Mailbag

The Mailbag: I Have to Preach Because No Man Will Step Up

Originally published February 19, 2018

 

I’ve recently met a woman who is a “pastor” of a church. When asked why she is preaching to men, her response was this:

“Men will not teach. None will stand up. We started as a congregation of women and slowly some husbands came, as well as their sons. But none will take responsibility. So if I do not speak truth and stand up, who will?”

This was in another country I recently visited where men do not take authority, nor do they desire it. Women are primary in every area.

This is a difficult situation to be in, and I do sympathize. I’ve been in church and family situations in which men were not being the godly leaders they were supposed to be. It’s very frustrating. Even more so in the case of your friend, because Scripture prohibits women from stepping in and taking over when a man will not lead the church.

But in addition to the fact that the Bible is very clear that your friend is not to preach to men, she’s doing a terrible job as “pastor” on several other counts:

✢ She doesn’t believe God’s Word.

✢ She doesn’t trust God enough to obey His Word.

✢ She doesn’t fear God enough to obey His Word.

✢ She doesn’t believe in the necessity of prayer, or in God’s provision, enough to ask Him to provide a pastor.

✢ She’s not teaching her “congregation” to cry out to the Lord and trust Him to provide. Instead, she’s teaching them to take matters into their own hands when they need something, even if it means disobeying God’s Word. (Kind of like Sarah did.)

✢ She’s teaching her “congregation” that they it’s OK to disobey God if it’s difficult or inconvenient to obey Him.

✢ She’s teaching the women that they don’t have to submit to God’s design for biblical womanhood.

✢ She’s teaching the men to continue to be lazy and shirk their God-given duty to lead. Why should they when a woman is all too willing to step in and do the work for them?

She asks, “If I do not speak truth and stand up, who will?”. My answer to that question is, “That’s God’s business to take care of, not yours.” Her business is to obey Him and trust Him to work out everything else. And besides, she’s not “standing up and speaking truth”, she’s standing up and speaking or demonstrating all the untruths I enumerated above.

My counsel to this woman would be to immediately step down as “pastor,” stop preaching to and instructing the men, and publicly repent to God and to everyone in the church for her sins of disobeying God’s Word and setting a bad example for the church. She should inform them that she will no longer be preaching but that she will be praying for God to raise up a pastor, either from among the men of the church or from outside the church.

The men and women can, and should, meet to pray and sing together every Sunday. One of the other women (the former “pastor” needs to sit out of leadership for a while) can certainly teach a women’s Bible study class. But if the men want a Bible teacher or pastor, one of them is going to have to step up and do it. And the women need to be sure they’re holding their ground and refusing to step into that role. What a godly testimony of obedience they will be to the men! Hopefully, it will shame the men over their own disobedience.

God doesn’t give anyone permission to disobey Him just because it’s hard or inconvenient. It was the hardest thing in the world for Jesus to go to the cross, but He did it anyway because He was obedient to His Father. He was willing to die rather than disobey. That is the example she needs to follow.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Hebrews 12:4

In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:6

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
Psalm 37:5

When we face tests of our faith, it is not time to take the easy way out and sin, it is God stretching us and giving us an opportunity to trust and obey Him so He can use that situation as a vehicle for growing us to greater maturity and Christlikeness.

This lady, and the rest of the church, has the opportunity here to cry out fervently to God to provide them with a pastor and then trust Him to act on their behalf.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:7-11

Which would bring more glory to God and be more of a testimony to His greatness: for this lady to have taken matters into her own hands and sinned, or for her and the rest of the women to obey God, for everyone to pray and trust God for a pastor, and then to have the awesome experience of God answering that prayer?

There’s nothing amazing, especially in that culture, about men being lazy and women stepping in and picking up the slack. Why have a Christian church that is supposed to be following the all powerful God of the universe be just one more example of that? Instead, they could have an incredible testimony of God providing a pastor and changing the hearts of the men of the church to take responsibility and lead. What kind of an impact would that have on the surrounding culture? How many doors might that open for that church to share the gospel?


Additional Resources

Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit

Basic Training: Obedience: 8 Ways to Stop Making Excuses and Start Obeying Scripture

Basic Training: 5 Ways to Face Tests and Trials Biblically


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Marriage, Sanctification, Christian women

Throwback Thursday ~ What Your Godly Wife Wants You to Know About Leading Her Spiritually – An Open Letter to My Brothers

Originally published August 17, 2018

My Brother in Christ –

I received an e-mail from your dear wife today.

