“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing…And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” –1 Corinthians 13:2,13
It’s love that’s going to carry us through 2014. And, it’s love in action that will help bring others closer to God during this new year.
Paul is the apostle of love. As he shared the message of the love that we ought to have for one another, he emphasized that it is paramount, the most important thing, the thing that transcends every moral code, higher than any claim that anyone makes. Nothing that the different denominations, groups, and religious sects claim matters if they don’t have love. Without love, nothing matters.
One of the most insightful things that Paul shares with us about love is that love is not an emotion. Love is an action. Love is what you do. People may say, “Oh, I get this feeling of love in my heart and I nurture it. Then, if it blossoms enough, I will love someone in action.” However, that’s not the way at all.
I remember talking with a woman who was a volunteer for New Hope, our 24-hour phone and online counseling ministry. She said, “You know, one of the hardest things about working for New Hope is, as I end the call, when I have to say, ‘God loves you and so do I.’ I don’t really know this person, so how can I say ‘and so do I’? Right? I don’t know the person from Adam.”
What she expressed is what many of us think about love, that love is an emotion that you feel for someone after you get to know him or her. If you get to know a person who’s charming enough, perhaps good looking enough, or funny enough, then you will love them. That is, until the moment they are no longer charming, funny, or attractive to you in some manner. Therefore, that love then becomes only a reaction to a person’s performance.
That’s not what love is. Love is an action.
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to express love to others as you express love to me – with no expectations and no conditions. Let my love toward others be an act of worship toward you. Amen.
Devotion: How would you describe the differences between emotional love and love in action?
I think I can make a pretty good case that Hebrews was a sermon, probably, in fact, a handful of sermons stitched together to respond to the urgent needs of a community in crisis. (You’re just going to have to trust me on this one.) Here I want to reflect on three things aspiring pastors like myself—and, I suspect, seasoned ones too—can learn from the wise pastor who prepared this sermon.
#1: What sort of sermons—solutions—should we offer? The pastor models for us what we should do to address the needs of people within our churches. He’s met with a problem as multi-faceted as it is urgent and he thinks long enough about it to tell the difference between its implications and its cause. Then he identifies what part of his community’s confession—what part of the Gospel—they needed to hear to confront their problem and heal their spiritual disease at its source (for a summary, see, esp., 4:14–16; 10:19–21). Pretty straightforward. It’s pretty simple, even if it’s not often very easy. There’s quite a bit more I might say about this one, but let me here simply draw out two further implications. First, we need to listen. That’s right. Listen. We need to spend the energy necessary to get the “pulse” of our communities, to know our people’s hurts, disappointments, fears, accusations, doubts, etc. (After all, we’re not looking to do exploratory surgery with every sermon.) To put it another way, as pastors we’ve got more than one “text” to exegete each week. And, added to this, we need to follow Hebrews lead and commit ourselves to a robust, probing grasp of the Gospel so that we’re ready and able to faithfully, nimbly, and insightfully bring it to bear on the needs of our flocks.
#2: What shape should our sermons—our solutions—take? The pastor also models how we should bring the Gospel to bear on our community’s needs. He doesn’t simply meet their problems with Gospel aphorisms, with naked Gospel propositions, with—forgive the way I’m going to put this—dogmatic theology. Rather, he brings the Gospel to bear by placing his people and their problems within God’s story. He meets their needs with biblical theology. He places his friends, first, in the story’s broadest context—Jesus and Adam (1:5–14; 2:5–9, 10–18)—and, then, in one of its narrower story-lines: Jesus and Israel (spec. Levi; 5:1–10; 7:1–10, 11–28; 8:1–13; 9:1–10, 11–28; 10:1–18). In both places, the author shows the audience that what the Gospel asserts about Jesus corresponds to what earlier parts of the story anticipated and, moreover, prepares the audience for the story’s next chapter. We might say, then, that there’s a satisfying movement, complete with an eschatology, to the author’s response.
