Recently, a local city-wide evangelical group sent out an email announcing an upcoming simulcast that promises to “unpack what biblical manhood looks like.” The organization promoting this event is one of several who claim that the decline in morals in our culture has been caused by a failure of men and women to follow so called “biblical” roles. I recently spoke with a small group of leaders and members of our local evangelical group and asked them to be prayerful, discerning and cautious with these ideas. I reminded my colleagues that role playing distracts men and women from fulfilling their God-ordained purposes for their lives. Furthermore, in some instances, this training has been the cause of marital conflict, confusion, and even divorce.
The following paragraphs reflect my part of the discussion.
If people are supposed to spend their lives playing roles, wouldn’t Jesus have described these roles? But we are not called to play roles in marriage; we are called to love one another. Clearly men and women have natural differences. God matches husbands and wives and gives them specific gifts and talents so that, together, they can more effectively follow Him. Just as every individual is uniquely created by God, every marriage relationship is unique. The way my husband and I relate to each other differs from the way any other couple will relate. This is how God designed it.
Much of the training in the “proper roles of men and women” is presented through local congregations. When a teaching like this comes into a congregation, couples in leadership are encouraged to be among the first to participate. Christian couples who have been relating to each other based on their God-given talents and individual strengths begin to try to follow the “roles” they are being taught. I have heard firsthand from ministers, elders, and other church leaders about problems that have arisen in marriages when couples begin to substitute legalistic “role” playing for their formerly Spirit-led relationship. Honest communication is suppressed as couples begin to act and react as they are taught. Couples have been told that men who don’t buy into it are “wimps” and that women who disagree are “rebellious Jezebels.”
True relationship and “role” playing don’t mix! Couples should live and love and relate to each other as Jesus Christ tells them to, through His Holy Spirit. They should be honest, open, and REAL with each other. Decisions such as who should handle the money, who works, who stays home, etc. should be handled with prayer and spiritual discernment by the COUPLE themselves, with both husband and wife putting the interests and welfare of the other ahead of their own, as Scripture instructs.
The “role” training material uses terms like “headship” and “submission” that seem to be “biblical” because Scripture passages are quoted out of context to support their ideas. However, their interpretation of these terms CANNOT be found in the Bible. The Bible does not tell us who should write the checks, who should mow the lawn, or who should load the dishwasher. For the most part, events recorded in the Bible reflect the culture in the time and place that they occurred. But there are enough positively portrayed cultural exceptions to make it clear that the roles were not ordained by God. Jacob and Esau cooked. Deborah led a nation. The good wife of Proverbs 31 invested in land, made goods to sell for profit, and took care of the family to make it possible for her husband to serve as a judge at the gate. Lydia of Philippi was a wealthy business woman who supported Paul and his companions while they ministered in her city. Both Aquila AND Priscilla taught Apollos. And there are many more examples that could be given. The roles being taught by these “Biblical manhood” groups are clearly cultural (their own cultural preferences) not Biblical.
Toward the end of the discussion, one of the pastors mentioned Mark Driscoll of the Mars Hill megachurch. He said Driscoll had announced publicly that any man in his congregation who was not the sole breadwinner of his family would be subject to church discipline. The ministry of Jesus was supported in large part by the wealthy women who believed in Him, learned from Him and traveled as His disciples. I guess no “Biblical manhood” types were around to set Jesus straight. … Oh! … Maybe they were!