How Christian men can treat Christian women

So you came to this blog because, for whatever reason, you think there’s something wrong or lacking in the way that men treat women in the church. Whether you’re a man who wants to learn how to better conduct himself, or a woman who wants to read what this man is saying to other men, you already feel that this matters. But that’s the question I want to answer before we start: why does this matter?

Because God wins.

Every deed we do in Christ, every word we speak in Him, and every act of pure and selfless love proclaims the victory of God over a sinful and broken world. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses: the people around us, the departed believers, and the spiritual forces of good and evil in the heavenly places.[1] God displays His kingdom and glory to all these watching eyes – and He has chosen to do it through you and me.

With that in mind, let’s focus on how we as men are to treat women. For this purpose, there are two categories of women: the many and the one.

For this entry, I’ll be writing about the many—that is, all of our sisters in Christ. Here’s what’s in store:

  • Not playing the dating game
  • Treating women as friends
  • Being leaders
  • Being sensitive to what women go through
  • Addressing lust

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To begin with, you are not “on the hunt.”

I think the first adjustment that needs to take place in the hearts of many men is to stop seeing the women of the body of Christ as a pool of potential romantic partners.

The problem with this attitude is that it’s all about you. When you start evaluating the women you know and meet based on how well you think you’d go together, your focus is not on how you can honor God in your relationships. Instead, your motive becomes to fulfill your own desires by means of a relationship.

You are evaluating every young woman you meet based on how well you think she can meet your elusive idea of your own personal Eve, not based on who God is making her to be. You are saying, “God’s desires for my life, heart, conduct, and relationships aren’t the most important: mine are.”

This kind of conduct not only idolizes yourself, but it also shows your sisters in Christ that you only value (or devalue) them as a potential wife. This teaches them the false lesson that their only value lies in being with a man—and even a false lesson will start to sound true if it’s taught often enough.

Am I saying to never think about dating a woman? No. What I’m saying is to treat the women in your life as friends, and trust to God for the right opportunity at the right time.

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Our sisters, our allies, our friends

Instead of seeing them as intimates, default to treating women as friends.

What’s the difference? Intimacy is two people focused on one another. Friendship is two people focused on a common goal, working and walking together towards that aim.

All of us in the body of Christ, men and women, should be friends, because we have one aim, one destiny, one faith, one hope, one love, and one master. This rises above personal differences and petty quarrels. Our brothers and sisters are our allies in advancing the kingdom of God.

This is our ultimate relationship to one another: not as men and women, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, parents and children, but as each a part of that mysterious and mystical body of eternal, created spirits that is called the church and the bride of Christ. We will best serve our fellow Christians when we keep that relationship and its purpose in mind above all else.

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Doing leadership

As we keep our ultimate purpose constantly in focus, we can best serve our fellow Christians by fulfilling that purpose with them and leading them to do so. This is a lifestyle that we are to live, not just an occupation to fill. Even if you’re not a pastor, teacher, or leader in some other official capacity, you are leading someone somewhere, whether you realize it or not.

1)    Lead spiritually

Make all of your relationships all about God and His glory. Set an example in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity; exhort, encourage, and rebuke. Most of all, pray without ceasing.[2] Love your brothers and sisters in Christ in this way: by being all about pointing, bringing, nudging, pushing, and urging them closer to the One for whom they were made.

2)    Lead in ministry

This is an extension of leading spiritually. Some men are called to a formal position, but the essence of ministry is simply finding a way to fill the needs of others—whether a need for food, teaching, worship music, personal care—especially the need for the Gospel and the saving knowledge of Christ.

So find some need to fill, and lead others in doing so! Whatever you do, do something, and do it for the glory of God! And whatever you do, don’t not step up to fill a need.

3)    Lead socially

This part may not sound super-spiritual, but we need to take the lead in engaging women relationally (yes, even as friends). Talk to them, individually and in groups! Find out who they are and how you can encourage them and point them to Christ.

(At the same time, know where the boundaries are. For example, don’t be friends with a woman in a way that you wouldn’t be if she were married to someone else: that could cause problems for her future relationship).

The best setting in which to be friends with women is in the context of a group—so go out of your way to create times and places where fellowship can take place. Believe it or not, women appreciate it when men plan events!

Even go so far as to ask questions that will get people talking with each other about Jesus, whether in a group or one-on-one. Don’t wait for the ladies to plan social times and start spiritual conversations![3]

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Being sensitive: being a light in the dark

Yes, men, I’m telling you to be sensitive. Grow up. Just because we’re men doesn’t mean we have to be emotional idiots. In fact, serving the body of Christ and following His command to love one another demands the very opposite.

What I’m calling us to have is “a quick and delicate appreciation of others’ feelings.” This is essential for unity and harmony in all relationships. Particularly, when it comes to serving and working with our sisters in Christ, we need to be sensitive to the problems, pitfalls, and pressures that they uniquely face as women.