#3: How should our sermons—our solutions—be administered? Finally, the pastor models for us how our sermons—our solutions—should be administered. At the heart of his response (see, e.g., 10:22–25, esp. vv. 24–25), the pastor insists that the community of faith—the church—is an indispensable part of the solution, an urgently-important means of grace. If the gospel work of our sermons is to have its full effect, the church must be actively involved. The pastor encourages his friends to follow his example and do the hard work of insightfully-preaching the Gospel to one another. The pastor makes it clear, in other words, that his and the other elders’ leadership was insufficient. His friends needed the member-to-member ministry of the word; they needed the pastoral oversight of the community itself.
This article was used with permission from BibleStudyTools.com
Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes. – Jack Handey
My friend Adam is a wise guy. Not in a, “A rabbi, a priest, and a vegan walk into a bar” sort of way, but in a Proverbs, real life street wisdom sort of way. He is a residence director at our local university, which means he works with college students every day. He deals with students in trouble, students in the dumps, students on academic probation, students on drugs, students who have been assaulted, and students who are on the verge of dropping out of college. In other words, he deals with kids who are pretty vulnerable. Kids who have really been slapped around by life.
When interacting with vulnerable kids Adam could easily resort to saying, “I know what you’re going through.” After all, that’s what we say when someone is in a tough spot. We try to relate their experience to our experience. We try to sympathize with them. To comfort them out of our own experience. To let them know they’re not alone. To make them feel loved. And that impulse to comfort others is a good impulse. But Adam doesn’t always do that. Why? Because he knows that in most cases he doesn’t really know what a person is going through. He may be able to relate to some circumstances, but he can’t really know what a person is going through. That is wisdom.
The reality is, when someone is suffering we don’t know what they’re going through. Even if we have experienced similar circumstances as a person who is suffering we don’t process the world the way they do. And we don’t have the same personal history, biological makeup, or support system. When someone is going through the meat grinder we can only know a tiny portion of what they are really experiencing.
Our limited ability to know the suffering of others is what makes 2 Corinthians 7:6 so precious. It says, “But God, who comforts the downcast….”
Jesus knows us fully. He knows our strengths and weaknesses, our family history, our biological makeup, our worldview. He knows every nook and cranny of us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. And he also knows suffering on an intense, personal level. Jesus’ knowledge of suffering is not abstract, ivory tower, textbook knowledge. Jesus was a man of sorrows. He was mocked, betrayed, and humiliated. As he hung on the cross he was cut off from the Father. Jesus knew excruciating, overwhelming, crushing sorrow.
The combination of Jesus’ omniscience and personal experience with deep suffering perfectly equip him to comfort us in our own suffering. He really does know what we’re going through, and he is ready to comfort us when we are downcast. He doesn’t leave us to muddle and slog through suffering on our own. He doesn’t tell us to suck it up, buck up, and get up. He meets us in our downcast state and pours out grace upon us.
Suffering tempts us to withdraw from God when in reality we should press hard into God. Are you downcast? Are you suffering? Do you feel like you’ve been chewed up and spit out? Do you feel like butter scraped over too much bread? Draw near to the God who comforts the downcast. Draw near to the God who knows you exactly and knows exactly what you need. Draw near in your weakness and weariness and ready-to-call-it-quits-ness.
God has a special place in his heart for the downcast. Move toward that place.
You won’t actually find a vampire in the Bible. Werewolves, zombies, vampires, and other such fictional beings are creatures originating from medieval folklore and ancient mythology.Legend suggests that vampires are corpses who leave their graves at night to drink the blood of sleeping humans. Another term for vampires is the undead. Although technically dead, they have the ability to animate.In today’s culture, especially among young people, fascination with vampires is very much alive. Wildly popular Gothic novels, television shows, and romance films like The Twilight Sagaseries have transformed this traditionally repulsive creature into a mysterious and seductively powerful (albeit dark) hero of our day.
