We’re going to talk about submission next, after the previous session we had. We could have done it from Ephesians 5, but it’s more helpful, I have found, to do it from 1 Peter 3:1–6. We’ll go there in just a minute.
I’m trying to figure out where to stick in questions that have come my way, so I’ll just say a little more about spiritual leadership at home right now. The fact that this question and other questions have come my way, last night and this morning, show me it’s a huge issue. A lot of men have come into marriages, and have either gotten saved after marriage, or they were baby Christians with very little training before they got married, or maybe wives skyrocketed ahead, and began to read, study, be in Bible study fellowship or whatever else, and suddenly the wife is feeling like, “Come on, let’s go,” and the husband is behind her.
Now when that happens, what does a guy do? He can’t snap his finger and become like this woman. It just feels like she’s bolted into maturity of biblical awareness and so on, and he feels like, “Well, the pastor says I’m supposed to be the spiritual leader. She’s clearly two miles ahead. I can barely see the dust behind her.” So let me just say something to give you guys hope. I want to give you hope, because that’s the situation many are in. Don’t panic about that. It may be true that you’ll never catch her, in one sense. If she’s aggressively a Bible lover, she’s maybe got more time than you to read her Bible and study, or it could be other things, but whatever it is she’s ahead. Maybe she’s wired to be more reflective, contemplative, and thoughtful, and you’re sort of a pragmatic guy and you like to work on the car, hunt, and whatever else. Maybe reading is a labor for you. I’ve dealt with all kinds of guys like that.
Leading by Design, Not Competency
How does a guy like that provide spiritual leadership? He’s a pragmatic guy, she’s a reflective, intellectual gal, and he feels like, “There’s no way that I could be what you’re calling me to be.” I just want to say: No, there is a way. You do not have to be more intellectual, more competent, or more theologically attuned to be a spiritual leader. Does that sound strange?
She might like it if you’d catch up and pass her, and kind of be the theologian of the household, but don’t let that paralyze you. Here’s an example of what I would mean by incremental growth in spiritual leadership, if you feel like that’s your situation. I’ll give you a real concrete example of a situation at Bethlehem from about 20 years ago.
This couple came to my office, and it was not working at all. He was totally passive, and she was very aggressive. She was more educated, more articulate, more intelligent, and more adept in almost everything. He was smoking in the basement and not even coming upstairs. He was watching TV, and they had three kids. There was no spiritual leadership at all. He was paralyzed, feeling defeated, inferior, and helpless. But they were willing to come and talk to me about it, which was very helpful. They came several times. They’re doing really quite well now. He made some amazing breakthroughs. He really did. She’s still smarter, more articulate, more biblically literate, more everything, almost, but they are happy, because he’s taking these initiatives.
So I said to him, “Okay, you’ve got an eighth grade education. That’s true. She’s a high school graduate with some college. And just by nature, she’s verbal, and you’re not.” I don’t want to give too many details because you might figure out who they are, but let’s say he was a carpenter. He has a trade business; he’s not a lawyer or a doctor. And there are hundreds of people like that in our church. The world would not go around without them, believe me. I thank God for people who are good with their hands. I have sons who are intellectual, and I have sons who are good with their hands. So I know both kinds. They come from the same genetic framework. I don’t regard one as superior or inferior as a person.
Let’s call them Joe and Jane so I can use a name. I said, “Jane can read better than you. You stumble in reading. Maybe you have some issues with dyslexia. Jane talks more clearly and fluidly than you do, and Jane knows her Bible. You feel behind in all those areas. Here’s what I would suggest. Can you call your three children together at night, say at 8:00 p.m., and say, ‘Let’s have devotions.’ Can you say those words? Do you have enough control of your kids to say, ‘Come to the living room; it’s 8:00 p.m. and we do devotions at 8:00 p.m.’ This may shock them because you have not said it for a long time. But can you do that?”
