Does the Bible Encourage Misogyny?

In a culture of #MeToo and misogyny, in which women are fighting for equal rights and equal pay, the Bible brings a command that seems out of step with these struggles.

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”

Ephesians 5:22

When placed agains the backdrop of the rhetoric of our political climate, those words seem so bad.

The conversations we are having are also affecting the way the church approaches this verse. Rather than embracing it and encouraging women to obey it, we are backing off. This is in part due to a rash of bad behaving men who have taken advantage of women in “Jesus’ name.” Numerous allegations of sexual misconduct have come to light in the church and it causes us to question, what gives the right for any male to encourage a woman to “submit” to any other man, even her husband?

You won’t find a 13 week study at Lifeway entitled, “Wives submit to your husbands.” If you attend a marriage retreat you will find sessions on communication, intimacy, and finances; but you will have to look long and hard for a breakout session on submission. Submit is a word we are even leaving out of weddings.

Even the church is uncomfortable with this command.

But as uncomfortable as we are with it, there is on thing we can’t deny. This command is in the Bible. As such, we can take one of three approaches.

  1. We can remain uncomfortable with it, confused by it and choose to not take it seriously. Sure, Ephesians 5:22 is in the Bible, but let’s exile this command to the same place we sent the Nephilim of Genesis 6. Who knows what they are? It’s too hard to explain, furthermore the Bible says a lot of other things that seem a whole lot better for women, and a whole lot easier to explain to women than telling them to submit.
  2. We can be offended by it, reject it, and discard it. Let’s just place it in a scrapheap of other seemingly archaic statements the Bible makes that we don’t like. God created the world – unscientific. Homosexuality is a sin – homophobic. Wives, submit to your husbands – misogynistic. Scrap it.
  3. We can commit to obey it. Isn’t obedience what all of God’s commands require of us? If this is the case, we should ask of this command what we ask of every command. Why is it that God thinks that this command is good for us, particularly for women?

What is Good About God’s Commands?

  1. God’s commands are good. Despite the commands sounding extremely negative, we trust that they are very good. After all, as stated previously, they come from a good God. “Do not kill.” That sounds extremely negative, but as a command it is very good. God values life. The same God who has given us “wives, submit to your own husbands as unto the Lord” also gave us “Do not commit adultery.” No adultery is a command that is good for men, women, and marriage. Perhaps the same is true of “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”
  2. Obeying God’s commands is a witness to our culture. Scrapping or ignoring bits and pieces of the Bible does not endear us to the culture, it makes us dishonest. Moses told the Hebrew people in Deuteronomy 4:6-8 that they would be admired by the pagan nations because of God’s commands. They would be in awe of the society that God’s Word would create when obeyed. If this is the case, perhaps there is actually something in Ephesians 5:22 that the world will admire if Christian wives obey it.
  3. God’s commands bring us to Christ. In Galatians 3 Paul discusses how the covenant of law served to bring us to Christ. There is a principle here to which we should pay attention. Any command in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, reveal our insufficiency and our need for Christ. Perhaps there is something wonderful for women in Ephesians 5:22 that brings them to Christ.

These things being true of God’s commands, I think it wiser for us to study Ephesians 5:22 than be content to be confused by it or uncomfortable with it. There is nothing in God’s Word, Nephilim included (and we know that’s a weird one in Gen. 6;4), that God has given us a hall pass on so we may ignore it. And if we just start rejecting commands we do not like, there will be no end of it. There is a reason Satan began the conversation of temptation with the question, “Has God really said?”

So let’s study Ephesians 5:22 and make sure that we are not misunderstanding it to be something that encourages misogyny. Let’s make sure that our discomfort is not just cultural conditioning. If it is, let’s find the blessing of it. Like every command, let’s embrace the good of it and shun the evil it saves us from. Let’s seek to live it and in so doing become an admired witness before a culture in desperate need of a better answer.

Ephesians 5:21 does not demean women, it values them.

The command of Ephesians 5:21 occurs in a string of teachings on relationships as the new Christians of Ephesus are trying to navigate social order in light of the gospel. Notice that in the layout of the Book of Ephesians there are 6 chapters. 3 chapters are doctrinal, teaching us what to believe. 3 chapters are practical, teaching us how to behave.

The original audience of Ephesians is people who were being called to Christ out of a 1st century Roman culture in which women were little more than the property of men, children were insignificant, and slaves had no say. It is this cultural backdrop that makes the passage revolutionary.

Paul first addresses the women, then the men. He speaks to the children, then the parents. He addresses the slave (more akin to an employee in the American economy than to a slave in American history), then the master. Paul addressed them as people with an identity, who had a choice in the matter, and a critical role to play in each relationship. In 1st century Rome, the gospel represented a major progression of rights for women, children, and workers. Women found something more meaningful in Christian community than they found anywhere else in Roman society.

American Woman

It is ironic what is happening to women in our culture. Women are being intellectually imprisoned by the progressive movement. A woman is not considered intelligent, liberated, and she will not be listened to unless she is pro-choice, Democrat, and left-leaning. She is devalued if she chooses to work with her children in her home. If a woman gets married, there are many who claim that she surrenders her identity. We are even to the point that a female does not have to think of herself as a woman at all. She can identify as a man. How is this progress for women if we are jumping genders?

I cite as an example the reaction to the recent passing of our nation’s most aggressive anti-abortion legislation in Alabama. Joy Behar on The View and actress/activist Alysa Milano on Twitter, began to call out the men who voted for the legislation. They referred to them as sexual predators and went so far as calling for them to have forced vasectomies.

