The idea of manhood and womanhood is a biblical idea, whereas cultures go in different directions. Formerly men were in charge, but today women are influenced by “feminism” perspectives.
The idea is that in former years – before Christ up to about 1850 – men were in charge. Over time, the culture began to accept women as equalities. In 1920 America let women vote, and then in the 1960s the feminism became a cultural perspective. Feminism believes that women are the same as men, and that women should focus on jobs more than on marriage and parenting.
What we have seen is that the Bible’s perspective is a two-fold:
1. That men and women are equal to each other before God.
2. That God has differences of design and calling for men and women.
Men are designed to lead and women are designed to help the leadership. But “leadership” does not include control – it is a focus on taking initiative.
But in the culture there is now no difference between men and women in terms of roles and assignments. And women are actually tending to be more in control and men are tending to step out – to degrees: stepping out of marriage and submission to God, and stepping out of work to a degree.
A reality is that all people – both men and women – have fleshes that are in sin. Each of us has a flesh and each of us go in wrong directions on our flesh.
One of the ways we go in a wrong direction is a pursuit of control. Many of us try to be in control one way or another. Some husbands try to be in control. Many wives try to be in control – in control of the home and managing their husbands.
But God is the One Who has control, not us. We as spouses are to be influential, but not in control.
- Husbands are designed and called as leaders who are to take initiative in their home and at work. But they are to be gracious, kind, and loving toward everyone. Their leadership is not a form of being in control.
- Wives are designed and called to be in submissive to their husbands. But they are designed to be helpful workers, making things go well. They are also to be gracious, kind, and loving.
Parenting is another form of leadership without “control”:
- The parents are to influence their children, but they are not in “control” of them. So they apply both love and discipline in order to get them to not submit to their flesh, but to go in right directions. So children need to learn to obey their parents versus obeying their flesh – and that helps them to learn to obey God.
- So parents look like control because they do both love and discipline. An aspect of discipline can be “spanking” their children to get them to obey. But their pursuit is not control, but a form of “discipleship” over their children – getting them to become mature adults and getting them to understand about submission before God. When they have submission to their parents they are more likely to be submissive to God.
- The idea is that children have their own decisions about maturity and belief in Christ, so that is why parents do not have “control” over them. Ultimate maturity and belief are their decisions before God, not ultimate submission to the parents.
The call of each of us is to see God versus obeying the flesh (responding to our flesh). The culture is going in two different wrong directions.
1. For centuries, the men were in control of women.
2. Now women tend to be more in control of men.
The biblical idea is that none of us are to be in control. We are to apply God’s callings and designs. The role of pastors and church-members provides an interesting illustration of the idea that leaders are not in control, but that the non-leaders are to be submissive to the leaders.
See the illustration:
- Pastors are not called by God to be in control (Matthew 20:25-28, 1 Peter 5:1-3), but they are to minister to the people and help them to go before God (Matthew 28:19-20, Ephesians 4:12).
So husbands are to be leaders, but not controllers. They are called to be somewhat like pastors who serve the people. And husbands are to serve as leaders as Christ served as a Leader (Ephesians 5:22-24 and 5:25-27, 1 Corinthians 11:3 and 9, 1 Peter 3:7).
- Church members are to be submissive to their pastors even though the pastor is not in control (Hebrews 13:13).
So wives are to be servants to their husbands, submissive to them in a manner similar to church members submissive to pastors (Genesis 2:18, Ephesians 5:22-24, 33, Colossians 3:18, 1 Peter 3:1-6).
There are cultural roles where leaders do have control: Bosses, Governors, Judges, Policemen, etc. Those roles might (or might not) be correct issues of control. Our point is that God is clear to us in the Bible about His ideas of our roles. Husbands are to be leaders but not in control; and wives are to be submissive to the husband’s leadership and to be a servant to his leadership.
When a husband and wife are able to pursue these role-issues – and they are able to pursue things like communication and tolerance toward each other on ideas like finances and other things – then they begin to have oneness in marriage. And their oneness is part of God’s calling, and the oneness is something that makes a major difference to their children. And when the children see God in their parents, it helps them to believe in God and to obey God – and to contribute to God’s kingdom.
Tom Clark is a Family Life Ambassador with the Family Life Ministry and on the Advisory Board of the Virginia Christian Alliance.