She’s struggling, and she’s not quite sure how to communicate that struggle to you. She has tried to explain it to you in the past, but you either haven’t listened or haven’t done anything about it. And now she feels that if she brings it up again she’ll just make things worse. Or you’ve told her to stop nagging you. Or stop preaching at you.

She’s not nagging you or preaching at you. That’s not her heart. She’s trying to tell you she needs something from you that only you can provide and that God says you should be providing. And while she’s praying fervently that God would move upon your heart, there should also be the understanding between husband and wife that if one of you needs something all you have to do is ask your spouse, and your spouse will do everything possible to provide it.

But you’re not doing that. And that’s why, in desperation, your wife wrote to me asking me what to do. And that’s why I’m writing to you to plead with you on her behalf…

Your wife needs you to grow up, spiritually, and lead your family biblically.

She has told me about the multiple, blatant examples of false doctrine in your church and how she wants the family to leave and find a doctrinally sound church. But you refuse because you like it there or you think objecting to false doctrine creates disunity in the church.

…or…

She has told me you refuse to stand up for what is right and godly at church, at work, with your friends, or with family members because it’s easier and you’re afraid of rocking the boat.

…or…

She has told me you won’t lead her and the children in prayer and the study of God’s Word because you don’t see it as important, or you don’t know how, or you’d rather watch TV.

…or…

She has told me how you frequently blow off attending church to play golf, fish, hunt, or pursue other hobbies.

…or…

She has told me that you use worldly standards for making decisions for the family rather than praying, searching the Scriptures, and using biblical wisdom.

…or…

She has told me that you put up a good Christian front at church, but at home, you’re foul-mouthed or lazy or greedy or lustful or dishonest or refuse to discipline the children.

Or…or…or…

I’ve heard so many of these types of scenarios of husbands neglecting or refusing to lead you’d think there was an epidemic of spiritual immaturity among Christian men. Perhaps there is.

Maybe it’s the result of the decades-long cultural attack on masculinity by virulent feminism. Maybe it’s a consequence of feel good, seeker-driven silliness, fun fun fun “church”. Finding the root cause could be an interesting academic exercise, but you don’t begin the arson investigation while your house is still burning. You put out the fire before it spreads. And you don’t ignore or get angry with the person pointing out the flames.

And that’s what’s at issue here. Let me be crystal clear about something: your wife isn’t upset with you for trying, failing, and having to try again. She’s upset with you for not trying. It’s not that you’re using the wrong color hose or that it takes you a minute to remember where the fire extinguisher is, it’s that you’re sitting in a lawn chair in the front yard denying that the house is on fire.

Your wife doesn’t expect you to lead your family perfectly. She wants you to want to and try to. And, though you might be afraid to try because you think you’ll mess up and your wife will see you as a failure, you need to know that a wife who is godly enough to want her husband to be the spiritual leader of her home sees your attempts and desires to lead as success – even if the results aren’t perfect. You’re judging yourself on the outcome. She’s valuing your heart and your trajectory in the process.

Because when you try, it says something to her. It says, “I love God enough to obey Him, even when it’s hard or I don’t feel like it.” and “I love my wife enough to take the burden of leadership off of her and bear it myself.”

And when you don’t try, that communicates something too: “I care more about myself and what I want to do than caring for my wife’s needs and being obedient to what God has called me to do.”

I think a lot of husbands don’t realize what an extremely difficult position they put their godly wives in when they abdicate biblical leadership. It nearly always backs her into a corner of pitting obedience to God against submission to, and peace with, her sinning husband.

❥ My husband refuses to leave this apostate church, but my children and I are being fed poison every week. Do I stay at this church with him or leave against his wishes?

❥ My husband won’t lead us in the study of God’s Word. Our children need to be taught the Scriptures. Do I step in even though it’s his responsibility and my taking over might further enable his sin?

❥ My husband makes decisions for our family based on pragmatism, even if those decisions conflict with Scripture. Should I take over family decision-making using biblical principles?

Brother, when you refuse to lead biblically, you’re sinning twice. First, by disobedience to God. Second, by becoming a stumbling block to your wife. No wife of a Christian husband should ever be put in the position of having to decide, “We must obey God rather than men.” It creates a tremendous amount of stress, anxiety, instability, and uncertainty for her when you create a void of leadership by your disobedience.

I can’t build you into a spiritually mature, godly husband. Neither can your wife. And it’s not my job to instruct you in the Scriptures, either. But if, by seeing things from your wife’s perspective, the Holy Spirit is now convicting you that you haven’t been leading your family in a godly way, may I just throw out a few points you might decide to consider as you pray and study God’s Word in this area?

