How ought men to treat women?
This sad litany has been repeated in the headlines over the past month (or more): many prominent and respected men have been accused or convicted of behaving badly toward women. Read further in this or any paper and you’ll encounter unending examples of women being abused or mistreated at the hands of men. What’s going on?
God’s word, the Bible, shows not only how we as men are to treat women, but identifies where the ability to do so comes from. The apostle Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, a young pastor, instructs him about his conduct toward everyone in his church: “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1-2 NIV)
We as men are to treat women as family, as if they are our moms and sisters (or even daughters and granddaughters). Of course women and men are of equal value; as men, we’re to regard women highly and treat them with care and respect. With this perspective, any position of advantage (say, as an employer) or difference in physical strength will be used to cherish, protect, and encourage women, not exploit them.
Sexual relations were obviously created by God: they are meant to be enjoyed between one man and one woman in the security and commitment of a marriage relationship. Just as fire uncontrolled can do great damage, so sexual drive permitted to run amok in our minds can lead to objectification: the tendency to view women as objects for our gratification rather than as people. Jesus taught that it is possible to commit the equivalent of adultery in our hearts by “looking at a woman lustfully” (Matthew 5:28). A choice to indulge in pornography, now so readily available, will only add fuel to this fire.
It’s not inevitable that men will treat women poorly, nor is masculinity the problem. Our treatment of others is always an issue of the heart. Only God Himself can transform our hearts; only God can empower us to live as He meant us to live.
This transformation begins through placing faith in Jesus Christ. He has dealt with our sins and failures, past, present, and future, through His death on the cross as our Substitute. He rose from the dead to give us new life now and eternal life. He can help us keep sexual desire from becoming a raging wildfire that devastates our thought life and behavior. He can empower us to treat women as beloved family members, not sex objects.
Men, we are meant to be examples. Find a man whose treatment of women you admire, and learn from his example. Conversely, avoid those who objectify and demean women by their words and behavior (Proverbs 1:10). Most importantly, pursue a transforming relationship with the living God through faith in Jesus Christ.
Don Baumann is outreach pastor at Hilltop Community Church.