The Trouble with Biblical Marriage

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Many Christians set out to defend what they call “biblical marriage”, and this term has become a lightning rod for discussion. Authors such as this one have pushed back, saying that various types of marriage are actually condoned in the Bible –many of them being abusive to the women involved. Advocates of gay marriage are quick to ask why Christians insist on preserving a particular marriage ideal when the Bible describes many different kinds of marriage.

So, does the Bible really support a wide range of marriage types? Are Christians arbitrarily choosing a concept of marriage from the many displayed in the Bible? How should Christians really go about understanding the Bible and determining what God desires for marriage to look like? Certainly, many different types of marriage are described in the Bible, but is it also true that Christians have no basis for advocating a particular type of marriage? These questions are all important.

There is a difference between a description of something and a prescription for behavior. Christians do not believe that every Bible passage carries the same weight in terms of practical application today. Every passage must be understood in its context – both cultural and literary. Taking Scripture out of context is dangerous, and will ultimately lead us to the wrong conclusion. Not all biblical examples deserve our imitation, nor were all intended to evoke it. Here I will discuss three principles I believe will help us understand God’s heart and purpose in marriage. Then I will wrap up by reflecting on the words we use about marriage.

1.      Narrative descriptions of marriage practices should not be taken as prescriptive.

The storyline of Scripture of contains many examples of dysfunctional marriage practices, and often these “marriage” stories give evidence of their own destructive results. We may think of Judges 19:22-29. In this scenario when a man is personally threatened with sexual assault by a mob he offers his concubine to the men attacking him in an attempt to save his own skin. After the concubine is raped and abused she evidently dies. Her owner then cuts her up in pieces and sends these pieces to the corners of Israel. Is this a God honoring example of marriage? No, in fact this story gives evidence of a lawless period in time of Israel’s history where “…Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25).  This story illustrates the depth of depravity God’s people had sunk to, and in no way validates the behavior it describes.

We may also think of King Solomon’s many marriages. He possessed 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). In this situation Solomon’s practice of marriage went directly against the commands of God. In Deuteronomy kings of Israel are specifically told to not take many wives because doing so would result in their hearts being led away from God  (Deuteronomy 17:17). This is exactly what happened to Solomon in his old age (1 Kings 11:4). This too is an example of marriage we are not called to emulate.

We could look at the lives of the patriarchs for other examples of marriage practices that didn’t work out so well. Abraham’s decision to take his wife’s servant in an attempt to have a son was a symptom of his shallow faith and produced very negative consequences in his family. Jacob was tricked into marrying the sister of the woman he loved, and his resulting plural marriage was thereafter fraught with favoritism and conflict. These men loved God to be sure, but we must not assume their marriage practices were condoned by God.

2.      Old Testament marriage guidelines are not necessarily prescriptive for Christians.

The fact that something is commanded in the Old Testament doesn’t imply that it is binding for Christians today. This is very clear in the New Testament in reference to dietary laws (Mark 7:19, Acts 10). Christians are not called to disregard the Old Testament, but we should allow the New Testament to help explain the Old Testament to us.[i] The Old Testament Law was good, and was given for a specific purpose during a specific time.

This New Testament priority is not arbitrary, and we don’t listen to the New Testament simply because we are more comfortable with what it says. This New Testament priority is reflected in Scripture and has been historically practiced by the Christian church. All Scripture is important and useful, but not all Scripture is applied in the same way. New Testament teaching on marriage is the final word and helps clarify what God intends for marriage to look like for believers today.

Still, many of the biblical marriage practices are troubling to us. The Old Testament includes instructions about marrying a captive woman (Deuteronomy 21:10-14), marrying the wife of a dead brother – called levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10), and even the marriage of a man to a woman he raped (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). Each of these situations deserves a great deal of discussion, but a few comments should be made now. Firstly we must understand these situations in their cultural context.  The Old Testament was written during a period of time where women were afforded few rights. Did the Old Testament Law seek to completely overturn society and instantly create equality? No, but even in the midst of a culture with poor attitudes toward famales we see a biblical pattern of concern for women who found themselves in these horrible situations.  It is right to respond with disgust to the cultural norms of this time, but it is not fair to say that Scripture was seeking to establish abusive practices when the actual intent of these commands was to provide some protection to women suffering under an abusive cultural norm. Hebrew women were given greater protection than in other societies of the time, and Scripture, when taken as a whole, unequivocally speaks to the worth and value of women.

Many Old Testament marriage practices are not worth repeating. We must see these practices in their cultural context and look elsewhere in Scripture for further clarity on God’s plan for marriage. If we merely studied Deuteronomy to establish our marriage paradigm we might be left scratching our heads, but God never intended to leave us there. The regulations of the Old Testament were merely a shadow preceding a better and fuller reality. The Old Testament Law was an imperfect guide for a deeply flawed people. The imperfect covenant (Hebrews 7:18), put forth in the Law, would soon be replaced with a better, though more demanding covenant. This brings us to our third principal.

3.      The New Testament reaffirms and builds on God’s original intent for marriage.

While many Christians are aware of the wide ranging discussion of marriage and singleness found in First Corinthians seven, fewer are aware of another important marriage passage. Perhaps the most significant New Testament discussion of marriage occurs after Jesus is asked a troubling question about divorce. “Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” (Matthew 19:3)

The question was a landmine; the Pharisees wanted to see if Jesus would concur with marriage tradition or reject it. Jesus’ reply caught everyone off guard:

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

Many would have expected Jesus to reference the Law of Moses to substantiate his perspective on marriage, but Jesus chose to go even farther back, citing Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 to describe his marriage paradigm. He argues that Genesis, not Deuteronomy was intended by God to serve as the primary prescriptive passage for marriage relationships. In the Garden of Eden, before sin had entered the world, God established a pattern of marriage that involved a man and a woman uniting together. This unity was sexual and spiritual. These individuals were now considered to be one. Unlike under the Mosaic Law, this union was intended to last until death. A man could not abandon his wife.[ii] This declaration of Jesus elicited immediate protests from those listening. They asked: Why  did Moses allow divorce if it was wrong?

