One of the unfortunate inheritances of theistic moralism is the divorce of ethics from worldview. Imitating Christ is not an endeavor isolated to how we shape our moral outlook, rather it is the process of becoming a new creation that can see, taste, touch, feel, and understand the world as God has made it. Growing up into Christ, in whom all things hold together (Col 1:17), is to recognize how the created order tells us things about Prime Reality, the Triune God. When heaven and earth are wedded in Christ, and microcosmically in every disciple, the fingerprints of God’s revelation present themselves in all manner of places. Morality is refounded in the bedrock of our Triune God, and rescued from the void of relativism.
Sexual ethics, and gender roles in particular, have been mucked up even by otherwise orthodox believers. The shouts of feminism have rattled so much stained glass that the glory of the feminine and masculine is frequently distorted in the church. Perhaps the most clever move has come through the manipulation of scripture. The “Proverbs 31” woman has become the rallying cry to get those mothers out of the house and into the office spaces. While the hordes of righteous liberators trample over Titus 2 and it’s instructions for Godly women. “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” (Titus 2:3-5 emphasis mine).
Some fine scholars have appealed to cultural standards being at play with the instructions in Titus. They argue that patriarchy was to be expected at this time and so Christians should show respect to the societal norms. Those that want to make their eisegesis less obvious will try to warp “working at home” into “working for the home” so as long as the woman’s paycheck goes towards groceries she is being obedient. I have a bolder idea, let’s assume that the text actually means what it says, that the Word of God is at stake if a woman does not work at home. Then taking into consideration the whole counsel of God i.e. Proverbs 31, we see that the industrious woman of Proverbs 31 is based from home. She rises early to make food for the household staff, she acquires things that glorify her home, she looks after her household well and it brings glory to her and her husband.
For Paul to add that these things must be obeyed so that ,“the word of God is not reviled”, attaches a gravity to these commands that exceeds the arbitrary or cultural. As with all God ordained instruction there is something about his image bearing that is being communicated through gender roles. First of all we need to understand that marriage is not a human construction. Marriage is a gift from God that is communicating the prime reality of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:22-25). The true wedding. The antitype of Bride and Bridegroom. Christ and the Church is the template for marriage and all human marriage is a shadow form of the cosmic romance God is unfolding for Christ the King and his Glorious Bride.
With this in mind how does Christ behave toward the Church? What role does the Church fulfill? How do these two roles inform men and women in earthly marriage? Christ, the bridegroom, leaves his home (heaven). “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and they shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). This is why whenever we join the bride by becoming Christians we are also grafted into the body of Christ. He is the head we are the body. When we partake of the Lord’s supper we are eating his body and blood, we are what we eat. As the bridegroom, Christ goes into his field (the Earth) and accomplishes his work; his ministry, the cross, resurrection, and ascension. Through this work He provides for His bride, The Church, with life and a new home to fill and adorne, the New Heavens and New Earth. His provision is eternal life and heavenly glories. Christ sustains his bride with his body, just as manna fell daily, so Christ is our daily bread, providing like a Godly husband.
In the same way husbands are called to provide and protect for their brides and children. A man that willingly neglects these duties is denying Christ’s headship. Ephesians 5 places onto a husband’s shoulders the task of imprinting his life with the image of Christ in a particular way. Love demands action, to love as Christ loves means to provide and rescue as Christ did. That rescue includes, but is not limited to, washing their wives with the word to sanctify her so she may stand against temptations. Provision is required all the way down, in the most tactile ways. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, we find that a man that neglects these duties is to be counted as worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim 5:8). The task of Christian headship is not an á la carte rubric, it is a full throttled image bearing testimony.
The Church, the bride, is given her task after Christ has won his bride through the resurrection. She is to go into all the world baptizing all nations, and teaching them to obey all things (Matt 28:18-20). The bride gives birth, baptism, and raises children, teaching them to obey all things. Baptism and discipleship also adorns and glorifies the created world. New Jerusalem, the Bride, is adorned with precious stones and metals that are the saints (Rev 21:9-27). The new children brought in through spiritual birth are part of the glory of the nations that is brought into the New Jerusalem. This is foreshadowed in the work of the Proverbs 31 woman, “her clothing is fine linen and purple.” She beautifies and adornes, she is more than a pragmatic hard worker she is also an aesthetically gifted woman.
The God given glorious role of women to bear children, nourish and raise them, cultivate the domestic space, is nothing to be dismissed as old fashioned or secondary. A Godly wife is a woman that reflects the distinct feminine glory she was made for. A wife that emulates all that the Church is meant to be, is a woman worthy of praise and esteem. A woman’s very biology is that of a home, she is made to nourish and bring life. The eternal glory of the Church and her role as the keeper and tender of God’s children is not an old-fashioned tradition for the bigots. Urging our sisters in Christ to perform the roles of men, is a sure fire way to cultivate a disdain for the Church itself. By selling short and despising feminine roles we are showing a disgust for the Bride of Christ. A restoration of earthly gender roles is at the heart beat of Gospel loving Christians.