He said, “I suppose.” And I said, “Yes, you can do that. And when they get together can you say, ‘I’m the head of this home and mommy likes it that way, and you kids need to know that it’s that way. I take the initiative. And when you need to be spanked, I’m the one who should step up first, though mom has the right to. We’re going to make sure that you know that I’m the head of the home here, and we’re going to do devotions. And I’ve decided that we’re going to read through the Gospel of John. Every night we’ll read a paragraph or two and then we’ll pray. We’ll start with chapter one tonight, and we’ll just do it each night. So Jane, would you take our big family Bible here and read the first few paragraphs of chapter one.” So he didn’t have to read, because when he reads he stumbles, and the kids think, “Daddy can’t read very well.”
So he passed that one off, but clearly he was the leader in this situation. Jane would do the reading with joy busting out of her heart that he had called family together. And I said, “When she’s done reading, Joe, can you at that moment look to your oldest son or one of the kids and say, ‘Now, what did you get from that?’ or, ‘Why don’t you pray for us, Joey, that God would reveal this to us? Wasn’t that first part about Jesus being the Word of God?’” This may be hard for him and he wouldn’t have to do all that, but he could listen carefully and try to draw something out and have Joey pray about it, draw it out, apply it to Joey. Or he could turn to his wife and say, “How do you think that applies to Joey?” He could just make her do it, because maybe he didn’t quite understand the paragraph yet. And he could say, “Joey, you pray for us tonight. Pray for us as a family that we’d love the Bible. Mary’s having some problems at school. Pray for Mary.” Joey’s probably going to think, “Whoa, daddy wants me to pray.” And when he’s done, it’s over. I asked him, “Can you do that?”
It changed their lives. It was a husband with an eighth grade education with an articulate wife, and to this day this woman loves the socks off her husband. She’s just very happy to be married to this guy, and he wasn’t doing anything. He doesn’t smoke anymore. He broke that one because that was just part of his retreat and his woundedness.
So don’t feel like what I’m calling for has to do with personality, or education, or intellect, or reading abilities, or all the things that would seem to make it hard. Don’t elevate what leadership is to an undoable thing. God did not design you to be an undoable person. Leadership will look different for different husbands, and submission will look different for different wives, but there is a tone of responsibility, and then you work within constraints of your giftedness.
So let’s say he’s just terrible with numbers; let her do the checkbook. It’s no big deal. But take responsibility for working it out that way. Don’t just do nothing. You don’t want to not do anything and have her saying, “These bills are just sitting here and they’re old.” Instead, you say, “Let’s work this through. Frankly, I find it really hard to balance a checkbook, and you’re really good at that. So can that little piece of our life be your job? I’ll do this and this, and you do that.”
In that case he’s taken initiative. She doesn’t have to say, “Come here. We need to talk about the finances. Nothing’s working. Am I going to have to do this?” It would just feel totally different to her if he said, “Now, I know I’m not really good at this; I tend to be forgetful, and I can’t balance a checkbook very well. You’re really good at that, and I’m more good at this other stuff. I’ll make sure the car’s always running, I’ll make sure the grass is always cut, I’ll make sure the paint is always on the house, and I’ll make sure that the furnace is always working. I want to care for you, but I’m really lousy at this. Can we just work it out that you do that?” And from then on, it may feel like she’s kind of in charge of that bailiwick, and she is. But she’s in charge in a way that honors him, and he’s glad about it. I hope that gives you a flavor.
I have another question here, but I think I will postpone that one. Most people have asked about it. I’ll tell you what it is so you can hold me accountable. We’re talking mainly about marriage here, and we’re going to talk about the church some, but you’re asking questions about the business world. I’ve gotten questions about women and men in the business world and culture at large, and how these things flesh out in a bank or whatever else. I’ll try to get there maybe in the question and answer time.
