour,

Not for just a day,

Not for just a year,

But always.

What does “love” mean in this song? What was Irving Berlin saying to his wife? I commit to love you, even when times are difficult. And this isn’t just a fleeting emotion – I’ll be there always.

Now, a different view of love, from 1964- Continue reading