Okay, so now we are getting into some treacherous territory. This is an area fraught with peril, and one of the reasons it is so perilous is that we all, for emotional reasons, have decided to ignore and suppress a major facet of male/female interactions. The end result is that nobody knows what is going on. Everybody’s doing it, but nobody is paying attention to it.
Now assume that you have a room full of young men and young women, all unattached. It is a social event, a mixer of some kind. For the purposes of this thought experiment, let us assume that character issues are equally important to everyone—nobody wants to marry a bum, a dirt bag, or a harlot. So the character issues are fixed—everybody there is going to Heaven when they die.
Just because everyone is exhibiting godly character does not mean that any given couple would be a good match. There are all sorts of additional variables in play. You couldn’t just pair everybody off randomly and have happy things result. Godly character is a necessary condition for a good marriage, but it is not a sufficient condition. What this means is that character is essential. If you don’t have it, you cannot have a good marriage. But a sufficient condition is stronger than that. If you have the sufficient conditions met, you will have a good marriage. Character is necessary, but not sufficient.
Now hold that thought because I am going to jump to Scripture for a second. But in order to make this point, I am going to need to qualify it first. All of us are told to love our neighbor as we do ourselves (Lev. 19:18), and we are also taught that our neighbor is whatever person happens to be in front of us at the moment (Luke 10:33). This means that husband and wife are included in the command to love one another (John 13:34). In addition, all of us are told to honor all men (1 Pet. 2:17). This respect, this honor that we are to render is not attached to the sex of the recipient. This means that husband and wife are included in the command to respect everyone. Everyone loves and everyone respects. This is straightforward. Husbands should of course love and respect their wives. Wives should of course respect and love their husbands.
But the word order there matters. When Scriptures focus on the particular duties of husbands to wives, the emphasis is on love. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it (Eph. 5:25, 33). And when Scripture addresses wives as wives, it tells them to honor and respect their husbands (Eph. 5:22, 24, 33).
The central husbandly duty is to love. The central wifely duty is to respect. The New Testament nowhere commands wives to love their husbands. Now it is certainly okay. It is not a sin to love your husband. There is one place in Titus where the older women are to teach the younger women to be husband-lovers (Tit. 2:4), but the word there is a compound word (philandros), which I would render as “into husband” and “into kids” (philoteknos). In a word, domestic and enjoying it.
But when a wife is being encouraged to focus on her wifely responsibility, Scripture tells her to focus on respect. Now you are a single woman, and so why am It telling you this? The reason is that what you will be commanded to do with reagard to your future husband, whoever he is, should be something you take into account when you are evaluating different men as possible candidates for that position. You should, in a word, be asking yourself if respecting such a man would be easy, challenging, or impossible.
Remember that we are not talking about character only. That is included, but we are talking about more than that. A man might be a godly man, and yet impossible for you to look up to. And not to put too fine a point on it, that would be a bad match. We are not gnostics. What if you are a lot smarter than he is?
You should be asking yourself if respect comes naturally, easily. If you marry such a man, there will still be times when submission is still a real challenge—so don’t make it harder on yourself than it needs to be. A wise Puritan once said to the men that they must choose their love, and then love their choice.
It is the same for you, only different. You must choose your head, and then obey your head. It is legitimate for you to go back and forth in your mind about it now because you have no covenantal obligation to this man or that man. But you ought to run thought experiments.
Ask yourself. “What if Henry, or John, or Mike wanted me to do something I really didn’t want to do?” You are asking yourself if his pick-up truck has the horsepower to pull your trailer.
All of this is related to something called hypergamy. This is a term from the social sciences and refers to “marrying up.” Hypergamy is when someone marries or forms a sexual relationship with someone of a superior educational or social background. What I have been talking about from Scripture refers to the internal mechanism of all this—hypergamy that is sincere and heartfelt, in other words. Someone who is simply ambitious could “marry up” while personally despising the person they married. The Eagles sang about that in Lyin’ Eyes, I believe. But a Christian women should be hypergamous from the heart.
Given the way God made the world, hypergamy is usually pursued and practiced by women. And because women are created to respect their husbands in this way, they want to marry up.
Now men will often joke about their supposed hypergamy., and while the occasional joke in this vein might be fine, as a routine or standing joke it is not a good idea. Men think they are telling a self-deprecating joke. “I married a truly remarkable woman who in the course of her life has had only one notable lapse of judgment.” Like I said, the men think this is self-deprecating, but if women as a class are far more hypergamous than the men are, the joke is actually at their wife’s expense. “In the competition between women for a prize male, a mate to be proud of, my wife came up short. My wife is the loser wife. You see the results before you.” WIves want to be proud of their husbands, they want to look up to them, and they don’t need their husbands joking around about what blundering oafs they are.
You have a wonderful relationship with your father. As you look around at the young men who might someday approach you, compare them to him. Don’t compare them unfairly—budget for the years of experience and that sort of thing, but ask yourself if this young man is the kind of man that your father would have befriended when your father was that age. Is he the right caliber?
One last thing. The propaganda machinery of our age is constantly cudgeling us to prevent us from talking this way. They can’t stop us from behaving this way, but they can succeed in confusing us, and they can make us flinch internally whenever someone states the obvious out loud. I once saw a feminist actress complaining about all the movies she had seen where a man and a woman get into a tight spot, and then the woman says something like, “What do we do now?” This was an offense not to be borne, an offense against feminist dogma, even though it is true to life and happens all the time. This actress did not complain about all the movies she had seen where a petite little kick-boxer lady took out five or six two-hundred pound thugs. That kind of egalitarianism only works in cartoon world.