Let’s go to 1 Peter 3 and talk about the complementary point to headship, namely submission. We’re going to read 1 Peter 3:1–7 and talk about what I find to be very helpful for women today who are under the influence of a lot of anti-complementarian thinking that says submission is demeaning, slavish, based on a sense of inferiority, and so on. I find this text to be supremely useful for clarifying that’s not what it is. It says:
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
The situation is that there is a wife who’s married to an unbeliever. She wants him saved, and Peter is giving her some advice about how to live with this man. She should be with this man; that’s for sure. He isn’t leaving. The passage continues:
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear …
They stuck in that word merely here because not having clothing would mean what? You don’t want me to wear a dress? So clearly, the point is not “Don’t do any braiding, or any jewelry, or any dresses, be naked.” No, it is an emphasis thing, not a totally either-or thing. It’s telling a wife, “Okay, you want this husband to be saved? Are you going to win him with jewelry and sex? No.” Now don’t take that too far. It helps to be attractive. But I said to my little girl with my hand on her head, “Don’t put your main energy, Talitha, into your hair, your figure, and your clothes. Put some there, so that you don’t draw any attention to yourself because you’re disheveled or unkempt or whatever, but mainly put your attention on this.” And I quoted this passage to her. It continues:
…but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
That’s the address to women., and here’s the address to men in 1 Peter 3:7:
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
Things Submission Does Not Mean
Now let’s tackle the issue of submission. What is it, and what isn’t it? I have seven things that I think submission is not, and saying these is very helpful in figuring out what it is.
First, submission to a husband does not mean agreeing with everything your husband says.
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won … (1 Peter 3:1).
Clearly, this woman is disagreeing with her husband’s religious convictions, and her goal is to get him changed. Does that sound submissive? Well, it can be. In other words, submission is not complying with a husband’s intellectual religious convictions if he’s wrong.
Second, submission does not mean leaving your brain or your will at the wedding altar.
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives … (1 Peter 3:1).
That means she’s assessing the situation with her brain. They both went to hear the apostle speak. She listened, assessed, and believed; he listened, assessed, and disbelieved. She used her brain to come to a religious conviction that was different from her husband, and that has put them into this situation, and it can be submissive. You don’t relate to the truth through your husband’s brain alone. If he says, “This is the truth,” and you have listened to the apostle and you say, “No, Jesus is the truth.” That disagreement stands, and you can be submissive while that happens. Otherwise, this text makes no sense.
Third, submission does not mean avoiding effort to change your husband.
Think of the same verse. She’s trying to win him to Christ, so clearly there are things the husband may believe or do that are wrong, and the wife should be figuring out, “How can I, as a submissive wife, help him change?” It’s not insubordinate to want to change your husband.
Fourth, submission does not mean putting the will of the husband before the will of Christ.
She has now become a daughter of God and a follower of King Jesus, and this man now fits in here somewhere. He’s not at the top; he’s underneath. Jesus is at the top, God the Father is up there, and this man is now down here. Jesus sends her back into that relationship as a submissive wife, but not absolutely submissive. She has a new Master, a new Lord, and she wants her husband to get on board with that, and Peter is telling her how to go at it.
Fifth, submission does not mean that the wife gets her spiritual strength mainly from her husband.
This relates to what we were talking about in terms of spiritual leadership. Yes, wives should lean on their husbands to take initiatives in spiritual leadership in the home, for the children in particular. But as far as her own relationship with Christ goes, consider this in 1 Peter 3:5–6:
For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
These women of old, these towering examples of hope, got their spiritual strength from God. They hoped in God, which led them into a fearless relationship with people, including their husbands.
Sixth, submission does not mean acting out of slavish fear toward the husband.
…Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
That’s amazing. You are the child of Sarah, women, if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. So wives are not to act in a slavish, cowering way towards their husbands. She’s free. She’s full of confidence in God, who is her supreme Lord, Savior, and Master.
Seventh, submission does not mean blind or unqualified obedience to the husband.
…Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.
Clearly, Peter is calling for submission. This passage has an obedience component to it, which I think is a bent in the woman’s heart towards compliance to her husband’s leadership. But it isn’t absolute, because if the husband is an unbeliever, and he tells her to say, “Caesar is Lord,” she’s going to say, “No.” Which will mean disobedience. So the obedience here is not absolute, because it assumes in verse 1 that she’s not going with him to his religion.
Sarah Obeyed Abraham
What’s the Old Testament context here? This is very provocative. It says that she obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. Where does she do that? There’s only one place where she did that, and it’s most remarkable. I mean, if I were Peter, and I were writing to shock people into the most radical form of submission in the Old Testament with Sarah, what would I say? I would say that one time she was taken to Egypt, and Abimelech, the king, thought she was Abraham’s sister, so he thought he could add her to his harem. Abraham went along and encouraged that mistake, and put his wife at incredible risk, sexually and physically, and she submitted. But Peter doesn’t tell that story. What story does he tell? What does it mean when he says, “He called her lord?” Here’s the text from Genesis 18:9–10:
They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.”
