The Problems in Marriage

The problems in marriage are not due primarily to the differences in gender, because God intended the genders to fit perfectly with one another (Genesis 2:18-25). However, the differences in the genders can exacerbate sinful tendencies. Have you seen this story floating around the internet?

motorcycle1

Let me kill the humor by over-analyzing it. The truth is, a guy wouldn’t really care if another guy was distant, and a girl would probably be more in tune with another girl’s emotions.

However, the pastor/counselor in me not only sees the differences in gender in this story, but also the unloving tendencies on both sides that caused this to happen. A more considerate attitude or a few simple words from the guy about his motorcycle would have saved the girl hours of doubts, insecurities, and self-pity. A more loving attitude from the wife would not have assumed the worst about her husband, and she would not have brooded over the issue.

These are sinful tendencies. These sinful tendencies infect every relationship. We should not reduce them to amorality by claiming this is the result of the axiom that “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus.”

Let me contrast it this way:

Without sin: It does not matter if the girliest girl and the manliest man on earth get married; there would be no fights, no insecurity, and no problems. The relationship would be perfectly loving.

With sin: It does not matter if the man speaks “woman” and the woman speaks “man”, or if the man has read the complete guide to understanding women, or if the woman loves sports, pizza, and sex; there would still be fights, insecurity, and problems. The relationship would still be messed up.

The Biblical Answer

James 4:1-2a What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. 

If I picked up the newest book about marriage at the bookstore, I might mistakenly think that if I only understood my wife, then I could help our marital problems. But my theology informs me that the root of our fights is sin, not misunderstanding. Therefore, if I merely add knowledge about women to my marriage, I will tend to take that knowledge and use it to my advantage, manipulating to get my way.

The Gospel

The good news of the gospel tells us that, although we are terribly sinful to our spouses, our sins cause even more problems in our relationship with God. Our selfishness and pride in our marriages are only a few of the many sins that plague our lives (Romans 3:10). Each of these sins demand God’s justice and punishment (Romans 2:4-5).

The gospel tells us that God sent his Son to die to take our punishment for us, so that we could be forgiven and loved by God. Christ gives us new life and power to turn from our sins and love him. The gospel is intended to right our relationship with God. As we find peace with God and our lives are filled with his love, we are free to have peaceful and loving relationships with others also.

Biblical View of Genders Part 2

Part One covered important foundational issues regarding sexuality and gender. Part two will mainly focus on what God said in Genesis 2:18,

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

The Woman as a Helper

This verse could be one of the most misinterpreted or hated verses in the Bible. On the one hand, some Christians have interpreted this to mean that a wife is less important than the man. On the other hand, this verse is hated by the feminist movement because it seems to say that the woman’s sole purpose is to be for the man.

Neither is intended here. “Helper” does not have a hierarchy thought to it. The word is neither meant to explain superiority or inferiority. This word is used 21 times in God’s Word. Twice it is used of Eve in this passage. Three times it is used of reinforcements on a battlefield to ‘help’ win a battle. 16 times it is used of God being a “helper” of mankind. Psalm 121:1-2 is a great example of David looking for “help” from the Lord.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

David clearly does not think he is better than God, or that God’s sole purpose is to help him. The focus of this word is on the fact that David was inadequate without help from the Lord. If anything, this word in Genesis 2:18 points more to the inadequacy of the man by himself. This is at the heart of God’s statement in Genesis 2:18 right before he announces that he will make a helper.

It is not good that man should be alone.

This could be said of both genders. In one sense, Adam was not adequate by himself, and Eve was created with the intended purpose of helping someone else. This means that both genders are dependent on the other. “Helper” simply focuses on the function of being someone who is there to aid, support, and help in a task. Adam could not oversee and give care to the entire world, and therefore God made him someone to help him accomplish his task.

Both Genders Are Dependent on One another for Companionship and Completion 

Other passages in God’s Word teach more specifically about how a husband and wife function together in God’s plan for marriage. The focus of this passage is mutual dependency. From creation, God teaches the basic principle of synergy in human relationships–that two are better than one. Solomon notes this truth in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12,

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand–a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Christianity was one of the first religions to make singleness a viable option. Christ and Paul were both single. It is possible for a person to live a completely fulfilling life without someone else. However, generally speaking, God designed us for companionship and completion with one person from the opposite sex.