The legend of Lilith derives from a theory that Genesis has two creation accounts (Genesis 1:27 and 2:7, 20–22). The two stories allow for two different women. Lilith does not appear in the Bible (apart from a debatable reference comparing her to a screech owl in the Hebrew text of Isaiah 34:14). Some rabbinic commentators, however, refer to Lilith as the first created woman, who refused to submit to Adam and fled from the garden. Eve was then created to be Adam’s helper. After their expulsion from the garden, Adam reunited for a time with Lilith before finally returning to Eve. Lilith bore Adam a number of children, who became the demons of the Bible. According to kabbalistic legend, after Adam’s reconciliation with Eve, Lilith took the title Queen of the Demons and became a murderer of infants and young boys, whom she turned into vampires.Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (5). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Among respectable Bible scholars, this theory would never see the light of day.
Christians and Vampire Fiction
Perhaps you’ve come here wondering, Is it okay for a Christian to read vampire books? I mean, it’s only fiction, right?Yes, from one point of view, vampire tales are only stories. For some they are just harmless entertainment. But for many teenagers and young adults, the vampire attraction can become an obsession. Depending on the person’s mental and spiritual condition, self-image, and family relationships, an unhealthy and potentially dangerous interest in the occult might easily develop.
Indeed, most scholars include vampirism in the occult category, along with witchcraft, astrology, spiritualism, Tarot card and palm reading,numerology, voodoo, mysticism, and the like. Over and over in Scripture God warns his people to stay away from involvement with occult practices. And inPhilippians 4:8, we have this encouragement:
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.(NLT)
Dabbling in Darkness
In spite of our current-day glamorized vampires, it’s difficult to deny the connection between their “world of the dead” stories, the powers of darkness, and evil. So, another clear peril in delving even casually into this shadowy fantasy world is the tendency to become desensitized to the real powers of darkness in our world.Ephesians 6:12 states:
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (NLT)
Jesus Christ is the light of world, and he asks us to walk in his light:
“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12, NLT)
And again, in John 12:35 our Lord said:
“Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going.” (NLT)
Parents are wise to prayerfully consider the risks of allowing a child unsupervised exposure tovampire fiction. At the same time, labeling this a forbidden topic may create even greater temptation for a child.Ultimately, the best response for a parent whose child shows an interest in vampire tales, might be to allow the child to discover through thoughtful discussion both the merits and the damaging elements in these stories. As a family you might talk about the details of the plot, and then hold those details up to the light of truth in Scripture. In this way, the allure of vampirism is dispelled and the child can learn to wisely judge truth from fiction, light from darkness.
We were created to be stewards of God’s creation through our work. The opening two chapters of Genesis provide a foundation for how God sees work, culture, and our responsibility. This same perspective extends throughout the Scriptures.
Work is not a curse, but a gift from God given to us before the fall, although the effects of the fall make our work frustrating and difficult at times (Gen. 3:17–19). By our work, we employ useful skills to glorify God, love our neighbors, and further God’s kingdom.
The Original Worker
We can better understand our work assignment from God by studying the work that he did in creation, when he brought order out of chaos. A gardener does something similar when he creatively uses the materials at his disposal and rearranges them to produce additional resources for mankind.
We were created to be stewards of God’s creation through our work.
Thus, Adam’s work in the garden can be seen as a metaphor for all work. Tim Keller offers the following definition of work: “Rearranging the raw materials of a particular domain to draw out its potential for the flourishing of everyone.”
For example, an architect takes steel, wood, concrete, and glass and rearranges them for the flourishing of mankind. A musician rearranges the raw material of sound to produce music. That is what Adam was called to do in the garden, and that is what we are still called to do in our work today.
God’s Call to Work
In the opening chapter of Genesis, God gave Adam a job description. It is called the “cultural mandate,” also sometimes called the “creation mandate:” “God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ (Gen. 1:28).
By our work, we employ useful skills to glorify God, love our neighbors, and further God’s kingdom.
Why is it called “the cultural mandate?” According to Merriam-Webster, a “mandate” is an “authoritative command; especially: a formal order from a superior court or official to an inferior one,” or “an authorization to act given to a representative.” This is clearly a command given directly by God the Creator to Adam and Eve, his creation.