Jesus then spoke about a truth that helps us understand why God allowed non-ideal marriage practices in the Old Testament. Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.”” – Matthew 19:8. This shows us that at least in this instance, God allowed a marriage pattern that did not reflect his original intent. He did this because of the hard hearts of his people, not because it was best.

Old Testament marriage practice undoubtedly fell short of God’s best, but God’s original plan was still in place. This plan involved a man and a woman in lifelong commitment to each other. Jesus said that any past exceptions to this policy were now invalid. No longer would diversions from the original plan be ok for followers of God. While some like to claim that Jesus was relatively liberal on sexual issues, this passage points to the opposite conclusion. Jesus was raising the sexual and relational standard. He was calling people back to God’s original plan for marriage.

This was the pattern for Jesus. At numerous junctures when addressing questions of the Law Jesus goes deeper and asks more of people. Merely following the letter of the law would no longer suffice.  Jesus seeks to illuminate heart conditions, not just control behavior. He declares that the sin of adultery is one that starts in the heart as lust, and that the sin of murder is first experienced through hatred (Matthew 5). The new law given by Christ offered greater freedom, and greater responsibility.

In fact the entire tone of the New Testament is one of increased commitment to God. No longer must followers of God restrict their diet arbitrarily, but they must now consider the impact their eating choices have on those around them (1 Corinthians 8). No longer must God’s people offer an endless stream of animal sacrifices.  They are instead called to offer their entire selves as living sacrifices out of love for their Savior (Romans 12:1). No longer were husbands merely commanded to physically provide for their wives, they were now required to love them sacrificially – even to the point of being willing to die for them (Ephesians 5:25-28). The standard was raised and the commitment was deepened as God called his people back to his original plan.

We could continue by looking at other passages in the New Testament that further outline God’s incredible plan for marriage, but we will leave that for another time. The important point here is that while culture and hard human hearts distorted God’s plan for marriage through the years, God’s intent for marriage has always been the same. I am not sure I could sum up this point any better than Trillia Newbell does:

“For Jesus and Paul and for the Church, sexual and marriage ethics (and biblical womanhood) are not based on the historical sins against women that are recorded in the Old Testament, but from the pre-fall monogamous union of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2.”

At this point we have seen that God’s plan for marriage has been consistent through time. From the beginning marriage was intended to be an enduring physical and spiritual union between a man and woman. While some would have us believe that the Bible’s perspective on marriage is confusing or contradictory, we have clearly seen that God’s Word points toward one prescription for marriage.  I do not expect non-Christians to share my convictions about the authority of the Bible, and I certainly don’t expect them to willingly submit to its moral teachings. But I do hope the intellectually honest will acknowledge that Christians have internally consistent, biblically grounded reasons for advocating and practicing a particular form of marriage.

The Words we Use about Marriage Matter

So what then are we to say then about “Biblical Marriage”? I believe when most Christians say biblical marriage they are referring to God’s intended practice of marriage. The term is unfortunately somewhat inexact. It can be misunderstood by those hear it and misrepresented by those who desire to do so. Certainly, many different types of marriage are described in the Bible – even if they are not intended to serve as examples for us. Perhaps our language needs to be more precise.  Not all biblical marriages were honoring to God. Christian marriage, however, is the unique practice of God’s people.[iii]

Christian marriage should not be confused with Old Testament aberrations or modern day distortions. It is the unique, divinely ordained practice of God’s people – laid out compellingly in Scripture. It is radical when compared to Ancient Near East practices, and it is radical when compared to the modern American understanding of marriage. It is more demanding, more serious, and more profitable than any other expression of marriage. Christian marriage is a gift from God to his people, and those who seek to practice it will be blessed.

The words we use are so important.  This fact has been incredibly clear in the recently public debate over gay marriage. It sounds much more compelling to say that you are for marriage equality than it does to say that you support legally changing the definition of marriage. Let’s publically talk about marriage, but let’s also commit ourselves to using words that accurately communicate our meaning. This is why when I talk about God’s intent for marriage I seek to use the term Christian marriage – because I believe it better reflects the truth I advocate.


[i] For more helpful information on the question of the Old Testament authority in the life of a Christian please read Tim Keller’s helpful thoughts. http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/07/09/making-sense-of-scriptures-inconsistency/

[ii] A couple situations are given where divorce is allowed for a Christian. These two cases are marital infidelity (Matt 19:9), and abandonment by a non-believing spouse (1 Cor 7:14). In all cases, divorce should be evaluated soberly. There are doubtlessly other situations, such as abuse, where one spouse would need to separate for their safety or the safety of their children.

[iii] I am indebted to Bryan Kammerzelt for suggesting this shift in terminology. http://www.critiquebycreating.com/2011/04/the-most-eligible-christian-bachelor/

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Why Gay Marriage Makes Sense to My Generation

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In November 2012 three states narrowly voted to affirm same-sex marriage, breaking with a long trend of ballot box losses for the gay community. While recent polls suggest that America is still divided on this issue, the same cannot be said for the young adult population. Nearly every survey shows that those under thirty overwhelmingly support the legalization of gay marriage (around 80% in some surveys). This fact alone indicates that our country will continue to move in the direction of approving same-sex marriage.

While our reaction to this reality will certainly differ based on our worldview and convictions about sexuality, it is helpful for all of us to understand the underlying dynamics that push young adults in this direction. As a 27 year old Christian man I want to know why my generation is leading the way toward legalizing gay marriage. Consequently, I have spent a good deal of time reading and thinking about this question. This is my attempt to address some of the reasons why gay marriage makes sense to my generation.