The idea that a man is a lone-wolf is sad and untrue. The idea that a woman needs a man to find purpose is ridiculous and unhelpful. Man is dependent on woman just as woman is dependent on man for companionship and completion.

The Gospel

God created us to be dependent on one another. Unfortunately, our sin confuses and rejects that truth.

Mr. or Ms. Independent might think dependency is weakness. Unfortunately, they are normally lonely and proud. In the attempt to be independent, they have built a wall in their life that keeps others out. Mr. or Ms. Independent can be stand-offish, arrogant, self-righteous, and brash.

Mr. or Ms. Needy become obsessively dependent. They crave intimacy so much that they ruin their relationships and isolate themselves from others. Their neediness causes others to build walls up so that Mr. or Ms. Needy cannot drain them of emotional resources. Mr. or Ms. Needy is basically expecting too much of their earthly relationships, making ‘the one‘ into a functional god, which is idolatry. Unfortunately, ‘the one’ can never meet Mr. or Ms. Needy’s insatiable desire for love, because only God can.

Both pride and idolatry are an offense to God. Mr. or Ms. Independent offends God by assuming that they know what is best for their life and ignoring God’s gift of relationships. Mr. or Ms. Needy offends God by worshipping ‘the one’ instead of the One who made them. Both sins are an arrogant offense against a good and holy God. Both sins deserve the full anger of God poured out.

The gospel tells us that we can be forgiven for our pride and idolatry by trusting that Jesus Christ died on the cross as punishment for OUR sins. This gives us a healthy dose of humility and trust in God. As we submit to his rule and rest in his love for us, we are freed to pursue the gift of marriage. In that context, we thank and worship God for all of his good gifts that he has given to us, and we enjoy those gifts to God’s glory.

Biblical View of Genders Part 1

In this short blog post, we will briefly tackle key issues relating to genders, sexuality, and equality. This will cover a lot of material. Part two will examine how the genders compliment one another.

God Designed the Genders

Genesis 1:28  God created man in his image. In the image of God he created him. Male and female he created them.

The most basic thing that we can say about ourselves is that God created us in his image. This also means that God intentionally created each of us in the image of God with our gender identity. Every cell in our body tells us that we are a male or a female. Our gender is not determined by our sexual organs. Every part of us, both physically and spiritually, contains our gender.

This truth is so evident that there is research that indicates that those who have a sex change face greater struggles after their sex change.

“Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behavior, and psychiatric morbidity [diseased state] than the general population. Our findings suggest that sex reassignment, although alleviating gender dysphoria, may not suffice as treatment for transsexualism.”(source)

People who feel the need to change their gender in order to find their identity find all kinds of problems that they could not have anticipated. Whether they experience sex change regret or not, like all of us, they reject their Creator and pursue answers and fulfillment in sin. Far worse than that, “what does it profit a man if he gains” his gender identity “and loses his own soul.”

God Designed the Genders to Fit Together

Genesis 2:18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman. This is most obviously true physically, but it is also true emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Man and woman are designed physically to enjoy intimacy in a way that two people of the same gender cannot. A fallen, sinful man may pursue and find intimacy with another man in a way that he, in his own mind, could not with a woman. However, that brokenness in the way things should work is a result of sin, not of DNA predestination or “finding who I really am.”

Sin ruins the fit between a man and a woman–sometimes so much that people think they would fit better with someone of their own gender (Romans 1:24-27, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, 16-17). This is not the way God intended to complete us. God has a much better plan for marriage. To reject his pattern for marriage is to reject him. Homosexuality and transgenderism, along with every other sin, estrange us from God and incites his wrath against us.

Applications

  • Willingness to submit to God’s plan. The Bible teaches clearly on common issues that face our culture: gender identity, sexual identity, homosexuality, marriage, gender roles, etc. We cannot cut and paste. We need to be willing to submit to God’s plan.
  • Confidence that these truths are for our good. God does not teach us these things to make as a fence to keep us penned up. The Bible functions as a guardrail to keep us from driving over a cliff. These things were written for our good and God’s glory–which are one and the same. For that reason, we should not be ashamed to say that gender inequality is wrong, or homosexuality is wrong, or gender change is wrong, because not only is it unnatural and immoral, but also because it is broken. Those pursuits can never satisfy, because it is not how God intended it to be, and God’s intentions are for our best. This should cause us to be unashamed and loving as we promote Biblical truth.
  • Parents, are you teaching you children from a young age about gender and sexual issues? Children are being taught worldviews that are contrary to God’s teaching in every arena of our culture. If parents do not teach them the beauty of mutual dependency found in a heterosexual marriage relationship, then they may never form categories in their brain for these good truths. Instead, they may try to find fulfillment in everything that our culture says will bring them fulfillment.

