In a day and society when gender distinctions are judged as relics of a pre-enlightened age, to suggest that men and women are different, not only by reason of their upbringing, but as a result of Divine design, is to march to the beat of a different drummer. But since our world is marching to the hypnotizing drone of the Demonic drummer, there is every justification to be different. God did intend us to be a counter-culture.
These differences between men and women, have the potential to effect, for good or bad, our communication, our concepts, and the course of our marriages.
God has designed the male and female according to His wisdom. He could well have made one sex. The issue of reproduction is not really a problem as there are examples in nature of self-perpetuating organisms. His design was obviously with something far higher in view. Ultimately, it is to grace us with a living, day-to-day picture of Christ and His Church. But along the way, He also had other less important, but equally noble purposes.
Along with the strong implication that difference was a choice on the part of God, there are some inherent distinctions between male and female (Genesis 1-3).
Notice that God addressed all His commands to Adam. Responsibility was entrusted to him for the care of the garden. In chapter 2:15, 16 Adam is given a work and becomes goal and task-oriented. He is given the role of dressing and keeping, of noting and naming. He has a sense of leadership which was imposed by God (2:15-17; 3:18, 19). In contrast, Eve is relationship- oriented (ch 2:18). She is nurturing and sensitive (ch 3:16; 1 Thess 2:7), giving, sacrificial, and affirming in her relationship with her husband and others.
If there is any question in anyone’s mind about these distinctions, a look at the judgments God imposed on them due to sin in Genesis 3 should settle the matter. God’s judgment on Adam touched his work, his productivity, (“in the sweat of thy brow”) and sense of significance (“dust thou art and unto dust”). Where did God touch Eve? It was in the sphere of relationships: her bearing of children and its consequent sorrow, and her relationship with her husband. These were not whimsical acts of God nor were they striking where it would hurt the most. It was God’s dealing with male and female to create in them a need to return to Him to find ultimate significance (Adam) and ultimate relationship (Eve). In His judgment, there was infinite mercy.
These distinctions in emotional makeup lead to differences in the way we approach issues. For a man, facts are the main thing. For a woman, feelings predominant. This is not to suggest for a moment that women are ignorant or indifferent to facts, but intuition and a “sense” of things are valuable barometers for a female. Look at Matthew 27. Pilate weighs up the facts – political, religious, and personal – and decides that Christ must be delivered over to the Jews. His wife, in contrast, begs him to avoid the issue because she has “suffered” many things in a dream. Her intuition tells her that this is something to avoid.
Men are prone to find solutions while women look for sympathy. Elkanah has an answer for Hannah’s grief – a double portion. Yet Hannah is looking for sympathy and understanding.
Many other contrasts can be amassed and Scriptural examples marshaled to show their accuracy. Men are concerned with the end, women with the experience to that end. Men are prone to “fix” problems while women “feel” the problem. There is no value being placed upon either of these approaches. They are complimentary and necessary, the way the master Designer made us.
In virtually every area of life, the potential value of something for good is related directly to the potential evil its perversion can cause. Differences which God meant to enhance a marriage have the potential, when abused, to bring irreparable harm and grief to both husband and wife.
Some of the areas of potential conflict are obvious. The differences enumerated can be destructive to communication between spouses. Unless each realizes and respects the other’s vantage point, unless each appreciates the differences in words and approach to problems, impatience, frustration, and possibly anger will result.
Concepts: Our concepts are different. Men and women frequently have a totally different understanding of such concepts as support, communication, talking, love, and understanding, to name only a few. As a result, if each does not understand that the other’s concept is different, then a sense of distance can begin to develop
Communication: One of the greatest, if not the greatest area of divergence is in our understanding of what communication is. To a male, it is simply a stating of the facts. The fewer the words, the shorter the explanation, the better. Clarity involves saying it simply, briefly, and once. If clarification is needed, an increase in decibels is all that is required. But to a woman, communication involves a sharing, not only of facts, but of the feelings involved and the journey through those feelings. Our communication can become destructive as well. The inherent tendency due to sin is self-protection. We can be deceitful, misleading, cruel, and harmful in our communications one with another.
But God intended these differences to balance one another, to bless others, and to build the relationship. Certain ingredients are needed if this is to result:
1. An Honest Awareness – there is always room for improvement if Ephesians 5 is the model. Every marriage should continue to grow in its depth and closeness. The high standard of love in all its aspects is given to us as a pattern.
2. A Humble Attitude – I can only change me, not you. God intended us to minister to one another in the marriage relationship. Sadly, most of us manipulate one another. We think we can change another by “acting upon” them. Women are especially prone to “home-improvements.” Failure and frustration are almost always the result. We must each take responsibility for personal change. As I minister to my spouse, I meet another’s needs and seek to serve.
3. An Honoring Approach – “In honor, preferring one another …” (Rom 12:10). This simply means putting the welfare of another ahead of my own. In a marriage, it suggests a rivalry – but a rivalry to seek the honor of another. This was the mutual goal of the virtuous woman and her husband (Proverbs 31: 23, 28, 31).
4. A Helping Alliance – spiritual help one to another which will involve accountability and encouragement. Eve was given to Adam to be a “help meet” for him. She was to be a help to him in every area of life. Love, as modeled and perfected by the Lord Jesus, is the ultimate expression of building another up. Thus a wife, in her sphere, seeks to help and build up her husband. Likewise, a husband, in his love, has as his constant goal the growth and blessing of the object of his love.