After laying the foundations of Biblical Manhood in week 1 and considering the ways sin has marred those foundations in week 2, we heard from Daniel and Ken this week on the specific topic of relating with women. Here are the notes from Daniel's portion:
Amnon and Tamar
Amnon was David’s son, a royal son in the house of the king, one among many. Of his upbringing, knowledge of God, and interaction with his father, the Scripture is silent. In his first appearance, he is introduced as follows: “In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David” (2 Samuel 13:1). By this, the Scripture means that Absalom and Tamar shared the same mother, though all were the offspring of David. Tamar was Amnon’s half-sister.
We are concentrating more on the pattern of interaction here, but note that as her brother, it was not lawful for Amnon to desire Tamar. The Bible uses the phrase “fell in love,” which in general does not share the same touching significance of the modern use of the phrase. In NASB, it says simply that Amnon “loved her.” This is similar to Jacob’s desire for Rachel and Samson’s for Delilah. It is what we might call an infatuated lust, like that of the foolish man enticed by the wanton woman in Proverbs. It is lovesickness, that preoccupation with another person which in itself is not a bad thing. But it is dangerous in its effects.
Listen: “Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.”
The Bible is very straightforward about the heart and desires of man! Amnon wanted to possess her. He wanted her, and denied her, he became ill, physically ill.
Now then, chart the course of his actions:
“So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill.” In this way, he manipulates Tamar into being alone with him.
“But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, ‘Come to bed with me, my sister.’”
She tries to dissuade him, “but he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.”
With that, there is a switch, “Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her.”
1. Amnon became infatuated with Tamar. He saw her and desired her. This in itself is natural, normal, healthy even. It is the course of things, the way God has made men and women to be. When a man looks at a woman, he sees the beauty and he is drawn to it.
2. However, these passions and desires are unregulated in the sinful heart, disordered, chaotic. What control we have over them is the product of upbringing, environment, and culture, all easily broken.
3. Amnon, in being led by these desires, takes increasing steps to satisfy them. He wants to get her alone, he wants her to satisfy his desires, so he manipulates the situation to give him the opportunity to enjoy her. But after setting this up, she still remains unwilling. So he takes what he wants through his greater physical strength. He forces her to give him satisfaction. The blunt physical nature of this forcing is the culmination of his efforts and is fully in line with them. In other words, his rape is not an aberration, but the results of the method by which he chose to satisfy himself.
This, then, is the pattern that is set before us in this story: Man desires woman, not just ordinary admiration, but a lustful, infatuated desire that controls and motivates him. He takes whatever action is necessary to have what he desires, with no ultimate regard for her. She is simply an object for him to satisfy himself with. As the barriers and restraints are stripped away, the act culminates in rape. After raping her, and finding his desire ultimately unsatisfied, he hates her.
Now, I am going to say something intense, perhaps even offensive to some. This pattern is the normal pattern of sin; this story is meant to represent to us the pathways of our heart. Can you apply this to yourself? Are you standing aloof from Amnon, as if you and he did not share the same sinful nature? holy self-doubt
Are we Amnon?
First, how is our story different?
1. Culture and the “thinkableness” of rape. The reason we tend to see this as a distant story is that the culture that most of us were brought up in (and I include not just the broader American culture, but also the family and church environments) this culture distances us from the thought of rape. If I asked you, would you ever rape a girl? I am sure that all of you would answer no without hesitation. This, believe it or not, is to a very large degree a product of the lingering effect of the intense Christianization of Western society during the 16th-17th centuries. After raping his sister, Amnon continues to enjoy all the benefits of being a royal son. We, on the other hand, would be subject to ostracism, social pariahhood, rejection by peers, etc.
2. Fear of the law. As a royal son, Amnon had little fear of the effects of his rape, provided he could do it privately. He is half-right. His father, when told about it, does nothing. Ultimately, Absalom does revenge his sister though. For us, rape would most likely result in prison and a track record to follow us the rest of our lives. This, of course, is one of the primary reasons for the existence of government: to constrain the natural impulses of sinful man through fear and punishment.
3. Finally, and most importantly, the Holy Spirit is at work in us, controlling and acting in opposition to our flesh. Can I get an, “Amen!”? Without the Holy Spirit, our restraints are fear and culture, both of which our sinful natures can and do overcome.