While there were a marked majority of men who voted for the legislation, Milano and Behar gave no consideration to the 8 women of the Alabama legislature that voted for the bill. They gave no consideration to the woman who brought the bill forward from the Alabama State House to the Alabama State Senate. Furthermore, they did not acknowledge that the Governor of Alabama who signed the bill into law is a woman. If you need an explanation as to why Governor Kay Ivey is not a good candidate for a vasectomy, Google it, then send the link to Joy Behar.

Is it that every woman’s voice has the right to be heard in our culture, or is that that only certain viewpoints will be considered? Does every lady have a right to the public square or only left leaning ones?

We live in a culture that is dictating to women their identity, sexuality, and mentality. But then comes the Bible that addresses a woman by saying you have first choice and a voice in Christian marriage.

Ephesians 5:21 is addressed to the woman, not the man. She is created uniquely by God. She is valued and man is in desperate need of her. The marriage needs her and she has an important choice to make. This brings us to our next point that will help us better understand this command.

Ephesians 5:21 is not for every woman and it is not for any man.

In the 1st century context, marriage was not doing well. Men had wives who stayed home and bore children, while they also had mistresses they chased for pleasure and power. In Ephesus stood the Temple of Artemis, the goddess of love. Within its pillars were hundreds of prostitutes that men would use for “worship.” The Ephesian culture was extremely decadent and demeaning to women.

A Roman man could easily divorce his wife and leave her financially, socially, and sexually vulnerable. In 1st century Rome, marriage was not good for women.

And then here comes this radical new way that the gospel calls for a man and a woman to be married.

Christian marriage is the place where 2 disciples of Jesus begin to flesh out with one another what Jesus has done for them.

Notice in the Ephesians 5:21 command that the wife does not submit to her husband for the sake of her husband, she does it as unto the Lord. Submission is something she does for the Lord, not for her husband. There is NO MAN on earth worthy of a woman’s submission in and of himself. It is not masculinity or that calls for her submission, nor is it femininity that requires it. Submission is a matter of Lordship and discipleship.

This command is not for every woman. It is only a command for Christian marriage. Ephesians 5:21 is a command for a woman who is seeking a Christ-centered way to relate to a man she is going to relate to as her husband.

Not a command for ANY man.

Notice that the command is addressed to the wife, not the husband; the lady, not the man. It is also important to note that the verb “submit” does not actually occur in verse 22; it is supplied from verse 21. I will speak to the implications of this more fully later in the post. But the tense of the verse means that this is an ongoing decision that a woman in Christian marriage must make. Submit is a decision she makes daily. And she is the ONLY one who can make that decision. The Bible does not tell the husband to submit his wife. The call is for the wife to make that decision of her own volition, not under compulsion from her husband.

The Bible calls for all of us to observe order and authority. In such cases these are holistic calls that are necessary for existence in Christian community. That said, the Bible never gives a man any direct authority to submit any woman to himself. Men are mistaken, in marriage and in church, to believe that they have any Biblical authority to make a woman feel inferior. Men do not have the Biblical authority to be unchallenged or unquestioned. Men using the Bible to gain a false sense of superiority over women in Christian community is dangerous, ridiculous, and heretical. In recent years it has led to men behaving badly in church.

Men Behaving Badly in the SBC

Every denomination seems to be responding to men behaving badly as of late, but this is especially true in my own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. #MeToo has made its way into #ChurchToo. I believe God is bringing three gross sins of men in the church to light.

  1. We use biblical language but behave in an unbiblical way. Men in the church have embraced the perverted and pornographic sexual behaviors of the world rather than repent of it. This is not news. We knew this was happening. The problem is that the church has seen it as unfortunate, but has not engaged in the difficult, dirty work of redemptive church discipline with badly behaving men (including leaders).
  2. We have not taken marriage seriously. I think this is the case for both men and women in the church. We need to realize that Christian marriage is counter-cultural. It is unusual and requires a filling of the Holy Spirit that is supernatural (Eph. 5:18). Couples in the church need to realize that Christian marriage is more about holiness than happiness. It is more about exemplifying Christ and the church than it is about “just” staying together. Unless we are willing to take our marriages “next-level”, Ephesians 5 level, we are going to remain disillusioned, dissatisfied, and be prone to sexually misbehave.
  3. Ephesians 5:22 is one of several passages that have been perverted by men that has resulted in women being disadvantaged in the church. To correct and clarify confusion and misinterpretation our convention put together The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. This council was designed to not only clarify confusion and misuse of these passages but to address the abuses women have suffered in the church at the hands of badly behaving men. You can research the council and its statements here.

Before I leave this topic, allow me to make a very clear statement. Ephesians 5:22, in no way, calls for any woman to submit to abuse of any kind. The Bible does not call for you to submit to a man who is sexually, verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive. If you are a woman in an abusive situation you should be able to inform your church leadership and find a safe place of redemptive intervention. The church should rise up and deal righteously with abusive men.

So that leaves us with this question. If we have established what the command is not, what is it? What good is the command?

Ephesians 5:22 prevents misogyny in marriage.

In short, misogyny means to hate women. This word, like others in a divisive and political “gotcha” culture has been misused and misapplied.

When words like misogyny, sexist, racist, and prejudice get misused and misapplied the real victims of these abuses are not rescued. Their stories are hijacked by others who desire attention or power. The word gets diluted and real situations get ignored.

The other unfortunate misapplication is when a word like misogyny is applied to men who do not hate women. There may be a man of whom you do not appreciate his opinions, politics, decisions, or morals, but that may not mean that he hates women. It is easy to take a politically and emotionally charged word like misogyny, apply it to a person, and marginalize them.

It should be especially true of Christian women that they do not want to get caught up in mischaracterizing men who are not misogynistic. As Christ followers we are to be people of truth. We should deal truthfully with misogyny where it really does exist. We should refrain from name calling and deal truthfully in dialogue and disagreement where misogyny does not exist.

