In my previous article on marriage and relationships, I discussed Suzanne Venker’s new book, The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage: How Love Works, and also my own journey in discovering the liberating dynamics of traditional roles in marriage.
But as I discussed with one reader, there is a darker side to what might be called — or at least passes itself off as — traditional marriage in the Christian sense. This view of marriage is prevalent enough that I would be remiss not to address it, which I plan to do in this post.
All too often, well-meaning Christians have the idea that Biblical teaching on marriage amounts to the wife doing what her husband tells her to do, and the husband making sure that she does. Some husbands have got it in their head that it is not only their right but duty to make sure their marriage runs in this manner, or they are somehow failing before God.
All too often, well-meaning Christians have the idea that Biblical teaching on marriage amounts to the wife doing what her husband tells her to do, and the husband making sure that she does.
Now, a couple points here: It should be clear from my previous post that this is not a view I hold. Further, based on my experience in the Christian church, this is also not the view that many Christian couples embrace, either.
The problem, however, is that when the question of “what the Bible has to say about marriage” is brought up, it is rare to find a good answer to this unhealthy (and if I may, somewhat repulsive) view on marriage. This leaves us somewhat vulnerable.
Take for instance the time when I received a call from a fellow Christian who asked me this very question. He was having difficulty in his marriage and was convinced the source was the fact that his wife “would not come under his authority.” His response to this apparent crisis was to verbally beat her over the head with Bible verses on a daily basis, reminding her regularly she was blowing it before God and man.
Just between you and me, I have never found verbally beating my wife over the head with Bible verses on a regular basis to be particularly helpful, let alone romantic.
Now just between you and me, I have never found reminding my wife on a regular basis that I believe she is blowing it to be particularly helpful, let alone romantic. But my friend was not asking me whether I thought his current approach was helpful. He was asking whether his current approach was Biblical. What was I to say?
I believe it is important therefore for us to have an answer to this question, one hopefully that does not subscribe to an inferior view of the sacredness of Scripture, but instead presents a superior view of what the Bible really has to say about marriage and relationships in general.
Here is a distillation of what I told my friend over the course of several conversations:
1) New Testament Scriptures Concerning Marriage Are Not a Husband’s Bill of Rights
When I have discussed the topic of marriage with other men like my friend, I often get the impression that they believe passages of Scripture — like those concerning women submitting to their husbands, for example — entitle them to certain inalienable rights. They don’t.
Reading passages on marriage like a husband’s Bill of Rights is like a preacher reading passages on generosity and concluding he is entitled to his parishioners’ bank accounts. It is not only highly misguided but morally repugnant.
2) God Has Not Appointed Us to Be Moral Policemen
According to the New Testament, the job description of the husband is not to monitor or enforce whether his wife is fulfilling her job in the marriage perfectly — or even properly. It is to sacrifice his own life for hers.
In practice, the interesting thing I have found is that when I sacrifice my own life in the way I am supposed to, my wife is far more willing to consider following me.
3) It is Not About Whether You Lead, But How You Lead
As I was discussing with my fellow reader, the most important thing for me, as a husband, to understand about how to be a leader in my relationship is to realize I already am.
We husbands are not fighting for, or protecting, our right to lead — not at least in the way the Bible defines leadership. Leadership is not a position; it is who we are. The question then is not whether we lead, but how well we lead.
4) It is Not About Control, But About Love
In my last article, we discussed how traditional roles in marriage are job descriptions, like a CEO and COO. They do not represent who gets to dominate whom.
In fact, the only way traditional roles work, as God intended them to work, is when love and mutual respect are present — and consequently, control is absent. Traditional roles are not designed to control or limit an individual but rather to expand and enrich the relationship.
5) It is Not About What God is Doing with Your Wife: It is About What God is Doing with You
No matter what your circumstances in your marriage, God is at work. I often have found that if I am running into difficulty in my relationship, the problem is often with me — sometimes even unrelated to the relationship itself. God knows how to bring about circumstances in our life in order to mature and deepen our intimacy with Him.
The problem of course is when we are not listening because we are too busy trying to change someone else. As seventeenth century Catholic priest Jean Pierre Caussade once said, “Accept our present circumstances in our life as the very gift of God, for our benefit.”
I am arguably coming from a husband’s point of view. I would love to hear comments from a woman’s perspective on traditional roles, marriage, relationships, love and control. Naturally if you are a guy, you can leave a comment too 😉