Category: (2) Marriage


In the past week or so we have discussed “Open Marriage” and  “Polygamy [Polyandry]”. . There seems to be only one remaining topic concerning “shared marriages and shared relationships;” “Concubines”.

Why did God allow men to have concubines in the Bible?

  A concubine is a female who voluntarily enslaves and sells herself to a man primarily for his sexual pleasure. Concubines in the patriarchal age and beyond did not have equal status with a wife. A concubine could not marry her master because of her slave status, although, for her, the relationship was exclusive and ongoing. Sometimes concubines were used to bear children for men whose wives were barren. Concubines in Israel possessed many of the same rights as legitimate wives, without the same respect.

Although it’s true the Bible nowhere explicitly condemns concubines, a condemnation can be found implicitly from the beginning of time. According to Genesis 2:21-24, God’s original intent was for marriage to be between one man and one woman, and that has never changed (Genesis 1:27). As a matter of fact, a study of the lives of men like King David and King Solomon (who had 300 concubines; 1 Kings 11:3) reveals that many of their problems stemmed from polygamous relationships [which begs the question: “why didn’t King Solomon take his own advice about women?” (2 Samuel 11:2-4).

The Bible never explains why God allowed men to have concubines. He allowed divorce and polygamy, too, although neither was part of His original plan for marriage. Jesus said God allowed divorce because of the hardness of men’s hearts (Matthew 19:8). We can assume the same hardness of heart led to polygamy and concubines.

We can also surmise a reason based on the culture of the day. Unmarried women in ancient times were completely dependent on their family members, such as their fathers, brothers, etc. If for some reason a woman had no family members or her husband had died or divorced her, she would be left with few options for survival. Most women in ancient times were uneducated and unskilled in a trade. Providing for themselves was very difficult, and they were vulnerable to those who would prey upon them. For many women in dire situations, becoming a concubine was a much more suitable option than prostitution, homelessness, or death. At least a concubine would be provided a home and afforded a certain amount of care.

It appears God allowed the sin of concubines, in part, to provide for women in need, although it was certainly not an ideal situation. Sin is never ideal. Christians should be reminded that, just because God allows a sin for a time, it does not mean God is pleased with it. Many Bible narratives teach that God can take what some people mean for evil and use it for good (e.g., Genesis 50:20).

 

Recently I posted on “Open Marriages”  and the subject of polygamy/polyandry came up.  I need tell the readers that there is a difference between an “open marriage” and “polygamy/polyandry”. Since being brought up by several readers I want to address the latter.

The question of polygamy is an interesting one in that most people today view polygamy as immoral while the Bible nowhere explicitly condemns it. The first instance of polygamy/bigamy in the Bible was that of Lamech in Genesis 4:19: “Lamech married two women.” Several prominent men in the Old Testament were polygamists. Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon, and others all had multiple wives. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (essentially wives of a lower status), according to 1 Kings 11:3. What are we to do with these instances of polygamy in the Old Testament? There are three questions that need to be answered: 1) Why did God allow polygamy in the Old Testament? 2) How does God view polygamy today? 3) Why did it change?

1) Why did God allow polygamy in the Old Testament? The Bible does not specifically say why God allowed polygamy. As we speculate about God’s silence, there are a few key factors to consider. First, while there are slightly more male babies than female babies, due to women having longer lifespans, there have always been more women in the world than men. Current statistics show that approximately 50.5 percent of the world population are women. Assuming the same percentages in ancient times, and multiplied by millions of people, there would be tens of thousands more women than men. Second, warfare in ancient times was especially brutal, with an incredibly high rate of fatality. This would have resulted in an even greater percentage of women to men. Third, due to patriarchal societies, it was nearly impossible for an unmarried woman to provide for herself. Women were often uneducated and untrained. Women relied on their fathers, brothers, and husbands for provision and protection. Unmarried women were often subjected to prostitution and slavery. The significant difference between the number of women and men would have left many, many women in an undesirable situation.

So, it seems that God may have allowed polygamy to protect and provide for the women who could not find a husband otherwise. A man would take multiple wives and serve as the provider and protector of all of them. While definitely not ideal, living in a polygamist household was far better than the alternatives: prostitution, slavery, or starvation. In addition to the protection/provision factor, polygamy enabled a much faster expansion of humanity, fulfilling God’s command to “be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth” (Genesis 9:7). Men are capable of impregnating multiple women in the same time period, causing humanity to grow much faster than if each man was only producing one child each year.

