For Masculine Reform

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I'm catching up on recent ref21 conversations, and I couldnt' help but chime in on the subject raised by Phil's comment on Ivy League Expectations and Carl's addition regarding the Reformed church culture as it bears on women.  I especially want to pick up on Carl's comment that we must reject the John Wayne image of masculinity that is so often projected among Reformed men.  In general, I have often argued that whatever problem we have with feminism in American and evangelical culture, the greater problem by far is the unbiblical masculinity that has often produced it.  While I do not at all want to endorse the feministic message for women, I am sympathetic with the motives of many of the feminists -- namely, that they have simply despaired of men fulfilling their God-given role within the relationship.  So while so much effort goes to repudiating evangelical feminism -- and to a certain extent this is unavoidable given the force of today's polemic -- it is more important and more ultimately fruitful for us to repudiate bogus evangelical masculinity.

When Ken Jones and I were in Kenya last summer, on one occasion we were confronted with the cultural tendencies of male Christian Africans.  Some of the ministers there argued, "That's just how African men are."  We replied, "Well, then African men need to repent of their culturally-conditioned sins, just as American men need to repent of their culturally-conditioned sins." 

I would generalize the sin of American men towards their women as that of neglect.  Once a Western man "captures" a woman, he frequently stops caring about her as a person and looks on her only in terms of the goods and services she provides.  This is absolute poison to a woman's soul.  It is hard enough being a woman; frankly, their job is a lot harder than a man's and they are typically far more self-critical than men are.  (I have learned in recent years, for instance, that being a pastor's wife is hands-down more challenging than being a pastor.)  Now, a woman's calling is good, including her calling to be a helper to her husband.  We need to celebrate that calling, including the sacrifices that women make to honor God as wives and mothers.  But it sure would help if men gave some consideration to their calling with reference to their wives.

In short, what God calls for from a man is a nurturing interest in his wife's heart.  We are all so keen on 1 Peter 3:1, which tells a wife to submit to her husband, but we seldom progress to a sober consideration of 1 Peter 3:7, which I regard as the single most useful verse for the instruction of husbands.  This verse is loaded with expressions dealing with a man's duty to be interested in, attentive to, and supportive of the affairs of his wife's heart.  Peter says that husbands must "live with your wives."  The verb there is sunoikeo, which means to "commune."  He doesn't mean just to share an address, but rather to share a life.  Our time, attention, and passion should be directed to our relationship with our wives.  He adds that we must do this "in an understanding way."  This is one of my translation pet peeves (although the ESV, used here, is miles better than the NIV's "with consideration.")  The Greek is kata gnosin, which means "according to or with knowledge." In other words, "pay attention to her."  "Know something about her -- and not just what color she likes!  Know what her dreams are, her fears, her anxieties, her glories.  Know what her schedule is today and what anxieties she has about it."  Peter then says to "honor" her, or as it is often put, to "cherish" her.  Let's not kid ourselves: few of our wives really feel cherished by their husbands.  If you want to know what it would look to cherish your wife, just ask her.  She knows and you need to find out.

I could go on with much exposition here, but suffice it to say that the lack of this kind of masculine love is by far the greater gender issue among Christians today compared to feminism.  If men will love their wives in this kind of biblical way, her job becomes a lot easier and most wives will respond eagerly enough.  If men in our churches will learn to love their wives in accordance with God's Word -- and this will involve a lot of repentance -- but, hey, repentance is good, right? -- then our churches will abound with spiritually vibrant women.  This is not the whole issue of course, but it is in my view the place where reform is most urgently needed.  Our wives will still often look tired -- feminine burdens like motherhood will ensure that -- but they will be vibrant at the same time.  For the most part, Reformed women earnestly seek to embrace their biblical calling.  What a difference it will make if Reformed men will consider theirs and embrace it with similar zeal. 

Posted May 8, 2007 @ 3:46 PM by Rick Phillips
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