When you reflect on what it means to be a successful man today, the answers are not positive. The men who dominate our societies and media are generally rich, powerful or good at sports. Often they are abusive of women. Jesus was none of these. How did we get so far away from him as our model of successful masculinity?
The dysfunctional relationship between men and women goes back to the Fall. Part of God’s judgement on the woman in Genesis 3 was that “your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.” Men generally control power whether as judges, soldiers, business leaders, property owners or political leaders. One of the toxic manifestations of male domination has been violence against women. One in three women worldwide will be subject to physical or sexual violence during her lifetime. This is driven by men’s abuse of power and sense of entitlement.
Jesus was radically different. He was financially supported by women, had them as friends; he respected women and taught them. But the Church Fathers and Christian theologians through the centuries have often been highly critical and abusive of women. Society sees the church as part of the problem. We also know from numerous personal testimonies that domestic abuse happens in churches too. And if you are the wife of a church leader, then the stigma of disclosing abuse can be even greater than for a woman outside the church.
Restored (www.restoredrelationships.org) was set up to answer two questions – where is the church are where are the men when it comes to ending violence against women? Churches can do so much, including being safe places for survivors of violence and vital sources of information, practical support and referrals to specialist agencies.
But it is ultimately we men whose attitudes and actions need to change if we are to prevent violence against women. That’s why Restored set up First Man Standing, a campaign asking men to respect women in every aspect of their lives and to challenge other men’s attitudes and behaviours. We have just launched a new website http://www.firstmanstanding.com which is gathering positive stories of men who are standing up for equality and fighting against the abuse of women.
This is not only a priority for our societies and for all those suffering violence, it also gets to the heart of the Gospel. In Christ there is no male or female (Galatians 3:28). Husbands are called upon in Ephesians Chapter 5 to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave up his life for her. I call on Christian men everywhere to stand up and speak out on these issues and to model sacrificial service and respect for women. This is what Jesus would do.
Peter Grant, Co-Director, Restored
You can contact Peter at firstname.lastname@example.org