2) How does God view polygamy today? Even while allowing polygamy, the Bible presents monogamy as the plan which conforms most closely to God’s ideal for marriage. The Bible says that God’s original intention was for one man to be married to only one woman: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife [not wives], and they will become one flesh [not fleshes]” (Genesis 2:24). While Genesis 2:24 is describing what marriage is, rather than how many people are involved, the consistent use of the singular should be noted. In Deuteronomy 17:14-20, God says that the kings were not supposed to multiply wives (or horses or gold). While this cannot be interpreted as a command that the kings must be monogamous, it can be understood as declaring that having multiple wives causes problems. This can be clearly seen in the life of Solomon (1 Kings 11:3-4).

In the New Testament, 1 Timothy 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6 give “the husband of one wife” in a list of qualifications for spiritual leadership. There is some debate as to what specifically this qualification means. The phrase could literally be translated “a one-woman man.” Whether or not this phrase is referring exclusively to polygamy, in no sense can a polygamist be considered a “one-woman man.” While these qualifications are specifically for positions of spiritual leadership, they should apply equally to all Christians. Should not all Christians be “above reproach…temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:2-4)? If we are called to be holy (1 Peter 1:16), and if these standards are holy for elders and deacons, then they are holy for all.

Ephesians 5:22-33 speaks of the relationship between husbands and wives. When referring to a husband (singular), it always also refers to a wife (singular). “For the husband is the head of the wife [singular] … He who loves his wife [singular] loves himself. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife [singular], and the two will become one flesh….Each one of you also must love his wife [singular] as he loves himself, and the wife [singular] must respect her husband [singular].” While a somewhat parallel passage, Colossians 3:18-19, refers to husbands and wives in the plural, it is clear that Paul is addressing all the husbands and wives among the Colossian believers, not stating that a husband might have multiple wives. In contrast, Ephesians 5:22-33 is specifically describing the marital relationship. If polygamy were allowable, the entire illustration of Christ’s relationship with His body (the church) and the husband-wife relationship falls apart.

3) Why did it change? It is not so much God’s disallowing something He previously allowed as it is God’s restoring marriage to His original plan. Even going back to Adam and Eve, polygamy was not God’s original intent. God seems to have allowed polygamy to solve a problem, but it is not the ideal. In most modern societies, there is absolutely no need for polygamy. In most cultures today, women are able to provide for and protect themselves—removing the only “positive” aspect of polygamy. Further, most modern nations outlaw polygamy. According to Romans 13:1-7, we are to obey the laws the government establishes. The only instance in which disobeying the law is permitted by Scripture is if the law contradicts God’s commands (Acts 5:29). Since God only allows for polygamy, and does not command it, a law prohibiting polygamy should be upheld.

Are there some instances in which the allowance for polygamy would still apply today? Perhaps, but it is unfathomable that there would be no other possible solution. Due to the “one flesh” aspect of marriage, the need for oneness and harmony in marriage, and the lack of any real need for polygamy, it is our firm belief that polygamy does not honor God and is not His design for marriage.

Does the Bible address polyamory/swinging?

An open marriage is generally defined as a marriage in which one or both spouses are allowed by the other spouse to have sex with other people. The two primary types of open marriages are polyamory and swinging. Polyamory is when the extra-marital affairs purportedly involve emotional love. Swinging is when the extra-marital affairs only involve recreational/casual sex.

No, the Bible nowhere explicitly addresses polyamory, swinging, or the idea of an open marriage. The idea that one spouse should consent to the other spouse having sex with other people is absolutely foreign to the Bible. The Bible speaks of sex within marriage as pure (Hebrews 13:4). The Bible speaks of sex outside of marriage as immoral and adulterous (1 Corinthians 6:13, 18; 10:8; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3).

The question is sometimes raised as to whether a polyamorous relationship should be considered adultery if the other spouse allows, approves, or even participates in it. The answer is an unequivocal yes! God is the one who defines what marriage is and what adultery is. God, in His Word, has declared sex outside of marriage to be adultery (Exodus 20:14). A spouse’s giving permission to sin does not overrule God’s Law. We do not have the authority to create exceptions to what God has declared to be sinful.

Aside from the biblical declarations that they are sin, polyamorous relationships cannot fulfill what the Bible says a marriage is to be. A married couple cannot be “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24) if multiple “fleshes” are involved. A married couple cannot fully love one another if that love is divided among other people. There cannot be true intimacy if what is supposed to be intimate is shared with others. Polyamory is not marriage. In no sense is a marriage supposed to be open to sexual activity outside of the marriage.

Polyamory is, in reality, “poly-lust-ory.” There is nothing loving about it. This perversion of marriage is confirmation that “every intention of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil continually,” and that, without God, “everyone does what is right in his own eyes” (see Genesis 6:5 and Judges 21:25).