The Gospel and Genders

So many people have been broken by sin–their own sin or someone else’s sin against them. Insecurities, shame, lack of identity, and emptiness surround us. Many people are being promised greater security, better self-identity, and more completion through gender changes, or homosexuality, or ‘playing the field,’ or feminism, or chauvinism. Finding pleasure in these things is like trying to catch the wind.

The gospel teaches us that we are broken. It also relentlessly reminds us that, rather than turning to God to heal our brokenness, we turn to more sin. Ephesians 2:1-3 says,

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” 

According to these verses, our sin 1) makes us dead, 2) causes us to follow evil influences, 3) causes us to follow the temptations of the devil, 4) causes us to be slaves to the whims of our desires and passions, and 5) causes us to be enemies of God who will receive God’s wrath.

God made us for something better, but we all have rejected our Creator and his moral law. He will justly pour out his wrath on all the disobedient, and no one will escape. All of the terrible effects of sin–insecurity, shame, lack of identity, emptiness, etc.–point us to one terrifying truth: sin results in terrible judgment.

The good news of the gospel is that, although we sin, God loves us. Ephesians 2:4-5 says,

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.

Christ Jesus died to take the punishment for our sin. He paid the punishment for homosexuals and hypocrites, for church-goers and atheists, for slaves of sin and slaves of self-righteousness. He died to take the full wrath of God for the sins of the world, so that we could be forgiven. Ephesians 2:8 says,

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

We cannot be good enough to get God’s forgiveness. We cannot earn it. It is God’s gift to us. True belief accepts Christ’s sacrifice for our sins and rests in God’s forgiveness. True faith also rejects the way “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind.” If we believe, we will also repent of our former sins and pursue God’s intended purpose for our life.

 

Created in the Image of God

In a previous post, we learned that our relational tendencies proceed from God being a relational God. In this post, we will consider what it means to be made in the image of God, otherwise known as the Imago Dei. Our key passage is Genesis 1:26-28:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Verse 26 is God’s consultation and decision to create man, verse 27 is a short song about the event, and verse 28 is God’s creation work of man. Verse 26 gives us a glimpse into the committee of the Godhead. After creating light, water, thousands of varieties of small and large vegetation, billions of stars and moons and planets, birds and fish, and mammals, he takes a brief respite to council together about the creation of mankind. This pause in the matter-of-fact creation account gives the reader a sense that his next move will be grand and wonderful. How could he possibly top billions of stars? How could he display any more artistic beauty than the colors of a sunset? How could he demonstrate any more wonder than the varieties of animals on this earth?

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

Let Us Make Man in Our Image

In the pinnacle of his creation, God chose to embed, or depict, himself. This may seem arrogant to some, but here are two reasons why it is not arrogant:

  1. Who are you to critique? 🙂 If I was to go through your phone, your facebook account, your computer, your photo albums, and your walls in your house, how many pictures would I find of you?
  2. He is the supreme beauty. He made this world. He has a right to display himself.

What does it mean to be made in God’s image? My first instinct is to say that we are created in God’s image in the same way that a stick figure is made in our image. Most of us get the idea of what a stick figure is supposed to represent, but it never really does justice to a person, no matter how cute it is.

When the Bible describes God, most authors say something like “such was the appearance of the likeness of the form of God.” There is an indescribable quality to God that makes him difficult to recount. I think the image of God in mankind is like that. It may include morality, or dignity, or  the dominion of the earth, or emotions, or self-realization, or rational thinking, or having a soul, but I don’t think it is limited to any of those things.

My Dog Named Chloe

I have a beautiful pure-bread Golden Retriever named Chloe. Chloe is extremely smart, very well-tempered, and in good health. We have bred Chloe several times and sold the puppies to make some part-time income. In one sense, Chloe is worth more to me financially than my son is, because she earns me more money. But does that make Chloe worth more? Obviously not.