Sarah is about 90 years old, and Abraham is 100. She’s been barren all her life. She’s never had a baby. And this angel, representing God, says, “She’s going to have a son next year.” Sarah was listening at the tent door, so she’s not in the conversation; she’s listening. Genesis 18:11–12 says:
And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?”
That’s the only place in the Bible where Sarah calls him lord, and Peter picks up on that. I’m thinking, “What, why?” Here’s my take, but I don’t know for sure. My guess is that since he ignores all these incredible illustrations of her actually being amazingly submissive, and he picks up on this one, could it be that what he’s trying to say is that there she was by herself, and Abraham wasn’t around, nor anybody else. She was saying this to herself, and she spontaneously, in her stunned amazement, probably disbelief, casually referred to him as “my lord.” It’s just part of who she is. She thinks, “This is my husband,” and she assigns him this strong name — “my lord.” She says, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?”
I don’t think Peter wants to call attention to an abusive demand for submission; I think he wants to call attention to Sarah’s deep, natural, uncoerced expression of submission to her husband, so he picks this seemingly insignificant situation where all by herself, she calls him “lord.”
Here’s my concluding definition of submission: Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership, and help carry it through according to her gifts. It is an inclination of the will to say yes to the husband’s leadership, and a disposition of the spirit to support his initiatives. The words inclination and disposition in those definitions are intended to show that when she has to deal with a sinning husband, even though she may have an inclination to say yes, or a disposition to support, she may not be able to say yes and may not be able to support, and she can still be submissive because she has the inclination to do it.
In other words, if her husband says, “Let’s go have some group sex down at the temple of Aphrodite,” she’s going to say, “I can’t, because Jesus is my supreme Lord. I love you, and I want to be your wife. I want to be a good wife, but I can’t go there. I can’t do that. That’s over the line of what I, now as a Christian, can do.”
That’s why I use words like an inclination of the will to say yes to the husband’s leadership, and a disposition of the spirit to support. It is a wife’s desire to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership. So she’s going to say to this unbelieving husband who suggests that they lie on their tax forms that she can’t.
Let’s say Noël goes out, speaks at a women’s retreat, and brings home a 100 or 500 dollar honorarium. What if I want that money to go to the church, but it’s supposed to go right onto our taxes, and what if nobody knows she’s got it except for her and me, and I said to her, “Let’s just take those couple thousand dollars this year and not report it as part of our income, so we can save ourselves whatever percentage our taxes are”? She should say to me at that point, “I can’t do that,” though I’m her head and I’m her leader. It would be awful for me to say that, but she should just buck it right there. That’s my effort to come to terms with all those passages regarding what submission is not in that text, and also admit from Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3 that it’s really there.
Here’s my conclusion: What is at stake with this is that a lot of joy goes down the tubes if a wife and husband don’t fulfill these roles biblically, and Christ’s display to the world as the covenant head of the church, and the church as the thrilled responder and follower of Christ, goes out the window. That’s what happens if a husband and a wife throw in the towel and try to just say, “This is just a totally egalitarian marriage. We will each do what we do wholly on the basis of our competencies. What you are as a woman and what I am as man does not count here for the tone or the dynamic of how we relate as leader or follower. Let’s get rid of that terminology, and we’ll do this together.” When that happens, Christ as head of the church is no longer being displayed in that marriage.
I just gave you the definition for submission, so here’s the concluding definition for husband’s headship again: The divine calling of a husband is to take primary responsibility for Christlike, loving, servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home.
Now, there are objections to this, and I’ll just deal with these quickly because I’ve probably already touched on them. What if the wife is more competent? Would you still think that a man should assume the responsibility of a leader if he’s less competent than she is? I began this session with an illustration of saying, yes, I do think he should.
The second objection is this: What about mutual submission? I promised you I’d get back to that text in Ephesians 5:21. The most common objection to the picture I just painted of loving leadership and willing submission is that verse 21 teaches to be mutually submissive to each other. It says:
…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
So, Gilbert Bilezekian writes:
By definition, mutual submission rules out hierarchical differences.