The first phrase, “be fruitful and multiply,” means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, “subdue the earth,” means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, and compose music. This passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures, build civilizations—nothing less.
The cultural mandate was meant not only for Adam and Eve, but for us as well. To find satisfaction and meaning in our vocational callings, we must begin to understand the importance of the cultural mandate. It is the only way to see our work in a truly biblical framework.
The cultural mandate still stands as God’s directive for our stewardship of his creation. According to Dorothy Sayers, when we understand our work through the cultural mandate, we will finally see our work as “the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.”
Because of the curse of the fall, work can be difficult, frustrating, and dull. But Christians must understand that work itself is not part of the curse; it was part of God’s original plan for humanity. It is an opportunity for us to exercise our creativity, gifts, and interests in order to be effective stewards of God’s creation. With a proper understanding of the cultural mandate, Christians can use their work as part of their broader calling as servants of Christ.
What about you? How does understanding work as a calling from God change how you approach your studies, your job, and your time?.
The Bible begins with God, the good Creator of all things and the One who rules the universe. His creative handiwork—everything from light to land to living creatures—is called “good.” But the crown of God’s good creation is humanity. We are made in the very image of God. And God declared: “behold it was very good”. As the pinnacle of God’s creation, human beings reveal God more wonderfully than any other creature as we were created like God, by God, for God,and to be with God.
In Genesis 1:26, God says “Let Us make man in Our image.” The fact that our Creator gave us a remarkable title—“the image of God”—speaks of the inherent dignity of all human beings. The expression “image of God” designated human beings as representatives of the supreme King of the universe.
Immediately after making the man and woman, God granted them a special commission: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” This verse contains five commands: “be fruitful,” “multiply,” “fill,” “subdue,” and “have dominion.” These decrees reveal our most basic human responsibilities.
With the commission to multiply, Adam and Eve’s job was to produce so many images of God that they would cover the earth. Then God ordered them to have dominion over the earth, or exercise authority over creation, managing its vast resources on God’s behalf, not dominating it, but being good stewards of creation and creators of culture.
Multiplication and dominion are deeply connected to our being the image of God. To be sure, God had no problem filling the earth with his presence, but God chose to establish His authority on earth in ways that humans could understand. God commanded His images to populate the landscape of His creation. In the command to “multiply,” God wanted His images spread to the ends of the earth. His command to “have dominion” is God giving humans authority to represent Him in His world.
Marital sex is the means by which we fulfill our calling of multiplying and taking dominion.
God’s plan for humanity was for the earth to be filled with His image bearers, who were to glorify Him through worship and obedience. This beautiful state of being, enjoying the cosmic bliss of God’s intended blessing and His wise rule, is called shalom. Cornelius Plantinga writes, “In the Bible,shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom He delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”
Shalom means fullness of peace. It is the vision of a society without violence or fear: “I will give you peace (shalom) in the land, and none shall make you afraid.”Shalom is a profound and comprehensive sort of well-being—abundant welfare—with its connotations of peace, justice, and the common good. Shalom means harmonious and responsible relationship with God, other human beings, and nature. In short, biblical writers use the word shalom to describe the world of universal peace, safety, justice, order, and wholeness God intended.
In shalom, sex was also a reflection of unity and peace between man and woman. It is a picture of two becoming one. God meant for sexual feelings, thoughts, and activity to be pleasurable and intimacy building in marriage.
This peaceful, loving relationship was shattered by the entrance of sin into the world. Sin has distorted this beautiful act of union, pleasure, calling, and worship.
Genesis 3 records the terrible day when humanity fell into sin and shalom was violated. Sin wrecks the order and goodness of God’s world. One scholar calls sin is “the vandalism of shalom.”Instead of unashamed intimacy and trust, there is shame and mistrust. Instead of grace, there is disgrace.
A foundational element of paradise—sexual innocence in community—has been spoiled by the treachery of sin. Sex—the very expression of human union, intimacy, and peace—became a tool for pain, suffering, and destruction after the Fall.
But sin is not the last word on the world or us. God reconciled the world to Himself through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). By dealing with sin at the cross, Jesus made reconciliation between God and humanity possible, as well as reconciliation with one another.
