Strong marriages, the biblical way

Posted: Jun 16, 2005 12:00 AM

This is marriage month, but leading academic and media institutions, captive to feminism, are not about to provide much guidance on how to build strong marriages. Nor will most people, even those wed in a church, take the time to see what the Bible says about marriage.

 That's a shame, because the Bible clearly shows the error both of feminists who claim no differences between men and women, and of sexual segregationists who argue that women are to be concerned only with marriage and motherhood.

 Look at the evidence: In chapter two of Genesis, God gives Eve to Adam as an intellectual and physical helpmate. In chapter 31 of Proverbs, the ideal wife is dedicated to her marriage and family but at various times also buys real estate, plants a vineyard, runs businesses and helps the poor. In chapter 16 of Acts, the merchant Lydia becomes a key convert.

 No verse or chapter in the Bible should be taken in isolation -- it's vital to read through the Bible to get a sense of the whole. One chapter I've found instructive is chapter four of Judges, where Israel's Gen. Barak balks at obeying God's call to battle. Barak does not feel strong enough to carry out God's command unless the prophetess Deborah goes with him. Deborah, in turn, tells Barak that the honor for the coming victory will go to a woman.

 That's exactly what happens. Some condemn Barak, but in chapter 11 of Hebrews, he is still listed on the roll of honor: Although not quick to trust God and take leadership, he had the wisdom to listen to a wise woman.

 Men go wrong, biblically, by either abdicating or waxing arrogant, either by running from God-given functions or refusing to hear what women have to say. In chapter 25 of the first book of Samuel, Abigail knows that her husband, Nabal, is a foo. When she acts to save her whole household, David tells her, "May you be blessed for your good judgment." I know that my wife often has better judgment than I, and that if I am not to be Nabal Olasky, I should listen.

 And so should we all. Today, some Christian men believe woman should be co-leaders in everything. That leaves many men feeling emasculated and many women wishing that guys would step up and make a decision, already. Other men go to the opposite extreme and assert that married women should not even be studying the Bible by themselves or in groups with other women -- they should be taught only by their husbands.

 Here's what seems to me to be biblical: Everyone, male or female, should be told, "Be all that you can be," but what most of us can happily be depends on the way we are made -- and God knows our frames. He knows, because He made us, that men and women are complementary in nature. He knows how hard it is for most mothers with young children to go out to work. He knows, because He made us, that men are typically more aggressive and women are typically more nurturing.

 The complementarian rather than egalitarian position in male-female relations has many implications. Today, unless women gain jobs and athletic scholarships commensurate with their percentage of the population, feminists scream discrimination. Viewed biblically, however, occupational differences in male-female ratios seem less a function of bias than of biology, the way God made us.

 Men and women married this month should learn that God's word is clear. The Bible is colorblind but gender-conscious, and right from the beginning. Chapter one of Genesis tells us that "God created mankind in his own image" and that "male and female he created them." What God has established, let no one destroy.