Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Mystery of Submission - Ephesians 5 (part 10 of 16)

Masculine culture

Men jab at each other, “Who wears the pants in your family?” Or “Get your wife under control?” Or they often think to themselves, “I don’t want to look weak in front of the other guys!” Once when I was renting a trailer, I stopped by the depot to pick it up. The gruff and greasy owner of the shop sent his dolled up girlfriend out to get my information. In her tight shirt and blonde hair, she played ditzy which was what her boyfriend wanted. Then back in the shop, the owner turned to his daughters (I presumed) in their late teens hanging around a mechanics shop, and asked them if they wanted to go with me. Trying to avoid conflict with an aggressive man, I simply said that I was traveling with my wife. He quipped back, “Well, some guys can handle two girls and some can only handle one.”

These are the games many men play, fronting a pagan view of masculinity, surrounding themselves with women who will also play the game, demeaning women and showing their prowess over other men. Be on the lookout. This view of manhood is everywhere today in varying degrees. I once had a Christian leader tell me I need to be a man by keeping my wife in line! If you knew my wife and our marriage, you would see how this man was threatened by a competent woman treated fully human. This attitude isn’t the kind that submits one’s life. This isn’t the kind that loves. This view sees the love of the Messiah as “weak,” “sissy,” or “feminine.” [1]

When Jonalyn and I married, our friend, Jerry Root, shared with us an idea that we recited for our marriage vows. He called it “the high courtesy of heaven.” The theme throughout Scripture of this high courtesy is “giving my life for yours.” More than a willingness to put my life on the line when someone threatens my wife, it is learning to die daily. It is putting your own will aside. It is turning down one more Jeep accessory so my wife can hire someone to help clean the house before guests arrive. Giving my life for hers is my finding ways to serve her, like doing dishes, making the bed, vacuuming the house, paying the bills, so she is freed to use her skills and enjoy her hobbies too. It is organizing the office when I would rather leave it a mess—because I know it is what makes life less stressful for her. It is not complaining about the meals or requiring the meals suit the husband. Holding doors and pulling out chairs for women was born out of giving your life for someone else, rendering them of greater importance, treating them like royalty. The one who brings home the bacon must also be willing to cook it.

Today men often serve women so it will keep the peace or so that the woman will serve them in return. But that’s not love. The perpetual theme in the Bible is esteeming others more important than self (Phil 2:3-4) and to be willing “servants” to one another (Gal 5:13). And this nature of love slices both ways throughout the Scripture, only in this passage it is especially highlighted for husbands. If we have a difficult time imagining husbands loving in this way, submitting in this way, perhaps we need to consider with the Ephesians how much of the culture is still in us when it comes to submitting to one another in the church.

In the next post, I'll finish with observations on verse 25, with masculinity, the Messiah, and the nature of love.

[1] I hate how we use the words “masculine” and “feminine” as insults on one hand and as adjectives for activities and objects on the other. When someone says, “That guy is feminine,” it insults both the guy and all women everywhere. The same goes for describing things as “masculine.” These are two words we should hold with honor. They describe how a male and female bear the image of God together and reveal His qualities.


Homer said...

New Age guys all seem to think that being Mr. Sensitive will earn them the respect of women. Good luck with that. Women want a strong, assertive man--she may SETTLE for a wuss if he has a good job, but she won't really respect him, and she'll cheat on him.

Dale Fincher said...

Homer, I don't understand the New Age reference. Can you help clarify? And I don't see anything about being weak in order to be properly male (though there are many great men who were not physically strong... I think many disabled people are... Roosevelt was). I know plenty of women leave men for being strong (in fact, abuse from strong men is one of the great health risks for women in the world)... so it cannot be about simply being strong or weak... but being virtuous, wise, and honest about who one is. What is the use of being strong if you lack the virtue or self to use it rightly?