Ephesians 5:22 In Context

That said, if we look at the context of Ephesians 5:22, it calls for a man to think of a woman, especially his wife, in the best possible way.

The context of the passage is the need for God’s people to be filled with the Spirit so that they may relate to one another in a Christ-like way within Christian community (5:18). The context of the Book of Ephesians is how Christ creates “oneness” when he redeems people out of divisiveness (Eph. 2. Pay particular attention to verses 15 and 16). In Ephesians 5 Paul now shows us how the “creation of one new man in place of the two” works in the relationships of husband/wife, child/parent, worker/employer.

The governing text for this relationship section of the book is Ephesians 5:21, “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” It is not just the wife that submits to her husband, but the text also explains how a husband submits to his wife.

Husbands submit to your wives – sacrifice.

For the husband, submitting to his wife looks like sacrifice (Eph. 5:25-32). It looks like love, attention, nurture, communication and a concern to become one flesh with her.

The Ephesians 5 man is the furthest thing from a misogynist. This is a Christ-centered man who loves his wife.

This passage is important to Christian husbands because it corrects an otherwise Christ-less man. Another passage that helps us understand the call of a Christian husband is 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.

1 Peter 3:7

The wife is equal, but she is not the same. She is the weaker vessel. This does not speak to her lack of talent, intelligence, or identity. Weaker here refers to her general stature.

“Weaker vessel” could be used in speaking of the difference between a brick 3 bedroom rancher and a rose bush. The brick rancher is the stronger structure, but the rose bush is by far a more beautiful and intricate creature. “Weaker vessel” is an observation of the nature of things, not a derogatory comment.

Because men are generally stronger in stature than women, a man may be tempted to use his physical strength, commanding voice, or unflinching emotion to intimidate or dominate a woman. But here comes Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3, in Christ, putting a whole new parameter on men. Husbands, men, are not to be mindful of themselves – to use their frame to their own advantage, but they are to be mindful of women, especially their wives.

Can men be misogynistic? Absolutely. But in Christ, a man is called to use what he is for the sake of another. Christ-like sacrifice is the greatest preventative of misogyny.

So if the benefit of this command in context is that it corrects a Christ-less man, how does it correct a Christ-less woman?

Ephesians 5:22 prevents a morbid end of a marriage.

In Ephesians 5:23, Paul provides a metaphor to help us understand how mutual submission works in Christian marriage. The man is the head and the woman is the body. Being that the goal of Christian marriage is that the two become “one flesh (v. 31b)”, then the Head/Body metaphor is fitting. This metaphor is critical to a husband and wife’s understanding of the word submit.

The popular cultural understanding of “head” in reference to the man is one of leadership, but this fails to honor the metaphor. Let’s try to apply this understanding of the man as the head/leader and the woman as the body/follower to popular understandings of the passage.

Who’s the boss?

Does head mean that the man is much like a boss and the woman much like an employee as the body in the sense that she carries out commands? Boss worker relationships sour and end all of the time. It is unfortunate and inconvenient, but not tragic.

Is the man a “head” and the woman the “body” in much the same way as an executive with an assistant? The relationship is much closer in mission and respect, but there is still that of a leader/follower mentality present in the metaphor. And again, the ending of an executive/assistant relationship is inconvenient and unpleasant, but it is not tragic. People move on. It happens all of the time.

So, let’s just call it Head/Leader and Body/Follower. Leaders quit leading and followers quit following all of the time. Again, unfortunate but not tragic.

But if you separate a head from a body, it is horrific and tragic for a “one flesh” relationship.

A better understanding of head is one of supply and responsibility rather than leadership. Is leadership involved? It is. But a woman’s role is not to dutifully follow her husband, but in mutual submission to connect with him and him to her.

I have referenced it, but if you read of the man’s description of submission to his wife in Ephesians 5:25-32, it is a heavy responsibility. His focus is on her. Her welfare. Her sense of belonging. Her sense of beauty. Her sanctification. Her nurture and needs.

I Don’t Need a Man!

And many women will respond to this, “I don’t need any man to take responsibility for me.” And as far as life and well-being, that is probably true. I would say most women are fully capable of making it very well in life without needing a man to take responsibility for her. But here is the caveat. Remember how the woman submits to the husband, not because of him, but as unto the Lord? Even here, the woman does not allow a man to take responsibility for her out of personal need, but out of obedience to the Lord.

And it is this very fact, that a woman does not need a man to take responsibility for her, that submission is necessary in Christian marriage. If he is seeking to do all that he is called to do in Ephesians 5:25-32, and she doesn’t need him, she will be a miserable woman and he will be a defeated man. It will be a morbid end to the marriage.

Why wives need to submit.

If you go back to the curse passage in Genesis 3, you will read God articulate how the introduction of sin will cause a struggle between women and men. To the woman God says:

Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.

Genesis 3:16b

If you read the passage correctly, God is not giving the man and the woman a correction. He is articulating the curse. A man ruling over a woman is not the relationship God intended for man and woman. This is that relationship flawed. Now that there is sin, misogyny is a possibility. A man may try to use his stronger frame to rule, or dominate a woman. This is a far cry from the intended creation of woman as a helper “fit for him” in Genesis 2:18 or “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” as she is described in Genesis 2:23. She was not called Woman because she was to be ruled by man, but because she came from him. “Rule over you” is hardly the relationship God intended between the sexes.

Likewise, “your desire shall be for your husband” is not a correction but a curse. This does not describe the new world order of a woman suddenly needing to be a dutiful wife. This is the description of a woman who will try to dominate a man.

“Your desire shall be for your husband” is much like the words God uses to warn Cain in Genesis 4. As Cain is about to be overcome by his anger and fall into sin, God warns him.

If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.