That’s a pretty sweeping statement, and it’s dead wrong. He knows it’s dead wrong because of what he says in the footnotes. He is saying that if mutual submission is a reality between husband and wife, then it’s a contradiction to say that the husband has a special responsibility to lead and the wife a special responsibility to support that leadership. Here’s my answer to that objection: It’s simply not true. In fact, the writer who said that mutual submission rules out hierarchical relationships shows that it’s not true a page later when he says:
The church thrives on mutual subjection. In a Spirit-led church elders submit to the congregation in being accountable for their watch care, and the congregation submits to the elders in accepting their guidance.
That sounds a little hierarchical. On page 251 of his book Beyond Sex Roles, he even says:
The congregation submits to their leaders by obeying.
In other words, when it comes to the church, he has no trouble seeing how mutual submission is possible between two groups — one of whom has the responsibility to guide and the other has the responsibility to accept guidance. And that’s right. There’s no contradiction between mutual submission and the relationship of leadership and response. Mutual submission doesn’t mean that both partners must submit in exactly the same ways. That’s the key that unlocks the seeming problem.
Mutual submission, which involves a wife submitting to her husband and a husband submitting to his wife, does not imply — in fact it’s explicitly ruled out by the context — that they both submit in exactly the same ways, as if she has the same responsibility to lead as he does, and he has the same responsibility to submit. In this case, there would be no such thing as leadership attaching to the husband, or unique submission attaching to the wife. The church submits herself to Christ. Christ submitted himself to the church in one way, by a kind of servant leadership that cost him his life. The church submits herself to Christ in another way, by honoring his leadership and following him on the Calvary road.
So it’s not true that mutual submission rules out a family pattern of Christlike leadership and churchlike submission. Mutual submission doesn’t obliterate those roles, it very significantly transforms them. Picture cultures, like the one I described with the hut pastors, dealing with that issue. I’m talking about mutual submission where a husband is submitting himself to die for this woman, carrying her loads, and wives are submitting to following that leadership.
The Meaning of Male Headship
I told you I’d be back to whether or not head meant source. This is a sophisticated objection raised by those who know Greek, so I won’t spend a lot of time on it since there’s no way you can assess it without reading about 3,000 documents to see whether you think Wayne Grudum is right. Does head really mean leader? Or could it mean source? One common objection to the pattern of leadership and submission is that the term head does not carry the meaning of leadership at all; instead, some say it means source, somewhat like the word fountain head, or head of a river. So to call a husband the head of his wife wouldn’t mean that he is to be leader, but that he’s in some sense her source, or her fountain head.
Instead of reading, let me just paraphrase my response to that. Suppose that were true. I think it’s not the case. Wayne Grudum has this long article where he’s read 3,000 sources to see how head is used in all these sources, and concludes it doesn’t mean that in this kind of context. But you can’t do that. All you can do is read your Bible, and that’s really all you need to do. Because if you look at your Bible and you say, “Okay, we have Ephesians 5:23–24 here, and it says, ‘The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, and is himself its Savior. And the wife should submit,’” and you look at that and you say, “Hm, fountainhead just doesn’t seem to work here.”
Or you might say, “Well, let’s try to make it work.” So you could think about Christ as the head and the husband as the head. The picture in Ephesians 5 is head on a body, right? That’s the picture. So now we’ve got a head sitting on top of a body, a husband on wife, and the head is not considered to be a leader, but rather is considered to be the source. So you have to ask, the source of what? The head sits on top of the body to be the source of the eyes, which are on the head, or the mouth, or the ears. Just take those three. This source has the mouth, which eats, and so the head nourishes, in this sense. GSo now you’ve got a husband nourishing. And the eyes see, so that they don’t stumble over things and there is guidance. Now you’ve got guidance. And ears hear, so that if somebody is sneaking up on you, the body turns quickly and is protected.
So we’re back where we started. It won’t work. It’s a weaseling, and it’s a desperate attempt to get away from what the Bible is so plainly teaching. People have seen it for years and years, that when a husband is called to be a head like Christ, it means all those precious things. It means he should take the initiatives in the family that need to be taken, it means he should protect this woman at all costs to his life, and it means he should take the initiative to be the primary see-to-it person that this family is cared for and provided for.