Reasons Why:

1.       The State of “Traditional Marriage” is Not Healthy

Perhaps more than any other, my generation acutely feels the consequences of marital brokenness. Half of my peers grew up in shattered homes, and even the ones who didn’t saw enough relational dysfunction to make them gun-shy of marital commitment. It doesn’t even help us to look back farther for a healthy marriage model. The idyllic 1950s, often painted as a time when marriages were strong, lose their luster when stories of alcoholism, hidden abuse, and loveless relationships are uncovered. The traditional ideal has faded into a failed promise.

My generation has responded to this by putting off marriage, and in some cases, deciding against marriage entirely. Even the economic and legal benefits of marriage are not enough to induce many of my peers to walk down the aisle.

In 2004 Stanley Kurtz published an article arguing that the legalization of gay marriage in some European countries has led to an increase in cohabitation and out of wedlock births.  Others have disputed his claims, arguing that these relational trends predated or are disconnected from the legalization of gay marriage, but what cannot be disputed is that the legalization of gay marriage is taking place during an era where hetrosexual relationships are suffering.

Perhaps there would be a case for defending traditional marriage if we were surrounded by numerous examples of healthy marriages. But for most of us, thriving heterosexual marriages are the exception not the rule. My generation can’t truthfully say “if it aint broke don’t fix it”, so many have begun saying “It’s not working, so why does it matter?”

2.       Marriage and Sexuality Have Increasingly Become Disconnected from Procreation

Early feminists saw birth control as their ticket to freedom and equality. They could now pursue their careers fully and advance in their workplace, even while being sexually active. Now women could enjoy the same level of sexual expression men could without having to worry about pregnancy. Opportunities have certainly expanded for women because of birth control, and doors once closed to women are opening. But along with these benefits, birth control brought with it something else.

Children are now an option, not an assumption. The natural and obvious connection between pregnancy and sexuality is no longer at the front of our minds. Even within marriage childbearing can be postponed indefinitely. People may now get married and choose not to have children at all – and many do. When birth control was introduced gay marriage would have seemed absurd, but as others have noted, the pill ultimately helped pave the way for gay marriage.

Add to this the modern realities of artificial insemination, surrogate parenthood, egg donation, test tube babies, and cloning. Not only is marriage unnecessary for the creation of a baby, intercourse itself is now an optional path toward parenthood. While some previous generations have downplayed or ignored the pleasure dimension of sexuality by emphasizing the reproductive, some in this generation have adopted an opposite, although similarly one-dimensional view that sees sex as exclusively about physical pleasure.

Natural law arguments about marriage that appeal to the nature of human reproduction have much less sway in a generation that sees no essential connection between sexual function and parenthood. People once believed that since children can only come through heterosexual union, they are best raised by parents in a heterosexual union. That belief is now passé in an age where sexuality has been divorced from reproduction.

3.       Unique Gender Contributions Have been Minimized or Denied

Over the past fifty years there has been a push to deny or deemphasize the differences between men and women. The primary belief driving this movement seems to be that acknowledging differences inevitably leads to discrimination. As with birth control, this has been a double edged sword in our culture. Opportunities are now open to both men and women that would have once been reserved for the opposite sex. People are now freer to pursue their passions even if these passions don’t fit into their culturally defined gender category.

On the negative side, denying differences has at times made it very hard to celebrate and honor the strengths concentrated in one sex. Many are now convinced that there is no real difference between men and women aside from their reproductive plumbing. If men and women are really the same, they really don’t need each other that much. This way of thinking has direct implications for how we think about the marital relationship.

The fact that a boy raised by a lesbian couple is denied the chance to have a father at home doesn’t bother us if we doubt a father actually has something distinctive to offer a son. If a woman can give a child everything a man can give, why insist on having both present in a marriage?

4.       We Ignore God’s Sexual Standards in Our Own Lives

It goes without saying that premarital sex is the norm in this generation. A recent study showed that 88% of unmarried young adults are having sex before marriage. Self identified Evangelicals reported only a marginal difference with 80% admitting to sexual activity. While we may question the accuracy of such results, it is undeniable that most young adults today choose to reject historic Christian teachings about sexuality.

If my generation (and the previous one) now views the Christian position on premarital sex to be outmoded and prudish, it naturally follows that other Biblically grounded sexual ethics are also up for questioning. If premarital sex isn’t really wrong, is homosexual sex also ok? If I am unwilling to make the difficult choice to put my sexual behavior under the Lordship of Christ as a heterosexual adult, how can I insist that my gay friend do what I am unwilling to do?

This rationalization doesn’t always occur as a logical thought pattern, but when we consistently make choices to put our sexual desires above God’s truth we train ourselves to see sexual and relational satisfaction as primary instead of seeing God’s will as primary. This value judgment necessarily affects how we view other expressions of sexuality.

I recently came across another interesting study showing a connection between pornography consumption and approval of gay marriage. Specifically this study found that heterosexual men who watch pornography are more likely to begin supporting same sex marriage. While much could be said here, this is just another piece of evidence that disregarding God’s plan for sexuality in one area of our lives directly influences how we view sexuality in other areas.

5.       Marriage Has Become About Personal Fulfillment

While marriage was once viewed as a formative institution whereby the participants would grow through their experiences together, many now see marriage as a crowning achievement on the path to self actualization. Instead of a path to growth marriage has become an exercise in personal fulfillment. We are taught by society to pursue marriage primarily for our happiness and social enhancement. It is also easier than ever to get out of an unhappy marriage –however significant or trivial the reason for this unhappiness. One can rightly dispute this concept of marriage, but it can’t be denied that this is the dominant marriage paradigm in our country today.

So how does this understanding of marriage inform our perspective on gay marriage? If marriage is only about people being happy, then why should we withhold from anyone the opportunity for happiness? If the only or even the primary purpose of marriage is personal fulfillment, should not everyone have that opportunity regardless of their sexual orientation? Long ago we adopted a cultural model of marriage that emphasizes personal fulfillment above all else, and gay marriage is the logical outworking of that model.