❥ Listen to your wife. Really listen. Ask her what she needs from you, generally, as the spiritual leader of your home, as well as in specific situations as they arise. Ask if she knows of any particular Scriptures that would be helpful to you as you study and pray over various circumstances. Ask for her input in solving problems and making decisions.

❥ Commit to praying and studying God’s Word as part of your daily schedule. Ask God to grow you in maturity and leadership. He is the only One who can change and strengthen your heart.

❥ If you think you might be spiritually immature, put everything frivolous aside, and make growing up your top priority. Pour yourself into the study of the Word, prayer, and serving and nurturing your wife and children. 

❥ Make sure you’re in a doctrinally sound church (there are lots of tools to help you at the “Searching for a new church?” tab at the top of this page) and get plugged in. Lead your family in faithful attendance at worship and Sunday School. Take every opportunity to sit under solid preaching and teaching. Set a godly example by finding a place of service and committing to it wholeheartedly. 

❥ Surround yourself with godly men in your church who will sharpen you, teach you, and disciple you.

❥ Consider setting up an appointment with your pastor for advice, pointers, and good resources on growing in spiritual maturity and leading your family.

❥ Consume biblical media during the week. Ask those godly men at your church for suggestions of theologically meaty books and blogs to read and sermons and podcasts to listen to. (Until you get a chance to ask them, there are some suggestions of blogs and podcasts – most of them by men – in the left sidebar of this page, and some great pastors and authors here, here, and here.)

I hope pulling back the curtain on the female perspective can serve as a helpful tool in your toolbox that you can use as you pursue Christ and seek to grow in spiritual maturity and biblical leadership. Brother, with God’s help and the empowering grace of the Holy Spirit, you can do this – so be encouraged, and don’t be afraid to try!

I’m rooting for you, and I know your wife is, too.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (DivorceCare, When are they men?, Touring unbiblical churches…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher] for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections


I’m wondering if the DivorceCare support groups are good?

I’ve never been to a DivorceCare group or been a part of a church that hosted a group or used its materials, so I’m strictly drawing on what I’m seeing on their website.

The DC statement of faith is biblical, if minimalistic.

The format of meetings is for the group to watch “a video seminar featuring top experts on divorce and recovery subjects” and then discuss it, support group style. So, I took a look at the list of seminar experts. I don’t recognize half or more of the names, but of the names I do recognize, most are biblical counselors (the biblical counseling world has a reputation for being generally doctrinally sound), and two or three are pastors and Bible teachers I wouldn’t recommend but aren’t heretics either (if they’re teaching strictly on issues of divorce, I’m guessing what you’ll get from their videos is pretty much in line with Scripture).

So, all of that to say, as far as the materials DC provides, I don’t think you’re going to be taught major doctrinal error if you choose to participate. However, I’m guessing these groups vary widely depending on who is leading them and how good or bad that person’s/church’s theology is, so that’s a major component to take into consideration.

Having said all of that, I would not recommend that you participate in a parachurch organization for help getting through a divorce. It’s not their job to do that, it’s your local church’s job. Your pastor should be counseling you and/or your spouse to reconcile if that’s at all possible, and counseling you in other ways if not. Your Sunday School or Bible study class and other church family should be supporting you, helping you, and walking through this difficult time with you. When Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens,” it’s talking to the church, not a parachurch organization or a support group. And you need real live, “Call me any time, day or night,” church family to do that, not a bunch of strangers, not an expert on a screen. I think people who choose a parachurch organization like this are going to miss out on a lot more than they realize.

Furthermore, while counseling people who are going through a divorce is a good and necessary thing, it concerns me that so many churches are putting so much emphasis on post-divorce programs when what they should be throwing most of their energy into is preventing divorce by:

  • preaching and teaching biblically about marriage and divorce
  • extensive pre-marital teaching and counseling
  • encouraging, strengthening, and enabling healthy marriages
  • intervening and helping couples in marital distress
  • treating initiating and pursuing divorce for unbiblical reasons as the sin the Bible says it is
  • commencing with church discipline for church members who are initiating and pursuing divorce for unbiblical reasons.

Churches that proactively support and protect marriage this way will rarely find the need for divorce counseling.


I agree that Scripture is clear about women not teaching men the Scriptures. At what age are males considered to be ‘men’?

