Rights or responsibilities?


Our postmodern culture is focussed on rights and freedoms. We want to be able to do anything we can to further our own sense of purpose or happiness. But this often has bitter and unintended results. The conflict over male-female role distinctions illustrates this. Each gender desires the right or ability to do what he/she wants in order to fulfil their goals and achieve happiness, but in disregard of the good of the greater whole. Women feel they must somehow take hold of their rightful share of rulership which has been monopolized by men while they have been kept in a subservient position. As Christians, we must indeed acknowledge that men, Christian men included, have often wrongfully dominated and lorded rulership over women, seeking their own benefit while not being concerned for the woman. The solution, however, is to hold to the Bible’s view that men and women are equal in worth and value, though different in role and function.

This relates to the breaking of the curse God placed on the relationship of Adam and Eve as a result of their disobedience. According to Gen. 3:16, the substance of this curse was that the man would “rule over” the woman and the woman would “desire” the man. In Genesis, the Hebrew word for “rule over” does not refer to the legitimate exercise of authority but to violent physical abuse. In Christ, while there is still legitimate authority in the marriage relationship, there is no room for any form of abuse. Rather, the husband shows his leadership in the marriage through the laying down of his life (Eph. 5:25).

The other element of the curse – the woman’s “desire” for the man – does not refer in Hebrew to legitimate physical desire, but to an obsessive controlling manipulation of the man best personified in Scripture by Jezebel. Satan’s plan was for the man to rule abusively through force and power, and for the woman to respond defensively through control and manipulation. The effect of the curse, therefore, was to pervert Adam’s God-given authority into an abusive tyranny, whereas Eve’s role as a submissive co-worker was twisted as she attempted to achieve self-protection through controlling Adam with an obsessive focus on him rather than on God, resulting in a potent mixture of idolatry and control. Adam found “freedom” to govern outside of God and Eve found “freedom” to find security outside of God. This, Paul declares, is the curse now broken through the work of the cross.