6.       What We Were Told about Gay People Wasn’t True

It is easy to maintain negative beliefs about a group who you don’t associate with, but many young adults have close friendships with people who identify as gay or lesbian. Through these friendships we have discovered that LGBT identifying individuals are profoundly human. While previous generations may have opposed homosexuality because of irrational prejudice or false assumptions, this is not an option for us. We have not found our gay friends to be any dirtier or more dangerous than we are. In fact, they can be nicer and more compassionate than many other people we know. The scary caricatures we have been fed are now thoroughly unconvincing. There is a real sense among my peers that many of the things we were told about gays and lesbians are just plain wrong. While there may be compelling reasons to favor heterosexual marriage, many of the reasons shared with my generation have become increasingly unpersuasive as we get to know the gay and lesbian individuals around us.

7.       We Highly Value Relationships

Relationships are indeed a prized commodity in this generation, and many people are reluctant to embrace a belief that could negatively influence their friendships. My generation is also disinterested in moral absolutes, so this relational priority often determines ethical convictions. David Kinnaman notes that for many, fairness has become more important than rightness. “There’s a real sense in which their institutional loyalty and their loyalty to theoretical morals and ethical choices are trumped by their peer relationships.”

8.       We Care about Those Who are Suffering

It would be unfair to paint the approval of same sex marriage as merely a position taken by a generation without a moral compass. For many, advocating gay rights is a result of the desire for social justice. The same compassion that pushes us to serve the homeless and fight sex trafficking also pushes us to defend others who are suffering and being oppressed. My generation recognizes that the gay community has suffered under more than moral disapproval. LGBT individuals have been treated in ways that are disrespectful and dehumanizing by society, the state, and often by the church. This mistreatment, often occurring under the banner of moral preservation, has been anything but moral.

What We Can Learn

So how should the Christian church respond to my generation in the midst of the current social upheaval surrounding gay marriage? While this point deserves much greater development, I will offer a few suggestions here. Firstly, the church must passionately articulate and model a distinctly Christian concept of marriage to Her people. We must not continue to adopt our culture’s idea of marriage while slapping a Christian label on it. The church is in desperate need of a theologically grounded, comprehensive rearticulation of God’s design for marriage. This picture of marriage will differ in many ways from our cultural marriage paradigm. The defining characteristic of Christian marriage is not self-actualization but self-sacrifice. We must offer a compelling description of God’s design for sexuality, recognizing it as a multifaceted gift intended to provide physical pleasure, promote emotional bonding, and produce children. We must also paint a picture of a God big enough, worthy enough, and loving enough to deserve our complete submission in sexual matters. We must preach a Jesus who is worth following no matter what we are called to give up.

Even if we disagree with this generation’s conclusion about gay marriage, we must not ignore the mistreatment of other human beings or dismiss the many voices decrying these abuses. The church needs to be better informed about the difficulties facing individuals with same sex attraction. Every believer in Christ should firmly stand against the abuse and mistreatment of fellow human beings who are created in the Image of God.

My prayer is that the societal acceptance of gay marriage will cause Christians to reevaluate their understanding of this divinely ordained institution. Too long have we adopted cultural values about marriage that contradict God’s intent. In the past it was easy to think of cultural marriage as an expression of God’s design, but this new, obvious departure from our Creator’s relational blueprint should help highlight many areas where our understanding of marriage has already been distorted. While our nation continues to move toward approval of gay marriage, I believe the Church can also head in a new direction – toward a truer and better understanding of Christian Marriage. I pray that God allows me to help in this process.

Our Halfhearted Desire for Mentorship

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Over the past several years there seems to have been a new wave of interest in Christian mentorship. This generation of young adults, many of whom grew up with few positive role models, are said to be longing for a greater connection with previous generations. Some suggest that while Generation X wanted to chart its own path, Millennials are longing for more significant input from those who have gone before.

For me this hunger for mentorship is not just an abstract cultural phenomenon. At my church I spend a lot of time meeting with young adults, and many of them express a desire to be mentored by someone older and more spiritually mature. This is also my desire. I would love to see the church become a place where these multi-generational mentorship relationships are prioritized and pursued by people of all ages.

But I am starting to question the depth of this desire in my own generation. We talk about it a lot, but do we really want it? Are we willing to make the sacrifices required to pursue these relationships? Perhaps we do really want it, but only on our own terms, when it is convenient for us. Is it possible that we have romanticized the concept of mentorship? Maybe we envision sitting down for coffee while having a free flowing conversation with someone who speaks wisdom in every word. Is it possible that mentorship is messier and more time consuming than we would like to admit? Perhaps the reason we don’t have mentorship relationships is because we actually don’t care enough. I believe my generation is in need of mentorship gut check.

– Do we want mentorship enough to really commit to and serve in a local church alongside more mature believers?

– Do we really want to listen to and learn from someone whose perspectives on life might seem antiquated or more conservative than ours?

– Do we really want to spend time learning from parents who have screaming babies and misbehaving children? Are we willing to help babysit those kids in order to grow through interaction with these families?

– Do we care enough about mentorship that we would choose to be in a multigenerational small group instead of a group where everyone is just like us?

– Do we really want to be mentored by someone if we would be required to get up earlier or adjust our schedule significantly to pursue the relationship?

– Do we want to be mentored badly enough that we would give up a Friday night hanging out with friends in order to meet an older couple at a boring restaurant?

– Do we want mentorship and multigenerational interaction enough to commit to a church that doesn’t play our style of music?

We are a nation of instant consumers, and no matter how much we wish it would, mentorship will never have the convenience of a drive through. It takes more than three minutes, and godly character is not found on the dollar menu. Mentorship will always cost us something, and far too many of us are simply unwilling to pay that cost.

