Thursday, February 7, 2013

Overcoming Male Pattern Selfishness


I’m currently reading through the Scriptures at an accelerated pace.  It is bearing fruit in numerous ways, not the least of which is that I am noticing patterns in the Bible that I haven’t seen in the past.  One of these is how Adam’s failure in Genesis 3 continues to be replayed in various ways throughout the biblical storyline.
In Genesis 2, God created for Adam a “helper suitable” for him.  He took one of the man’s ribs and fashioned it into a woman and brought her to the man. “Then the man said, ‘This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:23-24).  This one-flesh union has many implications, one being that “husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it…” (Eph 5:28-29).  Because the man recognized the woman as his own flesh, he should have cared for her as his own flesh.
But immediately in the biblical text, the man fails to do this.  Genesis 3 records the serpent coming into the garden and tempting the woman to disobey God’s command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  The woman gave in to the temptation and ate of the fruit.  Then the text reveals, “she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Gen 3:6).  Though the man is not mentioned in the first five verses of the chapter, we find that he was there the whole time, watching. 
It would appear that Adam remained silent as the serpent trespassed in the garden, silent as the serpent twisted God’s word, silent as his wife contemplated disobedience, silent as she plucked the fruit from the tree, silent as she brought it to her mouth, and silent as she ate it – for the sole purpose of satisfying his own curiosity.  He wanted to see what would happen.  Certainly, this episode demonstrates a number of failures on Adam’s part, including his failure to rid the garden of the serpent, to protect his wife from the serpent, and to lead his wife in obeying God’s command.  It also demonstrates a selfish willingness to sacrifice the good of his wife for his own pleasure.  He figured that his wife would have greater culpability for having eaten the fruit first and given it to him (Gen 3:12).  She would bear the brunt of the blame, while his desire would be fully satisfied.
But God did not see it that way.  When the deed was done, Yahweh came looking for the man.  In v9, Yahweh calls out, “where are you?”  In the Hebrew text, “you” is a masculine singular pronoun.  God was talking specifically to Adam and not to his wife.  That Adam held the greater culpability is clear from New Testament passages, such as Rom 5:12, which teaches that “sin came into the world through one man.”
When God was pronouncing the curse of the ground in v17, He said that it was “because you have listened to the voice of your wife and eaten of the tree…”  Adam not only disobeyed the direct command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he also allowed his wife to lead, and in that way he failed to care for her.
This is the starting point of a perpetual pattern of male selfishness and failure to lead.  In Genesis 12, Abram and Sarai traveled to Egypt because there was a famine in the land.  Because Sarai was a beautiful woman, Abram feared that when the Egyptians saw her and realized she was his wife, they would kill him so that they could have her.  Abram’s solution?  “Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake” (Gen 12:13).  That sentence not only reeks of self-centeredness, but also reflects the mindset of Adam.  I’ll let her pay the price for what is beneficial to me.  I’ll sacrifice her for my good.  Pharaoh did indeed take Sarai into his house, but by the grace of God she was spared complete humiliation and was returned to Abram (Gen 12:15-20). 
But old habits die hard. Sojourning in Gerar in Genesis 20, he (now Abraham) did the same thing again.  This time his wife (now Sarah) was taken by Abimelech, king of Gerar.  Once again, by God’s grace she was spared and returned to Abraham.
Is that the last episode? It was the last of that specific expression of selfishness by Abraham, but the pattern was continued by his son Isaac in Genesis 26.  As in the previous story, the setting was Gerar.  “When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, ‘She is my sister,’ for he feared to say, ‘My wife,’ thinking, ‘lest the men of the place should kill me because of Rebekah,’ because she was attractive in appearance” (Gen 26:7).  Like father like son.
Other episodes of men putting their own pleasure/safety/needs above the women in their lives include: Abraham following Sarah’s counsel to take Hagar as his wife, which led to strife among the three of them (Gen 16); Isaac taking additional wives, who “made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah” (Gen 26:34-35); and, the Levite who, fearing for his own life, offered his concubine to an angry horde of Benjaminites, who raped and killed her (Jdg 19).
I think if we look at our own lives, we can find traces of the same pattern.  It may not be as extreme as the cases in the Bible, but it is there.  We allow our wives to be the primary spiritual influence in the lives of our children.  We come home from work each day, and yet, considering our lack of involvement with the family, we might as well be gone.  We expect our wives to continue doing everything for the kids and everything that needs to be done around the house so that we can relax, as if we are the only ones who have been working all day.  We remain preoccupied with our own concerns, interests, and hobbies while never asking about what they are struggling with or showing any care for their emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being.  Without serving them, we expect them to serve us.  In time, we not only retire from our careers, but from our marriages, as mentally absent from our wives’ lives as we are physically absent from our old places of employment.
We expect them to fend for themselves spiritually.  We wait for them to ask if we can pray together or read the Word together.  We are all too willing to let them lead, since following requires so much less effort and thought from us.  We allow them to take the lead in being involved and serving at church while we would be content to sit in the pew and drink coffee.  In short, we allow them and even expect them to give themselves up for us.
We are following in Adam’s footsteps.  The first Adam, that is.  There is a second Adam, who has provided not only a new pattern, but also the power to put it into practice. 
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. (Eph 5:25-30)
This is the new paradigm.  Or perhaps we should consider a return to the original paradigm of Genesis 2.  Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  He loved her by giving Himself up for her.  We must follow this pattern.  But how?
First, we must examine ourselves to find where the old Adam’s pattern is manifesting itself in our lives.  We need to find those specific things that we are doing to sacrifice our wives for our own pleasure/safety/needs.
Second, we need to repent.  We need to agree with Scripture that this way of life is sinful.  As Paul wrote in Eph 4:22, we need to put off the old self, which belongs to our former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires.  We must purpose by God’s grace to turn away from these things and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:24).
Third, we need to seek our wives’ forgiveness.  Until things are right between a husband and wife, they cannot be right between a husband and God (1 Pet3:7).  If your wife has read this post, demonstrate your repentance by being the first to bring it up and deal with the issues.
Fourth, seek God’s forgiveness.  Every sin is first and foremost a sin against God (Psa51:4).  If we confess and seek forgiveness, He will cleanse us (1 John 1:9).
Fifth, we must pursue Christ, in whom alone is the power to walk faithfully as godly husbands.  We do this by spending time in the Word, in prayer, under faithful teaching, and in godly fellowship and mutual service, daily preaching the gospel to ourselves (Col 3:16; 1 Thess 5:17; 1 Pet 2:1-5; Heb 10:24-25; Eph 4:11-14; 1 Cor15:1-58).  A man who pursues Christ will find in Him the desire and ability to love his wife the way Christ loves His.
Sixth, we must seek out accountability with other men (2 Tim2:22; 1 Thess 5:14).  Find someone who will walk with you, asking hard questions and offering encouragement and correction when needed.
We have to remember that as Christian men our lives are not about our own pleasure and self-centered pursuits.  We exist to glorify God and exalt Jesus Christ (Matt 5:16;Phil 2:9-11; Eph 5:22-32).  In our marriages, the best way to do this is to follow the second Adam, not the first.
 Posted by Greg Birdwell

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