It doesn’t take much to get some folks stirred up these days. For example, Tim Tebow, who, in an interview with Vogue magazine, says he is looking for an attractive wife with “a servant’s heart,” now stands accused of wanting a woman from the pages of Fifty Shades of Grey for a wife.
Considering that women have made that book a NYT bestseller, I’m not sure why that is considered a bad thing for Tebow to want, but that’s a subject for a later post.
Or this post that my wife found on Facebook: 25 Ways to Communicate Respect to Your Husband Without Ever Uttering a Word. The post, written by Jennifer Flanders, begins with:
“Actions speak louder than words. You can say you respect your husband, but he’ll have a hard time believing that unless your behavior backs it up. What does respectful living look like? Here are 25 ways you can communicate respect to your spouse without uttering a word.”
Doesn’t seem too controversial, does it? After all, the phrase “Actions speak louder than words” has become a cliche for good reason. We all know that words can be as empty as a winning politician’s campaign promises, long on the promise, but short on the fulfillment.
So why would these statements raise a ruckus?
And they have certainly done that. Tebow has had to issue an explanation of his statement, and the comment storm on Flanders’s page continues unabated.
The controversy appears to stem from two sources, the first being a complete lack of understanding of the Christian concept of servanthood. Being a servant is not considered a bad thing in Christianity. In fact, service is considered to be a virtue, and to be told you have a servant’s heart is high praise. After all, one of the last things Jesus did before dying on the cross was wash His disciple’s feet, performing as the lowest of servants. And earlier, when His disciples were disputing among themselves about who was the greatest, Jesus told them that to be the greatest, they would have to become as the least, and be a servant to all. Going further, when Jesus died on the cross, He did so as an act of service to us all, to pay the penalty for our sin.
To the non-Christian, this is absolutely incomprehensible, and it’s pretty tough even for most Christians to fully grasp. But this concept of being a servant is a keystone of Christianity, so when Tebow said he was looking for a woman with a servant’s heart, he was talking about a woman who, like him, acknowledged that our job as Christians is not merely to meet our own needs, but to place the needs of others ahead of our own.
This concept of service also runs through Flanders’s post and that really upsets feminists, who see her position as a threat to their own hard-won equality. Even the mildest responses accuse Flanders of pushing women back into the ’50s, and that makes me ask a simple question: Are feminists so precarious in their self image that a woman who chooses a different path to a fulfilling marriage must instantly be castigated and discredited? Isn’t there room in modern feminism for a woman to choose a traditional role?
Looking at Flanders’s bio, she is a Christian mother of 12, happily married and certainly fulfilled, and besides her blog, has written a book about marriage. I’m not seeing the feminist nightmare of a woman chained to the kitchen, barefoot, pregnant with a gag over her mouth here.
And looking at her post, many of her suggestions are nothing more than common courtesy. For example:
Have you ever been around a person who won’t let you finish a sentence? That gets old fast. Even if you think you already know what your husband is going to say, allowing him to say it without cutting him off mid-sentence shows both respect and common courtesy.
Is this truly subservience? Is it demeaning to women to allow their husband to finish a sentence? Or is it just common courtesy?
Other examples of simple courtesies include Don’t Nag(7), Smile(9), Be Thankful(8), and Kiss Him Goodbye(12).
Now I can understand some women getting upset over some of the other suggestions she makes, but these are really nothing more than the minimum standards of socially acceptable behavior and are simple ways to create a harmonious environment. Yet a quick look through the comments shows that even these simple recommendations draw fire from feminists who apparently believe that polite behavior is subservient behavior. The most common complaint is that the list seems to make it solely the woman’s responsibility for maintaining a harmonious environment.
Well, her husband published his own list, and looking down that list, we see Listen(1), Communicate(2), Value Her Individuality(5), Use Good Hygiene(15) and Limit the Gross Stuff(16). In other words, both spouses have responsibility for maintaining a pleasant environment at home.
But all of these are really just the side show. The main event, the one that gets the fur flying is her last suggestion.
Follow His Lead
If you want your husband to lead, you must be willing to follow. Neither a body nor a family can function well with two heads. Learn to defer to your husband’s wishes and let final decisions rest with him. (Ephesians 5:22-24)
Before responding, read his equivalent suggestion and the linked Bible passages from both.
All organizations have a hierarchy. It’s impossible to function without one, but being a leader isn’t the same as being a dictator. The best role model is Jesus Christ, not Joseph Stalin. Jesus washed his disciples feet and then died on their behalf. It’s a challenge to exercise authority while maintaining a spirit of humility, but that is what being a godly leader entails. (Matthew 20:28, Philippians 2:1-8; Mark 9:35)
Now you have a complete picture of the Christian view of a marriage. Yes, the husband leads, but in the manner of Jesus, he leads by serving. He loves his wife as he loves his life, and will sacrifice that life if needed to protect her.
There are a lot of people who disagree with this, and that’s fine. Neither Jennifer Flanders nor Tim Tebow are telling people that they must follow their suggestions, or their way of life. When asked, they simply told the truth, that this is what works for them.
I will say that I have never seen a co-equal marriage in action. I’ve heard people claim that they are in one, but on closer examination, somebody is always dominant. Somebody usually gets their way the majority of the time. And it has to be that way. A family that doesn’t know its head is a family under stress. Or, returning to the Vogue article that started this,
Just months before, the high-profile New York Jets paid the Broncos millions to install him as the backup to their wobbly-looking starter, Mark Sanchez. Both QBs are young and photogenic—and only one of them can lead the team this season.
Only one person can lead the team. Not a committee of two, but one. It is what we as humans respond to best. It is what we expect. It’s why we have a President instead of a ruling council. It’s why for every Board of Directors, there’s a Chairman. For every Parliament, there is a Prime Minister. And in every healthy relationship, there is a leader. The Christian Bible sets that leadership mantle on the husband.
Finally, as a rule of thumb, if you are in a relationship, and you don’t know who is in charge, it is you. Because while we may not always know when we are the boss, but we most certainly know when we’re not. If you are in charge, act like it. Nothing is more dispiriting than a leader who will not lead.
Much earlier in this piece, I mentioned that I thought the kickback over Tebow’s interview and Jennifer Flanders’s post came from two sources, with the first being the Christian concept of servanthood. I’ve already alluded to the second, but I want to spend some more time on it and this post is already long enough, so I’ll save it for next week.
So, what do you think? Can there be a co-equal marriage? Can a relationship thrive with no leadership? How are conflicts resolved without deference? Is there room in modern feminism for a woman who wants to defer to her husband? Is the Christian notion of marriage innately offensive? Does the practice of a Christian marriage threaten feminism? Let me know what you think. Change my mind. Teach me something!