The message of the gospel redeems what has been destroyed and applies grace to disgrace. God’s redemption imparts grace and brings peace. The effects of grace include our sexual past, present, and future. There is healing, hope, cleansing, and forgiveness for all who trust in Jesus.
God does not leave things broken, and is always at work redeeming the sin, wounds, and brokenness involved in human sexuality. Where sin does its damage, God brings forgiveness and healing, which are part of God’s larger plan of restoring shalom.
Redemption removes and rectifies the alienation introduced by the fall, restoring humankind to fellowship with God (Rom. 5:12-21; Eph. 2:1-22) and with itself (Isa. 2:1-5; Mic. 4:1-7). Further, Jesus’ resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit offer hope even now to grow and become more sexually whole in Christ.
In Christ there is also great hope for human sexuality. Lewis Smedes writes:
“Jesus did not have to talk about sexuality to affirm it. Sexuality is affirmed by the route that God took for the redemption of humanity. The Resurrection, as well as the Incarnation, carries the body-life of humankind in a deep divine embrace. Redemption is not the promise of escape from the demands or appetites of the body. To confess that Jesus Christ arose from the grave bodily is to reiterate God’s good feelings about his own creation of human beings as body-persons; to celebrate the Resurrection includes a celebration of human sexuality. God did not become man to show us how to get out of our body by means of spiritual exercises. He created a community of resurrection hope and invites us to bring our total sexuality into it. Christ’s resurrection makes permanent God’s union with the whole of humanity, and it thus affirms sexuality as part of our hope for ultimate happiness and freedom.”
God and God’s People
In the New Testament we also learn that human sexuality paints one of the most moving pictures of God’s relationship with His people. In the Old Testament, Israel is repeatedly portrayed as a wayward lover of God, who had redeemed her. In the New Testament, the church is referred to as Christ’s bride (e.g., Rev 19:7), and Paul explains that the one-flesh union of man and woman mentioned in Genesis is a picture of Christ and his church (Eph 5:28-33).
Jesus seems to imply that sex will not exist in heaven as it has on earth (Matt 22:30). Likely this is because the sexual union ultimately points to the relationship that Christ has with His people, which will be consummated upon His return. As we are the beloved of God, He promises always to satisfy all of our deepest longings and desires, allowing us to “drink from the river of Your delights” (Psalm 36:8; cf. Rev 22:1-2), now and forever in the age to come. Justin Holcomb is an Episcopal priest, director at Key Life, and a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary. Justin wrote On the Grace of Godand co-authored with his wife Lindsey Rid of My Disgraceand Save Me from Violence. He is also the editor of Christian Theologies of Scripture. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and at JustinHolcomb.com.
See the sevenfold use of “good”: Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31.
It was early in our marriage. I don’t remember the specifics, only that there was a major communication breakdown.
We were both talking in perfectly coherent speech. But we obviously were not speaking the same language. And it wasn’t the first time. Finally, it dawned on me what was going on.
I had married an alien.
There really was no other explanation possible. There was some kind of language barrier going on. Like, one of us was a native English speaker, and the other learned the language later—maybe at the Greater Intergalactic Royal Language School (GIRLS).
Sound familiar? Communication is one of the major issues couples struggle with. These communication breakdowns illustrate a larger, and more obvious, point: We’re different. And while this can create difficulties at times, in the long run our differences actually make our lives work better than if we were all the same.
If we go back to the creation accounts in Genesis, we can see that these differences were intentional on God’s part. In Genesis 2:18 we read, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’” (NIV).
The word translated as suitable here might better be translated as corresponding. In other words, God didn’t say the man needed a helper to meet his needs—that’s why none of the animals were “suitable.” Rather, the man needed someone who could work with him, to fill in the gaps, so to speak. By definition, then, this person would be different from the man. And along came Eve.
Eventually, they sinned. Eve’s initial sin was to believe the word of the serpent over God’s own words. Adam’s initial sin was one of inaction: He stood there and watched while the serpent deceived his wife.