Genesis 4:7

In short, “your desire shall be for your husband”, is the articulation of the attitude a woman will struggle with, because she doesn’t want or need a man taking responsibility for her.

The only way that a man with a sinful nature that wants to dominate a woman, and a woman with a sinful nature that desires to overcome a man, can become one flesh is for them to submit to one another.

Ephesians 5:21-33 in every conceivable way corrects our Christ-less selves.

The only way that a woman can become one flesh with a man is for you to let him do what God has called him to do. Let him take responsibility for you, not because you need for him to, but because that responsibility corrects the Christ-less him, and your submissive response corrects the Christ-less her.

What if she doesn’t want to submit?

As we said, “submit” is a supplied verb from verse 21. An English statement needs a verb for it to be a complete sentence. Your 3rd-grade grammar teacher harped on this. In Greek grammar, there is no issue with a verb-less sentence. If the verb space is left blank, you supply it from the previous statement.

But for argument sake, let’s leave it blank. Let’s erase submit and fill in some other alternatives.

Wives, LEAVE your husbands. To decapitate a marriage is messy. That is not a good option.

Wives, PROTEST your husbands. That seems to be the climate of our culture and it is not helping the two become one flesh.

Wives, COMPETE with your husbands. She may be fully capable of winning, but it will not be good for the husband she is losing.

Wives, RESIST your husbands. There is nothing more deflating for a loving, sacrificial man than an unresponsive, resistant woman.

Wives, CHANGE your husbands. Yeah, that always goes well 😉

The Bible describes the sins of a woman who seeks to be overcoming rather than submissive. The Bible’s Book of Proverbs gives us the nagging, controlling, demeaning, demanding, withdrawing woman. Then the Book of Proverbs ends with a mother showing her son a true picture of beauty in Proverbs 31. Essentially the book ends with momma counseling her boy, “Son, take your pick.”

Submit to one another as husband and wife, true romance.

If a husband and wife submit to one another, he uses his strength to sacrifice for her. Ephesians 5:33 calls this love. And she, being every bit as capable as him, submits to him by responding to him and encouraging him in his responsibility as head. She connects with him as the body. Ephesians 5:33 calls this respect.

However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Ephesians 5:333

The Good of the Command in Conclusion

The good of the command is that of every command. It calls us beyond ourselves and makes us reliant upon Christ. There is no way that a woman can submit to her husband and respect him, or a man submit to his wife and sacrifice for her, without Christ. Ephesians 5:18 calls this being filled with the Spirit. And Spirit-filled marriage works well in mutual submission.

This command is a witness to the world of what marriage is supposed to look like. Sacrifice and respect. Love and admiration. Christ and the church. A submissive marriage is a living witness of the gospel.

Our culture should be able to look at Christian marriage and see a strong woman who has made a choice to submit and a man who his making a choice to sacrifice for the sake of the Christ who has called them into this marriage. He is not a misogynist and she is not a sexist. They are a picture of Christ and the church. Admirable. Exemplary. Romantic. Different.

Check out this article by Sarah Sumner from Christianity Today on Ephesians 5:22

Watch this Message Via My YouTube Channel.

Check out other posts about Marriage and Family on BrianBranam.com.

Men are Giving Up

According to Forbes, 10 million men between ages 25 and 64 have dropped out of the American work force. They have quit their jobs and are no longer looking. Men are giving up on work.

Numerous articles and studies show that American men are giving up on marriage. The number of men leaving their marriages in their 50’s is soaring. The number of young men who are not even considering marriage is staggering. With so many men giving up on marriage it seems that the traditional American family is about to breathe its last breath.

At an alarming rate, men are giving up on life. Since 2000 the suicide rate amongst men has been steadily climbing from 17.7 men per 100,000 to 21.4 men per 100,000. The suicide rate amongst white males aged 35 to 64 increased 40% between 1999 and 2010.

There may be numerous contributing factors to the loss of so many men; stress, fear, failure. Whatever the reason, every man has his low points. What if those low points could become turning points?

In my recently released book, Pulse, I point men to one of David’s low points. After an amazing start, David suffered a string of losses. In the eight years after David defeated Goliath, David went from being the most beloved man in Israel to being just another one of its rejects. He lost his marriage. He lost one of his best friends. He lost his mentor. He made a decision that resulted in the brutal slaying of 85 priests. David went from being destined to the throne to being a broken man, depressed in a cave.

It was a low point – but it became a turning point. David made some decisions in the cave that kept him from giving up and helped him get up. Rather than fight back, David learned how to fight forward. What were those decisions? How do low points become turning points?

For a low point to become a turning point a man must make the following decisions:

  • Will he reconcile or rip apart? Under pressure a man can do irreparable damage to already fragile relationships. At low points men can make decisions that can either push people away, or bring critical people in close.
  • Will he learn to be a leader or continue to be a loser? Men take insults personally. As much as we would like to pretend it isn’t true – words hurt. At low points a man can make a decision that turns insults into points of inspiration.
  • Which determinations will lead to the best decisions? For men, the low points of life can either becomes stopping points or launching points. The cave can either be a destination or a place of determination. Your choice.
  • Is your system the reason for your situation? At low points men tend to focus on their problems. The problem is that in most cases, the problem is not your problem! The problem is the system. What are the consistent daily decisions that have led to the low point? Most men don’t need a situation change, they need a system change.
  • Will he implode or improve? David could have given up in the cave. Instead he turned a bunch of rag tag, down-and-outers into elite warriors the Bible calls Men of Valor. Low points can become places in which men learn new skills that can greatly improve the next chapters of his life.

Low points can be turning points. Don’t give up.

If you would like to know more, check out my new book Pulse; particularly chapter 5, Valor. Pulse is available in my online bookstore or on Amazon.