Maybe my generation does have a greater longing for mentorship than the previous generation, but I care less about what we say we want than I do about what we need. While we don’t find a succinct prescription for mentorship in the Bible, this type of generational investment does seem to be the assumed norm. Wisdom is often possessed by those who are older (Job 12:12). The Apostle Paul set us an example by providing guidance to younger men (Timothy, Titus, John Mark). Older women are even specifically encouraged to help train younger women (Titus 2:3-5). Yes we need each other, and we have always needed each other – that will never change. We should pursue relationships with believers in different life stages, not because it feels good, but because God has designed us to need each other.

This idea goes against the grain in a culture that consistently segregates generations. Older voices are commonly viewed with suspicion instead of respect. Many cultural forces serve to drive us apart, making it hard for us to benefit from each other. God honoring mentorship may be uncomfortable for us, but regardless of comfort or cost it is worth the investment. How is God calling you to make this investment today?

A Response to Matthew Vines

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I recently had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by Matthew Vines concerning the subject of Homosexuality in the Bible. Matthew is an intelligent, articulate, gay man who has obviously spent a great deal of time wrestling with this issue. He is also a professing Christian who understands that the question of sexual morality is central, not peripheral to this discussion. Matthew, a student at Harvard University, recently took two years off of school in order to research this topic. Vines passionately argues that each of the six passages in the Bible often cited to prove that homosexual behavior is sinful are either inapplicable or taken out of context. He presents an emotionally compelling talk that is designed to dismantle “every Bible based argument against homosexuality”.

It is certainly worth discussing his textual arguments, and others have certianly done so. here here here I have instead chosen to address two underlying beliefs that seem to drive him to reinterpret the passages on homosexuality. These beliefs are: 1. People are being damaged by the traditional Christian understanding of homosexuality. 2. It is unreasonable to ask someone who identifies as gay or lesbian to remain celibate and single. I would like to briefly address each of these claims.

Are people being damaged by the traditional Christian teaching about homosexuality?

Early on in his talk Vines lays out what seems to be his controlling principal of Biblical interpretation. He references Jesus words in Matthew 7:

“Jesus warns against false teachers, and he offers a principle that can be used to test good teaching from bad teaching… Good teachings, according to Jesus, have good consequences. That doesn’t mean that following Christian teaching will or should be easy, and in fact, many of Jesus’s commands are not easy at all… Good teachings, even when they are very difficult, are not destructive to human dignity. They don’t lead to emotional and spiritual devastation, and to the loss of self-esteem and self-worth. But those have been the consequences for gay people of the traditional teaching on homosexuality. It has not borne good fruit in their lives, and it’s caused them incalculable pain and suffering.”

It is for this reason that the speaker calls us to question the historic Christian teaching on homosexuality – because this teaching is “destructive to human dignity”. He believes it to be an emotionally and spiritually devastating position that promotes the “loss of self-esteem and self-worth”. Many individuals who identify as gay or lesbian do experience profound inner turmoil because of their attractions. This is particularly true of those who have grown up in the conservative Christian subculture. Statistics are often cited giving evidence of increased rates of depression and suicide among those who experience same sex attraction.

It is true that many heterosexually inclined Christians have been woefully ignorant of the suffering their homosexually inclined brothers and sisters experience. This remains a serious problem in the Christian church and must be addressed.

Good teaching does produce good results when it is acted upon, and Christians, above all people, should be active in doing what they can to eliminate suffering. But is his larger point – that suffering gives evidence of poor teaching – an accurate one? Does the presence of emotional turmoil always indicate that poor teaching is at work within the life of a believer?

The speaker admits that some of the teachings of Jesus are not easy, and on that we certainly agree. But at some point he seems to draw a line and say certain types of mental and physical suffering are just too extreme to be in line with what God wants for his people. I do not believe that God ever promises us that we will be spared from any specific types of suffering.

In fact, if we look at the Bible we see that followers of God living within His will for them experienced sufferings of many differing types and durations. Abraham was called to leave his extended family and home country. Jacob was given a life altering injury. Joseph spent years in prison because of a false rape accusation. The prophets were called to do extreme things involving great personal discomfort. Jesus himself was emotionally devastated in the garden as he thought about the great suffering he was about to experience. The apostle Paul gives us a large list of his sufferings in Second Corinthians eleven; discussing hunger, thirst, shipwrecks, and beatings. Paul also describes an unnamed source of suffering which he called “a thorn in my flesh” (2 Cor 12:7). Though he pleaded with God repeatedly to take it away, God saw fit to allow Paul to continue to experience this pain.

Clearly suffering, whether physical, mental, or emotional can occur in the life of someone who is living within the bounds of God’s will for their life. This suffering can be overwhelming and feel crushing as Paul describes:

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. – 2 Cor 1:8-9a

The hope Christians have is not that living life God’s way will result in an easier life; in fact, living this way will often make life more difficult. The promise Christians cling to is that even in the midst of suffering God provides comfort and purpose. “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Cor 1:9b)

The Christian life cannot be lived with the ideal of immediate gratification. It must be evaluated in the light of eternity, and in light of a loving God who has the power to raise the dead.

We often experience suffering when we try to live within God’s will, and this does not always mean we have misunderstood his will for us. Suffering may actually prove the opposite. If our understanding of homosexuality is wrong, this must be proved through the biblical text, and not by the discomfort the teaching may cause.

Does the traditional Christian position on homosexuality condemn gay people to a life of being alone?

A large portion of Vine’s argument seems to rest of the belief that it is unreasonable to insist that someone remain unmarried and celibate for their entire life. He cites Genesis 2:18 of evidence for this: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” The speaker believes that while for most men a woman is the most suitable partner, for some men a man is the most suitable partner.

He also discusses Paul’s encouragement in 1 Corinthians 7 for believers to marry if they are overwhelmed with sexual desire, saying And so if the remedy against sexual sin for straight Christians is marriage, why should the remedy for gay Christians not be the same?” The speaker clearly believes that not offering marriage to gay individuals is an inconsistency in the Christian message on sexuality. If marriage is not offered as an option to Christians who experience same sex attraction how are they to deal with their romantic and sexual longings? This is a very important and very difficult question.