Not to go off on a tangent here, but hey, guys! If a serpent is tricking your wife into sinning against God, you shouldn’t stand there and watch. You should pick up a stick and kill the serpent!
Adam and Even compounded their sin by hiding from God, and then Adam actually blamed God and Eve for his sin: “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree” (Gen. 3:12).
Nice one, Adam.
And then came the curse. Actually, curses. And here is where Eve got the raw end of the deal.
For women, the curse of pain in childbearing is not the worst part. The rest of Genesis 3:16 says, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” That’s a terrible curse! Man’s curse is that it will be a lot harder for our work to be productive (vv. 17-19).
So the woman’s curse was relational, and the man’s curse was task-oriented. And this summarizes a major difference between the average woman and man—and explains much of the sin and frustration in the world.
A woman is wired for relationship—“a helper”—and this was corrupted by sin. For instance, women often ache for marriage and won’t leave an abusive relationship for fear of being alone.
A man is wired for task—God “put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15)—and this also was corrupted by sin. Thus, men tend to gravitate toward workaholism or laziness. Those are two extremes of the same taint on our view of work.
In both cases, something is taking the place of God in our worldview—either relationships or work becomes an idol.
Modern psychology has come to the same conclusion. In a study he wrote about in his book Sixteen Men, psychologist Dr. Loren Pedersen found that, contrary to academic opinion that all gender differences are cultural, there are actually a set of traits that are very different in the majority of men and women.
He found that about two-thirds of men tend toward “thinking,” and two-thirds of women tend toward “feeling” when giving a Myers-Briggs personality inventory. This gives us insight into how women and men view and react to the world differently. These are generalizations, of course. But they ring true for the vast proportion of my own experiences and for most men (and women) I have talked to.
Since men tend toward “thinking,” it makes us more oriented toward problem-solving. We also are more willing to take on challenges, often because we feel like we have assessed the “risk-reward” equation to our satisfaction. The ramifications of this are that we often want to “fix” everything. We can also be arrogant and even unsafe.
Since women tend toward the “feeling” side, it makes them more sensitive to a person’s emotions, seeking connection and intimacy. This can make men uncomfortable.
Using Pedersen’s study, Geoff Gorsuch with the Navigators created a set of rules that help to generally describe how men and women see the world. Look at the comparison below to see the ramifications—both positive and negative—of each approach.
1. Most men tend to seek emotional space, while most women tend to seek emotional intimacy.
Negative: Might make a man seem cold or uncomfortable with emotional expression.
Positive: Allows women to step into each other’s lives easily and develop relationships quickly.
Negative: Can sometimes ignore the facts of a situation based on emotional needs subject to manipulation.
2. Most men tend to see challenges while most women seek security or safety.
Positive: Gets things done. Willing to take risks.
Negative Can be very short-sighted. Can lead to excessive risk-taking and dangerous behavior.
Positive: Can help avoid unnecessary risks. Takes the long-term view.
Can get “stuck,” not realizing their potential (or keeping their mate from realizing his).
3. Most men tend to “fix” rather than “accept.”
Positive: Focus on problem-solving. If no one wanted to fix anything, everything would stay broken.
Negative: Can look at everything as a problem to be solved, rather than an experience to learn from.
Positive: Better suited for walking through things with people, rather than fixing them.
Negative: Can focus on the emotional at the expense of dealing with issues decisively.
4. Most men tend to process information linearly, while women process in a more integrated fashion.
Positive: Methodical approach. Don’t get confused by unrelated information or details.
Negative: Everything is “either/or.” Can’t see the forest for the trees.
Positive: Better able to see the big picture. Allows for the “both/and.”
Negative: Trying to do too much at once. Multitasking can lead to mediocrity or feeling overwhelmed.
5. Most men tend to experience frustration as explosive anger while women experience frustration through a variety of emotional escalations.
Positive: Will tolerate a lot of minor frustrations if the task is getting done.
Negative: Explosive anger is never good. Might have been able to head off the frustration if expressed earlier.