It’s an insightful question, and one that there’s no hard and fast “exact age” answer to. I think most of us would probably agree that pre-teens and under are children, not men, and I hope that most of us could agree that males in their mid-20s and upward are men. It’s those pesky teens to early 20s ages that throw a monkey wrench into the question.

Males ages 18 to early 20s may, in some cases seem like boys, but for this question, I think the common grace of American law (if you’re an American) can help us feel confident defining any male over 18 as a man. If American law treats a person as an adult at age 18 with regard to crimes, voting, marriage, property, etc., should the church be treating them as children?

So now we’ve narrowed our window of potential “men” down to age 12 or 13 to 17. And for that narrow window of ages, I’m going to refer you to question 13 of my article Rock Your Role FAQs:

What about teaching the boys in my church’s youth group?

Women should not serve as youth pastors. The Bible restricts pastoral and elder roles to men.

As to teaching the Bible to co-ed groups of minors (in Sunday School, as a youth helper, etc.), there is no hard and fast rule, but my recommendation is that a good time for women to break from teaching boys at church is around the time they start middle school. In the Bible, boys traditionally moved from childhood to adulthood at age thirteen. Jesus exhibited growth toward manhood and engaged the rabbis in the temple at age twelve. Of course, these are both anecdotal and neither means this age is the basis of any sort of law for Christian women about teaching boys, but there seems to be some wisdom there- a good rule of thumb. Once they hit their early teens, boys really need the guidance of godly men who can lead by example and teach them what it means to grow into godly manhood. When it comes to teaching adolescent boys at church, it’s much less about what women are “allowed” to do and much more about the best way to grow godly men. Only men can train boys to be men.


Over the years when we have visited various cities, we have toured old churches, several of which have been Catholic churches. Our main interest has been the architecture of the buildings along with the historical aspect. We have never participated in a church service, only informational tours. I was wondering if you have an opinion of Christians touring Catholic churches.

For someone who is genuinely saved, and in no danger of being wooed toward false doctrine simply by walking through a beautiful building and listening to a tour guide, I don’t think that’s problematic at all. Simply being in a building and learning about its structure and history doesn’t mean you agree with what happened there. I mean, if you toured Auschwitz, that would not mean you agreed with or supported what happened there, right? When I was in Egypt several years ago, I toured (as far as women were allowed to tour) a mosque. If I were in Salt Lake City, I would certainly check out the Mormon Tabernacle. If I were in Rome I would visit the Vatican. There’s nothing sinful for you personally about going to places like these to view the architecture or learn something about the religion or customs any more than it would be wrong to read about those things in a book.

If your conscience doesn’t bother you about taking the tour itself, and you’re not worried about your theology veering off course, there are only two ways I can think of that this could be a problem, biblically. First, if there’s an admission fee to tour the church, what is that money supporting? Speaking for myself, I could not knowingly pay a fee that would, in any way, support a false religion or the spread of it. Second, would entering one of these buildings somehow hurt your witness or be a stumbling block to someone who knows you? That would really depend on the other person, the situation, etc., but that is something you should take into consideration.

I would suggest that you look for opportunities for evangelism during these tours. Leave a tract behind if there’s a way to do that without littering (the ladies’ room is usually a good spot). Before you leave, take a moment to silently pray for the salvation of the people who go to church there (or work there, or are on the tour with you). If there’s an opportunity to ask a simple gospel-centered question or make a biblical comment during the tour, take advantage of that (don’t interrupt or argue, don’t lecture or debate, don’t do “gotcha” questions, and be sweet – you’re scattering seed, not waging war).

Enjoy your trip, and I hope you learn a great deal.


Michelle, are you going to be at the G3 Conference in January 2020?

I wish! I’d love to be there, but I don’t think it’s going to happen this time. It’s a wonderful conference, and I highly recommend it for everyone who’s able to attend. Y’all have fun!

(I will be at the Cruciform Conference next month, though! Find me and say hi!)


Thoughts on the Evangelical Presbyterian Church? Is that a denomination you would “approve of”? I like all of your stuff and we are looking for a new church home.

Thank you for your kind words. I’m sorry, but I’ve never heard of that particular denominational niche. Coleen Sharp over at Theology Gals is my go to resource for all things Presbyterian. I would recommend you join the Theology Gals Facebook group and ask over there. I’m sure you will get much better information than I could give you.


So there are women in my home who enjoy, unaware, the teachings of Rohr/Shirer/Enneagram/journaling/meditation/etc. I’m not sure I really have a voice anymore in their spiritual pursuit outside of prayer. Do you have any strategies or a playbook of sorts on how to navigate through this season of life?

