Marriage As Glory 13
In looking at the differences between masculine and feminine, and in considering the respective duties of husbands and wives, we have been assuming that differences between the sexes exist. But what are those differences, and how can they be understood together with what the Scriptures teach us about our equality in Christ?
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:27-28).
Nothing is clearer than the fact that the apostle affirms and reinforces various social distinctions and hierarchies. Some of them are the result of the fall, like the master/slave relation, but they are still affirmed in some way (1 Tim. 6: 1-5). Others are the result of the history of redemption (Rom. 2:9-10). And still others are grounded in the creation order (1 Tim. 2: 13-15). But here, now, St. Paul takes on all three, and says that unity in Christ Jesus means that such distinctions amount to nothing. But nothing with regard to what? The context makes it plain that anyone from any of these categories can “put on Christ,” can be “one in Christ Jesus,” can be “Abraham’s seed,” and inheritors of “the promise.” In short, the gospel of Christ is for all.
The Christian faith teaches and brings true biblical equality. The Christian faith rejects egalitarianism, which is a false definition of equality. Christian equality can be described as equity, or even-handedness. Egalitarianism demands sameness, or equality of outcome. The two visions of equality compare to one another as dry does with wet. Think of it in terms of ten teenage boys trying to dunk a basketball. Equity means that they all face the same standard, and only two of them can do it. Equity requires differences in outcome. Egalitarianism wants equality of outcome, and there is only one way to get that—lower the net. Sameness of outcome requires differences in the standards.
Equity: the Bible requires a godly equity. We are all of us offered the same law and the same gospel. The standard always proceeds from our immutable God. Since God is this way, exhibiting His character in the Cross, and the Last Judgment, we must also imitate Him in comparable situations. We must extend grace and love to all, just as our Father does (Matt. 5: 44-45). We must apply the same unmoving standards of justice for all, just as our Father does (Ex. 23:3, 6).
Sameness: the assumption is made, in egalitarian thought, that whenever differences become apparent (in income, station, occupation, etc.), the reason for it must be some sort of oppression, an oppression that must be removed by the leveling force of ideological law. Consequently, income is redistributed (through progressive taxation). Women are put into combat. Children play games in city recreation leagues where no one keeps score. Grade inflation afflicts the schools.
But there is another contributor to the differences of outcome (because of the fixed standards). The fixed standards have the effect they do because everyone comes to the “starting line” with a different set of creational desires and abilities. And when there is a fixed standard, men and women end differently because men and women begin differently.
Differences Between Men and Women:
The same standard applies equally to men and to women. Neither men nor women are allowed to steal (law). Both men and women must call on the Lord for forgiveness (grace). Both should have an equal right to a fair trial, and so on. But this does not mean that men and women who come to these same standards are themselves the same.
Vocational orientation: man was made to tend the garden. Woman was made to tend the man. “For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” (1 Cor. 11: 8-9). The orientation of the husband and wife to one another is therefore different (not better or worse, but different). An illustration I have used before to show this is the difference between a book written by a woman for women, and a book written by a man for men.
Temptations: the temptations that men and women face vary because their desires vary. Men, built for conflict, tend to ungodly conflict and rebellion (Rom. 5: 12). Women, built to trust, tend to be deceived (1 Tim. 2:14), and the flip side of this, which is to be manipulative (Prov. 7:10). According to the station and resources of each, the temptations come—but never forget that their respective virtues line up with the station and resources of each. An example of this would be direct courage (1 Cor. 16:13) and oblique wisdom (Prov. 8:12).
Love and respect: of course both men and women need love and men and women both need respect. But when the Bible singles out husbands, it tells them to love their wives (Eph. 5:25). When the Bible singles out wives it tells them to respect their husbands (Eph. 5:33). We will deal with this in greater depth later in the series, but this is one of the basic differences between men and women, and it is important to treat it some now. When the Bible tells us to feed the sheep, it is a reasonable inference from this command that sheep need food. In the same way, one of a man’s fundamental needs is to be respected. One of a woman’s fundamental needs is to be loved. We are commanded to render what God says to render, and not to render what we would like to have gotten, or what we think should have been the other person’s needs. And keep in mind that if you are not being diligent to render what God says to render, then it will probably be a matter of mere days before you are rendering the opposite. By this I mean caustic acid from husbands instead of warm affection, and castrating disrespect instead of honor.