Each year March means only one thing in my home state of Kentucky: March Madness. As always, I fill out my bracket with the Wildcats winning it all. (Obviously.) And every year after filling out my bracket, I think to myself, “How many people actually fill out the Womens’ bracket?” To this day I haven’t met one.
I suppose there are several reasons. Especially these days, male college athletes are boys in men’s bodies. They’re bigger. Stronger. Faster. And as a Kentucky fan, I can’t complain about that. But this year had me thinking: “What should Christians think about men and women in comparison? Are men superior to women?”
The answer has as much to do with marriage as it does with March Madness.
Christ made two seemingly contradictory statements during his time on earth:
I and the Father are one. (John 10:30)
The Father is greater than I. (John 14:28)
At first glance, it would appear that Jesus is confused. But Christ is pointing us to something that extends far beyond the Trinity itself. He’s pointing us to the secret of marriage. And we can’t begin to understand manhood and womanhood until we can reconcile these two statements.
In 21st century American society, the distinction between authority and superiority is often blurred. And it shouldn’t be. Ever so gradually, that kind of mentality infiltrates our churches.
The result has been men who think that their authority over women translates into superiority over women. And that’s a misunderstanding not only of marriage, but of God Himself.
Let’s begin with women first. Women are clearly called to submit to their husbands. (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22, etc.) Why is that? Many modern minds believe that Paul was simply enslaved to his own culture and era. But Paul never says that women are inferior. He simply calls them to submit in light of Genesis 1 and 2. Female submission to male authority isn’t cultural. It’s creational.
When Jesus discusses the dangers of divorce, He goes back to Genesis. (Matt. 19:5) When Paul discusses the union between husband and wife, he goes back to Genesis. (Eph. 5:31)
So feminists are right and wrong about marriage: First, they’re wrong when they claim that role distinctions should be abolished. Roles aren’t reversible. They’re sovereignly assigned by God.
Humans don’t have the right to define manhood and womanhood. God alone does. And that brings us to what feminists get right: men need to be careful when they speak of their ‘rights’ over women.
Slowly over the years, language of God’s created ‘order’ has been replaced with language of the husband’s God-given ‘right’ to rule. Men, it’s not your right. It’s your assigned place. God is a God of order, and that order isn’t found just in marriage. It’s in everything. Just read Genesis 1.
When God creates, there are boundaries and domains and names to things. It’s the same with marriage. Adam is even allowed to name Eve. (Gen. 2:23) But in our country of ‘inalienable rights’, let’s be sure that we speak of male authority more in terms of God’s created ‘order’ than what men are due.
We find order not only in creation and marriage, but in the Trinity itself. And this leads us to those two seemingly contradictory statements.
Jesus can make both statements because biblical authority is much different than how our culture defines it. Unlike the millions of men who believe that they’re superior to women, Christ was (and is) indeed superior to us.
When the Son of God took on flesh, He submitted Himself to the authorities and powers on this earth. He didn’t have to. After all, He’s God. Assuming a body of a lowly servant, He was no less God. (Phil. 2:7)
Pontius Pilate may have had earthly authority over Christ, but he had no idea Who was standing in front of him! Here we have the first biblical principle of marriage: just because someone subordinates himself or herself to someone else doesn’t make them inferior.
And it’s the same with authority. The Father has authority over the Son in the course of salvation (the economic Trinity). But the Father and Son are equal in divinity, glory, and godly substance. They’re co-equal and co-eternal. The Son doesn’t derive His deity from the Father. He is God in and of Himself.
So why in the world would Christ say that the Father is ‘greater’ than He? Here’s the second biblical principle of marriage: just because someone has authority over someone else doesn’t make them superior.
The idea of marriage is built into the Trinity itself. God is literally our guide to a great marriage. And every marriage needs to begin by carefully defining what ‘authority’ means. Women are equal in value, dignity, respect, worth, and glory as men.
With that in mind, wives you are called to submit to your husbands as the church submits to Christ. And husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. (Eph. 5:22-33)
The Gospel is at stake in every marriage that proclaims this kind of Christian order. Are you declaring Christ in the way that you love your spouse?
Women aren’t inferior to men any more than the Son is inferior to the Father, any more than Herod was superior to Christ.
Roles don’t make you inferior or superior. They simply show us our identity and purpose on this earth. But thankfully the secret to a great marriage is still found in the very identity of the Triune God Himself.