Unfulfilled longing can feel overpowering and debilitating. This effect is often compounded as the years go by.  For many people, singleness can be an incredibly difficult state. We must also remember that this state is occupied by many people who do not experience same sex attraction. Many Christians in other situations also fail to experience romantic and sexual fulfillment.  The undesired and rejected have this experience; the physically and mentally disabled have this experience; the divorced and abandoned also experience non-desired singleness. Many people who don’t want to be single remain single. There are certainly unique hardships that must be faced by those who deal with same sex attraction (such as the possibility of always remaining single,) but we must remember that God intends for many people in many different situations to remain single long term.

Following God’s will can also cause someone who is heterosexually oriented will remain single in spite of their desire for marriage. For instance, a Christian woman may be in a context where she does not have contact with eligible Christian men. Although she desires marriage and is fully capable of marriage, her circumstances make it impossible for her to enter into marriage. Getting romantically involved with a non-believer is not an option because it goes against God’s loving plan for his people (1 Cor 7:39, 2 Cor 6:14).

God’s will for us and our desires are not always as aligned we would wish. I do not believe that everyone who is called to singleness is immediately aware of this; many of them may not even want to be single. A call to singleness (permanent or temporary) does not imply asexuality or a lack of desire for companionship. In fact. in my many conversations on the subject, I have never had one person in a state of singleness, of any orientation, tell me that have ceased to desire either sex or companionship. The presence of a sex drive does not necessarily mean that marriage in the direction of that drive is what God wants for us.

So, is remaining unmarried really a lifelong sentence to being alone? The words of God in Genesis two echo deeply in our hearts, it is not good for man to be alone. Most of us know this on a core level. God designed us for relationship. So what hope can be offered to individuals who experience long term singleness either because of their choices or the because of the will of God?

Adam’s loneliness was not just a romantic or sexual loneliness; it was complete human isolation. He was the only human being in the garden. Although he had fellowship and communication with his Creator, he didn’t have a human community.  Eve certainly provided Adam with a romantic and sexual partner, but this was not all she was to him. She was a friend, she was a comrade, and she was another person Adam could share his humanness with. While Scripture holds up marriage as the only appropriate context for sexual fulfillment, marriage was never intended to be the absolute or even the primary means of relational fulfillment.

For Christians, the Church is to be our primary source of support and community.  A family is a beautiful thing, but Christ, during his time on this earth repeatedly emphasized Spiritual family over biological family (Luke 8:19-21, Mark 10:28-30). While marriage is only for this earth (Matthew 22:28), the Body of Christ will exist eternally. Experiencing Christian community as a single adult is not just a poor substitute for marriage. Singleness is not something to run past as quickly as possible; it will be the eternal reality for all who follow Christ.*

The biblical truth about singleness goes against the grain in many of our churches today. But we must reclaim this truth if we ever hope to make our churches a welcoming place for those who do not share in marriage. I deeply resonate with what Christopher Yuan says on this issue: “If we don’t get singleness right, I don’t even think we are ready to minister on the issue of sexuality.”  While God may ask many of us to live in long-term singleness, he does not condemn any of us to a life completely alone.

God is neither unaware nor unconcerned about the heartache that unmarried individuals often face.  In Isaiah 56:4-5, we find a comforting promise given to a group of people who would never have their own families or children:

For thus says the Lord:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
I will give in my house and within my walls
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.

Conclusion:

I believe that in these two areas of suffering and singleness Matthew Vines misunderstands the will of God. God does call believers to suffer, and sometimes to suffer intensely for long periods of time. He also calls some believers to be single, even when they strongly desire a marital relationship. There is no doubt that the message about homosexuality in Scripture is a hard message. All believers are called to lose their lives in order to find life in Christ (Matthew 16:25), and for a Christian with same-sex attraction this can be particularly hard.

In Matthew 13:44-46 Jesus shares two short stories about the Kingdom of God. In these parables the people involved sell all they have to gain a beautiful pearl and a buried treasure. Scripture proclaims that everything we give up to gain Christ is infinitely worth the exchange, and this is true regardless of our sexual orientation. As Sam Alberry says “Jesus is always worth it.” (How Can the Gospel be Good News to Gays?)

May God give each of us strength to choose Christ above all else.

All Scripture Quotations taken from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

*I would also encourage you to check out Brian Kammerzelt’s The Most Eligible Christian Bachelor for some great insights on singleness and Christian community.

God in the Garden – A Holy Week Reflection

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Last night at church I shared some comments to set up a time of corporate prayer. Below is an adapted version of these comments. I hope this challenges you to reflect on Christ’s life in a new way this Easter season.

Matthew 26:36-46 (NASB)

 36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” 39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” 40 And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. 45 Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand.

Just days earlier the crowds had welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem singing hosanna in the highest. It was a greeting fit for a king, and Jesus was a King. But these praises were merely the momentary expressions of an ever fickle public. Soon these same crowds would be crying for his crucifixion. Jesus knew what was coming, and this knowledge was a crushing weight. You see for Jesus, Gethsemane was the ground between exaltation and execution. Here in this garden He calls out to his Father and asks for a way out. In his words we hear the deepest human pain and the fullest Divine submission.

As Jesus wrestled with his destiny, he also experienced abandonment. Even his closest friends couldn’t stay awake to walk through this time with him. He would soon be betrayed by someone who he had shared his life with for three years. It was Christ’s darkest hour, and he had to face it alone.

This portrayal of Christ may not be the image we are most familiar with or most comfortable with, but it is real. Our hero and healer is also our suffering servant, and to forget this fact is to forget something about our Savior. We must not rush to the resurrection. We must pause in Gethsemane to remember the pain of Christ and to remember the weakness of our own flesh.