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling legalizing gay marriage. Across the Atlantic, in mid-July 2013, the Queen of England signed into law “The Marriage Bill,” which allows same-sex couples to marry legally. Around the world, at least fifteen other nations have legalized marriage between same-sex partners. Obviously, the societal definition of marriage is changing. But is it the right of a government to redefine marriage, or has the definition of marriage already been set by a higher authority?

In Genesis chapter 2, God declares it is not good for Adam (the first man) to live alone. All the animals are there, but none of them are a suitable partner for Adam. God, therefore, in a special act of creation, makes a woman. Just a few verses later, the woman is called “his wife” (Genesis 2:25). Eden was the scene of the first marriage, ordained by God Himself. The author of Genesis then records the standard by which all future marriages are defined: “A man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

This passage of Scripture gives several points for understanding God’s design for marriage. First, marriage involves a man and a woman. The Hebrew word for “wife” is gender-specific; it cannot mean anything other than “a woman.” There is no passage in Scripture that mentions a marriage involving anything other than a man and a woman. It is impossible for a family to form or human reproduction to take place asexually. Since God ordained sex to only take place between a married couple, it follows that God’s design is for the family unit to be formed when a man and woman come together in a sexual relationship and have children.

The second principle from Genesis 2 about God’s design for marriage is that marriage is intended to last for a lifetime. Verse 24 says the two become “one flesh.” Eve was taken from Adam’s side, and so she was literally one flesh with Adam. Her very substance was formed from Adam instead of from the ground. Every marriage thereafter is intended to reflect the unity shared by Adam and Eve. Because their bond was “in the flesh,” they were together forever. There was no escape clause written into the first marriage that allowed for the two to separate. That is to say that God designed marriage for life. When a man and a woman make a commitment to marry, they “become one flesh,” and that is why they say, “Till death do us part.”

A third principle from this passage about God’s design for marriage is monogamy. The Hebrew words for “man” and “wife” are singular and do not allow for multiple wives. Even though some people in Scripture did have multiple wives, it is clear from the creation account that God’s design for marriage was one man and one woman. Jesus emphasized this principle when He appealed to the Genesis account to counter the idea of easy divorce (Matthew 19:4—6).

It should come as no surprise that the world desires to change what God has instituted. “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:7). Though the world is attempting to provide their own definitions for what they call “marriage,” the Bible still stands. The clear definition of marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life.

This message (video) is to all women. There is no doubt you are all awesome.

For the longest time young girls and young woman (Millennials) have been called derogatory names and you are lead to believe this is the value you have. If you listen to music at all – you know what these derogatory names are – These messages come from “Rappers and peers of your own age” What’s worse? You are celebrating it. You celebrate it on dance floors and in texts. Your value to God and to society is far greater than you know. So shrug off these names and it’s stigma –  pick new names for yourselves.  For you do have value and you are awesome. Please listen carefully to this video. and allow it to open your eyes.

   2 Kings 21:19-22

Children are keen observers of parents. Even when engrossed in some activity, they will often pick up on Mom or Dad’s behavior, speech, and thought patterns.

A huge responsibility, then, rests on parents—especially when it comes to how young ones will picture God. The way they think about the heavenly Father is largely influenced by how they relate to the male authority figures in their lives.

If you are involved in a child’s upbringing, be intentional about modeling godliness. You can do this by:

1. Hungering for God’s Word. Fathers who read scripture every day are demonstrating the confidence that it holds the answers to life’s problems. Your love and respect for the Bible will be contagious!

2. Living in faith. Children should hear their parents talk about how they trust Jesus to provide in each circumstance. There’s no better way to learn reliance on the Lord than to watch one’s parents turn to Him when they need direction.

3. Praying daily. Kids notice parental priorities and often set the same ones themselves. Mom and Dad can model talking to God in a real way, as if they are talking with another person. This helps children understand—and want—their own intimate relationship with the heavenly Father.

Reflect upon your own childhood—did your dad point you in a godly direction or provide an unbiblical example? How has that affected your spiritual walk? And if you have sons or daughters, ask them how your life influences theirs. Whatever their answer is, memorize Ephesians 6:4 and commit to follow its wisdom.

The Bible does not directly address single mothers, but there are many examples  of God’s gentle interaction with women, mothers, widows and their children.  These examples, and God’s gentleness, apply whether a mother is single or  married or widowed or divorced. God knows each person intimately and knows her  situation completely. The Bible warns that sex outside of marriage is sinful and  dangerous and will bring troubles, one of which is that a woman might have to  raise a child by herself, which is undoubtedly difficult. And if it is her own  sin that has resulted in single motherhood, our gracious God is still just as  willing to bring help and comfort. And what’s better is that He offers  forgiveness for those sins through Jesus Christ and the eternal comfort of  heaven for the mother who accepts Him, the children who accept Him, and even the  estranged husband who accepts Him!

