Men and women are different, I understand that this is a shocking statement to make in western culture today. We are heterogeneous not homogeneous, designed for distinct or differing purposes and roles. This is not only evident both in a general revelation of our physical and emotional variations but also in the special revelation given to us in Scripture. God made us different for good reason, but today many Christian men and women reject God’s design unique to the individual sexes.
On the 6th day God created a man out of the dust of the earth, infused with a rational soul and given the power of dominion over creation. Then out of man’s ribs God made a woman, who was presented to him as his companion and wife, so that their species might be propagated and she would help him in all the affairs of life throughout their union. This is the fundamental building block of the family unit found within the holy institution of marriage.
There seems at first glance an innate difficulty to this design, at least from a post Fall perspective: having two distinct wills both endowed with reason and intelligence, how does the two become one in flawless harmony and cooperation? This is one of the greatest examples where the uniqueness in roles and characteristics of the sexes come into play. It has been said that opposites attract and in marriage we have polar opposites that come together to become a complementary yet challenging union of one flesh. Let us first consider the key points regarding the distinction of the role of man in marriage.
In the first relation of the family the great duty placed upon men is love. He is to be the representative and guardian of the love in which the relationship has its life and being. It is to be the law of his life and the source of all his actions toward the one whom by that love had been won over. Although he is charged with “Husbands, love your wives” it is not to be a love given out of obligation, but in imitating Christ’s love for His people.
This sacrificial love should consist of a strong and cordial affection in providing all things necessary for her whether it is protection, spiritual or physical goods, comfort, etc. This love given ought to be genuine, not at all selfish, in showing honor and respect to her as he would his own flesh. This love should exceed that which is given to strangers, friends, or family and it should be equal or greater to the love he shows himself as his image and his glory. In all ways like the example of Christ and His church.
In the second relation of the family the great duty bestowed upon men is headship. In every government, even that of the family, there must be a final authority. In the ultimate sense this belongs to God, but within the family unit man is delegated and anointed to be ruler over his own “empire”. This is where many issues can arise in the delicate balance of the first and second relation. If man stands in the place of responsible headship he must first learn that the law of love needs be the undertone of his authority. Any abuse of this authority will be the source of bitterness for the woman (or children) that is subject to it.
Now let us consider the key points regarding the primary roles of woman. Here I have the added difficulty of presenting this delicate matter from the point of view of a man as biblically faithful as possible. How does a woman subordinate herself to the one that’s been called to lead, and yet be his equal? How does she, in this case, resign her independence and yet be free? The solution comes out of her free choice to take on the great duty of her relation of the family, and that is submission.
We understand that her subjection in this relationship is to her husband alone and not any other man. She expresses it primarily in the reciprocation of the love that her husband bears her. She further expresses it by her role as his helper. She aids him in the care of the family’s spiritual and physical affairs according to his will, and assists in providing for areas in which he lacks. She also utilizes her unique strengths to tactfully smooth out the rough edges of her counterpart, in which he might learn to better execute his station. She complements him in her submission to become one flesh, to the benefit of her given station and rightful honor.
If the husband is to be king, then the wife must sit at his right hand and be acknowledged as queen, sharing equally the honors and spoils of their estate. As a joint heirs, often the workload is shared or equally divided. Each and every relationship of man and woman is distinctly unique and often the lines of responsibilities are blurred, yet each has their own responsibilities and duties primarily that should not be transferred. There is by design a given structure that is not only a guide to a healthy marriage but one that is honoring to God. Let us ponder on these truths as we seek to understand God’s design.