A friend of mine put it this way: “Every moment we [women] are expected to look a certain way, be a certain size, buy certain clothes, and act a certain way that isn’t necessarily who we are. This is honestly a burden and one that every woman carries with her as she battles these temptations, expectations, and self-doubt.” She summed it up very bluntly: “We live in a society that is oppressive to women.” When I see the pressure that is constantly applied to women to be someone else’s ideal, I can’t help but agree with her.

This means that we have a choice to make. Do we treat the women in our life in accordance with the world’s values, according to the expectations that the world places on them? Or do we let them know, through our actions and how we treat them, that there are men who value them based on the truth of who they are in God’s family? Hear my friend’s appeal: “It would be nice to know that my brothers in Christ are seeing us as God sees us – who we really are and not what we look like on the outside.” You can let her know.

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Addressing lust

(I promise, the picture makes sense). Obviously, we all know this is a bad thing (if you’re not clear on this, go read Matthew 5:27-28 [4]). But I want to uncover the root of it.

In conservative Muslim countries, women are required to be covered from head to toe. The purpose of this is so that the sight of their bodies won’t cause the men to be tempted. Is this really effective, though? Are these men thus rendered incapable of lust?

A man looking at a fully-covered woman can still lust after her. On the other hand, a God-honoring man at a beach in the summer can still keep his heart pure (and not just by keeping his eyes closed the whole time!) The source of lust is not from outside, but from within. You do not have a woman problem. You have a heart problem.

Jesus uses the illustration of a tree and its fruit to teach that all our words, deeds, and thoughts are the result of what we’re “rooted” in.[5] Whether a tree produces good or bad fruit depends on whether it’s healthy or rotten inside. In the same way, your thoughts and actions, whether God-honoring or God-defying, all come from what’s inside you. If you lust, it means you need to surrender your heart—that is, not just your emotions, but that which causes you to do everything you do—to be changed by Him. If you act in purity, it’s because He already has.

Go forth and love

I wrote this to try to teach men how we can love our sisters in Christ for how God sees them and for who they are, not for how they can please us—how we can love all of them as Christ loves us, while saving our intimate affections for the right woman at the right time.


[1] Hebrews 12:1; Ephesians 6:12

[2] 1st Timothy 4:12; 2nd Timothy 4:2; 1st Thessalonians 5:17

[3] Stolen from Joshua Harris’s book, Boy Meets Girl, chapter 7.

[4] If you read verses 29-30, you might wonder why we’re not all cutting our hands off and our eyes out. In brief, I think the reason is this: our hands and eyes do not actually cause us to sin. The Sermon on the Mount is all about the motivations of the heart; therefore, I think that what Jesus means here is that, if there is any part of your inward being that causes you to sin, it needs to be done away with.

[5] Matthew 7:16-19

The nations all shall hear and see,

astonished at His victory,

the kings of men will shut their mouths in awe

 

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4 Comments

  1. Tedd Cadd

     /  January 24, 2014

    AmberDawn McCall posted a link to this piece on Facebook. I appreciate your insistence that women be treated as the fellow heirs of Christ that they are. I co-lead groups for abuse survivors, mostly sexual abuse. I don’t have words to express what I hear in these groups about how men, Christian and otherwise, have treated them. But I do know that, when they have a man speaking healing words to them, it is amazing to witness.

    One friend of mine just returned from Africa where he was doing training for pastors (first) and other men on how to properly view women. He is using the same curriculum here and it is needed.

    I’ve come to believe that it isn’t at all difficult to understand women. When you treat them with the honor they are due and try to get into their shoes (listen to them!), it is amazing what you find.

    I think I have a harder time understanding men and the way they treat women.

    In the Facebook note I left on that site, I suggested that we need to treat all women, not just Christian women, like you suggest. It doesn’t make any difference what the outward appearance is. When you realize, for example, that the average age of entry into prostitution in this country is between 12 and 14, you begin—but only just begin—to understand that those women (and girls) need the same sort of respect.

    Thank you for saying it.

    Like

    Reply
    • Thanks for your affirmation! I’m honored that AmberDawn found this worth linking to!

      To see what women go through is heartbreaking and infuriating. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen or heard of a documentary called “Killing Us Softly 4,” but it shows how women are sexually objectified in advertisements — when I saw it a few years ago, it made me want to fight someone. I wish the problem were that easy to solve, but I’ve come to learn more and more that all I can do is speak up, lead by example, and pray.

      You make a good point that we should treat all women this way. In fact, that should be one of the many ways in which our conduct sets us apart as followers of Christ. I’m grateful for men like your friend who teaches men how to properly view women — it certainly is needed — as well as men like you, who help heal those who’ve suffered so that what’s been done to them doesn’t define them. Keep doing what you’re doing.

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      Reply
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