(This question comes from a gentleman.)

I’m so sorry for the difficult situation you’re in. It is always sorrowful and frustrating to watch those we love chase after ungodly things.

You say “there are women in my home,” so I’m not really clear on whether these women are your wife, daughters, sisters, other relatives, female boarders, etc. I’m also unclear on whether or not you are the head of the home (husband/dad).

If you are not the head of the home (i.e. these women are your mother and sisters or other relatives or non-relations over whom you have no biblical authority), continue to pray for them and set up an appointment with your pastor for counsel on how best to handle this situation.

If you are the head of the home, I’m sure you know that God has given you the responsibility of being the spiritual leader of your household. I’m honored that you reached out to me for help, but learning to lead well is going to be a long road of face to face discipleship that must take place in your own local church with your pastor and brothers in Christ there. As a woman, I am neither equipped, nor would it be biblically appropriate for me to walk you through this long term and through a computer screen. There are no magic strategies for a quick fix, but your church family can help you work through the “playbook” – the Bible – as you grow in Christ and in spiritual leadership. I would strongly recommend that you set up an appointment with your pastor for counseling and, definitely continue to pray for these women.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Relationships

Throwback Thursday ~ How Can We Be Friends? 4 Biblical and Practical Considerations for Co-Ed Christian Friendships

Originally published July 13, 2018

Any time an issue regarding the roles and relationships between Christian men and women comes up, there’s bound to be an airing of opinions. Strong opinions. And the social media opinions du jour are about friendships between Christian men and women. What’s appropriate? What’s not? Can Christian men and women have genuinely platonic friendships? Twitter is currently all a-chirp over Aimee Byrd’s new book Why Can’t We Be Friends? which addresses…

…the way to stand against culture is not by allowing it to drive us apart—it is by seeking the brother-and-sister closeness we are privileged to have as Christians. Here is a plan for true, godly friendship between the sexes that embraces the family we truly are in Christ and serves as the exact witness the watching world needs.
P&R Publishing, About: Why Can’t We Be Friends by Aimee Byrd

I guess it’s just the way my brain is wired, but when I first heard about Aimee’s book, my initial reaction was along the lines of, “Oh. OK. Sounds interesting…Why do we need a book about this?”. It was the same kind of reaction I’d have if somebody came out with a book about humans needing to breathe air or fire being hot. Yeah. That’s a given. Brothers and sisters in Christ have been friends for upwards of 2000 years now. I don’t understand what else there is to say about that.

But the more I thought about it – the way people have lost their ever lovin’ minds about how to properly relate to, even talk to, one another – the more I thought maybe this book was a good idea. In a world where a man can’t even stand next to Beth Moore and be taller than her without being accused of misogyny, perhaps a remedial course on the most basic of human relationships is in order.

I haven’t read Aimee’s book, so this isn’t a critique or review of it (you can read a detailed review by Amy Mantravadi here), but I did listen to her interview about Why Can’t We Be Friends on Theology Gals, and I didn’t hear anything problematic in Aimee’s description of her perspective on the subject. From what I’ve heard and read, I probably wouldn’t agree with Aimee about every single thing in the book, but I have no reason to believe she is advancing any unbiblical ideas, and that Why Can’t We Be Friends will likely prove a helpful biblical resource for many. My advice: If you want to know what Aimee thinks and whether or not it’s biblical, read the book and compare it to rightly handled Scripture.

But as I continued to think about and read discussions about the issue – especially in light of words like “misogyny”, “sexism”, and “abuse” being bandied about in evangelicalism like so many badminton birdies – I started seeing some aspects of this topic I wanted to address. Why can’t Christian men and women be friends? How can we be friends? Are there any potential problems we need to anticipate? Here are four practical and biblical things to take into consideration as we contemplate friendships between the sexes.

1.
Defining Our Terms

One of the first whiffs of controversy I caught about Aimee’s book was a Christian gentleman’s emphatic no to the question of whether or not men and women could be friends. His reasoning? Co-ed friendships would inevitably lead to adultery. As the conversation progressed, comments were made by more than one man suggesting that the only female friend a man should have is his wife. Why? Because these gentlemen were defining friendship as a deeply emotionally intimate relationship- the kind of spiritually bonded relationship you should only have with your spouse.

Well, OK, if that’s the way you define friendship, you’re right. You shouldn’t have that kind of relationship with anyone of the opposite sex. Or the same sex either. That “oneness” kind of friendship is restricted to one person on the planet- your spouse. Defining friendship this way essentially restricts you to no friends until you get married, and one friend thereafter.