During this time Jesus asked his followers stay, to watch, to pray. This week, make it your goal to do just that. Please set aside a time of prayer this week to acknowledge the sufferings of Christ and to confess to God your weakness. Written below is Isaiah 53. This is an Old Testament prophecy of the sufferings that Christ would endure. Please allow this passage to shape your time in prayer.

Isaiah 53 (NASB)

1 Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
3 He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.

7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
9 His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

10 But the LORD was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
11 As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.

My Haiti Update

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First of all, let me say thank you to those of you who prayed for and supported our team in Haiti. God was incredibly gracious to us. Travel to and from the country was smooth, and at no point did we experience significant delays. Our team also experienced incredible health during the trip (with the only exception being a few sea urchin spines in a student’s foot)

After arriving in Port-au-Prince we took a two hour truck ride to the village of Perçin, located in the city of Petit-Goâve. We stayed on a compound bordering the ocean, and the incredible view was tainted only by the trash floating in the bay. Perçin is a poor village by Haitian standards, and many of people make a living through fishing. In the morning one can see the men of Perçin scurrying around the bay, spreading their nets with the aid of their dugout canoes. We had the opportunity to eat some of these fish during our visit. They look and taste similar to bluegill, but their scales are a purple color which is most vibrant on the fins.

Long before our visit, the Mission of Hope representatives met with the pastor and community leaders in the village to plan out our trip objectives. This planning aided our effectiveness in incredible ways. This was the most well orchestrated mission trip I have ever been a part of. One of the desires of the community was that we would understand what their life was like. This meant that on our first day we spent several hours preparing food and doing laundry by hand. Some of the team left with blisters – and a new appreciation for washing machines. Even though I worked at a restaurant for four years, my culinary skills did not come close to those if the Haitian women. At one point after I had cut up a pepper, a woman took back the knife because of my slow pace. I guess we all need a jolt of humility every once in a while. Later in the week we had the opportunity to experience part of a fisherman’s life as we went out to sea in a boat.

Our two main ministry tasks during the trip were painting the church building and running a Vacation Bible School program for the children. Concrete really sucks up the paint, and we applied ten gallons while putting two coats on the exterior of the small building. VBS certainly has a different feel in Haiti than it does in the states. Gone are the flashy promotional materials and finely tuned presentations. This didn’t seem to bother the Haitian children, however. They were happy to enjoy simple crafts and were reasonably attentive to the translated messages. Realizing our limited ability to communicate, we kept it simple, talking about creation, sin, Christ’s sacrifice, and our need for redemption.

Before we left for Haiti, our team read a book called What Is The Gospel?, and once on the ground it was so exciting to see the students take the Good News about Christ to the Haitian people. One of our students, who has been a Christian less than a year, created a card trick to illustrate the Gospel. It was awesome to see the Haitian people crowd around him to see the trick, and even more encouraging to hear them pray aloud at the end of his message.

The people of Haiti speak Creole, which is derived from French, but fifteen percent of the population speaks Spanish.  This was very helpful to our team because two of our students are fluent in Spanish. In this way, Cody and Julian were able to forge friendships with two different local men. One of these men was a voodoo practitioner, and Julian was able to talk to him about the differences between the message of Jesus, and the practices of voodoo.

I went to Haiti hoping to care for the needs of the students well, and God blessed in this area tremendously. On many separate occasions God opened up doors to connect with the students through meaningful conversations and prayer. I also believe we were able to provide the students with the tools to process what they were seeing in healthy ways. My co-leader Whitney and I are continuing to check in with these students, and will be having at least one more meeting with the whole team together. Your prayers for our team would be appreciated as they continue to process what God showed them. God intends for his truth to change us, and no experience should be wasted.

God blessed us richly during our time in Haiti, and during the whole week I felt a remarkable peace. I also left with much to think about. I am fully confident that God wanted us there that week, and I believe that he used us to bless the community of Perçin. We were certainly blessed by them. For hundreds of pictures and more of my thoughts on Haiti please visit my Facebook page. My e-mail address is enoch.haven@mcleanbible.org

A Biblically Grounded Vision of Masculinity

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John Piper and Mark Driscoll have recently said some controversial things about masculinity in the church. In an interview with Justin Briary, Driscoll associates the doctrines of hell and penal substitutionary atonement with a masculine Christianity. At his Desiring God Pastor’s Conference, Piper also raised some eyebrows by saying: “For the sake of the glory of women, and for the sake of the security and joy of children, God has made Christianity to have a masculine feel. He has ordained for the church a masculine ministry.” Comments such at these have caused an uproar, and many have disputed these claims.

I also recently had a great conversation with a friend about what men’s ministry should look like. During the course of this discussion the subject of biblical masculinity came up. This got me thinking again about this much debated issue.  What does the Bible really have to say about masculinity? What does the Bible indicate a man should be like? It is my objective here to briefly survey a few of the passages I believe illuminate this issue.

Manhood Biblically Informed:

Before diving in here, it is important to start with at least two observations.  First, though many of the Scriptural passages touching on the issue of masculinity deal primarily with the husband/wife relationship, there are certainly principals in these texts that should shape our understanding of manhood in general. Marriage was the assumed state of mature men in Biblical times, and so it makes sense that much of the information we have about masculinity would be given in that context. Single men undoubtedly have much to gain from these passages today. As Paul and Christ prove to us, true masculinity can be present even in unmarried men.

What also must be noted is that when Scripture affirms a certain characteristic in men, this does not necessarily mean that the opposite should be true of women. For instance, to say that man is to be brave does not mean that women shouldn’t be. Saying that men are specifically called to bravery does mean that women are called to passivity or timidity. This isn’t s zero sum game. It is quite possible to encourage a certain trait in men without assuming the opposite is true of women.

I have recognized a tendency in these discussions to twist Scripture in order to make a certain point about masculinity that the Bible does not.  It is my objective to go no farther than Scripture does. We must also note that there is not a huge amount of teaching on masculinity in the Bible. Most of the advice we find in the Bible for Christian living is not gendered in nature.  That said, there are passages important to this issue. Here I will focus three passages I believe are significant when discussing the subject of Biblical masculinity. Because truth must be applied, I have included questions for men after each passage I discuss.