But often a woman finds herself alone  and raising children through no fault of her own. Sadly, women are often  innocent victims of a world wracked by war and terrorism. Husbands go off to war  and never return, selflessly giving their lives for their countries. If a  husband’s death has left a woman single with children, there is no doubt that  God will help and comfort that woman.

God cares about families. But He  is more concerned that each person, no matter what her family looks like,  repenting of sin and coming into a relationship with Him. He wants us to know  Him, because His creatures knowing Him brings us joy and brings Him glory. We  get bound up in the details of our lives, worrying what other people will think  of us and whether the church will accept us and whether we have ruined things  entirely. But God calls the Christian to the joy of being above the weight of  worry. He has said that we should cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for  us (1 Peter  5:7). He wants to carry the burden and forgive our sins and then forget  about our sins and help us to move on. All He asks us to do is know Him, delight  in Him, and trust Him. Single mothers are often very responsible people, and  sometimes it can be hard to just “set aside” worries and cares. A single mother  might feel guilty just thinking about it! But God commands us to do it anyway,  to spend a little time each day to focus on Him, and trust (during the rest of  the day) that He will provide for us, both physically and emotionally as we lean  on Him.

What this might look like for a single mom is setting aside time  to read the Bible and pray. She might think, “I just don’t have time for that  between working and raising a child and taking care of the house and everything  else.” But if even for half an hour when her child is sleeping or being watched  by a relative or friend, she can set aside time to talk to God in prayer and  listen to His voice in Scripture, even if it means not cleaning that pile of  dishes, she will find His amazing strength and comforting presence will be with  her for the rest of the day. Memorizing verses like “The Lord is my helper, I  will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)  or “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) will  help provide tangible reminders of His love and protection when things get tough  or stressful.

So, what does God have to say to single mothers? The same  thing He has to say to everyone else. Repent of sin, trust in Christ for  forgiveness, communicate with God through prayer, listen to His voice through  Scripture, lean on God for strength in trials, and put your hope in the amazing  eternal life with Him that He has planned. “For no eye has seen, no ear has  heard, no mind has conceived the wonderful things that God has prepared for  those that love Him” (1  Corinthians 2:9).

*first posted on altruistico May 06, 2013

A covenant marriage is an alternative marriage license. The laws covering covenant marriage vary from state to state. Covenant marriage differs from a standard marriage contract in that the covenant partners are required to attend pre-marital counseling and would have to wait two years before a divorce can be filed. In addition, a covenant marriage license could not be absolved with a “no fault” cause. The conditions for divorce would be abuse, adultery, long term separation, or a felony conviction. Again, the laws for covenant marriages vary because they are legislated by the states.

Covenant marriage legislation supporters believe that this type of marriage would decrease the divorce rate; thus, the family unit would once again be a strong foundation for our society. Proponents claim a marriage that discourages easy divorces would hold the individuals more accountable to their partners and lead to fewer broken homes.

Opponents of covenant marriage contend it is based on religion and therefore is a violation of separation of church and state. Furthermore, there have been reports from people in covenant marriages that it was almost impossible to get a divorce because they could not prove grounds with evidence of abuse or adultery.

While the legislation for covenant marriage was originally to decrease divorce rates, the word “covenant” is a word used to describe a contract made not only with man, but with God. From a biblical perspective, marriage is a union of man and woman before God (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:6). This is true of any marriage, whether or not the marriage certificate mentions it. The Bible says that divorce is sin unless there is adultery (Matthew 5:32) or an unbelieving spouse leaves the believing spouse (1 Corinthians 7:10-15).

Society’s definition of marriage and divorce is not the cause for the high divorce rate. That is caused by people rejecting the truth of Scripture and choosing to follow their own way rather than follow God. A law most likely won’t change how people value marriage. We value what God values when our hearts are changed and this only occurs when we place our trust in God so we are in agreement with Him (Hebrews 4:12).

Women’s changing roles in the Stone-Campbell movement.

IN THE EARLIEST DAYS of the Stone-Campbell Movement, women fulfilled important pastoral roles: caring for the sick and the poor, preparing food during extended worship meetings, and bringing up and training Christian children. The early years of the movement coincided with the early years of the American republic, and women were encouraged to be “republican mothers.” Assumed to have superior virtue, they were charged to pass that virtue on to their children. The result? Good Christian citizens to populate the new republic.

where did the bread go?