Headship and Submission in the Marketplace
We’re going to shift gears here, and move toward church. But maybe before I go here, I should pause and answer that other question. This might be the right place to do it. It was a question the young people asked last night in our session with the high schoolers, and somebody asked it last night to me, and then two people asked me this morning. So clearly the most burning issue, statistically, from my little survey of five people, is how this works itself out in the marketplace. And that’s quite understandable.
If we had lived 200 or 300 years ago, that wouldn’t be the burning issue that it is today, because the roles were so clearly defined. Women had to fit in on the farm because there were certain things only men could do. A woman could collect the eggs, but she probably couldn’t manage the plow and the big horse. So she was always working, and he was always working, and everything just kind of fit. But today, everything’s up for grabs because all jobs are open to everybody. Women are as good as men in almost all the jobs that are available, except maybe some of the most heavy lifting kinds of things.
So what do we do then? Does all of this talk about leadership have any bearing out there in the world, or is that just related to the church and the home? Frankly, there are some complementarians who are willing to just go that far and no farther. They say, “It is clear from the Bible in the home, and it is clear from the Bible in the church that there’s headship and submission for men and women, but outside that we don’t say anything because the Bible doesn’t say much.”
That would be such a comfortable position to take. I don’t take it. I don’t feel like I can leave you there, as if to say, “Okay, you walk out of your home where you are submissive to this leader and that has zero bearing in society.” The reason I don’t leave you there is because I have argued that this dynamic between man and woman is rooted in your nature. I haven’t argued that this is an arbitrary Bible layer on top of your egalitarian soul. I’ve argued God made men to lead, and that God made women to delight in that leadership. That’s what I’ve argued, because I think that’s what Genesis is saying. And I think Paul is saying it when he goes back to pre-fall creation to talk about what he’s saying about the mystery of marriage. So I don’t have the luxury of just saying, “You go figure that out.” I believe I have to give you some guidance.
Principles for the Workplace
In this book, What’s the Difference?, on pages 61–64 is my best shot at it. I’m going to try to summarize it, and I might even read a part of it. But let me tell you where I’m going. My approach, as I look at the world and the hundreds and hundreds, probably thousands of kinds of relationships you can have in the workplace as male and female, it seems it would be hopeless for me to come up with a list of female jobs and male jobs, saying that women may do these and men may do these, and they shouldn’t cross over. That’s just hopeless. It would get me nowhere, and I couldn’t do it. I don’t know enough about the world, and I couldn’t begin to make the list exhaustive. So what do you do then? How do you give any guidance to women and men? My answer is that I try to give some principles and realize we’re living with mega ambiguity from then on in the workplace. We should not be too judgmental about what jobs we see each other have.
So here are my principles. Drawing on all I’ve seen so far about the meaning of headship and submission rooted in our natures, it seems to me that how a woman influences another person matters. That influence happens on continuums. There’s personal and non-personal influence. By personal, I mean that she’s face to face with a man, and by non-personal, I mean her influence would be through a bunch of intermediaries, but she’s not face to face. There’s nothing personal about this influence or guidance.
The other continuum is directive and non-directive. So you can give influence or leadership in a very directive way, saying something like, “You go and you do this.” Or you can give influence in a non-directive way, saying something way less forceful than that. It could be suggestions, commendations, hints, modeling, etc. Do you get those two? You have directive and non-directive, and personal and non-personal. That’s my little grid. If I knew how to do graphs, I would graph it for you, but I don’t know how to do that.
I’m talking to women now. To the degree, women, that you are in a role that is very directive, I think your nature would incline it to be less personal and more non-personal. To the degree that you’re in a workplace relationship that is very personal with a man, very face to face, you will try to find non-directive ways to do that. It won’t feel as directive. Do you feel what I’m trying to do here? It might help to give you some illustrations.
I’m just going to admit that when I’m done here there’s going to be ambiguity all over the place. I really think that’s the way we live most of our lives. A woman with a certain sense of what’s appropriate might move into a job, and after a year or two find out that it’s calling forth from you some relationships that you just start feeling uncomfortable with, and you’ll just move. That’s just the way it works. You won’t say “Oh, this is sin,” or something like that. You’ll just say, “I don’t sense this is who I am. This is right, so I want to move over and change jobs.”
