Sunday, October 4, 2015

He and She: The Difference

We've been looking at what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. The goal here is to gain a little clarity about such things in a culture that increasingly has no clue about gender. Last week I laid out some basics to set the stage. That's where I talked about what is the same, what is different and working together. This week I'm going to get more specific about the second of those three items. Here’s the question for this morning: What is the difference between being a husband and being a wife? Let me remind you that it will take more than this series of sermons to fully answer these questions. But I'm hoping for a start.

Listen again to what happened.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. (Genesis 2.15-22)
I'm going to give you my answer to our question first and then show you how I got it. Here's the difference between being a husband and being a wife. First, he is responsible before God for her, but she is not responsible for him. Second, as an equal member of the team, she must make sure that he gets her perspective on things, something that he desperately needs. Now, what is it in the Bible that got me to that conclusion?

Let me start by reminding you that they were both given dominion. And what is dominion but having authority to act. That's in chapter one. In chapter two, which is a close up of day six, that granting of dominion, of authority, is re-stated using different words. Here, God talks about working and keeping the Garden. I talked about that in a previous sermon. There is work that needs to be done. It will take effort when it comes to the care of Garden.  I also told you that keeping the Garden is about guarding it and protecting it. These are some of the details of having dominion and this calling is directed to both Adam and Eve. They both have this authority over the Garden.

However, while Eve has authority over the Garden, she doesn't have authority over Adam. But while Adam likewise has authority over the Garden he also has authority over Eve.

Before I show how I got that I need to redeem a word: 'authority'. Most people understand the essence of authority in terms of power. And that misses the point so badly. The essence of authority is not about power. It's about being held responsible and held responsible by God. In talking about authority, Jesus said,
Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. Luke 12.48
The greater the authority granted the greater the accountability will be. Those in authority who understand what that means are acutely aware that one day they will have to give an account to God.

So, Adam having authority over Eve is about Adam having his life closely examined on the last day to see how well he cared for his wife. That's what authority is about.

Now, where did I get this idea that Adam has authority over Eve? First, did you notice that throughout this chapter God only speaks to Adam? It happens that way because Eve doesn't exist for most of the chapter. But God does not repeat to Eve what He told Adam about working and keeping the Garden or what He said about the tree. We know that Eve knew these things because of what happens in chapter three. Adam must have told her. God spoke to Eve through Adam.

My second reason is more potent. Adam named Eve. To name is to have authority. Adam named the animals. And what does it say about that?
And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.
No debate or discussion. Adam was exercising his authority over the animals of the Garden by naming them. And then, he named his wife. 

Adam has authority over Eve. That is, as her husband he is responsible for her. He is to do whatever is necessary for his wife to flourish. A wife is never commanded to do anything like that for her husband. He is responsible before God for her, but she is not responsible for him.

That's what distinguishes the husband. He is held accountable for his wife’s well-being. That fact needs to be a major factor in all that he does since all that he does affects his wife. On the last day, every husband will be evaluated by God for how well he did. I hope that you husbands take that seriously.

Now, what is it that distinguishes the wife? Well, what did God say about her?

It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.

It's so interesting how words take on nuances that they really shouldn't. Eve was to be a help to Adam. But to be a help to someone sounds so lame, so second class. This is where I try to redeem another word: help.

First, did you know that God identifies Himself as our help? Once again, the Psalms to the rescue.
Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 124.8

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46.1

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. Psalm 121.1-2

You will want to avoid the idea that being a help to someone makes you second rate.  You don’t want to think of your God in those terms.

Here's a second thought. When a wife offers her help to her husband she is offering her strength to him. And it is a strength that he needs. Isn't that why God made Eve for Adam? He needed her strengths. Remember how I told you that each has strengths that the other can benefit from? Eve has strengths, strengths that Adam needs.

The best way to sum up those strengths is simply to say that Eve is a woman. Remember how I told you that this is true of her body and soul. That means that she sees, feels and thinks as a woman. Adam is a man. That means that he sees, feels and thinks as a man. And that also means that there are many things that Adam is going to miss. Important things. He will not see them, have any feelings about them or even think about them. And missing those things makes a big difference. Adam needs Eve because she will notice some of those things. He needs her strengths. He needs what she sees, feels and thinks when it comes to their mission of working and keeping that Garden. He needs her help.

Unfortunately, there is still a problem with that word. Help sounds passive. It sounds like waiting around until someone asks for assistance. Where did that come from? A wife isn't to be passive when it comes to the joint task of dominion. Being a help is something that needs to be very active. She is to be right there saying, 'Here's my take on this'. A wife who is passive in this is denying her husband her strength, something that he needs. No passivity here.

Let me throw in a quick thought about submission. The Scriptures call wives to submit to the authority of their husbands. If you understand what authority is, then you will understand what submission is. If authority is about power then submission is about letting yourself be overpowered. But if authority is about taking responsibility, then a wife's submission to her husband is giving him the room to take that responsibility seriously. Submit is another word that needs to be redeemed. More on that some other time.

So, no passive wallflowers waiting for permission to speak freely. You who are wives need to act. You need to let your husbands know, 'This is what I'm seeing, what I'm feeling, and what I'm thinking.' And if you are a wise husband you will listen to your wife with great attentiveness.

So, where do you go from here? Unless your marriage is very unusual, the first thing that you need to do is to acknowledge that you have missed the mark as a husband or a wife to a greater or lesser extent.

The sins of so many husbands, these days, have to do with their failure to take responsibility, full responsibility, for the marriage, the failure to make sure their wives are flourishing, regardless of what it costs.

Wives usually have different sins to confess. So many wives, these days, are aggressive, taking responsibility for what they should not. It can be very tempting to do that when the husband leaves a leadership vacuum. But it is sin nonetheless. Wives need to offer their strength. They need to help. And they need to give their husbands room to take responsibility.

So, you who are married, do you have some sin to repent of? If so, do not be discouraged.  Jesus has come. He didn't come for the righteous. He came for sinners. That's you. As you come to Him in repentance and faith He will forgive you and He will change you. And that is something you can rejoice in.

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