Women moved out of these private roles into public ones first as educators. Jane Campbell McKeever (1800–1871), younger sister of Alexander Campbell, founded Pleasant Hill Female Seminary near West Middletown, Pennsylvania, as early as the 1830s. Alexander had very moderate views on slavery, but Jane did not share them. She was a firm abolitionist, and she and her husband even ran a station of the Underground Railroad on their farm. (Her students sometimes wondered why the bread they baked one day was gone the next morning.) In 1854 she publicly disagreed with her famous brother and wrote a fierce indictment of slavery in the abolitionist North-Western Christian Magazine.

Women were also involved in active evangelism, organizing congregations, and, in the absence of male preachers, baptizing believers on the American and Canadian frontiers. Mary Graft, Mary Morrison, and Mary Ogle of Pennsylvania and Mary Stogdill of Ontario are not remembered well today, but they were torchbearers who brought the gospel to isolated places, and their ministry was welcome.

The Civil War brought many changes to American society. Some of them affected women’s calls to ministry. In the wake of the war, women found they had acquired new skills of management and leadership. In addition, they were receiving a better education, much of it on par with that received by young men of the day. Many found their voices by participating in temperance, suffrage, and other social reform movements. These skills transferred naturally to the pulpit.

passion for preaching

Clara Hale Babcock (1850–1924) is considered to be the first woman ordained to preach by the Disciples of Christ in 1888 or 1889, followed by Jessie Coleman Monser (1891), Bertha Mason Fuller (1891), and Sarah (“Sadie”) McCoy Crank (1892). These women were remarkably effective evangelists. Clara Babcock baptized more than 1,500 people during her ministry. Sadie Crank baptized even more and organized over 50 rural congregations. They all had a voice in the temperance movement as well.

Probably the most passionate temperance advocate of all was Carry Nation (1846–1911). A popular lay preacher and lecturer for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), she gained notoriety for smashing illegal saloons with her hatchet. (See “Did you know?,” inside front cover.)

The newspapers that caricatured Nation in cartoons did not call as much attention to the fact that near the end of her life she operated a shelter for battered women in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Her relationship with the Disciples of Christ was sometimes tense because of her unorthodox methods and uncompromising advocacy for women’s rights.

Another outlet for women’s energies was missionary work. Caroline Neville Pearre (1831–1910) founded the Christian Women’s Board of Missions (CWBM) when she saw the vital work of domestic and foreign missions languishing in the Disciples of Christ. In 1874 she set up the first women’s missionary society at her home church in Iowa City and soon began encouraging and supporting other women to do the same.

That same year representatives of these societies came together to form the national CWBM, with the blessing of the Disciples’s American Christian Missionary Society (ACMS). ACMS secretary Thomas Munnell famously replied to Pearre’s request for permission to convene: “This is a flame of the Lord’s kindling, and no man can extinguish it.”

The CWBM was very successful in fund-raising and supporting mission projects. In 1919 it helped form the United Christian Missionary Society. Because the CWBM provided the bulk of the funds and the members, it was able to insist on equal representation on the society’s committees—a privilege many women in other Protestant groups were fighting for in this era.

But segregated times led to a racially segregated missionary society. Sarah Lue Bostick (1868–1948), while probably never officially ordained, was an early African American woman preacher in the Disciples of Christ and an active organizer and fund-raiser in the separate black CWBM, setting up chapters in several African American congregations.

Bostick’s leadership and that of other female African American Disciples provided major support for the Southern Christian Institute in Edwards, Mississippi, and for mission work in Liberia. This segregated group of the CWBM helped establish Jarvis Christian Institute in Hawkins, Texas (see “The story of a school,” p. 28).

women ministers

Any examination of the role of women in the movement must at some point confront the movement’s central motivation: a return to New Testament Christianity around which all Christian groups could come together. This meant reading the Scriptures as a blueprint to be followed to the letter.

Alexander Campbell was thus opposed to women ministers, writing in the Millennial Harbinger that he followed Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 and 1 Timothy 2:1–15, where the apostle admonished women to be silent in the church, not to usurp male authority, and to talk privately to their husbands if they had questions or comments.

Many Stone-Campbell churches still debate what Paul’s words mean to Christians today. Was he speaking to Christians in a specific time, place, and culture, or were his words binding for all time? The Disciples of Christ, the most mainline stream, generally accepts that Paul was speaking to a particular situation and that it is important to utilize the gifts of all Christians, regardless of gender, race, class, or other circumstance.

The other two Stone-Campbell streams, the Churches of Christ and the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, held more closely to a literal interpretation of Paul’s instruction and resisted accepting women in the more public forms of ministry.

But that is changing, and it is common in the twenty-first century to find women youth ministers, family ministers, music ministers, education ministers, and even occasionally, pulpit ministers. The role of women continues to be debated, and there are many gradations of acceptance of their public ministry.

