My college Philosophy prof had a sign on his door that read “EOO,” which stood for “Equal Opportunity Offender;” he was egalitarian in his offensiveness–much like Jesus.
When it comes to men and women and marriage and church I think my views tend to offend the major warring “parties” in the gender debates equally. I think Wild at Heart is heretical and an overemphasis on man as the “head of the home” is potentially damaging. Meanwhile, I am fairly certain that Rachel Held Evans is also a heretic, and I’m convinced that, “the husband is the head of the wife,” is an essential truth of scripture.
But to the point–we have had so much public discussion over what marriage is not, I think it perhaps time to return to look at principles of what marriage is. One of the reasons that evangelicals are struggling so much with an internal rift over gay marriage is that we don’t understand marriage. For many it is little more than a sex license so we too can experience personal fulfillment and a great sex life. When that is your underlying understanding of marriage…you haven’t much grounds for rejecting gay marriage.
In posts that follow, I would like to look closely at marriage as sacrament–a reality that requires that we reject the machismo of certain Christian Men’s movements (and extreme patriarchy advocates) as well as the progressivism of many post-evangelicals.
However, before moving too deep into such a discussion, I think we ought to begin the discussion with a passage of scripture that will serve as a key to all the discussions that follow.
In I Peter 3:7 Peter says, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered” (NASB).
Feminists avoid the passage because it comes at the end of one of those dreaded submit passages, and often equally because it says women are weaker. But anyone interested in fighting the oppression of women should embrace this passage. When Peter talks of women being weaker he is referencing the comparative physical weakness of women when contrasted to men. In a society where women were often seen as property and were not protected by laws from physical domination by their husbands, Peter basically says that the failure to honor your wife as a complete person–an heir with Christ Jesus–can cut you off from God.
What do I mean?
Prayer is the spiritual organ by which we breathe God’s Holy Spirit, our spiritual breath of life. This is why Paul says, “pray without ceasing.” To “hinder” your prayers is to cut off your spiritual breathing–the source of your spiritual life. A man who dominates, oppresses, misuses, pressures, abuses, or subjugates his wife is living in grievous sin and is in serious danger of spiritual suffocation and death. If we do not operate from within that most basic context at the outset, we will never understand the deeper realities of marriage.