Positive: Venting as you go can help release pressure.
Negative: Can come across as nagging.
Embrace the Differences
The attributes and tendencies of men are often used—on TV, in movies, even in sermon illustrations—for comic relief. We are portrayed as emotionally clueless buffoons.
The important thing to remember about these differences is that they do not give either gender an advantage over the other. Going back to the word in Genesis, they are corresponding. We fit together like pieces of a puzzle. My strengths match up to my wife’s areas of need, and her strengths match up with my areas of need. They help us in our parenting, managing our household, involvement in church and our friendships.
Here are some tips for inter-species—oops, I mean inter-gender—communication. You can share these with your wife as well:
Sharing problems. When a guy shares a problem, 99 percent of the time it means he is looking for a solution. When a woman shares a problem—particularly with her husband—it usually means she wants to share the problem—share as in bearing one another’s burdens. This became clear to me one day when my wife had shared a problem with me. I was about three sentences into telling her how to solve it when she said, “I’m not stupid. I know what to do. That’s not why I told you. I just needed to talk with you about it.” She was sharing with me (relationship), not looking for me to tell her what to do (task).
Don’t fear the tears. Don’t be manipulated by them either. Guys express emotions in two ways: silence and explosion. Women escalate in phases. Just because she’s crying doesn’t mean she’s desperate. When your wife cries, more often than not she just needs you to connect with her emotionally. Hug her, tell her you’re sorry she’s sad, tell her you love her and that God does too. But don’t freak out. (And if you’re showing this to your wife, this is just for her: Ladies, don’t take advantage of your husband’s discomfort with tears by using them to get what you want. It’s fighting dirty. And it’s actually undermining your intimacy. When he figures it out, he will be hurt and he will withdraw from you emotionally.)
Listen responsively. Our wives need to be acknowledged. To you, your silence when she talks to you means, “I heard you. I get it. I don’t have any questions.” To her, it means, “I’m not really listening to you.” Whether she’s sharing a problem or asking you to take out the garbage, acknowledge what she’s saying.
Sex. For a guy, sex goes great on the to-do list. We’re usually happy to accomplish this task whenever asked! For a woman, sex is a celebration of the relationship. It is the culmination of a series of events and feelings that make her want to be close to you. Be careful about the language you use when talking about sex. Don’t expect to come in at the end of a hard day, say two words to her during dinner, watch ESPN while she does the dishes, kiss the kids on the forehead before she puts them to bed and then find your wife to be in the mood for intimacy with you.
Pray. Pray for your wife, and pray with your wife. When you don’t feel like much of a spiritual leader, it’s tough to feel like she will even want to pray with you. But she does. Give your wife a hug before you leave in the morning and say, “Can I pray for us real quick?” Then ask God to protect your wife, to be with her throughout the day and for Him to help you be the best husband you can be. This will change your heart and hers.
We did a workshop on this topic at FUEL 2013. Most of the attendees were wives. I was explaining to them the perspective their husbands have and how different it is from their own. I found myself somewhat apologetic for men and our focus on task over relationship.
But then one of the wives said something profound: “Don’t apologize for how men are! My husband is just like you described, and I like it! We need someone in our marriage who can put the emotions aside and make a tough decision. I need someone who will push me to take risks. It’s good for me that he focuses on things one at a time while I’m trying to do five things at once and feeling overwhelmed. God made us this way for a reason. I’ll take the negatives, because the positives are so great.” Wise words.
So take heart! God made you the way you are. And He made the women in our lives the way they are as well. If you’ll pay attention and realize the motivations of a woman’s heart, you will (usually) be able to decipher the gender code.
Brett Clemmer is a Christ-follower, husband, father, rock-climber, runner and avid reader. He lives in Central Florida and works for Man in the Mirror. In his role as vice president of leadership development, Brett spends the majority of his time writing, training and equipping church leaders to disciple men. Brett co-authored No Man Left Behind, a guidebook for church leaders who want to build male disciples in their church. He is active on Facebook and Twitter and maintains the One Man, Under God blog atbrettclemmer.tumblr.com.