Yesterday morning I was coming out of the gym, and there happened to be a woman about to come in the same door from which I was about to exit. Now, whether it was the fact I looked (and probably smelled) like I just finished a workout, or that she didn’t want the door held open for her, she didn’t seem pleased with my gesture of kindness. As I started my run back home, I couldn’t help but conjecture why she responded that way as well as why I feel compelled to hold doors open for women.
My door-propping tendencies, which many today would slam as “sexist,” “misogynistic” relics of the “patriarchy,” can be traced back to my childhood where I saw my dad open doors for my mom. He taught me by his actions and his words that women are special and are to be honored, cherished and protected. Of course, this mindset toward women was not original to him, nor many, many generations in various culture who came before him. This concept is highlighted in a letter written almost 2,000 years ago that was included in the most popular and widely read book in history – the Bible.
1 Peter 3:7 says, “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.” Paul the Apostle also says in Ephesians 5:25-30, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way 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, because we are members of his body.”
What we see in these and other passages from the Bible are clear truths about gender roles and characteristics, played out over thousands of years. Men and women are distinct, different, and have designated, complimentary roles. I’m not ignoring the verses that feminists hate about wives being submissive, but I do want to ensure it’s understood that the Bible calls husbands to love their wives sacrificially and treat them better than themselves. Women are called “weaker” in the Bible, but that adjective isn’t meant to be negative or imply that women are of less value than men. In fact, men are called to give special honor to women because of how they are made. It’s this concept, although significantly diluted and overt as it was even 100 years ago, that compels some men, like me, to show preference and honor to women by doing simple things like holding doors ajar and letting them enter or exit first.
My father treated my petite mother like fine China – fragile in body and emotion, yet elegant and precise. Some women might be described as thick crystal – costly, breakable, but not as fragile as other materials. Either way, a sensible person will care for their valuable China or crystal and allow their beauty to shine forth. A man who is obedient to the Bible will honor, cherish and love in sickness and in health his wife, treating her in such a way that her Biblical obedience through submission will be a joy to her. I saw my dad do this until my mom, the fragile China she was, succumb to a chronic and incurable lung disease. It’s because of how he treated her that I say I was made in China.