I think one of the most directive jobs would be a Drill Sergeant. Imagine a woman doing that and getting up to say, “Get that smile off your face, Smith.” That’s the way the military works. I just don’t think a woman should do that, because you’ve got coming together there mega directiveness and mega personal closeness. Our military is set up in a way that that happens.
One man came up to me, last night or this morning, and said his son went to a camp and that’s exactly the situation he found himself in. A woman was giving that kind of very forceful directive, and the son just came back, saying, “It doesn’t feel right to me.” I think that’s just down in his nature. He doesn’t have to be an arrogant man to feel that way; he may be very humble and not feel right about that.
However, what if a woman is, say, a civil engineer, planning the traffic patterns of downtown Minneapolis? In that way, she is guiding which direction men go every day. She’s totally deciding which way men are driving on Eighth Avenue, deciding if that will be a one way street or a two way street. She studies it and decides they’re going to make it a one way street, and now she’s totally governing which direction all you men drive on Eighth Street, but it’s totally impersonal. That’s what I mean by impersonal.
She’s not there on every corner saying, “You can’t go here, and you can’t go here. You go that way.” Which would feel like, “Uh, what’s she doing that for?” But she just decided at her desk, drawing these things, and now that’s out there. And I would say that’s no problem, because it’s not a male-female thing. It’s not in-your-face personal, and so the whole sexual dynamic of it is irrelevant.
Another example would be if she’s an architect. An architect, when she draws her plans, is governing what a thousand workmen do every day, and most of them are men. She’s deciding how the building goes up, she’s figuring out the electricity and the heating, and she’s putting together the way everything works. She’s drawn it all up, but that kind of influence or control or direction is very impersonal.
Another example of the other would be a professional baseball umpire. He says, “You’re out,” and then the guy turns around and he says, “Don’t say a word or you’re out of this game.” The sense is, “I’m an umpire and my word holds here.” He says, “Strike,” or, “Take your base,” or, “You’re out of here,” or, “Take your seat, Mr. Manager.” I just don’t think so.
Are there female umpires in baseball? Maybe there are. There are female referees. I think what would happen is that it would just transform the role. It would. Over time, if women became largely dominant in umpire roles it would change the role; it would feminize the role. Now others might say, “That’s a good idea, feminize that role.” But I’m just illustrating that if umpiring is done the way it’s traditionally been done, it would strain the role. I’m going to give you a quote from JI Packer, talking about how things can strain femininity.
The God given sense of responsibility for leadership in a mature man will not generally allow him to flourish long under personal, directive leadership of a female superior.
JI Packer suggested that, “A situation in which a female boss has a male secretary, puts a strain on the humanity of both.” It’s a strain.
One last illustration and then we’re going to pause. Imagine a woman who is a manager in a bank and a man who’s a courier. He rides his bike between buildings downtown, or he drives a little yellow truck, and his job all day long is delivering parcels between businesses — a simple job. He doesn’t need a lot of education to do it. But the female manager is highly educated and has a significant role in that bank. How does she relate to this guy when he comes in? My argument would be that she would, if she embraced everything I’ve been saying, find creative and affirming ways to be submissive. She’s clearly in charge of the business. She tells him where to take the packages, she’s getting paid $50,000 more than he is, and she’s dressed in a suit and he’s dressed in jeans. Everything about it makes her feel powerful and makes him feel like less, and she will care about that.
She will want to honor him as a man, and she will find ways to do it. And he will want to relate to her, if he’s buying into this as well, to provide some kind of sense of protection, provision, and leadership in some way that might be possible. The illustration I gave to the high schoolers last night was that she could say to him, for example, at the close of the day, “I’m parked in the parking ramp out there. Would you mind walking me to my car?”
Now she’s got to trust this guy to do that, of course, and maybe a relationship has developed. What that says to him is, “She honors me as a man. She needs me. She feels like she could use my help here.” And something comes into him saying, “I will rise to the occasion to protect this woman at any cost, because she’s just expressed some sense of dependency on me.” That would be one little, simple way she might bestow upon him a flavor of his own manhood. So, let me pray and ask God to take this section and make it understandable and helpful.