Decision for Christ

Uncovering the experiences of women as the Stone-Campbell Movement spread around the globe also presents challenges. Most stories told in the West reflect the perspectives of missionaries, not converts. But even so, they tell a significant tale.

In 1920s India, British missionary Anne Piggot traveled between Church of Christ mission stations to work with Bible women and to preach the gospel. One convert, Jaswa, visited Piggot several times under the cover of darkness before finally declaring her desire to be a Christian.

Jaswa’s family repeatedly tried to dissuade her from pursuing her new faith. They said they would cut her up, bury her in the house, and tell the neighbors that she had gone to live with relatives. Jaswa was terrified. But when she received a vision of two men in shining white robes asking her to return to the Christians, she decided to go back. Later, the transformed Jaswa rescued a girl of the despised “sweeper caste” who had fallen into a rushing river.

India was not the only place where conversion threatened social order. One of the first Japanese converts, Ino Fusakawa, whitened her teeth after her conversion, a departure from the usual practice of married Japanese women blackening their teeth (perhaps to make them unattractive). Neighbors questioned her morals, but missionaries pressured her to do it as a means of embracing her new Christian faith.

Bible Women

Before the Second World War, Bible women (so called because they taught the Bible) represented the most numerous female evangelists. These missionaries taught other women (and sometimes men), served as church staff, distributed books and tracts, and visited women in isolated regions. Hundreds served in India, Japan, and Korea in particular. They gained a foothold for women in church affairs, and they contributed significantly to the movement’s losing its Western character.

For example, in 1916, Japanese Christian Kei Nakamura served as a Bible woman in a church of the Yotsuya Japan Mission. Her ministry spanned all aspects of church life. She conducted meetings, visited women in their homes, taught a class of girls at the Bible school sponsored by the mission, participated in worship, and served as the pastor’s assistant.

After World War II, missions took a new direction. The ministries of Bible women were replaced by the growing Christian Women’s Fellowship—organized in 1949 by Jesse Mary Trout of Ontario, also vice president of the United Christian Missionary Society. Trout had been a missionary to Japan before World War II and to Japanese Americans in internment camps during the war. Her hope, and that of other woman leaders, was that women would become part of a world structure that encouraged an international sense of community and sisterhood.

One of the most unique of these sisterhoods was the Fellowship of the Least Coin, pioneered by Carmen Armonio of Manila in 1956. This ecumenical organization quickly spread to over 60 countries and still exists today. It encourages all women to pray for peace, justice, and reconciliation and to give of the “least coin” in their currency to support projects throughout the world.

Jorgelina Lozada (1906–1995), a native of Argentina and the first ordained female pastor in Latin America, was a leader in ecumenical cooperation and the fight for social justice. She began preaching in 1930 at Villa Mitre Christian Church in Buenos Aires, soon one of the largest churches in Argentina. In 1951 she publicly wore a suit that she had made from sacks to demonstrate to poor women in her congregation “what could be done with just a little.”

Some women developed unique ministries to grow the church and spread the gospel. Mama Beyeke of the Disciples Mission in Congo trained Congolese singers and formed a traveling choir that evangelized through song. Beyeke composed songs with African musical instruments that replaced the translated Western Christian hymns that had predominated in African worship. The “Mama Beyeke Chorale” even traveled as far as the United States (in 1987).

send the sister 

Mary Thompson became the first missionary from the Australian Churches of Christ when she left Melbourne for India in 1891. An American missionary couple had written to the Australian churches saying, “If a brother is not ready, and a sister is, send her out, for we greatly need help.” The first missionary society formed in Australia had two women among its eight members.

Australian women entered the pulpit in 1931 when a local church in Hawthorne, Queensland, chose Violet Maud Callanan as their pastor. The local leadership had the freedom to make their own decisions, and they concluded that the calling of a woman to public ministry was valid because of their belief in the mutual ministry of all believers.

Callanan had completed a qualifying certificate at the College of the Bible in Victoria. But her position remained tenuous. She even dressed in a habit and veil in her early career, possibly trying to adhere to strict boundaries of female behavior even while transcending them.

Despite the lack of institutional barriers to women’s ordination, Callanan was the only female pastoral minister for over 25 years in Australia. The percentage of women in ministry in the entire movement even in the twenty-first century remains low (23 percent among Disciples and only a handful in the other streams). Many still seek the freedom to speak. CH

by Sara Harwell and Loretta Long Hunnicutt

Sara Harwell is vice president and chief archivist at the Disciples of Christ Historical Society. Loretta Long Hunnicutt is professor of history at Pepperdine University and the author of The Life of Selina Campbell: A Fellow Soldier in the Cause of Restoration and many articles.

