An Invitation to Dialogue with Evangelicals for Marriage Equality

Baptist Press published an article yesterday with comments from various Southern Baptist thinkers and leaders (and then me) responding to the launch of Evangelicals for Marriage Equality (EME). For those of you not familiar with EME, the opening paragraph of their statement of belief reads as follows:

As Evangelicals for Marriage Equality, we believe you can be a devout, Bible-believing evangelical and support the right of same-sex couples to be recognized by the government as married. Our commitment to following Christ leads us to speak out for equal treatment under the law for others—whether or not they share our religious convictions.

One of the key goals of this organization is to foster “compassionate, respectful dialogue” on the issue of same-sex marriage. They acknowledge that some of the conversations on both sides of the aisle have not always been helpful or civil.

As a Southern Baptist, I agree with the statements released in Baptist Press, especially considering my comments are part of the article. It should come as no surprise that I disagree with the position of EME. However, the statements back and forth (especially on Twitter) have been less of a conversation and more of short sound bites or longer soliloquies.

In light of this and in the spirit of dialogue, I am offering an open invitation to EME co-founders Josh Dickson and Michael Saltsman and/or spokesperson Brandan Robertson to have a dialogue in my ethics classes on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX.

In just two sections of The Christian Home (a course on the ethics of marriage and family), I have nearly 100 students—future Baptist and evangelical pastors, missionaries, professors, and ministry leaders—focusing on the issue of marriage. The class schedule is such that both sections can be visited within the span of about 15 hours (Monday evening and Tuesday morning). I also have an introductory level class on the Bible and Moral Issues that meets Wednesday morning. The seminary classroom setting is perhaps a perfect place to have this dialogue as we believe in the exchange and evaluation of ideas.

If EME would like to send a representative to the fifth largest media market in the country to have a dialogue on the campus of one of the largest theological seminaries in the world, the invitation is open. My contact information is readily available on my faculty profile page on the seminary website.

Baseball Theology from Peanuts

This classic Peanuts comic strip is evidence that baseball and theology are a match made in heaven. Thank you, Charles Schulz.

It also serves as an appropriate commentary on the Texas Rangers’ abysmal 2014 season. We can only hope for better next year. But in the words of former Rangers manager Ron Washington: “That’s the way baseball go.”

This comic strip is available at http://www.peanuts.com/comicstrips/3259443.

Turning Boys into Men

Sports talk radio is not my normal stop when looking for solid theological content and cultural commentary. However, I found a little of both this week on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike.” The story du jour was the video of Ray Rice hitting his fiancée and knocking her unconscious in an elevator. Nothing new was said about the facts, but the commentary from Hall of Fame wide-receiver Cris Carter was impeccable.

When Mike Greenberg asked if football players need to learn how to turn the violence switch off when they step off the field, Carter responded by saying that was the wrong perspective. He immediately turned the conversation to the lack of fathers in our culture, especially among the current NFL players, and a lack of understanding what it means to be a man. He then recounted his own story of being reared by a single mother along with his three sisters. He credited his mother for teaching him how to treat women, but he bemoaned the absence of fathers in boys’ lives.

I have one son (and three daughters), and I have been thinking lately about what it means to lead him into manhood. He’s five years old right now, so we have a long way to go, but there are things I can do now as a father to teach him how to be a man.

Set an Example

The big issue with the Ray Rice situation is that he treated a woman in a way that no woman should ever be treated. But how can I teach my son how to treat women? The first way is to set an example in the way I treat my wife.

Scripture instructs me to love my wife just as Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25) and to show understanding and honor to her (1 Pet 3:7). I do not do these things simply for the sake of showing my son how to be a man. I am to treat my wife in this way because she is my wife and she is made in the image of God. In fact, most of the time that we spend interacting with one another, we are not consciously aware that our children are watching. But they are.

My son is a perceptive little boy. He recognizes the differences in tones and inflections of voice. He listens to the words others use and employs them in his own vocabulary. He sees the way adults act toward one another and mimics them. He also recognizes the difference between genuine actions and pretense.

When I show genuine love, care, and concern for my wife, my son learns how to treat the women in his life. If he sees me act foolishly or disrespectfully, he will imitate that behavior as well. Thus, I need to focus not so much on what he might see, but instead I need to concentrate on loving my wife as Christ loves the church. In doing so, he learns to be a true man by watching a man.

Be There

You might have heard someone remark that it is not the quantity of time you spend with your children but the quality of time. Honestly, I think that is false. Absentee fathers are not simply the ones who live in another city and shirk the responsibilities of fatherhood. Absentee dads could live in the same house as their families. Just last night I spent the evening with my family at a baseball game. My son and I held down the “boy side” of our row for several innings. There was no grand teaching moment. He ate his hot dog and peanuts. He looked at the game program. He had a good time. We enjoyed just being together.