So, if we remove these differences in culture, we begin to see that we might be a little more like Amnon than we initially thought. Now, how does Amnon’s pattern express itself in our culture? Our culture is saturated, near infested, with sexualization. Everyday, television, magazines, and movies all tell us about how our sexuality is desirable and good. So what are its faces? I will name a few:
1. The highly sexualized representation of women in popular culture. Women are constantly being put forth as sexual models. We see this in advertising and other visual media. For us as men, this can create an expectation of the women we know. Their model becomes our norm and we can expect the women we know to adhere to it. For women, it can put pressure on them to conform to this image of womanhood. They see that to be a woman means dressing and acting provocatively to attract men.
2. Pornography. In our generation, pornography is incredibly accessible. I would not be surprised to find out most of us in here have looked at pornography and lusted after the women on display. Pornography reeks in its similarity to rape: we know what we want from these women and we take it without any concern for them. We devalue them as God’s children.
3. Rape itself is still common in pockets of our society, and other forms of rape exist such as date-rape and pressurized sex. Even in our society with the cultural stigmatism of rape and the powerful laws against it, it is still practiced. The heart of man is that of a rapist.
So, we ask ourselves this question then: are we Amnon? Are we any different? In general, we see that we are not, but how much of this is due to God’s common grace for us in creating government and a moral society to grow up in? We have safeguards in place to keep us from being Amnon in deed, but are we still Amnon at heart?
Two Things to Understand
1. In entering our relationships with women, we bring with us unresolved desires. These are the issues that affect us as we relate to women in our own particular way.
Think of it this way, we are driven by our problems and issues related to women, such that we tend to seek out something from them. This is the “Barney Stinson” man, the man who has experienced hurt or rejection or something that makes him seek out the approval/love of women.
This is stronger or weaker in us according to our experiences. But this is the pattern that touches on every interaction we have with women! So whether this is a large, addictive pattern in us, or a subtle and small pattern, it is present! The pattern is this:
Being created to desire women, the desiring of women tends to bring us pleasure, the illusion of satisfaction and wholeness. As we seek after pleasure outside of what is good as a result of our desire to find completion and wholeness, we desire women. This takes the form of real relationships, both ones that look fine on the outside and ones that look problematic. It can also the form of abstract, or imagined relationships. This is mental fantasy. In our day, pornography is common.
Finally, this pattern can be weakly sexualized or non-sexualized. The pleasure can take the form not of sexual pleasure, but the pleasure of being admired, respected, that component of a male-female relationship that mocks the provider/helper created model. Thus, where no sexual misconduct is occurring, relationships can still acquire the pattern of Amnon: man acquiring from woman the satisfaction of his desires, the created desire to be complemented in women. Thus, even man in whom sexual desire is repressed (homosexual) or absent (eunuch, or rarely in others) seeks to bring fullness and satisfaction to himself through women.
We must first examine DEEPLY this pattern in our own life, seeing it in the women we interact with. I guarantee that it is present in all our lives. I find it constantly cropping up in my own life.
2. The solution is not to try and control every interaction with women, to establish a whole host of rules regarding them, but to first of all be fulfilled in Christ, finding satisfaction in him so that we do not need to run to woman IN ANY WAY to feel satisfied.
This, of course, is the solution of the New Creation, being reformed in Christ. But as we studied last week, from this new condition, this new creation, we must take off the old self and put on the new self. But only in the context of this full satisfaction can we bring healing into our relationships with women.
1. We need to re-enter the identity we have been made for. The distortion is using women for our pleasure and satisfaction. The created identity is our protection and caring for women. How can we do that in this ministry? How can we make the women feel protected and cared for?
2. The number one way we can protect them is by guarding their hearts. This means what exactly? It means that we don’t create imitation relationships with them. It means that we act towards them with boldness and clarity. It means that we communicate with them and do not fall into relationship with them.
3. We have to value women as co-equal to us. With the fall, the chaos of the sinful world made men powerful and has long taught us that hierarchy is value, that primacy makes for increased worth. This is ungodly and false. We have to give our sisters the value they deserve, listening to them, valuing their thoughts.
4. We have to lead the ministries, families, etc. that we are a part of.
5. We must flee from passivity in our relationships with women.