With  a 50% divorce rate in America and many more marriages in shambles, we are in  trouble as a culture and as a church in America.  It is time for the church of Jesus Christ to  stop pointing her finger at the nation and at the government and begin taking  some responsibility for correcting this problem using the authority of God’s word.

As  teachers of the word of God, we must be prepared for people in our modern  culture to be initially shocked by what the Bible teaches regarding marriage  and the husband’s responsibility to his marriage.  There is a lot of role reversal in today’s marriage,  in the culture and in the church when viewed according to the standard taught  in the word of God.

It  is my prayer that you will take seriously what the Bible says about marriage  and specifically what it says about the husband’s role in marriage.  Let me encourage you to take immediate steps  to implement it in your marriage.  Let me  reassure you that God is more interested in your implementing those changes  than you can possibly understand at this time.

Jesus  attempted to reach His generation during a similar time of cultural marital crisis  with the same Biblical teachings on marriage that we study today in Matthew  19:4-6. He began by asking this question: “Have you not read, that He  who created them from the beginning made them male and female (Gen.1: 26-27),  and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall  cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh (Gen.2: 24)?’”  Jesus was saying that the cultural problem of  divorce was related to the problem of Scriptural teaching on marriage (“Have  you not read?”).

The  Bible teaches that marriage is more a spiritual covenant or contract than it is a legal contract.  Marriage is a divine institution for man and  not a human institution for God. This is why the bride and groom exchange  wedding vows before God and invited guests.   This is a covenant with vows that are not to be broken – “What therefore  God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matt.19: 6)

This  principle was stated in the first wedding ceremony of human history as recorded  in the Bible (Gen.2: 18-25).  Moses wrote  about this wedding between Adam and Eve, “For this cause [marriage union based  on Gen.2: 23] a man (ish) shall leave his  father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife (ishah); and they shall become one flesh [monogamy math is 1+1=1].”  (Gen.2: 24)

Notice  that during the wedding ceremony the groom becomes (ish) and the bride becomes (ishah).  The reason is explained by Paul in 1Cor.11:  8-9 which was based on Gen.2: 18-25.   When the bride becomes ishah, she becomes bone of the groom’s bone (ish)  and flesh of the groom’s flesh (ishah) as they cleave and become one (Gen.2: 23-25). This led Paul to remind his  generation of these Biblical teachings on marriage during his own time since  they were facing similar marital problems (Eph.5: 22-33).

The ish and ishah concept of Gen.2: is interpreted by Paul as, “husbands (ish idea) ought also to love their  own wives (ishah idea) as their own  bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever  hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.” (Eph.5: 28-29).

The Christian husband has certain Biblical  responsibilities to his marriage.  These  are outlined in the word of God.  We will  discuss several of them in this lesson.

One  responsibility of the Christian husband to his marriage is to understand that  he has been promoted        from rulership authority to headship authority as a  result of the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Prior  to the fall of Adam (Gen.2: 17-25), the husband was a fellow joint heir of the  grace of God with his wife under his headship authority. After the fall  (Gen.3:6-19; Rom.5:12), the husband was demoted to ruler (mashal) [to have dominion] over his wife  as part of her curse due to her participation in the fall of Adam. “He shall rule  over you” (Gen.3:16). Rulership can be harsh and even violent. Many husbands  still live in the concept of rulership and do not understand that it is not  scriptural for Christians in marriage. (The Christian husband is the head of  the marriage and not the ruler of the marriage). By not understanding the  difference, even Christian husbands can become involved in marital or even  family abuse.  By the end of 20th  century, 1 out of 5 families reported experiencing violence in the home. 1 in 4  teens are reporting violence while dating which further indicates a  misunderstanding or ignorance or even a refusal to accept proper roles. Today,  20% of the American population thinks that it is sometimes acceptable to strike  a spouse.  It is never acceptable!  However, spousal abuse can take several forms.

Let  me give you three examples by which you may recognize the spousal abuse of rulership.

  1. The “Control  freak” abuser: This type person will  threaten or act out in violence by hitting, kicking, throwing, or even slamming  objects in front of you as a fear tactic in order to control you.
  2. The  Verbal/Emotional abuser: This type person  is the name calling, belittling, threatening to leave, cut you off financially  in order to make you fearful and to control you.
  3. The Physical abuser: This type person is the pushing,  slapping, punching, or destroying your favorite possessions (even animals) to  make you fearful in order to control you.

