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The #1 Reason Why Christian Marriages Fail

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Marriage fail3The Bible tells men to treat their wives as equals. But in a machismo culture, this is easier said than done. Whenever I travel to Latin America I usually carry a pair of handcuffs in my suitcase. I use them as a visual aid when I’m preaching about the machismo attitude that is so prevalent in that region.


I remind everyone in the audience that esposa, the word for wife in Spanish, is the same word used for handcuffs.

 “When we are teaching about marriage in the church, let’s throw away the handcuffs. Let’s quit promoting erroneous notions about male domination and get back to what the Bible really says.”

Esposas. Why would the word for wife be the same word for a form of bondage?

Because women in many Latin countries suffer unthinkable abuse in the home. Puerto Rico, where I spoke last week, has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in Latin America, and many women die there every year at the hands of their partners.

This macho pride is not unique to Latin America. It is the reason many women kill themselves in India; it is why so many African women have been abandoned in poverty; it is why Middle Eastern women are forced to live under tents of heavy fabric in hot climates. Male superiority is a global problem—and it is the No. 1 reason Christian marriages suffer and fail. You’d think this problem would exist only outside the church, but women are beaten in many Christian homes in Latin America—even in pastors’ homes. Abusive behavior is tolerated partly because of an incorrect interpretation of Scriptures about wifely submission, but also because the church has not confronted wrong cultural mindsets of male superiority.

No matter what country I visit I remind men that God created man and woman as equals in the Garden of Eden (see Gen. 1:26-28) and that male domination is a result of Adam and Eve’s rebellion (see Gen. 3:16). When Christ died for us, He broke the curse of sin and made it possible for a husband and a wife to enjoy equal access to God and, as a result, intimate fellowship with each other. He never intended marriage to be about hierarchy, domination, control or abuse.

To any man who is struggling with an abusive tendency (physical, sexual or emotional) or with an attitude of male superiority, I urge them to take these three Scriptural steps:

1. Treat your wife as an equal. It’s true that God asks women to submit to their husbands, but in the same passage He tells husbands and wives to submit to each other (see Eph. 5:21). When talking about sex in marriage, Paul taught that married people have authority over each other’s bodies (see 1 Cor. 7:3-4), again stressing the concept of mutual submission. And Peter warned husbands that their prayers would be hindered if they do not treat their wives as a “fellow heir of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7, NASB).

Those skeptics who think Christianity is prudish, old-fashioned and male-dominant have not read the Bible. The gospel of Christ not only restored human beings to God but reaffirmed the dignity of women and their equal value. When a husband understands this, and treats his wife with equal respect, his marriage reflects heaven.

2. Serve your wife selflessly. Many Christian husbands ignorantly think Scripture gives them the right to boss their wives around, bark orders, demand sex or manipulate with threats. They interpret the verse “the husband is the head of the wife” (Eph. 5:23) to mean that they can sit in their recliner like a king while their wives do all the housework and take care of the children with no help from them. That is not a marriage; that is slavery.

Paul introduced a radical concept in the first century: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). This is the opposite ofmachismo. A husband who loves Jesus will get out of his recliner and help with the dishes, play with the children and share the burden of family responsibilities.

3. Encourage your wife’s spiritual gifts. I’ve known many Christian men over the years who kept their wives under tight surveillance. They didn’t want them to further their education, start careers or assume leadership roles because they viewed them as inferior (and because the wife’s success exposed the man’s insecurity). Yet God’s desire is for a husband to be his wife’s biggest cheerleader. The husband of the Proverbs 31 woman, for example, praised his wife—not only for her virtue but because of her success in the marketplace (see Prov. 31:28-29).

Jesus Christ, through the gospel, has the power to subdue the male ego. Jesus can also give a woman the amazing ability to be patient when her husband has not yet learned how to treat her with the respect she deserves.

When we are teaching about marriage in the church, let’s throw away the handcuffs. Let’s quit promoting erroneous notions about male domination and get back to what the Bible really says.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma and the director of The Mordecai Project. He is the author of several books including 10 Lies Men Believe(Charisma House), which is also available in Spanish from Casa Creación. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady.

Editors Note: I usually agree with Lee but not this time!

This is one of the problems we experience when we travel abroad and come back to the US with the same message. Sorry Lee, but American women threw off these restraints when they burned their bras in the 60's. Now the American woman find herself at the far left of the pendulum in total disrespect of their husbands, attending BFF Girls Night out where the shenanigans would embarrass the average Christian.

I  would agree with his report if we are talking about some of the world cultures including the non-American Hispanic of central and South America and the biblical steps he has outlined.

The number one reason for the breakdown of Christian marriages is the erosion of Christian morality brought on by the culture in which we live. Hollywood's immorality has invaded the church via movies, television, and now Internet and mobile technology.

Can the American Christian marriage be saved? I will take Godly husbands and Godly wives who will say no to the prevailing culture and who make sure that they find their joy, satisfaction and self esteem in the monopoly of their spouse’s arms.

Jose Bosque

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Editors Note: Please help us continue to get this word out- No amount is too small- Thanks for your generosity!


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#5 JP 2014-02-22 03:23
But lets get down to the brass tax here. What country and culture has by far and wide the worst problem with divorce? Egalitarian North America. The anti-machimso hyper equal U S of A. Since you brought up Latins how about we compare divorce rates? In most studies you'll see the USA has divorce rates 5X-10X higher or more than that of say, Mexico or Ecuador


Think about that.

Sure you might hen peck out some horror story of some mistreated damsel in distress killing herself abroad, but thats wilful ignorance. More than enough American women kill themselves, and more than enough Indian women have good homes and good lives for their circumstances.
#4 Marie 2013-09-11 22:40
From a female perspective, I'd say the breakdown of Christian marriages is a bit of both of these manifesting in our homes. Before "wives, submit to your husbands" the bi le CLEARLY states "submit to one another". Men who quit acting like true men of God, but behave as bullies or as wimps are 1/2 the problem. Women who do not adorn themselves with godly graces are the other 1/2.
#3 RevCollins 2013-01-08 07:00
I totally agree with your observations. We in the church of America may not physically abuse our spouse, but we treat them with no less contempt. We view them as inferior and incapable of making decisions. In the home, we treat their wishes and desires with contempt and make them do what our selfish desires are. We do not take their options, dreams, and aspirations into consideration when leading the household.
Thanks for the wonderful reminder of what Christ really expects from us as leaders.
#2 Tosin Ojumu 2013-01-07 16:16
As a single Christian woman who writes blogs both about the faith and about laying foundations for a healthy and successful Christian marriage, I do not think that I agree with Lee. However I *definitely* do not agree with Jose for the following reason: Christian morality is not supposed to be defined or dependent on the surrounding culture. The Greco-Roman culture of the 1st Century into which the church was born was aggressively anti-Christian. So as Christians we cannot "sit around" and blame the culture around us for whatever ills might befall us at home or in the church. However, it is very true that we should "not be of the world" and if we as Christians are adopting worldly values then this will be a big contributor to failing marriages.
#1 Denise J. Williams 2013-01-02 19:38
This article is biased. J. Lee in my opinion doesn't have enough insight into the Latin community to make these claims. Women are mistreated in all cultures and this article would lead the reader to believe the mistreatment of women is more prevalent in the Latin community. Misconceptions such as these have been attached to the African American community as well. The "Scriptural steps" he cites I feel are sound, but other than that I don't agree with his claims.