God’s Relationship Roles and Rules are
NEITHER Random NOR Counter-Cultural:
Properly Structured Families Defend Against Evil With Ease Because
Gender Roles Are Two Faces of the Same Coin
Who in your life honors you? Who protects you? Who empowers you? Do these things come from the people they should come from? Do you ever experience protection and destruction coming from the same person? And in the opposite direction, who you do honor, protect, and empower? If you’ve ever struggled to stand up for yourself–or worse, felt conflicted about setting boundaries with people who disrespect you sometimes because you depend upon them in some way–it will help to clarify your understanding about relationship roles and rules. Fixing a problem is much easier when you can identify specifically what is wrong, and what right should look like; it’s easier to get what you want when you know what that is and how to ask for it!
In our pioneering pursuit of possibility, purpose, and prosperity, Americans have opened up the career exploration frontier so much that anyone can truly become anything. Much innovation, progress, and equality has come from that, which is good. Unfortunately, in the fervor of excitement and proof-of-concept, the separation between career and community roles has been left a very messy wake. Even the space frontier has its boundaries, so it’s time to go back and clean up our mess. Keeping what we’ve learned, let’s have the best of both.
In the same way that your role at work has a corresponding job description, which outlines your responsibilities, the limits of your authority, specifies the skills and talents needed to succeed at the job, and even states the standards of evaluation against which your performance will be measured, so too does your role outside of work have a description outlining these things. In the same way a company wants to maximize effectiveness and efficiency by eliminating redundancy and assuring good position/personnel fit, God wants to see life on Earth run smoothly and make sure everyone is getting the most out of everything. He determines what needs to get done, who is the best fit for each role, and gives them the skills and training to succeed. However, both by commission and omission, the Church has rather botched up this issue in the last century. People have been less inclined to take their faith into the workplace than they have their work into their personal life, and as a result the differences between our identities as employees and our identities as members of a marriage, family, church or community have been denied. They are different, but not a lot of churches are communicating this well, largely (I think) because they’re biased by the career-crazed mentality, too. They probably don’t even realize they’re biased, and therefore aren’t really seeing the partial-truth problem.
The quick version is this: We have fumbled the concept of power, putting it in the wrong places and ignoring it in the right ones. Consider the difference between leadership in the workplace and leadership in ministry: At work, leadership roles are very closely related to power. To be in a position of leadership is to have power, and not being in leadership is to have no power. In ministry, however, no one is anyone else’s employee, so leadership is about influence and example, not power. Big difference! Everyone involved in ministry has some amount of power, so leadership is not necessarily advantageous. Our relationships at home, church, and in the community are not like workplace relationships, because we’re not each other’s employees, and therefore power needs to be taken out of the picture. However, many have switched the two and sadly, many churches even teach the power-version of leadership for personal and ministry life, exacerbating confusion. Satan gets a kick out of this.
GOD DESIGNED MEN AND WOMEN TO BE EQUAL, so we must change the dialogue from who is in control to who plays which role, because the truth is gender roles are different but equal. (And before you strong women turn away let me assure you I’m not advocating “a woman’s place is in the home.” Stick with me here, I think you’ll appreciate it if you hear it to the end.) Gender roles are different but equal, because they are two faces of the same coin: the Empowerment Coin, where each gender empowers other people but from different angles, and therefore sometimes using different methods. The roles may be interchangeable in some areas, but will not be in others, and in some cases attempting to do so will be more difficult than it’s worth so it won’t be recommended unless extenuating circumstances require it.
What I mean by “The Empowerment Coin” is both men and women share the singular purpose of empowering other people (one coin), but men do it one way and women another (two faces of that single coin). Man supports the power of protection outwardly, in the physical sense, (such as that of the territory and resources and the physical safety of people). Men specialize in defense against the attacks of Satan which impact physical life. Woman supports the power of protection inwardly, in the realm of the soul (soul = mind, will, and emotions), encompassing such things as knowledge, culture, relationships and emotional health. They empower through building-up strength in areas of inner vulnerability, specializing in defense against Satan’s attacks on inward life. Unified spiritually, whether as a couple or family or community, diversifying and specializing allows them to more securely barricade that spiritual health by covering the physical and soulish gates as well. One watches the front door while the other watches the back door, so to speak. Thus, their roles are equal—empowerment for health, success, and protection—but they approach it from different angles and, according to the task, with different methods.
