Our nation has suddenly become a “be sure your sins will find you out” society. As we read about the exploits of prominent men who have selfishly abused women, we have to ask, “Is this not Biblical?”
The Scriptures tell us, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8, NIV). Certainly these men are reaping the destruction of their reputations and careers. It is a high price to pay for indulging the flesh. It is better to understand the reality of this truth sooner than later.
So in light of this verse, perhaps the question to ask is, “How should I live in order to please the Spirit?” In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he wrote, “and he [Jesus] died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Focusing on pleasing the Spirit and living for Christ frees men from trying to navigate the minefield of what constitutes proper behavior toward women.
I think of captive Joseph serving Potiphar in Egypt. Potiphar’s wife continually tried to entice Joseph to have an affair. Yet Joseph’s response was resolute: “How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God” (Cf. Genesis 39:9).
A dear friend’s daughter spent this past Christmas without her four children because her husband—a former elder in the church—divorced her and quickly remarried. This year he had the children for the holidays. Our friend is heartbroken. This is a graphic example of living for self and pleasing the flesh. How could that man do such a wicked thing?
Throughout Scripture we are instructed to love, to be holy and to consider the needs of others above our own. One verse speaks specifically to men: “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness” (Titus 2:2). As older men exemplify these qualities, they are role models for younger men, who
are told to live wisely also.
One of the crucial qualities mentioned for men in this verse is self-control. Self-control naturally occurs when you no longer live for yourself, and it is the guard at the gate of fleshly indulgence that can lead to immorality. A sterling example of an older man exercising self-control is Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer for the Moabite widow Ruth. According to the custom of the day, Ruth expressed her desire to be redeemed by lying at the feet of Boaz. This took place in the dead of night, yet Boaz lovingly guarded the reputation of Ruth.
Choosing to live to please God is essential to having godly relationships, and the Bible gives us practical advice. Paul gave Timothy a very simple and straightforward guideline to men in relating to women: “Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters” (Cf. 1 Timothy 5:2). This principle for relating to women is easily applicable. How do you treat your mother? How do you relate to your sister? You care for them, you respect them, you treat them with all purity.
As you seek to apply this admonition, let me share some suggestions. At times, Paul writes that we are to greet one another with a holy kiss. While I do not experience this frequently, I define a holy kiss as a quick peck on the cheek given at a “safe” distance, with no embrace. I also think that there is a holy hug, or at least a safer one—it is given sideways. I recall conversing with an older woman after a Sunday service. As we visited, we watched her husband as he greeted several women with hearty hugs. She wistfully observed, “He never hugs me the way he hugs other women.”
Years ago, I made a decision that as much as I could control my circumstances, I would not be alone with a man (my husband excluded!). My resolve was tested when one of our pastors asked me to lunch to discuss the women’s ministry. I knew his motives were pure, but I also knew that we both needed to avoid all appearance of evil. I said, “Yes, lunch will be fine; may my husband join us?” The decision to not put yourself in a vulnerable position is crucial. So I hope you will commit to “no work lunches, no work travel, no counseling alone with another woman.” If you must meet alone with a woman (outside of dating) then meet in an office with the door open.
I will always remember the downcast woman who told me this unfortunate story. As a Christian, she was delighted to work for a Christian man whom she knew from church. After a few months, there was a lull in the day and he invited her to lunch. One lunch led to another, which led to an affair.
The woman left her husband, but ultimately her boss was not willing to leave his wife. When we met, she was raising her three children alone, and she was heartbroken because her husband was too deeply hurt to reconcile. Both the man and woman in this story made very poor decisions, but perhaps if the man had treated her as his sister with all purity, and if his purpose in life had been to please the Spirit by being self-controlled and worthy of respect, then it all could have been avoided.
I leave you with this thought from author Jerry Bridges: “God does not require a perfect, sinless life [in order for us] to have fellowship with Him, but He does require that we be serious about holiness, that we grieve over sin in our lives instead of justifying it, and that we earnestly pursue holiness as a way of life.” ©2018 Cynthia Heald
Cynthia Heald is the author of numerous books about living for Christ and the Bible study series Becoming a Woman of … She speaks frequently for retreats and seminars nationally and internationally.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. The Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken by permission from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
HOW REAL MEN TEAT WOMEN—
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.”
—1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
“Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.”
—1 Timothy 5:1-2
“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” —1 Peter 3:7
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. … Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church. … Let each one of you love his wife as himself.”
—Ephesians 5:25, 28-29, 33
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
“Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”
“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
“May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.”
—Proverbs 5:18, NIV