Godly Romance: The Character of Men and Women

Godly Romance

Jesus’ relationship to the church is a godly romance that brings a restored relationship between men and women. Our ideals of romance today are directly inspired by Jesus' demonstration of a new way of thinking about love and submission. As Paul, Matthew, John, and the other early Christian authors we’ve explored in previous posts were writing about these principles, Christianity began to spread around the whole world, and with it, grew the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus’ prayer that the Kingdom would come along with the Father’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven began to come into fruition. With God’s will came an end to the curse between men and women. Let's explore how Jesus brought about our ideas of romance today.

Courtly Romance

The spread of the Kingdom of Heaven caused men’s attitudes towards women to began to change. By the middle ages, women were no longer seen as a lower form of humanity, fit to own, abuse, dominate, and rule over. Instead, men started honoring, loving, being gentle, and kind towards women as Jesus demonstrated through his relationship with the church. Men began to realize that, starting with Eve, the mother of all living, it was women who bore the generations that bore Jesus, their savior. This was most apparent in adoration toward Jesus’ mother Mary that started at this time in history. Just as God promised, it was woman’s ability to have children and bear the world’s savior that redeemed her and the rest of humanity from the curse.

The changing attitudes toward Mary and other women influenced the ideals of chivalry, the knights’ code. Chivalry focused on a knight’s duty in three ways which will sound familiar if you read my previous post: 1) To obey God, which reflects implementation of Jesus’ example of godly romance; 2) Serve weaker countrymen, which reflects using authority to love; and 3) Honor ladies, which reflects a willingness to lay one’s life down for women. For this reason, chivalry is now synonymous with the romantic ideal of winning the heart of a woman through kindness and service towards her.

Despite feminists’ best efforts to stamp out chivalry and end acts of kindness toward women, the ideal of romance and love continue today to be inspired by the principles of chivalry. When trying to romance and court a woman, it’s natural for a gentleman to open the door for her and allow her to enter first, offer her his seat or pull out her chair for her, pay for dinner, carry her bags, walk next to her on the outside of the sidewalk, not use foul language within her hearing, and perhaps most importantly, put down the toilet seat! These are just small and simple acts of kindness towards women, but they are symbolic of a man putting a woman ahead of himself and treating her with a sacrificial love. A knight defends the honor of his lady. He doesn’t rule over her, he serves her. He is strong for her. He treats her with gentleness and understanding.

Just as a man strives to romance a woman as her “knight in shining armor”, today’s ideal of a lady-like woman is also inspired by chivalry. A lady waits for a man to take initiative when romancing her, whether it’s asking for her phone number, asking for her hand in marriage, or taking the lead in bed. She is initially reluctant to a man’s advances, testing his resolve and dedication to her. It demonstrates that she is worth pursuing. Even if a knight has to slay dragons and fight for her, she is worth the sacrifice. She submits to a man’s authority. She holds her husband accountable to a godly standard. She is respectful. She is confident. She has a gentle spirit, and is adorned by the quiet personality hidden in her heart.

The Roots of Romance in Scripture

These masculine and feminine characteristics that took form in the middle ages were taken right out of scripture. Peter mentions the strength, understanding, service, and honor of a man towards a woman, as well as waiting, submissiveness, accountability, respect, confidence, gentleness, and quietness of a woman:
“Wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”
Peter is saying that a wife should use her quiet influence to hold her husband accountable for obedience to God. Modest and chaste behavior waits for a man to take initiative romantically rather than trying to seduce him. She is not frightened by any fear, but confident in who she is. In talking about what she wears, Peter is not telling women that they shouldn’t enjoy their physical beauty, but that their focus should be on their character rather than their physical appearance. This character is gentle and quiet, not outgoing and boisterous. Her greatest beauty is her personally hidden in her heart.

Likewise, a husband shouldn’t rule over his wife as a subordinate, but be her servant and treat her as a fellow heir. He should be kind and understanding toward her. He should honor her as the beautiful grand finale of all creation. And most importantly, he should be strong for her, treating her as someone weaker.

Weakness is generally considered a bad thing. But when a woman is weak, it encourages a man to be strong and use that strength in service to his wife. This is why a man behaves as a gentleman toward a lady. He does this not because a woman can’t open the door or pay for dinner herself, but because she shouldn’t have to. As the leader, the man is his wife’s servant. Peter says men should honor their wives because she is worthy of it. The things that carry the most honor and and value are often the weakest. Consider the delicacy of gold, a nice pair of shoes, and fine china. In fact, the New King James translates the Greek “weaker vessel”, which is what fine china is. Man is to humble himself and treat woman as fine china because she is more beautiful than him. These qualities are precious and imperishable in the sight of God.

Romantic Attraction

These qualities in men and women are not just attractive to God, they are attractive to each other. People typically find members of the opposite sex attractive when they possess qualities that emphasize their sexual differences. For example, men are naturally larger and more muscular. Therefore, women usually find larger and more muscular men attractive. Similarly, women naturally have larger breasts and wider hips than men. Therefore, women who have large breasts and a larger hip to waist ratio are generally considered more attractive. There is a good reason for this natural attraction -- these sexual differences indicate the health and fertility of a potential partner. Our bodies are naturally attracted to other bodies that are healthy and fertile because the survival of the human race depends on it.

A woman who is masculine, controlling, and dominant is about as attractive as a woman with a beard. A man who is weak and unsure of himself is about as attractive as a man with man-boobs. Just as our bodies indicate the ability of a potential mate to conceive children, our personalities indicate the ability of a potential mate to care for a family. The strength and authority of the man make him suited to protect his family and provide for his wife and children. The beauty and gentleness of a woman make her suited for caring for and nurturing her husband and children. Just as the differences between male and female bodies are attractive because they bring about life, the differences between male and female souls are attractive because they work together to care for life.

But masculine and feminine characters are not just about attracting a potential mate. Godly romance doesn’t end when you get a ring on her finger and bring her to bed. Marriage is just the beginning of courtly romance. A man gets to always be leading, strong, understanding, serving, and honoring toward his wife. This is the character of a man that results from love. A wife gets to always be waiting, holding accountable, respectful, confident, gentle, and quiet toward her husband. This is the character of a woman that results from submissiveness. For their whole lives, a man should fight for his wife, and a woman should always attract her man. In a future post, we will explore how these characteristics of a godly romance work together in every area of life

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