But who protects the men outwardly, and the women inwardly? Do they carry the full burden of responsibility alone? Are they left vulnerable as a sacrifice for everyone else? No. As I just stated, men and women have their areas of specialty, but that doesn’t mean they don’t overlap or cover for each other from time to time. More importantly, though, is to recognize that even a specialist has limits. One can only be so strong. To be fully protected, it is necessary that both men and women are equally subjected to Christ’s headship, so that through obedience they receive His protection as well. The standard after which a couple, family, or community is modeled, Christ offers protection of the spiritual, physical, and soulish aspects of human life. Thus together it makes a multi-layer system, where the strong protect the semi-strong who protect the quasi-strong who protect the weak. For example, in the physical sense that would be Christ-protects-Man-who-protects-Woman. In the soulish sense, that would be Christ-empowers-Woman-who-empowers-Man. Thus, it is an equal exchange. Add children, elderly or others to the picture and the chain is simply extended; when properly aligned, each benefits from having a shield while acting as a shield for another. Like nesting dolls, the weakest are protected by many layers. It is ministry—we can walk away from His help at any time—but it is also recognition of His ultimate power, and the fact that honoring that power is advantageous to us. He does not use His power to hold us down, but rather shares it to help us up.
How can we know this is true, a real strategy of God for safe and healthy couples, families, and communities, and not just a theory? How can we know it’s not just some religious-sounding veneer for a non-egalitarian agenda? Well, if an exceptionally well-educated, sharp, independently successful and even sassy professional woman from the science and technical world like me can get past the initial nose-wrinkling at gender roles to recognize the simplistic genius of this, others can too. But you don’t have to take my word for it; let’s do a thought experiment and break the gender equality in the empowerment chain to see what happens. If life gets better, we’ll know it’s a subversive tactic and we’ll throw it out. If life gets worse, we’ll know we’re onto something and give it thorough consideration.
The strategy, and therefore thought experiment, hinges on this fundamental decision: acceptance or rejection of God-as-protector, or said another way, God-as-source. (This is so fundamental, the story of human kind opens with it. See Genesis Ch. 3.) As already described, when God-as-provider is accepted teaching, coaching, leading and shepherding are the skills Christ gives abundantly so that people can get armed. When men teach, coach, lead or shepherd they typically do so in order to protect, or train others to be protectors and defenders. When women teach, coach, lead or shepherd, they typically do so to strengthen and empower. In this way, every one is protected and strengthened on every side, each is given the skills and tools necessary to succeed, and the effort is shared equally across all people according to ability. Efforts are coordinated to get the most benefit for the least amount of work.
But when a couple rejects the notion of God-as-provider, the man thinks he has to step up and become provider. Believing provision comes from a finite world instead of an infinite God, he becomes competitive instead of protective. This labor-intensive work of competition takes him away from his God-given duties as protector, leaving an empty space, so now the woman feels the need to step up and be the protector, whether of self alone or self and family. But she cannot be the protector physically, in all necessary respects, so she tries to over-compensate by over-doing that which she is able to do (for example, building the emotional brick wall or becoming O.C.D. with the disinfectant). This physical protection energy takes her away from the duties of teaching and protecting the relationships, thus spiritual education and family networks weaken and fail, leaving a gaping vulnerability open to Satan’s attacks! Vulnerable children get bullied at school, or fight with siblings. The parents are too exhausted to handle it; she pressures him to fix it but he feels inadequate so they argue. Their relationship isn’t being protected or maintained properly, because she has been pulled away from her God-given duties, and now is also strained by the kids’ issues, so Satan turns up the pressure further with temptation to break the chain of strength: he gives the woman the idea of taking a dominance role. “If God isn’t handling it sufficiently and neither is man,’ she reasons, ‘I have to, or it won’t get done. And it’s too important not to get done.” Equality is up-sot, judgment of the man has begun and eventually resentment will follow. The woman stops fully appreciating the man, because he is not relieving her of undue burden, and eventually she stops respecting him. She, well into the physical protector role by now, tries to ease her own burden somewhat by assuming what is good for the children is good for him, too; and while it is good that she still cares enough about him to consider him part of the family, and wants to protect him, what she is actually doing by transferring such methods is treating him like a child. What on the surface seems like “being efficient,” “taking one for the team” and being a “pinch hitter” has, in actuality, berated him and completely ruined the equality—by sending him from a high place on the chain to the lowest place. When she is no longer wife and companion, but rather mother, all sexual attraction stops (because she instinctively knows it is inappropriate for a mother-child relationship). She eventually feels she has lost a spouse, so it is not hard for Satan to tempt her with another man who might “value her enough” to relieve her of the undue burden, freeing her up to do what she is gifted to do easily and with success. Meanwhile being treated like a child undermines his confidence even further, driving him to be even more competitive to compensate.
Even if the wife does not elevate herself to a dominant role, disruption of the equality balance can still occur. A man carried away by a belief in the need to compete can become unintentionally dominant, because he reaches a point where he views every situation in life as unsuccessful unless he’s in control of it. At a point where his efforts to be a provider seem to be working, he will be pleased with his success and she’ll reward him with praise, because she is relieved—but he will view it as more-is-better, thinking to himself “I control her happiness and her appreciation of me.” Thereafter, he will seek to get on-demand appreciation from her when his attempts at world domination fail, and the further obsessed he gets chasing this extreme the more aggressively he demands her adoration to keep him motivated. Whether she fails to praise him on demand or his needs for validation have just gotten too great, it is now easy for Satan to tempt him with an additional woman. And that is catastrophic to the whole chain because the wife will interpret that move as a statement she’s no longer worthy of attending to/defending. What little he manages he spends on the wrong person. She is now hurt from a wolf within the camp, not without, and, having had to learn to be her own protector because the roles were shifted out of place, will go into emergency mode and hyper-protect herself. If she took over a lot of duties unfairly, her resentment will make her vulnerable to the influence of the Jezebel spirit. And if he’s really burned out, he may succumb to the Ahab spirit. Together these two are even more mutually destructive; the Ahab gets weaker and needier while the Jezebel gets more dominant and abusive. Now the kids to have to step up and be their own protectors and defenders. The family structure falls to utter destruction and so does each individual in it. (Sound familiar?)
