Tuesday, March 7, 2017


Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. - 1 Peter 3:7

The footnote in my Bible for this verse reads: "Estrangement from others often affects our relationship with God (Matt. 5:23, 24). In particular, the failure to observe God's will for the marriage relationship can disrupt our spiritual relationship with God. The importance of healthy family relationships is apparent from the typological comparison of Christ and church with husband and wife (Eph. 5:23,24), and by the persistent New Testament characterization of the church as the family of God (1:14-17;Rom. 8:14-17;1Tim. 3:14,15; 5:1,2)."  The Reformation Study Bible, English Standard version.

The context of this verse (see 1 Peter) indicates that its implications extend beyond the husband-wife relationship to address male-female relationships both within the family and within the broader circle of the church.

"Why doesn't God answer my prayers?!" I have heard these words from men struggling to live out their faith in difficult circumstances. What I have consistently not heard from these same men is, "How can I live with my wife in an understanding way?"

"Why isn't God blessing this ministry?!" I have heard these words from disheartened church leaders who have poured their lives into serving churches that gasp and flail like premature babies that just can't seem to make it out of the NICU. What I have not heard from these same men is, "How can we, the male leadership, live in an understanding way with the women in our care?"

Clearly, not all marriage and family and church dysfunction springs from failure of the genders to relate biblically. However, given our proclivity for sin, this is one area of our lives that we need to examine regularly: do our words and actions line up with Scripture? Just as a person may be reluctant to schedule a routine health checkup because of a fear of finding cancer, it seems that this issue - of how do we relate as men and women - is an area we are afraid to examine because of what we might find.

Many of us in the church have allowed the secular culture to hijack the conversation and to set the terms and define the tone of the discussion. Rather than doing the hard work of bringing this discussion back into the Christian home and into the church and submitting it to God's Word, we prefer to opt out of the conversation altogether while we passively absorb the world's teaching, to the detriment of our marriages, our families, and our churches.

A few errors I have seen in the way we engage this issue, both personally and within the church:

We equate "equal" with "same." Scripture clearly teaches moral and spiritual equality of men and women (see above passage in 1 Peter; also, Gal. 3:28). We err, however, when we buy into the feminist ideology that insists that "equal" means "the same." To ignore the biblical distinctions of male-ness and female-ness, to insist that what's good for one is good for the other, is laziness or ignorance at best, outright rebellion at worst.

"I believe in treating everybody exactly the same, regardless of gender." Oh, do you? And I suppose you are also okay with using maple syrup as an engine lubricant for your car.

Both maple syrup and motor oil have value and purpose, but they are not the same; neither are women and men.

(Check out Rebekah Merkle's article, Throw Like a Girl: Why Feminism Insults Real Women.)

Conscious that men and women are not the same, but ignoring the truth that they are equal, we talk and live as if one (male or female) is more spiritual than the other and we create an unbiblical struggle for power. We jockey against one another for influence and authority and for the last word. Men, because they are men, are labeled as neanderthals or misogynistic brutes, and therefore not to be respected. In a throwback to Greek paganism, women, because they are women, are dismissed as the weaker sex (interesting that Scripture exhorts men to understand "the weaker vessel," but never to dismiss them).

One evidence of this wrong way of thinking that I have seen in churches is in the area of study materials, church programs, and ministry opportunities - when these are researched, chosen, and created by exclusively men or exclusively women, we neglect the charge to live together in an understanding way.

We need to include one another in these conversations and processes. "My Two Daddies" or "My Two Mommies" may sound like a progressive way to do family or church, but God demands greater gender diversity. He created people distinctly male and female, and He did so for a reason. We need both.

We look at our differences as irritations to be endured or as obstacles to be overcome, instead of as gifts designed by God to enrich our marriages, families, and churches. For the sake of peace and the appearance of unity, we grudgingly endeavor to meet somewhere in the middle:  I'll tone down the female thing, and you tone down the male thing. We end up with an anemic, ineffective, sickly thing that looks and feels very much like a loveless marriage or a lifetime sentence in a prison camp. It disgusts and frustrates both genders, and it displays nothing of the glory of our Creator. Blech!

So what?

First, if we want to have joyful, vibrant, fruitful marriages and families and churches, we are going to have to endeavor to understand biblically and to embrace enthusiastically this crazy-awesome, God-created-&-ordained thing called gender. We are going to have to canc the whole "boys vs. girls" mentality fed to us by the world in which we live. Instead, we must foster a culture in which the boys are rooting for the girls and the girls are rooting for the boys, because we understand that unless we both win, we both lose.

Second, men, do you feel like your prayers are hindered? Husband, do you feel like your prayers are hindered? Father, do you feel like your prayers are hindered? Church elder, do you feel like your prayers are hindered? Pastor, do you feel like your prayers are hindered? If so, I encourage you to endeavor to live with understanding with the women in your life - with your wife, with the mother of your children, with your daughters, with the women in your church.

Go to these women and ask them: "Help me to understand you better. How can I demonstrate in practical ways my desire to live with you in a more understanding way? How can I show honor to you?" And then, listen to their answers. Take time to actually think about what they say.

If you do this, will God instantly answer all your prayers?

I don't know.

But I am confident of this: if the sons of God seriously endeavor to live with understanding with the daughters of God, these sons will find, when they kneel in prayer before the Father, that warrior princesses are kneeling beside them at the throne, praying on their behalf.

And the two of you praying together...that is powerful.

(I have many more thoughts on this topic - maybe future blog posts. I would love for you to share your thoughts in the comments!)

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