The More Excellent Way
Our religious beliefs and attitudes are very much influenced by the society in which we live. Anyone who thinks he is obeying Scripture objectively (i.e. without bias) need to be very self-critical. One very widespread example is that Christian men are heavily influenced by living in a male-dominated society. Even in these days of equality there is still a good deal of male chauvinism about and sometimes it is masquerading as theology. Some men are very strong on the submission of wives but see my paper Should wives submit to their husbands?
Here are some guidelines for Christian men who want to show a Christ-like attitude towards women, as opposed to an unhelpful cultural attitude. Christian men should:
Christian men should be free to express tender emotion (including weeping) without apology, whilst being sensitive to those who find it difficult.
After all, Jesus wept in public over Jerusalem and Lazarus. The Gospel writers record: “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it” (Luke 19:41) and, when confronted with the death of Lazarus: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
Christian men should be free to show affection (philia) and love (agape) to other men (but not in a sexual sense, which is contrary to Scripture).
Jesus was known to love those around him. John described himself four times as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 21:7, 20). This must have been characteristic of the relationship. John also records that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5) and, when he wept over Lazarus
“the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’” (John 11:36).
Christian men should be free to express that affection and love to other men verbally
Jesus states he will love those who love him: “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:21).
Christian men should be free to encourage other men to express their affection and love for one another, including verbally
Jesus asked Peter if he loved him: “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17).
Show Respect for women
Christian men should always honour women whatever their social status
Jesus was outstanding in honouring despised women, all the more remarkable because he lived in a male-dominated society where rabbis were expected to avoid any contact with women of dubious character. The despised women Jesus honoured included:
An ex-demonised, immoral woman “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.” (Mark 16:9).
A ceremonially unclean woman “Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.’ Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed from that moment.” (Matt 9:20-22).
A woman who was a religious outcast “A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.’ …. Then Jesus answered, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour.” (Matt 15:22-28).
A despised immoral woman “When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” (John 4:7-9).
Another despised immoral woman “When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is-- that she is a sinner.’ Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you… Then he turned towards the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven-- for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.’ Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’” (Luke 7:37-49).
Christian men should welcome women associates
Jesus welcomed women associates. Mary Magdalene was a respected associate and he chose women who were key witnesses to his resurrection in a society which did not respect the testimony of women.
Christian men should regard male chauvinist humour as sinful
The Lord commands men to consider women better than themselves: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Phil 2:3).
The Lord commands men to put the interests of women first: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil 2:4).
The Lord commands men to show proper respect for women: “Show proper respect to everyone.” (1 Pet 2:17).
Christian men should submit to women out of reverence to Christ
The Lord commands us to be submissive and show humility to one another. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph 5:21). “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” (1 Pet 5:5).
APPENDIX FOR MARRIED MEN:
Christian men should sacrifice for their wives
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. …. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Eph 5:25-31).
Christian men should treat their wives with consideration, gentleness and respect
“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” (1 Pet 3:7). “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them” (Col 3:19).
© Tony Higton: see conditions for copying on the Home Page