We are in the middle of our series called Beautiful Design, looking at God’s dream for man and woman. We started this series in Genesis 1:1 - In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. That one sentence established that God is the Creator of man and woman and that, as such, He gets the final word in how He intended them to operate so that humans would flourish. We then looked at the very real distinction of man and woman from everything else in creation—that we are made in God’s image. That fact sets man and woman apart in value and dignity, and it makes both man and woman equal in value and dignity. Then last week, we delved into the specific purpose God had intended for man, and that was summed up in the word “headship.” But it’s not headship like we tend to think of, but the person responsible for serving, loving, sacrificing, providing, protecting. Headship is the one God holds responsible for how a family, a church, a society at large functions.
As we move into this week’s message, a lot of women might well be asking, “Ok, if that is what God made man to be and do, where are all those men? Because I’m not seeing many of those kind of men around these days.” That is a great question and comment. And it’s why this message has two essential parts: Part 1 - Where are all the men God described?; and Part 2 - What in the world are they doing now?
So, let’s take a look.
Part 1 - Where are all the men who are supposed to be performing the headship roles that God described?
To see where these men went, we need to return to the beginning, or close to it—Genesis, chapter 3. It’s there we find the account that explains what has gone wrong with manhood, and, frankly, womanhood. To remind ourselves of that beginning, we’ll pick up the action in chapter 2.
Genesis 2:16-18 - And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."
Right after this, God parades all the animal kingdom by Adam, and he names them all. We find out at the end of that parade that the purpose was to have Adam find a partner. Of course, he did not uncover anything in that parade that he wanted to snuggle up with. God then opts to make something brand new for Adam.
Genesis 2:21-25 - So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
This is grand stuff here. Perfect harmony, perfect peace, perfect paradise. Naked and not ashamed. No fear. It’s all perfect. But, wait, cue the ominous music, because in the next verses we see this:
Genesis 3:1-6 - Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
This is the first sin, the first act of rebellion against God, the first time man and woman trust in something other than God. Right here, the harmony, peace, paradise, and perfection are shattered. Right here explains what went wrong, why so many men aren’t who God designed them to be. It’s sin. And we discover that sin doesn’t just affect that first couple. No, every person who came after them is infected with the sin disease. Mankind went from being “very good” to “very bad” in an instant. It shatters their relationship with God, with each other, even with nature.
Genesis 3:7-16 - Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" And he said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself." He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate." Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” The Lord God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” To the woman he said, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."
Operating with sin as their nature, women will now seek to control, to manipulate men, and men will seek to rule over, or dominate women. Instead of a partnership, they are now competitors. Men are supposed to lead out, but with sin as the default, they will do it poorly.
Genesis 3:17-19 - And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
This passage explains and accounts for every bit of misery the world has ever experienced. Every pain or sadness in your life, every bit of violence, every loss, every abuse, every struggle, every catastrophe, and every devastation the world has ever known originates right here. That’s what happened to all the men. Sin brought alienation from God, alienation between man and woman, alienation between all of mankind, even alienation from nature itself. Nature will resist the dominion mankind was to exercise. Not just with weeds, but with hunger, sickness, aging, and even death.
Part 2 - What are all the men doing now?
Well, that is where all men start out, and they stay there unless Jesus Christ interrupts the cycle through the salvation He offers to each one. Alone, without Christ, men are not naturally capable of representing God’s image as they lead out. They are, under the influence of sin, driven by selfishness, not service and love and sacrifice. The text actually hints at the two extremes of control or "ruling over" men gravitate to when sin is in charge. And it shows up in surprising ways. I’ll just label those passivity and aggression. Let’s start with passivity.
In truth, a totally passive man doesn’t exist. That’s because every man is actively pursuing something. Even the guy who sits on his couch watching a game while his house burns to the ground is not totally passive. He is simply giving himself over to something he has determined is more important at the moment. A passive man, then, is one who actively seeks not to pursue what God has designed for him to be and do. We saw this numerous times in our passages in Genesis. What was Adam doing while Eve was being tempted? Yeah, standing right there, watching. Where he was to be the knight in shining armor, he was absent. When God shows up, what’s Adam doing? Yeah, hiding. Hardly an act of responsibility and headship.