I am thankful for a flexible job that allows me to spend time with my family. It is important for me to be with all members of my family, but I think it is especially important for my son to see me involved in our family life. How else am I to set an example unless I am there?

I understand that some fathers have responsibilities that require them to be away from their families for extended periods of time, but I could never do that. I would rather give up career advancement for the sake of being there for my family. Even now I intentionally limit my travel so that I am not gone more than my wife and I agree is healthy for our family.

What does my son see when I am there? He sees a father who loves him and wants to spend time with him. He gets a dad who comes to his t-ball games. He gets a man who is there to encourage him to be strong and courageous. That is why I want to be there with him.

Teach Them

The final and most important aspect of turning boys into men is to teach them God’s Word. Scripture is replete with admonitions to fathers about teaching their sons to follow after God. A constant refrain in the first seven chapters of Proverbs is for a son to hear his father’s instructions. Solomon wrote these words for the benefit of his son.

One of the most well-known passages regarding the instruction of sons comes in Deuteronomy 6 where we read:

Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. . . . These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut 6:1–2, 6–9)

As fathers, we have a responsibility to teach our sons. We teach them through our words and actions how to love God and be men. I am still figuring out what this looks like in our family, but at the very least, I need to be there to teach my son about God.

In a day where more than 40% of all children born in the US are born to unwed mothers, the trend of absentee fatherhood seems only to be getting worse. If we want boys to become men, we need to redouble our efforts at encouraging a biblical model of fatherhood. Be a man; take responsibility; set an example. This will help us stem the tide of grown men acting like boys. Fathers play an essential role in the development of boys into men. And when we are not sure what to do, we can look to the best example—our Heavenly Father.

Machismo vs. Manhood

Football is the ultimate expression of machismo in American culture. Bigger, stronger, and faster is the goal. Gladiators armed with nothing but their bodies fly around the field attempting to dominate their opponents in both strength and strategy. Boys around the country dream of growing into the men who play the game.

Unfortunately, the football world has been rocked in recent days by a number of scandals related to being a man off the field. The domestic violence case involving Ray Rice has dominated the headlines while San Francisco 49er Ray McDonald and Carolina Panther Greg Hardy face similar accusations of domestic violence and await adjudication of their cases.

What are we to make of these acts of violence? Is this just an extension of the machismo that fans cheer on the football field? Is this what it means to be a man—physically overcome your opponent at all costs? Should we tolerate the violence off the field that we celebrate on the field?

We should not tolerate the off-field violence, nor should we consider this type of violent machismo to be manhood. Such a response has been popular in the media, but few have actually tried to give the reason why. Perhaps it is because the reason is unpopular.

Scripture gives us a number of examples for how men are to treat women, but I want to focus on two—particularly how husbands are to treat their wives since these recent cases have involved domestic violence.

In 1 Peter 3:7 we read:

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

The dominate culture of our day has taught us that there is no difference between men and women. They should be treated equally in all arenas of life. However, public opinion erupted when video became available of a chiseled professional athlete knocking out his fiancée. In light of this reaction, the gut instinct of our culture is that men and women are not really the same.

The Bible actually gives us a very clear picture of biblical manhood, and it involves a recognition that men and women are different. Peter tells us that husbands are to be understanding and recognize that women are a weaker vessel. This does not mean that she lacks value, intelligence, or skill. It is a reminder that we have different roles to play. Rather than viewing our wives as opponents, we are to protect them. Rather than trying to master them, we are to provide for them. Peter tells us to treat our wives with honor as fellow heirs of the grace of life. When I think of honoring someone, I think of cherishing, protecting, and promoting. I want to place my wife’s interests above those of my own. Her safety, security, and reputation are mine to uphold.

In Ephesians 5, we read Paul’s instructions regarding how husbands are to treat their wives. In verses 25 and 28–30 we read:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her. . . . So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.

Our example in manhood is Christ himself. We are to love our wives as Christ loved the church. Remember, he left heaven, took the form of man, and sacrificed his own life for his bride. There is no greater sacrifice than that.

We are also told to love our wives as our own bodies. Just as we feed and take care of our bodies, so are we to care for our wives. Once again, this is not because they are less valuable or incapable—it is simply our role. Christ is our example, and he gave up everything to nourish and cherish his bride.

While our society cringes to see the video of a man striking his fiancée, the solution to the problem is often equally despised. This is because the teachings of Scripture are counter-cultural. It is unpopular to tell a man that he should treat his wife as a weaker vessel. It is out of favor to say that a wife should submit to the loving leadership of her husband as to Christ. But I think counter-cultural is the way we should go here. While culture walks swiftly down the path of violence, the words of Scripture call us men to honor, love, and cherish women. That is true manhood. It is the way of the Word, not the way of the world.

