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.