Satan has pretty much guaranteed that the Gospel Truth and God’s Kingdom system will be truncated in this family line, and not spread to anyone else. He simply pulled the linchpin from the very top, removing their belief in God-as-provider, and the dominoes toppled one by one predictably and systematically. Depending on the stamina of each, the occasional nudge of another distorting spirit accelerated the decline. They mostly did it to themselves. All because they chose to believe that provision grows on trees. Are you getting it? Do you see the parallel to Original Sin here? Satan slashed Eve’s identity by making her think humans were lower-intelligence beings than all the rest, and convincing her that what she was after could be acquired by her from the world around her better than from God directly. He lied, making her think God didn’t want her to have all good things, that He wanted to keep her down. Though initially she spoke on behalf of the couple, recounting the safety instructions communicated to her by Adam as they were told to him by God before she was even made, Satan’s influence coaxed her to seize a dominant decision-maker and provider role. She evaluated the situation based on her own desires, rejected God-as-source, went after the worldly source, consumed of it herself, then took some back to her husband and though he should have known better, he also rejected God-as-source by eating the fruit. The scripture says as soon as they (both) had eaten the fruit, they began to experience shame. (Might things have gone differently if Adam refused?) They worked together to cover their shame, but they hid even further from God when He approached them, and when the heat was on Adam took the helpless (Ahab) stance, throwing Eve “under the bus.” God asked Eve about her decision-making process, trying to get at the root of the matter, but instead of saying she wanted to be more like God, she allowed the shock and sting of Adam’s betrayal to take the better of her, acting like a Jezebel and refusing to take responsibility for her actions. (Might things have gone differently if she was fully honest?) Though God did pronounce some curses, look carefully: some of what He said was not causative but predictive. He told them in advance how those choices would unfold and play out, because God already knew how the system worked. That system is still in place today and for whoever chooses to go down that path, the experiences will be the same today as they were for Adam and Eve. Thus their story appears in the opening of the Bible to warn us what is down that path, so that we will not follow their pattern.
God is not trying to hold women down or back, He sets boundaries and gives warnings for our own good because He understands the systems and rules better than we do. He is trying to hold the forces of darkness back! The best way to do that is to make sure that no human is left with a vulnerable side exposed. So, by delegating duties to men, women, and now also Christ, God has assured that everyone will be protected physically, soulishly, and spiritually. Everyone will also be empowered physically, soulishly, and spiritually. Wouldn’t you like to feel protected and empowered in all these areas of your life, without excessive burden or relationship stress? To feel entirely confident and successful without having to work too hard because you do what comes naturally? To be appreciated for what you contribute? And not be betrayed? Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
As posed at the beginning of this article, it is easier to achieve the marriage or family structure you want when you can be specific about what it should look like. If you recognized yourself or your situation in the experiment described, you now ought to be able to identify where the wrong turn happened, and what positions everyone needs to get back to to fix it. You should be able to secure the linchpin back in place, ask for better protection or increased empowerment in some area with enough specificity that another person will know how to respond, stay in alignment and make sure you’re following the system that leads to success instead of the system that leads to destruction. If anyone makes a power play in your personal or work life, you’ll be able to stay calm because you know why they think they need power in the first place. And regardless of the level of power you have at work, you’ll be able to avoid that competitive quicksand by remembering the very important role you already have: to protect and edify those who are not quite as strong as you. Your God-given role is to Empower, one way or another, as an equal part of a team. If you’re a protector, defend someone’s honor by speaking up. “Hey! You can’t talk to her like that! She’s the Beloved of the Most High God!” If you’re an encourager, build someone’s self-esteem by speaking up. “I know you’re capable of excellence because you’re the Righteousness of God through Christ.” Be an Empower-er. Do so today!
GOD PROVIDES, WE PROTECT.
DOMINATE CREATION, EMPOWER EACH OTHER.
 Notice that staying ignorant makes protecting unsustainable, it breaks the chain, because there is no growth out of the weakness of childhood ignorance into the leadership roles necessary upon reaching adulthood. Cessation of empowerment through teaching leads to an entire community of people who, at every age, are equally weak and vulnerable to attack. We see this in communities throughout the world, and have seen it throughout time; lack of proper education and mentoring (including spiritual) permitted violent takeover by evil groups.