Marriage Tuesday

have you ever got new information that changes the whole playing field?

have you ever got new information that makes old truth less…trustworthy?

if you are a seeker of truth, it should be happening all the time.  fantasy football players are always checking up-to-date injury reports for the lastest news before they make their weekly lineups.   every wise texan knows to check the weather before they leave the house,  because if it hasn’t changed lately, it will soon.

and i promised i wouldn’t circle back to politics, but let’s just say that telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is not a value of either party.  i read things  one party says that inspires me or infuriates me…only to do some digging and find out new information that changes everything.

and whose to say my new location for digging isn’t just another finely decorated dump like the last one?   look, no one said that mining for truth was going to be easy!

on to marriage.  recently,  i’ve found some new information that reinforces truth that i have believed for years, but has often put me at odds with the more conservative, fundamentalist side of the church of my upbringing.

my study has led me to conclude that first century marriages (as well as the overall culture of male-female relationships the bible writers are addressing), were completely different than the culture we live in today…and that greatly affects how we should interpret and apply those writings.

first century men were in power.  although there are historical records of some women being educated, most were not.  men were better educated and had greater exposure to information.  men and husbands were the ones with greater responsibility, ownership, and reputation.  in the first century, women existed almost exclusively for domestic use and making babies.

and marriage was never mutual.  women married young.  they were, most often, just young girls…15 or 16.  the men were older, sometimes well into their thirties.   older,  experienced,  educated,  with a built-in hierarchy.  there was nothing equal about their relationship.

it is through that lens that the new testament texts make perfect sense as instruction written to people existing in that social context.  when paul writes about wives submitting to their husbands,  he was writing to young girls in relationships with their significantly older, more experienced and more mature husband.

their role of submission and the husband’s role of gentle and loving protector, guide and spiritual leader would have made perfect sense in both society and the church.

but is this a timeless standard and relational expectation…or a cultural distinctive of time and history?  this is where the theological boxing matches over marriage relationships comes to bear.  this is where the christian fundamentalist view of traditional marriage roles (hierarchy with the husband as the leader) and the more egalitarian understanding (husbands and wives are equals) part company.

this new understanding of history helps me.

are we to expect that in a modern culture where men and women share nearly equal access to education and experience…where men and women are similarly mature and self-confident and possess the possibility of similar physical aptitude…where men and women marry at similar ages…that the same expectations in marriages are to exist as they did in the first century?

i don’t think so.

i’m not advocating we ignore the instruction of paul about marriage relationships in the new testament.  far from it.  but i am advocating we recognize that the lens of culture plays a significant role in how we are to define our relationships in marriage…and how we are to apply the truth of scripture to every male and female relationship.

hope that’s thought food for your marriage today…


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