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Fire Starters & Some Facebook News

For this week of love I want to offer one final post. It’s a sermon about great sex in marriage (which means this one will break a record for most views)! So, before we go there . . . let me share some other news.

Facebook has changed their algorithm to encourage more conversation between connected people. I think it is a great idea and so I have done two things. 1) I have created a Facebook page – Brian Branam – that is more reflective of the website. In the future, I will also broadcast my popular series from that page so please follow the page so you can get the latest content. Visit the page here.

2) Within the page I have created a discussion group called Biblical Conversations on Culture. The purpose of the group is to offer topics concerning culture and current events and help people make Biblical connections to what is going on in the world around us. I hope to post FB Live videos as news happens through the week, giving you a place to respond and offer Biblical insight to what you see happening in the world. The plan is to offer the first topic for discussion tonight, 2/15/18, at 8:45 p.m. eastern time. Please stop by and join the group.

So, let’s talk about sex in marriage. It is a sermon called Fire Starters originally shared at Liberty Baptist Church. Sadly, when it comes to sex, the church is confused. The church talks often about not having sex outside of marriage, but rarely reflects the Biblical teaching – have it and enjoy it within marriage. Marriage is not the end of sex, it is the greatest place for it!

Fire Starters from Brian Branam on Vimeo.

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52 weeks of great stories and devotions with Scriptural insight from some of America’s greatest pastors, evangelists, and authors, to help you on your daily walk. I contributed week 50!

 

 

Why Women Love Thomas Rhett, the power of men with words

In 2015 Thomas Rhett released a simple, stripped-down country song entitled “Die a Happy Man.” The song became his breakthrough hit, topping the Billboard Country charts for 17 weeks. It was a song written for one woman, but it seems like every woman fell in love with it. With a syrupy sweet country song, Thomas Rhett gave women what they want from men – words.  

I grew up on Randy Travis tapes. I know I sound like a 44-year-old dad here, but I struggle with current country music.  It seems like you could take the words truck, girl, beer, and jeans and write every song in country music’s top 40. Furthermore, today’s country boys can’t figure out if they’re from Nashville or Detroit. Right after they twang about the beer in the back of their truck they rap about that girl walking across the parking lot in her “torn up” jeans. Can you imagine what it would have been like if Reba had rapped?

Emerging from the fray of the redneck Chevy rappers comes Thomas Rhett, the country crooner. He’s like Ed Sheeran at a bass fishing tournament. But take it from a man who lives in a house full of women, the Branam girls L – O – V – E this guy. And they’re not alone. From everything I’ve read and seen about him, he’s got all the girls hooked. What’s the deal? 

The deal is that there is a lot that men could learn from young Thom, so pay attention. Why do women love Thomas Rhett? I’ll say it again. 

Words.

Women need words, and men need some work. Hey bro, your wife would LOVE IT if you could figure this out. So for all of my stumbling, bumbling, grunting brothers in the room, let’s listen to Thom and learn the lyrics our ladies would LOVE to hear from us! 

Soulful Honesty

Sadly, Thomas Rhett is that like every other brother in country music as his lyrics seem to reflect that he has a hard time putting the alcohol down. Long before Hank, Nashville has always had a drinking problem. Thom, take a lesson from those who came before you. No matter how great your songs sound, that stuff will destroy your marriage. You’d be way better off without it.

Aside from the alcohol, I think what resonates with women about Rhett, is that his lyrics are not those of a perfect man, but those of the common man struggling with the rapidly changing scenes of life. Like the rest of us, he’s made mistakes, he’s been let down, he’s been let go – but despite it all, he makes one thing clear. He’s fallen head over heels for his wife.

1 Corinthians 13:4–7 (ESV) says that, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The fact of the matter is, a lot of men are just plain rude to the women around them. This is especially deplorable if “rude” describes the way that a husband speaks to his wife.

Husbands need to realize that our wives are not looking for us to be the second coming of Shakespeare, but they do want us to share. She wants to hear about your day. She wants to comfort you in your fears. She desires to be connected to your aspirations. She just wants to know what’s in your soul sometimes. And I think it is equally as important to say, she wants you to listen as she shares her soul with you. 

True love requires a lot of grace. It gives a man and a woman space to share. I think that’s what women like about Thomas Rhett’s song, “Life Changes.” It’s a song about soulful honesty and a woman who is willing to meet him there.

There is a beautiful exchange in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 when the “all things” of life are met with a person who helps you share the burden, believes in you, hopes in you, and endures it to the end with you. 

Share what’s in your soul. She wants to meet you there. 

Passionate Pursuit

Women want to be pursued. They do not want to be a prize that is won and then shelved. They want the hunt to go on forever.

Thomas Rhett songs are the history of a relationship. They record the first pursuits of his wife and we all know that women love to reminisce, especially the romantic scenes. But I think what women also really love about Thomas Rhett songs is that they want to be “that girl” that “that guy” is still going after. “Last night was the best night” – but what about next weekend? Hey bro, with a little work, that could be you! 

In the midst of the Old Testament is the Bible’s Song of Solomon. It is a racy, erotic pursuit of a woman by a man. Don’t believe me, read it for yourself. You will find within its pages a man who is extremely attracted to a woman who absolutely cannot wait to touch her. He complements her. He woos her. But he can’t catch her. The sexual tension builds for 8 chapters and ends with her voice,

“Make haste, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices.” Song of Solomon 8:14 (ESV)

Roughly translated – “Come on big boy!” Women love the chase. And it is awesome to see that this erotic, romantic side of sex is found within the canon of inspired Scripture.

But when you read the book, don’t miss this. He SO DESPERATELY wants to touch her, but she SO DESPERATELY wants him to keep talking. For him sex is touch. For her sex is talk. Marriage is not the end of the chase, it is merely the place where the chase finds its fullest expression and sexual freedom. Husbands should never stop pursuing their wives. 