_________________________

Sam Farmer, “NFL scrutinized over Ray Rice inquiry, other domestic violence cases,” Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2014.

Guest Post: How Marriage Is a Good Thing

wedding ringsThis is a guest post from my wife, Melanie. She originally wrote this post for Biblical Woman, the blog site for the Women’s Programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The post originally appeared here.

We believe that marriage was created by God as a covenant between one man and one woman for the purpose of communicating the relationship between God Himself and His people; that biblical marriage is the only rightful relationship for sexual expression; that women are called to honor God in marriage by submitting to their own husbands voluntarily and purposefully (Gen 2:24-25; 1 Cor 7:1-5; Eph 5:22-33; Col 3:18-19; 1 Pet 3:1-7; Heb 13:4).

Last night, I sat at a table full of wonderful ladies embarking on another year of seminary for their husbands. This year’s theme for this particular group is Proverbs 18:22. The Lord has been working in my heart and mind lately about how marriage is such a “good thing.” I am so grateful God blessed me with my husband almost 12 years ago. It’s not necessarily because my husband and I are walking around in a sea of marital bliss and our lives are filled with ease and euphoric charity with each other all day long. Quite the contrary, we have just recently come out of a very hard year in the life of our family. We love each other more than ever, and respect and value each other in ways that we never did before. However, in the hardest times of the last year and a half as well as the best times of recent days, God has constantly reminded me that marriage is a “good thing.”

Why is this so? Surely, in our highly individualized, self-sufficient culture, God could see that one would do just fine on their own. Nope. That is not how God sees it. God created marriage and created His people to be in a covenantal relationship meant to last a lifetime.

Here are 3 ways marriage really is a good thing.

  1. We are unified with our husbands. My husband and I do pre-marital counseling and I share with sweet couples often this reality: If you are having communication problems or forgiveness problems or times when one of you is simply demanding your way too much, it will show up in your physical relationship. God, in His great wisdom, created us for unity in heart and body, and you can’t have one without the other. In a different aspect, the writer of Hebrews says this, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Sex, within the context of marriage, works to protect ourselves from the pitfalls of sexual sins. Just like a loving parent sets up boundaries for their children to protect them, God has established the boundaries of marriage to protect his children from the grave dangers of illicit sexual behavior. In marriage, you are unified and are a testimony to the lost world. This is a good thing.
  2. In our companionship, we offer balance. Do you ever notice that ladies are less likely to be catty if husbands are around? Let’s face it, we women have a tendency to rile each other up and feed off of the frenzy of gossip and lavish stories. However, in a co-ed setting, the environment is a bit more even-keeled. In the same vein, when it is only men together, all sorts of barbaric activities ensue. Simply visit a group of bachelors living together. There will be sights and sounds and smells that are not allowed in a civil society. A lady brings class and beauty to a group of men; and a man brings gravity and fortitude to a group of ladies. In His great wisdom and knowledge, He made us different, yet so fitted for each other. Therefore, because we all need it so very badly, balance is a good thing.
  3. A chain of command. Have you ever heard the phrase, “There are too many chiefs and not enough Indians”? Usually, I heard this around Thanksgiving when all of the ladies in my family were crammed into the kitchen, each intent on doing their cooking their own way. What came of it? Chaos. Finally, when one woman took charge (usually the actual owner of the kitchen), everything calmed down. One person made the casseroles and one person washed the dishes and one person made sure nothing was burning and so the list of tasks went on. This is the same way in a marriage. God is not a God of chaos, but of order. We are all His children, and God desires a personal relationship with each of us individually. However, in the home, the husband is the head. He is the leader who will answer to God for the choices he makes for the family. The wife is the helper who assists her husband in whatever way is needed. As her husband submits to God, so she submits to her husband. If she is fighting for the role of headship of the family, only chaos will come. As I mentioned before, over the last year, my husband and I went through a difficult time where many decisions had to be made. I can honestly say that I never understood the benefit of submission until this time in our lives. There were times, when I would absolutely disagree with my husband. However, I trusted him and I trusted God to use him for His glory. In EVERY situation, God was faithful, and I was reminded how wise and honorable my husband is. Another word for submission is yielding. In our case, I would state my opinion and then willingly yield. My husband would make the best decision he knew to make and we would wait. Again, EVERY time, my husband’s decision worked out. Now, on this side of the trial, I admire and trust my husband more than ever. Yes, submission is a good thing.

I only have experience in one marriage and that is my own. However, I assume that most people wonder, at some point, if marriage really is a good thing. I pray that, no matter the circumstances, you will know in your heart of hearts that the answer is yes. We hold firm to the book of Proverbs and proclaim in agreement, “He who finds a wife, finds a good thing.” Lastly, marriage is a good thing, because the One who created it is good. Psalm 145:9 says, “The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works.”

 He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.

~Proverbs 18:22