Role of Women in the Christian Family
Society has imprinted many roles of women in marriage. Even evolutionary theory has speculated about the natural need a woman has for protection and in turn the care she
supplies and returns to the man. Christian marriage and the structure of the Christian family does not reflect social and biological roles but concerns itself more with the roles a woman plays from a spiritual aspect. Secular roles and obligations differ with traditions and time, but Christian ideals are constant since they reflect the values of Christ.
Christian counseling needs to emphasize the proper roles of women in marriage that transcend social norms or prejudices. First and foremost, man and woman are made one in marriage. Since they are not two but one flesh, they inherently share in common authority. While modernists and enemies of the faith hope to condemn scripture as patriarchal in nature, one cannot dismiss the reality that scripture teaches mutual respect between man and wife. Merely the fact that one shares one flesh is enough to propose an equality of woman and man in marriage. Without this understanding, the role of a woman in Christian marriage is forever destroyed. The role of a woman in Christian marriage cannot be seen as inferior or unequal to that of the husband. This is not Christian theology and is not the nature of the sacrament.
The second role or characteristic of women in marriage stems from Paul’s writings. A definite order in Paul is being laid down in which the woman is to obey her husband. While initially this seems very patriarchal and contrary to our first premise, one needs to fully understand the nature of this role of obedience. If one reads further, Paul also tells husbands to love their wives as Christ so loved the church. In this regard, the love of a husband correlates with the love of Christ. Christ’s love of the church ended in death and self sacrifice. Christ did command, Christ did teach and Christ did lead, but his commands were never contrary to one’s dignity, health, or salvation. In fact, Christ’s orders are that of a loving father and do not transgress one’s free will or choice. With this in mind, when Paul speaks of wives obeying their husbands, it is apparent that he is implying obedience for the sake of structure and in major issues that involve the sake of the family. Does this imply the wife has no voice? Does Christ not listen and love? He takes into consideration our wants and desires. Hence, this obedience is a healthy obedience that cannot be misquoted by some radicals to include subjugation of women. Any form of subjugation would distort the true nature between obedience and love between husband and wife.
The third role is motherhood. Only a woman can be a mother and with that comes innate qualities that no man can ever replicate. We have heard of phrases that include a mother’s touch, or a mother’s whisper. These elements are true. Social constraints create images of the man as bread winner and the woman as homemaker and one cannot deny that there is some spiritual connection to these roles as well. While these roles can be adjusted to financial and economic times, the fact remains that women have a spiritual nature that encompasses compassion, care and emotional security. In this regards the mother becomes the heart of the home and the voice of reason. Her love binds the family together and her sweet whispers calm all turbulence. Her fidelity and care to the family make her the cornerstone for the families well being. She is the sanctuary.
The final characteristic of women in marriage is Marian. The woman as heart of the family takes upon a Marian role. As Mary served as the binding force in the Holy Family and raised the infant Jesus, so wives today must also emulate Mary. They must serve as the heart of the family and serve as role model in Christian purity and grace for her husband and children. When others falter, she must be the center of prayer and guide the family through spiritual storms. While this role can be said for both man and woman, it is only a woman that encompasses a serene emotional faith that can mold a family together.
When Christian counseling, a counselor should avoid stereotypes that are biased and place women in a subjugated state but they should also avoid secular values that pose as liberating. So many secularists swing from one extreme to another. Like a pendulum, they swing from subjugation to radical freedoms that betray womanhood and her important role in the family. As Christian counselors, one must be a champion of woman equality but also emphasize her traditional role in the family without fear of secular outcry.
If you would like to take courses in Christian Counseling, then please review the program.
Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C