The thing is, that’s not how 99.999% of people define the word “friendship.” That’s how people define the word “spouse.” That’s why we have two different words – friend and spouse – because they denote two different types of relationships. Your spouse should certainly be your friend, but your friend doesn’t have to be your spouse.

The concept of friendship is much more fluid, and generally, more broadly defined than unhelpfully equating “friend” with “spouse”. There is a spectrum of intimacy with others that ranges from “I just met this person” on one end to “I’ve been blissfully married to this person for 80 years” on the other end, and all kinds of levels of affinity in between.

There’s the “hello at the mailbox, can I borrow your rake” neighbor whose last name you might not even know, casual acquaintances like store clerks and stylists whom you see occasionally and make perfunctory small talk with, regular acquaintances like co-workers and people you’re friendly with at church but don’t socialize with outside that venue, couples you and your spouse are friends with and spend time with, “shared interest” friends (Civil War buff buddies, gardening buddies, etc.), social media friends, good friends who share a very emotionally close, personal relationship, and then there’s your spouse.

All of those people can be classified, at one level or another, as “friends”. Maybe the question shouldn’t be “Can Christian men and women be friends?” but “Which levels of friendship are biblically appropriate for Christian men and women to engage in?”

2.
Talk About It

If you’re married, especially if there have ever been issues of infidelity or insecurity for either of you, it’s wise to talk out what you’re both comfortable with when it comes to friendships outside the marriage.

It should be a no-brainer that neither of you should have any friendships that even come close to the emotional intimacy, affection, energy, and time you expend with each other. That’s not usually much of a problem for men, but, ladies, what about that close relationship you have with your mother, your sister, or your dearest girl friend? When you get phenomenal news – or devastating news – who is the first person you want to run to and share it with? If it’s anybody other than your husband, that’s a signal that you’re probably too close to that friend and not close enough to your husband.

But beyond being first in each others’ lives, what would be helpful and godly in your marriage regarding opposite sex (or even same sex) friendships? How much time is too much time to spend with a friend? What about going places together, talking on the phone, exchanging e-mails or private messages on social media? Which of the aforementioned “levels” of friendship should be restricted to members of the same sex? Discuss what each of you are OK with and not OK with, and why, avoiding the appearance of evil, and be sure to discuss practical safeguards you can each take against temptation.

If you’re single, these things are just as important to consider. Pray about them, discern how God would have you prioritize your friendships, and the time and emotional intimacy He would have you invest in them. And in the same way you reserve sexual intimacy for marriage, determine to reserve your deepest emotional intimacy for marriage, should that be God’s plan for you, as well.

3.
Different Ways to Be Friends

I think one thing that people who give a staunch and unwavering “no” to friendships between men and women might not be taking into consideration is that a proper, biblical, platonic friendship between a man and a woman isn’t going to look like a proper, biblical, platonic friendship between two women or two men.

My good friend, Darlene, and I text back and forth all the time, private message each other on Facebook, go out to lunch, and spend hours talking one on one. We even went to a conference earlier this year, driving several hundred miles back and forth and rooming together once we got there.

I am also friends with Darlene’s husband. Do I spend as much time with him? Do I spend time with him the same way I spend time with Darlene? Of course not. I talk to him at church, at fellowships, when the four of us spend time together as couples, sometimes (publicly) on social media, and the once in a blue moon informational-type e-mail. The dynamic is totally different. First of all, I’m on a lower level of “friendship intimacy” with him than I am with Darlene. Second of all, it would appear – and would be – inappropriate for me to spend time with him in the same ways I do with Darlene. And, finally, I wouldn’t want to make Darlene or my own husband uncomfortable.

I’m friends with both Darlene and her husband, but I’m friends with each of them on different levels of intimacy and I’m friends with each of them in different ways. To maintain biblical decorum, and to guard our hearts against temptation, friendships between men and women are necessarily going to look different from same gender friendships in the ways we spend time together and how much time we spend together.

4.
Can You Handle It?

An interesting dynamic about this back and forth over whether or not men and women can be friends is that, at least in the conversations I observed, men were more likely to say no, and women were more likely to be the ones promoting the idea of friendship between the sexes and not seeing a problem with it.

Ladies, we don’t get to make the across-the-board pronouncement that co-ed friendships between Christians are fine just because it wouldn’t be problematic for us. Furthermore it should give us pause that good, godly men are saying, “No. There are concerning issues here.” We need to sit down and actually listen to what they’re saying as a group and as individuals.