Artful Love

Why do women love Thomas Rhett songs? They are artistic. They are romantic. They are creative. They are Valentine’s Day on a guitar.

But oh yeah. Men hate Valentine’s Day. It is commercial. It is cliché. It is because they have to come up with something!

Valentine’s Day is artful love and men seem to struggle with it. 

Boys will be boys, but girls – please don’t give up on them.

And girls, wow – the expectations! Every man reading this post is thinking, “I hate Brian Branam. I hate this blog. I hate Thomas Rhett – please shut up!”

Attempts at artful love can become an awkward mess. I get it, so please, hang on a second. Before we cash it all in on each other, let me speak to both – the men and the women and bring a measure of grace to artful love.

Fellows. Read this. These are the lyrics to Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man.” 

Baby and that red dress brings me to my knees

Oh but that black dress makes it hard to breathe

You’re a saint, you’re a goddess, the cutest, the hottest, a masterpiece

It’s too good to be true, nothing better than you

In my wildest dreams

And I know that I can’t ever tell you enough

That all I need in this life is your crazy love

If I never get to see the Northern lights

Or if I never get to see the Eiffel Tower at night

Oh if all I got is your hand in my hand

Baby I could die a happy man yeah

Wow! What a song. The problem is that when you try to talk to your wife you sound more like Merle Haggard than Thomas Rhett. Got it. We don’t all have the gift! But that’s not the point. I don’t want you to read those lyrics and think that you have to be poetic and rhyme all of the time – that’s not it; but I do want you to pay attention to some things.

Baby – she loves affectionate names.

Red dress – he notices her.

Oh but that black dress – SPECIAL NIGHT PLANNED! That’s the dress you want to see come out from time to time! She’s saving it for you! 

You’re the cutest, you’re the hottest – yep, sounds middle school, but no matter how old, girls love even the goofy stuff. Always flirt. It makes them laugh.

In my wildest dreams – truly cliché! But she’s not looking for you to say something new, she’s just looking for you to say it to her.

Hand in hand – it’s not always about sex. She loves affectionate touch.

Baby, I could die a happy man – does your wife know that she makes you happy? She needs to hear it!

So now let me speak to the sista’s! Mam, you didn’t marry a Hallmark movie. Cut him some slack. If he tries and you make him feel stupid – he’ll never try again. Be careful in how you respond. Let him catch you when he can.

_______________

In speaking to husbands, Ephesians 5 reveals an amazing mystery to men. As Christ and the church, a man’s words to his wife can actually make her more beautiful. 

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25–27 (ESV)

The imagery of the passage is borrowed from that of a woman preparing herself for her wedding day, the day on which she will give herself to her husband. She is at her best. But the image goes deeper by bringing in the power of words. 

A woman should not feel that her wedding day was her most beautiful day. A wise husband will continue to beautify her with his words.

What’s interesting about this is that a study conducted in 2008 found that men with attractive wives were most happy. Not surprising. But a caveat to the study was that women were most satisfied with men who were not necessarily attractive, but happy. 

It is amazing how complementary we truly are to one another, especially in marriage. The study found that his pleasure in her motivated her to be attractive for him. His happiness adds beauty to her. Her beauty adds happiness to him.

My wife has long said to me. Watch how a woman dresses and you can tell how her husband talks to her. If she feels run down at home, she will appear run down no matter where she is. If she is loved by her husband at home, she will be beautiful no matter where she goes.

Words matter. Women love them. 

My wife reminds me all the time. “Use your words.”

While we are talking about music during this week of love I will share with you that I proposed to my wife while playing Otis Redding’s “These Arms of Mine.” It will forever be “our song.” What’s your song? Or, what’s your favorite love song? Please share.

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Still Together (Sermon of the Week)

It is the week of love! To celebrate, I’ve asked my wife, Shannon, to pick out her favorite content for posting this week. Shannon’s choice for Sermon of the Week is Still Together from the Still His/Still Hers series, originally shared at Liberty in 2015. What does it take to stay together in marriage?

My apologies for the low quality of the audio version. The video version is somewhat better, but not great. The digital quality of this one is lacking, but the content is great!

[cvm_playlist theme=”default” aspect_ratio=”4×3″ width=”350″ volume=”25″ videos=”3557″]

The Movie that Made Me Miss My Wife – A Post about The Post

The Post is an intriguing historical film that explores the dicey relationship between the government and the press. Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major newspaper (played by Meryl Streep), and executive editor Ben Bradlee  (played by Tom Hanks) are faced with a choice. Do they print the leaked Pentagon Papers that reveal what Washington really knows about the failing war in Vietnam and risk losing everything, or do they obey an injunction from the White House to stop the publication of the story and save the family business?  The Post is entertaining enough for those who take even a casual interest in history, yet deep enough to spawn conversations amongst those who are serious followers of politics. As intriguing as those conversations may be, for me, there was another theme that makes this movie a must-see for every husband in the room.

This past weekend Shannon and I celebrated 21 years of marriage. The great thing about our anniversary getaway was that for about a day and a half it was just the two of us. It was a short weekend interspersed with a lot of food and great conversations. We decided before heading home that we would head to the theater to see The Post. I’m glad we did. As I sat and watched the story of a remarkable woman unfold it made me realize something about the remarkable woman sitting right beside me. I miss her.

When you are as busy as we are, sometimes you don’t live, you survive. I hear, but I don’t listen. I see her, but I miss her. 

In the film, Katharine Graham is misjudged by men. They appreciate her as a wife, a mother, and a hostess, but they think of her as a woman out of place when it comes to running a major news outlet. Even though she holds the most critical seat in the company, many of the businessmen at the Washington Post talk to her as a courtesy but do not take her seriously as a professional. Yet when the critical moment comes, Katharine demonstrates that she is fully capable of making a tough decision; one that has profoundly shaped our country.  

