I suppose the term “conflict” is almost synonymous with marriage and family today.
We hear all the time how oppressive men are or how insensitive they are. How chauvinistic they are. How abusive and uncaring they are. And on the other hand, we hear so often about women being overbearing, seeking freedoms and the exercise of their own will, and not wanting to submit to their own husbands. And why is this? Well, it’s because of sin.
We can go back to the beginning and get a glimpse of this. I want to share with you what may well be an interpretation of Genesis 3 worthy of consideration. I cannot be dogmatic and say it is absolutely, unequivocally accurate. But it is at least an interesting possibility in understanding where the conflict comes from.
Then Yahweh God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” And Yahweh God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than any of the cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain and conception,
In pain you will bear children;
Your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:13-16)
The curse that came upon the human race as a result of the fall in Eden altered significantly and dramatically the original design of God. Before sin there was perfect union. There was no conflict. Adam and Eve got along perfectly. But then sin was introduced, and sin brought with it chaos and conflict.
The curse brought separation between man and God, separation between man and nature, and finally, separation between man and woman. And the key part of the curse for our current topic is at the end of verse 16: “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
It is very possible that that one statement answers the question, “Why is there such conflict between men and women?”
Looking first to the husband, it says, “He will rule over you.” And the word rule means reign. It’s a word of sovereignty. The man, as a result of the curse, is going to dominate you. And as a result of the curse, you are going to desire him.
What does that mean? Well, that word desire is used over in Genesis 4:7.
If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is lying at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.
The construction here in the Hebrew is exactly parallel to Genesis 3:16. It is an exact parallel construction using the very same word.
And what did sin want to do to Cain? It wanted to crush him. It wanted to dominate him. It wanted to take over his mind and his actions. Sin wanted to rule him. Sin wanted to force him to do certain things. Sin wanted to control him.
And that, I think, is parallel to what you have in Genesis 3:16. Part of the curse is that the woman no longer willingly, eagerly welcomes submission. There is something in her that wants to control the man. She wants to usurp authority over her husband.
Why is there always a woman’s liberation movement? And why is there always male chauvinism? Because that’s how the depravity of the human heart reveals itself — in women seeking to rule and men desiring to suppress.
Woman in her fallenness is not willing to submit, but desires to control and to exert her individualism. Man in his fallenness wants to stay king of the mountain, and his rule can be oppressive and insensitive. Thus the battle of the sexes began with the fall in Genesis 3, and children who come into the family just enter into the ring during the boxing match. Everyone is selfishly fighting for his or her own turf.
And the question then comes, how can a marriage survive this kind of conflict? How can a marriage work and how can children find any peace in this kind of environment? How can the conflict be ended?
We have already answered that question. The conflict is ended by two people who have come to know Christ, whose lives have been transformed, who are characterized by being Spirit-filled, joyful, thankful, and submissive to one another. The answer is spiritual transformation.
The solution to the conflict in marriage is spiritual. It starts with allowing the Holy Spirit to control your life, letting the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, and obeying the Spirit of God as He reveals His will through the will of God. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can reverse the curse in a home. Where you have a Spirit-filled person in the home, you have hope.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 1996, titled “A Plan for Your Family: God’s vs. the World’s, Part 2.” In addition to serving as the pastor of Grace Community Church and the voice of Grace to You, Dr. MacArthur is the chancellor of The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, Calif. You can learn more about TMU at www.masters.edu.
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