Marriage is a wonderful thing – to most of the world. In recent years, we’ve seen an attack that defines marriage as misogynistic and archaic. The reality is quite different – or at least should be – in the Christian world. I will not be taking aim at same-sex marriage for this issue, but I will look at why respect and love are the most valuable things in marriage. Some of the most prolific writings on marriage come from the Apostle Paul.
Submission by the woman is usually the argument for a “misogynistic” social structure like marriage. From Paul’s writings, he tells that woman was created for the man. Man was created in the image of God. Woman was created in the image of man. However, Paul also goes on to say that man is not independent of woman; neither is woman independent of man. (1 Cor 11:8-12)
Based on psychology and sociology:
It has been famously said that men require respect from women who only wish to give love, and women require love from men who only wish to give respect. I think this is highly psychologically valuable because respect is about position and love is about relationship, which sounds similar to what Paul taught his churches to me.
But we need to look at this from an ancient world’s perspective.
Men ruled the home. Women found their value only in their husbands or fathers if they weren’t married. It was an entirely honor-shame culture where honor was embedded in men, and not nearly as much in women. Men controlled the public sphere and a woman’s place was the home, in private. But with the advent of Christianity women became equals to men in the church. Women were no longer essentially property of husbands to be treated how they wills. Women were admonished to be loved as their own selves- or like Christ loved the church.
So why is it psychologically important for women to respect their men?
I argue that this shifting of value often translates to a shifting of power where women can have a tendency to seek power over their husbands (Genesis says women have this tendency). Men are uniquely made to lead the home because of genetics and testosterone. They are protectors and providers by nature. So if a wife does not respect her husband (to say nothing about his own failures to be respectable!) it can derail the entire relationship. A man is designed to lead for many biological and psychological reasons- some of which may seem outdated or untapped now because we are sedentary and stationary throughout our daily lives. But men are geared toward knowing directions, have stronger voices lending itself to commanding, are physically stronger and more durable, and generally more level headed in crises situations.
Women need to respect men because respect is the language men speak most. This should not mean at all that women don’t need to love their husbands nor that husbands don’t need to respect their wives. In a world where women are equally bread-winners respect toward wives is ever more important than before. And if they are stay-at-home-moms they deserve double the respect because they can do what no man can – be a mother!
It’s hard to argue, from the relevant passage of the original post, for a hard fast patriarchy of unquestioned male-authority with strict gender roles and absolute submission from wives. It’s better to acknowledge our biological differences by not fighting them, while also accepting where we all naturally slide away from the bell-curve of gender. Some men are soft spoken and mild mannered. Some women are great leaders and capable of making many of a couple’s life decisions, some women are stronger or taller than their husbands, some women are better navigators, some men are better at people-skills and intimate relationships. Whatever each persons’ strengths are should be accepted and allowed. That’s why I think Scripture inevitably points toward a softer headship of men over women or just outright egalitarianism where both lead together and both are equals in marriage, with the only differences being biological.
You can be egalitarian and yet lead your wife in life because of biological differences- women leading where their strengths lie and men leading where they are better suited. But at any time a wife should have veto power and the ability to say no and it mean it. And at all times wives should respect their husbands as at least being responsible for the spiritual needs of the home. She can manage but he’s responsible.
Marriage is supposed to be a reflection of Jesus and the Church. We are under submission to Jesus and His will. We respect Him and His authority. The man, being the reflection of Christ, is to love His wife with all he has as Christ gave Himself for the church. The wife is to respect the man in reflection of the Church to God.
Respect and love are the two missing ingredients in our culture today. It’s evident from home and school to politics. Marriage is the building block of society. If it can be torn down, the rest will follow. God set marriage in order because He knew how vital it is to faith, society, and human character.