Does he own his mistake? No way. He blames the woman, and he also blames God. After all, God’s the one who gave him the woman. In Adam’s view, God and the woman should have a confab and decide how to split up the blame, because Adam’s not owning any of it. And God drops him with a left hook—"Because you have listened to the voice of your wife". In other words, “ Adam, whether you own your part or not, it doesn’t matter. I’m holding you accountable, and the results are going to be devastating."
How does this passivity play out in our time? I’ve known a lot of women who married a guy they thought was so accommodating while they were dating. He was happy to take her to whatever restaurant she wanted to go to; happy to do whatever she wanted to do; happy to have the wedding she wanted to have; happy to go where she wanted to go on the honeymoon (after all, someone else was footing the bill for that wedding and honeymoon.). But what seemed so chivalrous or polite or deferring to her wishes might not have been that at all. It might have been, “I don’t really want to have to invest my time and energy on such stuff. I don’t want to have to lead out, to make decisions. I’m happy to let you do it all." And the woman doesn’t see it then. But fast forward to five years of marriage, with him not leading and dumping every decision on her. She’s now at the end of her rope. She’s got a little boy, not a man, and she’s stuck alone at the top, running the household, deciding what to buy, what to eat, what to fix, how to manage the budget, how to raise the kids, how to pay for stuff. And it’s maddening. And if she can’t manipulate him into leading, she’ll more than likely end up throwing that guy to the curb. And he’ll be totally baffled at how what once worked so well could have gone so terribly wrong. He never figures it out, so he just takes it into the next relationship, and the cycle repeats.
Even in a Christian home, passivity can exist, where the man leaves all the spiritual leadership to the wife. That women is either going to lead out, and be bitter about it, or give up, and be bitter about that. In the end, it will be very hard for her to be all that God wanted for her when He designed her.
Another problem I have seen involves Christian women who marry guys who are not Christians. They hope, they believe, they expect those husbands at some point will come to Christ. But it usually doesn’t happen. Do you know why that is? Because non-Christians are uncannily aware of what Christians ought to be and do. They will get drunk, but they know Christians shouldn’t. They will have one-night stands, but they know Christians shouldn’t. They will watch shows with all manner of profanity and nudity, but they just know Christians shouldn’t. They know that if your Christian faith means anything, a Christian shouldn’t marry them, And when a Christian marries them anyway, it shouts to them that what that Christian says they believe really means nothing to them at all--so why should it ever mean anything to them. And that Christian is fighting an uphill battle to win them over to Christ.
Now, not every man opts for the passive attempt to control women by forcing them to operate in headship. Some become tyrants, oppressors, and harsh rulers. Surely you know that in many parts of the world, the role of the woman in a marriage is reduced to virtual slavery. Even in America, one-fourth of women live in a house where they suffer physical abuse. Add in psychological and emotional abuse, and it’s one third. Guys,
- Unending criticism is control through aggression.
- Withholding affection is control through aggression.
- Mocking and belittling is control through aggression.
- Sarcasm is control through aggression.
- Anger or rage is control through aggression.
You can sinfully use fear of you exercising your superior might and strength against her to control her. This kind of domineering control can even make its way into the church. Ezekiel chapter 34 talks about how there were these people overseeing the church who did so with force and harshness. It’s wrong in a family, wrong in a church, wrong in a culture. But it’s the way men move without Christ transforming a heart and mind.
And that’s where all the men are. They are struggling with the sin nature that leads to selfish attempts to control, either through passivity or through aggression. And most men are failing to win that struggle and become what God designed for them. There are some men who are winning the struggle, not that any of them do it perfectly all the time. But the only hope, the only source of rescue for them is Jesus Christ.