Let me take it a step farther: Let’s say I am driving with Chloe in the back seat. We cross over a bridge when I hit a car. Both cars go over the edge and start sinking into the water. Looking over, I see the other car has a middle-aged man who is knocked out and will drown if I don’t help him now. Chloe is also knocked out in the back seat. Which life should I save? Which life is worth more?

Regardless of how much money my dog has made me or how faithful of a companion she has been, a human life is worth more than any dog’s life. We know this. Our intuition tells us that humans have a unique dignity.

When God chose to create man, he paused and consulted within himself about how he could make man special. He chose to create each of us in his image, which gives every human a unique dignity. This is called the Imago Dei.

Broad Implications of the Imago Dei

  1. Gender Equality – Contrary to common opinion, the doctrine of the Imago Dei actually necessitates gender equality. Rather than evaluating the worth of each gender through strengths and weaknesses, the Imago Dei teaches us that there is a much deeper reality about each gender which guards us against any gender superiority or inferiority. (Genesis 1:27)
  2. Race Equality – The doctrine of the Imago Dei also demands racial equality. The fact that every human is created in God’s image not only requires that we condemn racism and slavery, but that we also work and sacrifice to abolish racism and slavery.
  3. Financial Equality – A person’s Imago Dei is what ultimately gives them value. Trillions of dollars cannot add to their dignity as a human, and only having pennies cannot take away from their worth as a human created in the image of God. For this reason, we must be impartial towards the rich and poor in justice and opportunities.
  4. Health Equality – Many people have looked at a loved one on their death bed and knew that sickness and death were wrong. Unfortunately, this causes some to think that sickness and death causes a human to lose their dignity as a human. The implication is that it would be better to take their loved one’s life before they got too sick. However, humans do not derive their dignity from health. Death and sickness are so very wrong (they are part of the curse of sin), but even through death and sickness, humans retain their dignity because they have the Imago Dei imprinted on their very existence. This forbids any form of euthanasia.
  5. Age Equality – God creates life at conception. Regardless of dependence level or age, a fetus inherently has the image of God. That image is not bequeathed to them three days after conception, or three months, or six months, or 9 months, or in their first breath, or within 15 minutes of its first breath, or until it is independent enough to survive without the mother. It has the dignity of the Imago Dei, and therefore to take that baby’s life is a terrible sin against a defenseless baby and an atrocious vandalism against God.

Marriage Implications of the Imago Dei

This is a marriage post, right? Understanding the doctrine of the Imago Dei can change your mindset and help your marriage in several ways.

  1. Beauty – How do you continue to look at your spouse as beautiful, handsome, or dignified? What about on sweatpants days? What about on no-makeup, no-hair-style days? The Imago Dei tells you that your spouse has beauty and dignity as a person regardless of appearance. There is a deeper shine to his/her life than just the physical. As you see and appreciate their dignity and virtue, they become wonderful to you. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and how that eye sees is determined in the heart.
  2. Fighting Lust – Sexual sin, particularly in pornography, often dehumanizes the person who is object of lust. The Imago Dei in that objectified person is removed and they are reduced to an object of sexual desire. By recognizing the Imago Dei in that person, they are given their dignity back and our lust loses its power. Rather than a person being an object of lust, they are a person in the image of God who should be loved, sympathized with, and pitied.
  3. Faithfulness – By recognizing the Imago Dei in our spouse, we sense the virtue of maintaining our faithfulness to them instead of being unfaithful.
  4. Arguments – The first thing that happens in arguments with our spouse is that we forget who they really are. We forget their virtue, their love for us, and the history of our relationship with them. In arguments, we reduce them to an object of frustration. By remembering that they are created in the image of God, we realize that they are worth so much more than petty arguments. We may still need to work things out, compromise, apologize, and forgive, but when they become humans with the Imago Dei, they can no longer be an object for frustration, and they turn into a companion to share life with. (James 4:1-10)

The Gospel and the Imago Dei

Unfortunately, by our sin, we damage the Imago Dei. This insult against God is like cosmic vandalism which incites God’s wrath and punishment. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ absorbs God’s wrath and punishment in his death on the cross. By faith in Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, we can be given a new nature. This new nature causes us to repent of sin and pursue righteousness. As we become more like Jesus Christ, we bear God’s image better (Ephesians 4:24). This will finally be consummated one day in heaven when, “we will be like him, for we shall see him just as he is.” (1 John 3:2)