I have been unable to shake a thought my spiritual parents shared with me this past weekend--that our confusion over gender roles has its roots in sin's curse, as described by God in Genesis 3:16:
To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."Perhaps this isn't hot off the news wire, but here's the part that's stuck with me ... I'd always wondered about the "desire will be for your husband" part. I had the vague sense that this language meant that the woman would be unable to shake an emotional dependency on the man, one which would lead her to bend to his subjugation ("he will rule over you").
But Pastor Allen and Miriam shared with me a different thought. It seems the language of "desire" in this instance is like that in Genesis 4:7b, where God warns Cain, "But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
The New Living Translation tries to capture this language, as it translates 3:16b: "And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you."
This translation captures more closely the power struggle that sin prompts between men and women. It's more than just dependency and subjugation, it is a struggle for control brought upon us by the curse of sin. The woman's desire will be frustrated by the man's physical strength, so she must resort to subtler manipulations to wrest control away. He then responds with his own sinful impulse to crush her resistance.
John Piper captures the problem this way:
So the essence of corrupted maleness is the self-aggrandizing effort to subdue and control and exploit women for its own private desires. And the essence of corrupted femaleness is the self-aggrandizing effort to subdue and control and exploit men for its own private desires. And the difference is found mainly in the different weaknesses that we can exploit in one another. As a rule men have more brute strength than women and so they can rape and abuse and threaten and sit around and snap their finger. It's fashionable to say those sorts of things today. But it's just as true that women are sinners. We are in God's image male and female; and we are depraved, male and female. Women may not have as much brute strength as men but she knows ways to subdue him. She can very often run circles around him with her words and where her words fail she knows the weakness of his lust. If you have any doubts about the power of sinful woman to control sinful man just reflect for a moment on the number one marketing force in the world — the female body. She can sell anything because she knows the universal weakness of man and how to control him with it. The exploitation of women by sinful men is conspicuous because it is often harsh and violent. But a moment's reflection will show you that the exploitation of men by sinful women is just as pervasive in our society.It is into this power struggle that Paul's exhortation to men and women gains special significance:
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.