DO NOT ACCEPT ANY OF THESE  ABUSES. LEAVE IMMEDIATELY, TELL A CLOSE FRIEND AND GET HELP, AND GET  COUNSELING.  This is not the function of a Christian  husband’s headship. In fact, the husband  is commanded to not embitter (pikraino/  present, passive imperfect) his wife.”  (Col.3: 19).  Pikraino means to treat harshly or critical so as to crush her spirit  to make her submit.

Once  a husband believes the Gospel: that Jesus Christ died as his substitute for the  imputation of the penalty of Adam’s sin, that Jesus was buried and raised from  the dead on the third day to give him         eternal  life (1Cor.15: 3-4; Rom.1: 16; John 5:24), he is promoted from ruler (mashal) to head authority (kephale) over his wife by the saving  grace of God (Eph.2: 8-9).

“For  the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head  of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.” (Eph.5: 23)

Peter  taught that the Christian husband is  restored to his original status as: “fellow heir of the grace of life” (1  Pet.3: 7).

The  Christian husband’s headship authority is connected to the divine chain of  authority as outlined in 1  Cor.11: 3, “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man,  and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” [Rank in  the divine chain of authority is from top to bottom – God to Christ to  Christian husband to wife].

Under  headship, the subordinate is never considered inferior since both are fellow heirs of the grace of life in  Christ.  It refers to order,  responsibility, biblical roles, and divine protection.  You are always protected by the next rank in  the divine chain of authority.  This  principle was taught once again in the marriage of Abraham and Sarah as  referred to in 1 Pet.3: 1-6.  Sarah  applied this principle in the Pharaoh incident of Gen.12: 10-20.  Her husband (ranked authority) failed her, so  she appealed to the authority over her husband, the Lord. Abraham and Sarah  were only 21 generations from Adam and Eve in the genealogy of Luke 3:34-38.  Yet, this same principle applies to all those marriages in between as well as  to all the thousands of marriages from Adam down to today.

The  Christian husband is commanded to love (agape) [unconditional and  sacrificial relaxed mental attitude love]. “Husbands love (agapao) your wives, just as Christ (kathos) [kata and hos is used to  intensify this comparison] loved the  church and gave Himself up for her” (Eph.5:  25)

In your workbook, write  how Christ demonstrated His love for the Church?

“But  God demonstrated His own love towards us (church), in that while we were yet sinners  (our worst condition), Christ died for us.” (Rom.5:8)

This  is what is meant about the Christian husband loving his wife unconditionally  and sacrificially.  Love, being commanded by God can be difficult for a husband who doesn’t understand the resources that  God has provided which enables him to do that very thing – Love  Unconditionally. However, Headship love would never withdraw his love to  teach his wife a lesson, where Rulership would!   Listen Christian husband, if you want to understand how far your  unconditional love is to extend, read the Book of Hosea.

Paul  instructed the Christian husband that besides responsibilities of headship and  unconditional and sacrificial love, he also has the responsibility for  nurturing and cherishing his wife.  Paul  introduced nurturing and cherishing as part of natural as well as spiritual  reasoning: “For (gar) [reasoning] no  one ever hated his own flesh [natural  reasoning of self], but [in  contrast] nourishes (ektrepho) and cherishes (thalpo) it, just as Christ  also dies for the church [spiritual reasoning of wife].” (Eph.5: 29)

Consider  these three things:

  1. Husband, the mental attitude sin of hatred will hinder loving, nurturing,  and cherishing your wife.
  2. Husband, nurturing is providing for your  wife’s spiritual growth and development as a Christian wife.
  3. Husband, cherishing is fostering your  wife with tender care. (1 Cor.7:3-5, 33).

Have  you noticed that I have not spoken about providing a wife with things such as  food, shelter, and clothing (1 Tim.5:8).   It is true that I didn’t give much print to those things.  The reason is because husbands tend to use  providing those things as an excuse for ignoring all the other responsibilities  to marriage.

The  Christian husband is instructed to love, nurture, and cherish his wife because  loving, nurturing and cherishing fulfills the original cleaving of marriage (Eph.5: 31 quoting Gen.2: 24).

At  this point, you might be thinking, “How can God expect me to be held to the  standard of Jesus Christ?”

God will never ask of you  anything that He will not provide for you by grace (Gal.5: 16, 22-23; 1  Cor.13: 4-8) [filling ministry of indwelling Holy Spirit].  This principle can be illustrated in the  marriage of Abraham and Sarah as recorded in Romans 4:17-21.  Pay attention to the following verse because  it can be applied to your marriage as well: “And (Abraham, the husband) being fully assured that what He (God)  promised, He (God) was able also to perform (for them as a couple).” (Romans 4:21) [Faith cycle, see glossary].

No matter how your earthly marriage has turned out, our  heavenly marriage is eternal: “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy;  for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a  pure virgin.”  (2 Cor.11:2)