1 Corinthians 16:13 – Bravery and Strength

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

This is perhaps the most testosterone laden challenge in the entire Bible, and it almost sounds like part of a locker-room speech before a big game. We find this message in Paul’s closing comments to the Corinthian believers in his first letter to them. The key word in this passage is andrizomai, here translated “act like men” and it means “to render one manly or brave; to show oneself a man; that is, not to be a coward, or timid, or alarmed at enemies, but to be bold and brave” See Barnes. In this definition we see that both bravery and masculinity are in mind. This word is only used once in the New Testament.

Some have suggested that since there is no direct reference to men in the passage before this, it would be better to assume that this message applies to the whole church. In this understanding andrizomai should be translated: “be brave”. To that perspective I would say this, beginning at the start of chapter sixteen Paul’s focus seems to shift from general encouragement to personal instructions. It is certainly true that the letters of Paul would have been read to the entire church. However, the initial readers of this letter, and the ones responsible for carrying out these instructions were the church leaders – who were in fact men.  This is one reason I believe andrizomai should be understood in a distinctly male sense here. When we understand this verse in that way, we see that men are encouraged to be brave and strong in the midst of challenges to their faith. Similar wording occurs in the Old Testament: Job 38:3 “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.” Here we also see that bravery is mind.

Application Questions:

–       In what areas are you living out of fear instead of bravery?

–       Who is a Christian man you respect for his bravery?

1 Peter 3:7:  Compassion and Strength

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.

Many ladies react in anger to this verse because it refers to the woman as being a “weaker vessel”. However, if we simply read what Peter is saying here we quickly understand that his intent was to bless and honor women, not demean them. Women are held up as equal heirs, not as lesser beings. Husbands are even told that being inconsiderate of their wives will hinder their relationship with God. For men, accepting their wives as equal heirs requires that they treat them in a sensitive and understanding manner. A man who accepts his wife as his equal will seek to treat her differently than he treats others.

It logically follows from Peter’s comments that men possess some strength that women do not. The question remaining is what exactly did Peter see as the strength of man? It seems likely that the primary context he had in mind was indeed physical strength. The word “vessel” used here (greek skeuos) also shows up in other places in Scripture and is used to describe of the physical body (2 Corinthians 4:7). Jesus also uses the term vessel to describe a person chosen by him for special service (Acts 9:15)

Saying that women are not generally as physically strong as men is not judgmental, it’s reality. For husbands, and indeed men in general, treating women in an understanding way will inevitably involve using their physical strength to protect, provide for, and comfort women. AT Robertson comments that the use of the term weaker here refers not to “intellectual or moral weakness, but purely… physical” That being understood, there are other, non-physical ways in which men can show strength. A Godly man will at times be called on to provide physical, emotional, and spiritual strength to those around him.

Application Questions:

–          How can you use your physical strength to protect and serve the women in your life?

–          How can you use your strength to guard the heart and emotions of women around you?

–          Are you serving women in order to show them honor as your equal, or are you belittling them with your words and actions?

–          Is your relationship with God being hindered by the way you are treating the women around you?

Ephesians 5:22-33: Leadership, Sacrificial Love, Sanctification

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 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. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 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. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

This is the granddaddy of marriage passages, and here we find extensive insight on the question of biblical masculinity. The first masculine trait we encounter in this passage is that of leadership. The term “head”, chosen by Paul here, is also used by the apostle in a similar way in I Cor. 11:3. The assumption in both places seems to be that men are called to lead and represent their families. The husband/wife relationship is compared to the relationship Jesus has with God the Father. Scripture teaches us that Jesus and God the Father are equally divine, but we also know that Christ respectfully submitted to the Father during his life on earth. This principal of male leadership is also extended to church offices by Paul (I Tim. 2:12-15, 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). We see from these two contexts that God desires that men adopt a posture of leadership in various areas of life.

The second expression of masculinity in this passage is that of love. Dr. Michael Easley, the former president of Moody Bible Institute, once pointed out that nowhere in this passage are husbands compelled to order their wife to submit to them, they are simply required to love them. Husbands are called to love their wives as deeply as Christ loves the church. For Christ, this meant intense suffering and ultimately death. The love men are called to show to their wives is a dying kind of love. It is a never ending love that would rather meet its own end than let go of the one it prizes. While many in our culture would define masculinity as the ability to experience many different women without true emotional attachment, God’s man is defined by his ability to physically and emotionally express love to one woman. This theme of love also shows up in Colossians 3:19. “Husbands love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”

Lastly, men are called to imitate the example of Christ who leads the Church he loves toward purity and increasing holiness (v.26-27). From this we see that men are called to lead their wives spiritually. By loving, cherishing, and spiritually building up his wife, a man allows his spouse to blossom in an amazing way. With his protective shield of sacrificial love, a husband creates an environment where his wife can spiritually thrive without fear of abandonment or assault. While each individual is certainly responsible for their own walk with God, true men are called to create environments where those closest to them can spiritually grow.

We may summarize this passage by saying that true masculinity is defined in the person of Christ. He is the man we should emulate. Unmarried men can take particular encouragement from this fact. Single men can also exemplify each of these aspects of masculinity in their lives. They should learn to show leadership in their spheres of influence. They should love others with a deep and sacrificial love. And they should also seek to foster spiritual growth in the lives of those around them.

Questions for Application:

–          What areas of your life are you choosing to be lazy or passive instead of leading?

–          When you do lead, are you leading out of insecurity, or are you leading to bless and serve others?

–          Are you showing sacrificial love in your relationships with others, or are you merely doing nice things to get favors?

–          Do others feel drawn to God when they spend time around you?

–          How often do Scripture and talk of Christ show up in the conversations you have with others?

All Scripture quotations taken from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

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