God created men and women differently. We are wired for relationships differently. That doesn’t mean women are wired right and men are wired wrong and they just need to get over it. It means we approach relationships differently. God created those different approaches and they are both good.

And when our brothers in Christ are saying, “We can’t handle this kind of relationship with you the way you want us to,” we need to respect and value that input into the conversation as much as we respect and value the input from our side of the aisle.

When it comes to individual friendships between a particular man and woman, that same respect and value for what another person can or can’t handle also has to hold sway. Every person is different. There are men you could put into a room full of naked women and they’d be obliviously critiquing the way the painter spackled the walls. There are other men for whom lust is such a temptation that they would have difficulty carrying on a five-minute conversation with a moderately attractive woman. Women are the same way. We all have varying levels of temptation to physical or emotional lust.

Through study of the Word, prayer, and, if you’re married, a healthy relationship with your husband, know your own limitations. Walk circumspectly, wisely, and obediently to Christ. Respect your male friends and acquaintances, and give them the space they need. They are probably trying to walk obediently, too.

 

Can men and women be friends? Of course. It’s how to be friends with one another that we need to pursue with wisdom, love, respect, holiness, purity of heart, and biblical propriety.

Family, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Stay at Home Dads?

 

What is the Biblical view of men fulfilling women’s roles? I.e. staying home and managing the household, caring for small children, etc. while the woman works outside the home to provide for the family?

Super question! It’s not a cut-and-dried easy answer, though. There are a lot of things to take into consideration.

The first thing we need to consider is, of course, what the Bible says about this issue. And when we look at what the Bible says about human behavior, we need to look at two things: the heart and the actions. The Bible does forbid and command a lot of actions, but God is also clear that He judges the heart. It is possible to do the right thing with the wrong motives and the wrong thing with the right motives. We want to make sure we have right motives that lead us to do the right thing.

And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. 1 Samuel 15:22-23a

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b

The first question we need to ask ourselves is, “Is there an explicit command that the husband must leave the house and go to work every day to financially support the family, a command that he absolutely cannot stay at home and manage the household and raise the children, or a command that a wife may not work outside the home or support her family financially?”

I have not found any specific, in context, “thou shalt/thou shalt not” commands along those lines. And there’s a reason for that. God beautifully designed the Bible to be applicable and relevant to all people, across all cultures, in all time periods. So there are some universal commands in the Bible that apply to everybody, everywhere, in every time. For example: It is a sin to murder whether you’re young or old, male or female, smart or dumb, ugly or pretty, rich or poor, living in the Middle East or Polynesia or Antarctica, in 3271 B.C., A.D. 0, or A.D. 2019. Murder is always a sin, no matter what.

But God has not chosen to make that same pronouncement about the financial support of the family and who should work inside or outside the home. If we examine all of the Scriptures that mention men and women working, we can see a general overall pattern that points to the wisdom, in most cases, of wives doing most of the household management and child-rearing, leaving husbands free to concentrate primarily on bringing home the bacon, but God has not chosen to make this a universal command.

(I’m sure many readers are thinking, “But what about Titus 2:5, saying women are to be ‘workers at home’?” First, this is not a command that women are never to work outside the home (keep reading for more Scripture about women working and contributing to the support of their families). Second, if you’ll examine that verse in context (2:2-10), you’ll notice that this passage deals with people’s character, not careers. This can be easier to see if you compare Titus 2:3-5 with 1 Timothy 5:3-16, especially v.6, 13-14. Women are not to be lazy, idlers, and busybodies, they are to be hard workers, glorifying God in their work. In first century culture, this nearly always meant marrying, raising children, and managing their households, because this was virtually the only culturally appropriate venue available to them in which to work. Titus 2:5 is primarily about working hard to the glory of God, not primarily about where that work is performed. Does this mean all Christian women are free to abandon their children and homes in favor of working outside the home just because they feel like it? Of course not. As we’re about to see, that goes back to having a godly motive, going with the grain of the way God generally created women if at all possible, and discerning what is pleasing to the Lord in the circumstances in which He has placed your family. Which is exactly the type of character Titus 2 and 1 Timothy 5 teach that Christian women are to have.)

Why did God not make this a command? Because in His sovereignty, over time, God has allowed or created different types of cultures to develop at the macro level, and different sorts of circumstances to occur in the lives of various individuals at the micro level.

In our culture, with regard to supporting a family, it is typical for a husband to get up Monday through Friday, leave the house, work for someone else for eight hours, receive a paycheck, and return home.