For men, what happened at the Post also happens at home. We fail to take the most significant woman in our life seriously. That female in your marriage, she’s critical. She’s capable. She’s valuable. You see her, but you look right past her. You share the same house, but you’re missing her. 

Men, despite what is going on in Washington between politicians and the press, we can’t afford to lose at home.  

Later that evening, I sat down with Shannon further digesting the take-aways of the weekend, and I asked her, “What is it that women want from their husbands?” Here is what I learned from her. Guys, don’t miss this.

1. Know who she is.

As portrayed in the film, the most striking thing about Katharine Graham was that even though she may not be comfortable with the circumstance she was in, she was ever confident in who she was. Her climactic moment comes as she is surrounded by a group of powerful men, shouldering the weight of her decision, she tells them in no uncertain terms that The Washington Post is not her father’s company, nor is it her husband’s. It is hers. She is not the face of it by default, she is the leader.

At the same time, Katharine is a woman who was loyal to her troubled husband and she admired her father.  In an era in which women had little opportunity for corporate leadership, Katharine’s father made the decision to pass the business to her husband, Philip, rather than to her. In her personal memoir, Katharine says that she was told by her father that the reason for his decision was because “No man should be in the position of working for his wife.” (source: The Smithsonian Magazine)

Yet, in a surprising scene for a film made in a day in which we seem to scream sexism at every turn, Katharine recalls her feelings about the transition in a conversation with her daughter.  She remarks that, at the time, it seemed a natural choice and she held no resentment. In fact, she says that she enjoyed raising her children and playing hostess to the Washington parties. No matter what station of life she was in, Katharine enjoyed being Katharine.

We live in a culture in which women are being killed by comparison. She has to be an activist for the left. She has to know her place for the right. She has to be filtered for social media. She has to have the best friends, the best life, wear the best clothes and no matter what else she endeavors to do, if it doesn’t look good on Instagram, she fails.

The appreciable thing about Katharine is that she didn’t fit the liberal left nor did she fit the mold of the male-dominated right. She could read a book to her kids as she tucked them into bed and she could face the Supreme Court in a landmark decision for freedom of the press. She had the hospitality to host a garden party as well as the courage it takes to face a political firestorm and publish a groundbreaking story. It seemed throughout the film as Katharine was being pulled in conflicting directions she was always having to remind those around her, but “this is who I am.”

In the pressures of all we have to do as parents, as leaders, and as couples, we can’t forget to take the time as husbands to look beyond what our wife does and explore who she is. Ephesians 5:28 says that “husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”

In short, that verse means that you should know her as much as you know you. She is not your second self. She is not to be lost behind you. She is to be loved so deeply that it changes you. If you love her rightly, you know her as much as you know you.

2. Affirm her desires

Left or right. Trump or Hillary. Fox or CNN. The Post challenges every man to take a pause and ask the wives, daughters, and women in their life, “but what do you want?”

Katharine’s father handed the Post to her late husband. In 1963 Philip Graham committed suicide and so the Post fell to her. As the cover-up behind the Vietnam war begins to unfold, The Washington Post was on the verge of being offered as a publicly traded company. The timing of the leak of the Pentagon Papers could not have been worse for Katharine. To print or not to print becomes a battle between company and conscience.

Katharine is surrounded by men who are passionate about their stake in the game. On one side are the men who feel they have the scoop and thus the story must be told. In doing so, the Post could become as respectable as The Times. On the other side are men with deep pockets who see the implications of TheWashington Post going under in the public offering if the injunction from the Nixon White House stands and the press is stopped.

Katharine occupies the seat that holds the power between both worlds. She is torn between the loyalty she feels to her family’s company and the conviction of conscience to print the story.  The men surrounding her treat her as if she is a family hand-me-down, they want her only to agree with their desires, they hardly consider her to be a powerful person with desires of her own.

As a husband, I focus on what we have to do and I forget to take the time to ask what she wants. My wife is not a female hand-me-down from God; a puppet for my own ambitions. She is a person God has created with purpose, ambition, and desires of her own.

One of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible is Genesis 3:16. As a consequence of sin, God curses the man and the woman. To the woman, he says, “Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.”

God was not saying that because the woman sinned that she was sentenced to be second to her husband.  He was not saying that the woman would have limited aspirations and that all of her desires could be fulfilled by a man.  The verse is not a verdict on what she must do with her life, but rather a revelation on how difficult relationships between male and female sinners will be in this life. Men and women were created incredibly complementary but now influenced by sin would find themselves in constant competition.

As husbands, we are called to follow Christ and sacrifice self for the sake of our wives. As men, competition works in business, it does not work at home.  If I rule her, I am a casualty of the curse. If I prop myself up as if I am all she desires, I am an idiot!

Guys, she was created complimentary, out of us, not over us, and especially not beneath us. If you don’t want to be yet another curator of the curse, desire her. Don’t rule over her, romance her. Hear her. Ask her. Affirm her. Serve her.

3. Recognize her abilities

As a man, we tend to watch a film like The Post and give a nod to a woman like Katharine. She did something admirable as a woman in her time. We see a film about a woman. We miss that it is ultimately a film about a leader.

Katharine Graham was a capable leader. What I appreciated about her most was that even though she was under-appreciated in the position she held, she valued the opinions of the people around her. She weighed the options. She listened to counsel. She took responsibility for the final decision. She was willing to be sacrificed for the sake of doing the right thing.

But even though I watched a woman on the screen from whom I can learn as a leader, do I pay attention to the woman in my home? Do I take her seriously as someone from whom I can learn?

