I’ve spent the last few months briefly outlining a biblical case for mutual marriage. The series has primarily addressed marriage from a theological rather than a practical perspective, but there is one practical topic that needs to be addressed briefly as I conclude the series. That is the topic of decision-making in a mutual marriage.
I was struck when I first saw this commercial for Gatorade with Robert Griffin III, particularly by the slogan: “Greatness isn’t given, it’s taken.” This mentality is very prevalent in American society. Like many American values, however, it is quite contrary to the teachings of Jesus. Jesus made it clear that greatness is found in being a servant, in putting the needs of others ahead of our own. If more spouses would apply this teaching to marriage, I believe most marriages would be much healthier.
There are so many ways in which our modern society blinds us to what is really going on in scripture. Our culture is so very different from the culture in which the biblical authors wrote. Too often we project modern ideas onto biblical topics and end up drawing improper conclusions. The apostle Paul, for instance, is too often labeled as a sexist and a misogynist because people misunderstand not just what he wrote, but why he wrote it. When understood in the context of his culture and audience, Paul was extremely progressive.
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
Metaphors are such wonderful tools of language. They give beauty and depth to any topic. They challenge us. They demand attention, thought and interpretation. The Shakespeare quote above requires some unpacking. What does he mean that the world is a stage? How are we players? To interpret Shakespeare’s lines above, we must take a closer look at the theme of the play, the scene in which it is spoken, the character that speaks it and the characters that hear it. English Literature 101. Otherwise, we risk a serious misunderstanding. I believe that is exactly what has happened with Paul’s teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5:21-33. I’ll be spending a few weeks in this passage, but in this post I’ll focus on his famous metaphor regarding husbands and wives found in verse 23:
For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.Ephesians 5:23 (NIV)
Before moving on to an extended discussion of Ephesians 5, which will be the center point of this discussion, I want to look briefly at the teachings of Jesus as they relate to this topic. Jesus rarely addressed the topic of marriage directly, and then only in the context of a question about divorce. Nevertheless, I believe Jesus’ words and actions regarding women speak loudly about his perspective.
Since I dealt with the order of creation in my last post, I’ll address 1 Timothy 2:8-15. This passage is perhaps the most challenging, controversial, and divisive passage of scripture on this topic of men and women and is used by many to defend hierarchical marriage. I do not expect to settle the issue to anyone’s satisfaction, even my own. I have yet to find two theologians who agree on every nuance of this passage. I believe anyone who claims to have the definitive explanation on this one is fatally arrogant or selling something…or both.
There is much debate these days on the topic of Genesis and the creation story. From the Answers in Genesis crew to the good folks at the Biologos Foundation, many well-intentioned people are discussing how to faithfully read and interpret the biblical creation story. While those conversations are fascinating and valuable, our focus here is the relationship between men and women. The question today is: Was a male/female hierarchy part of God’s original design in creation? The pertinent passages for our discussion are Genesis 1:27-28 and Genesis 2:18-24.
This post begins a series wherein I will discuss the biblical case for what we like to call “Mutual Marriage”. We believe strongly in a mutual model for marriage because we believe it best represents God’s ultimate intention for marriage and also because mutuality has been shown to be a key component in healthy, happy marriages. I will not address the traditional/hierarchical view of marriage point-for-point, but only as necessary to build a positive case for mutuality. Each post in this series will contain links to books and articles for further study.
Your spouse is your equal, your partner. I believe most of us have heard that sentiment and may even embrace it…in theory, but so often the way a couple operates in their everyday lives reveals that they don’t really think of their spouse as their equal, because they don’t TREAT them as such.
When a husband lets his wife know that he would like to buy a particular item and his wife forbids him to own it, replies that he doesn’t need it or conveys to him that he shouldn’t have it, she is not being his equal or his partner; she is being his parent. People further parent their spouses by making comments such as, “you don’t know what you’re talking about,” which conveys a message to a spouse that they are “less than” in some capacity and that is obviously not “equal to.”
One who reprimands or punishes their spouse is placing their should-be partner in the position of being an underling rather than an equal. Not talking to your partner is a tactic that is used all too often in an effort to punish. Withholding sex is a dangerous punishment that is sometimes used to strong arm a spouse into behaving a certain way, the “superior” way.
To be sure, it is very likely that folks who resort to this parent-like behavior with their spouse, may not INTEND to make their spouse feel inferior, but it’s likely they’re doing just that. When we view our spouse as our equal, we can (and should) avoid behaviors that put them in the position of being someone who needs correction or guidance from a superior.
If we want a partner in this life, then we should treat our cherished partner as an equal, not as a child who needs a parent.