Although that was true for some families, particularly city-dwellers, during Bible times, it was far less the norm than it is today. Think about the types of work most often mentioned in the Bible. It was a much more agrarian society. Dads usually worked their land and livestock as an extension of their home, and moms and any children who were old enough had their chores around the “farm” as well. The whole family worked together to provide necessary sustenance, and dads had much more direct oversight over their children on a day to day basis than a 21st century dad who leaves home and goes to the office every day.

But even in situations in which there was a family business (such as Joseph being a carpenter) the sons usually grew up learning the business under the direct tutelage of their fathers. And though the daughters were being trained at home to learn how to be good wives, it is reasonable to assume that they and their mothers helped out with the business as needed in a culturally appropriate way.¹ There was much more integration of work and family in that culture, giving fathers more contact with their children during the day.

There are also passages in the Bible that help us to see that bringing in income was not strictly relegated to men and child-rearing was not strictly relegated to women. In Proverbs 31, we see a wife and mother conducting business and contributing to the support of her family. We see Deborah “working outside the home”. We find that Lydia was, in some way, a merchant. And we do not see the Bible condemning these women as ungodly for contributing to the support of their families or performing some kind of work outside the home. Quite the opposite, in fact – the “Proverbs 31 woman” is, to this day, held up as the ideal wife and mother for godly women to emulate.

Furthermore, we often see passages in Scripture that lay the ultimate responsibility for instructing, disciplining, and properly bringing up children at Dad’s feet, not Mom’s. Read the first nine chapters of Proverbs. This is a father, not a mother, training up his son. And take a look at Ephesians 6:4 (Fathers…bring [your children] up) and Colossians 3:21 (Fathers, do not provoke your children…).

So there is no explicit biblical command about only husbands supporting the family financially and only wives managing the household and raising the children. We need to make sure we separate out what is biblical and what is cultural when it comes to the roles of husbands and wives.

As I mentioned, in addition to God sovereignly creating/allowing different cultures on the macro level, He has also created/allowed, on the micro level, varying life situations for various families. Dads who are disabled or have medical conditions that are more conducive to staying home with the children than having a job outside the home. Men who have had very limited educational and job opportunities who fall in love with and marry women already established in lucrative careers. And, especially in these modern times, Dads who are able to work from home while caring for the children. These and other scenarios can be contributing factors when it comes to which spouse works outside the home (If, indeed, working outside the home as someone else’s employee is necessary for either spouse; working from home or starting your own home-based business is an option many families overlook).

So there are a lot of external, and sometimes unavoidable, cultural and personal circumstances at play in each family’s decision-making process. But what about the internal factors at play? This brings us back to the motive of the heart.

What is the husband’s motive for wanting to stay home with the children? Is it because he’s lazy (lemme just take a moment to say this: if you’re lazy, raising children and managing a household isn’t the job for you) and just wants to shirk responsibility? Because he’s so arrogant or headstrong that he refuses to submit to a boss’s authority? Because he wants to live in luxury on his wife’s salary rather than cutting expenses and living more modestly on what he is able to earn so she can stay at home?

What is the wife’s motive for wanting to work outside the home while her husband manages the household and raises the children? Is she a feminist out to make a statement or further an agenda? Does she pridefully feel that the day to day job of wife and mom is beneath her? Is she finding her identity in her position, her income, or the praise of men instead of finding her identity in Christ?

These are wrong reasons for doing what might, financially, actually be the right thing. But as I said, as Christians, we need to make sure we have right motives leading us to do the right thing. And what is the right motive in this, or any other, decision-making process?

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Ephesians 5:8b-9

Husbands and wives each need to repent of any wrong motives they may have harbored in their hearts, walk in Christ as children of light, sit down together, pray for God to give them wisdom, examine all the factors at play in their situation, and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord in the situation He has sovereignly placed them in.

For most families in our culture, what this typically ends up looking like is that the husband is the main breadwinner and the wife is the main manager of the household and children. And part of the reason for this is that God has generally wired men to desire to go out and conquer the world, and He has generally wired women to desire to keep the home fires burning. So if there aren’t any circumstances that force a couple to go against that grain, it’s usually wisest for Dad to be the primary financial supporter of the family and Mom to be the primary manager of the family. But there are going to be godly exceptions to the rule, and we need to be sure we’re not assuming people are in sin just because they don’t fit what’s usually the norm.


¹Certainly there were other types of work/employment in Bible times, I’m just using these primary two to demonstrate my point.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.