I’ll be honest, there are times that I feel threatened by my wife. I feel that if she has a better answer or is capable of doing more, that I have failed. The problem with that attitude is that it stands opposed to God’s design for us as husband and wife. I think the English translations of the Bible have struggled to capture what God is saying about the creation of the woman in Genesis 2:18. For example, the ESV describes her as “a helper fit for him.”

Any interpretation of that phrase that makes the woman anything beneath the man, or insinuates that she is not as capable as him, fails to capture what God has said about her. The words more literally translated from Hebrew to English would be something more like “a helper face to face.” It means that we don’t need another “him.” He needs another face, a different perspective if he is to ever fully fulfill his purpose as the image of God.

She is not his helper so that he has the luxury of doing less. She is his helper so that he can do more. And she is fully capable of doing as much, if not more, than him. There is both facing and following in marriage. I miss it if I am amazed by a woman in a movie, but not amazed at the other face, the amazing woman I have at home.

I, like a lot of men, in seeing my wife as a competitive face, miss the mission of marriage. She is not my competitor, she is God’s compliment to me and I to her. She is equal, but thank God, not the same. She is the other face. She is the face that sees things the other way. If I read Genesis 2 correctly, it makes me more of a man to recognize her as capable, not less. I am idolatrous before God to think that the other face in our marriage is my competitor.

Cue Jerry MaGuire! “You complete me.”

4. Celebrate her accomplishments.

In the closing scenes of the film, Katharine Graham walks down the steps of the Supreme Court silent, smiling, victorious. She says nothing, but her path is lined with scores of young women admiring her for her bravery. The scene seems to be set up as an artistic nod for what Katharine did for the women who would come after her. I have no idea how historically accurate that moment is, but it well conveys the idea – it is time to celebrate Kay.

Many see the Bible as an archaic book that is demeaning to women. Yet the Book of Proverbs, a book written by the world’s wisest man, closes with the words of a wise woman.

In the book’s final chapter, the mother of a king counsels her son to find a woman who is capable and celebrate her.

“Her children rise up and call her blessed; HER HUSBAND ALSO, AND HE PRAISES HER: ‘many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” (Prov. 31:28-31)

Did you catch the command? She is to be praised!

The Bible is not demeaning to women. Men who do not adore their wives are demeaning to women. The Bible does not oppress women. The Bible commands men to celebrate them. In the Bible, a woman is not to be held back but held up as she is admired by her husband.

Your wife may not be walking out of the Supreme Court after a landmark case, but she should be celebrated as she passes through the corridors of your home. She should be met with appreciation rather than aggravation. Her husband should find reasons to look up at her rather than talk down to her. In God’s design, the husband is not the only hero in the home. There is room for two.

Boys, we have been issued a command. She is to be praised. I will admit. I am often out of step with the command. That will change.

5. Empower her decisions.

As leader of The Washington Post, Katharine is an intruder in a world full of men. There are times she seems overwhelmed and intimidated by them, but there is another subtle dynamic to the relationship that can’t be missed. Boys will be boys, but there are times throughout the film in which you get a real sense that it isn’t just business, she has some men behind her who genuinely care about her.

I think the world is the same for each of us, both male and female. This place is smoky and it stinks sometimes; we all need some support.

The story of The Post communicates that even though Katharine’s father and husband had passed, she missed them and wished that she still had them. She did what she had to do, but it would have been easier to have had their support in the valley of decision.

Not every woman needs a husband. Not every man needs a wife. There is something admirable about being single. Paul actually argues for it in 1 Corinthians 7.

But if a woman has a husband, she ought to have in him strong support. She is not alone in parenting the children. She is not alone in managing the household. She is not alone in making decisions. He is not the only one who works! If anyone she should be able to count on to stand with her, defend her, and empower her – it ought to be him, her husband.

Another misunderstood passage about marriage is Ephesians 5:22-33. Most trip over the word for the wives in verse 22, “submit.” The passage is then misread as if it is a directive to the wife that upon marriage she must give up her autonomy, her dignity, and in a left-leaning world, her respectability.

A mistake is made in ignoring the context of the passage. What precedes is a word of instruction that begins by telling us to be imitators of God (5:1) and ends by telling us that the end result of it is that we are “submitting to one another (5:21).” Both male and female share the same call, but they flesh it out in ways unique to them. What follows to the wife and to the husband is how each of them takes responsibility in mutual submission to imitate God in marriage in such a way that it becomes a demonstration of Christ and the church. Done correctly, it becomes a demonstration of redemption to a watching world.

From her, the husband needs respect. From him, the wife needs genuine, self-sacrificing love (Eph. 5:33).

The word sacrifice here does not mean merely that a man is willing to take a bullet for his wife. The focus of the passage is not on how a man dies, but on how he lives. It does not matter if he dies for her if he does not live for her.

Sadly, many married women feel alone with their husbands. She has to make all of the decisions and shoulder the suffering that often comes with them. She has no support. It is hard to live with a man who makes no sacrifice.

Marriage should not be a woman in a smoky room with a stinky man. She should have in him a strong support. If he is truly a living sacrifice for Christ (Rom. 12:1), he will be a living sacrifice for her (Eph. 5:25).

It’s ironic that it was in watching a movie with her, that I was reminded of how much I miss her. She was in the seat right beside me, but when it comes to the critical decisions of life, I fear I make her disappear. Like the men in the movie, I push to the edges a marvelous woman that the world shouldn’t miss. I married a great, gifted, capable woman. The Post should make us think about things – politics and press – Trump and Hillary – Republicans and Democrats . . . but there ought to be some men watching the film who are also thinking about husbands and wives. Don’t miss this movie.

Husbands, don’t miss your wives.

Have you seen The Post or do you plan to see the film? If so, get ready for some strong language. For those who have seen The Post, what were your takeaways from the film?

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