Complementarianism: A Biblical Model of Marriage

Posted on February 4, 2014 in Marriage by

gender rolesI’m going to make an astonishingly unsurprising admission: I do dishes.

When I was in college my brother and I had an apartment off campus. While this might conjure up visions of wild parties and clothes strewn all over the place, nothing could be farther from the truth. The people that came to our apartment would invariably ask “do you live here with your parents?” I guess the fact that the place was spotless, fully furnished complete with drapes and slip covers, had a stocked pantry with a full set of dishes and never smelled bad gave the impression that older, more mature people lived there.

Since that time I have only added to my “domestic engineering” skills. I can cook, clean, sew, grocery shop, do laundry and more. In fact, even today I do the majority of the grocery shopping for my family because I enjoy it. I can see eyes rolling and heads shaking as I speak. To offset all of this let me also tell you that I own a number of guns, shoot very well, still work on my own car, and golf. Better?

I could spend a lot of time talking about biblical gender roles. In fact, I spent over a year studying them before compiling a teaching outline and writing a number of articles on the subject. I believe the Bible lays out specific responsibilities and guidelines for men and women if they desire to be a biblical husband/father and wife/mother.

I don’t know about you, but I came from the model that says “men take care of everything outside and women take care of everything inside the home.” Does that sound familiar? Maybe you came from a similar home where your mom was constantly cooking, cleaning, and sewing buttons while your dad mowed the grass, changed the oil, and shoveled snow from the drive.

But times have changed. Now there is a push to erase all gender lines and move our society toward something more androgynous. No longer do families emphasize roles and responsibilities for men and women, now it’s a shared responsibility where everything is split 50/50.

While I am a major advocate of working together to manage the home, I believe the best version of this is found in a complementarian marriage between a husband and wife. (If you aren’t sure what a complementarian is, check out this article from The Gospel Coalition.) Essentially, this is a biblically based complementary relationship in which the husband is responsible to exercise a loving headship over his family and lead them while affirming the role of his wife as the “help meet” or partner God gave him in fully reflecting the image of Christ and His church.

To say that this is an unpopular view in our liberal, genderless society is an understatement. I’ve had women in church get furious with me for teaching some of the principles of Scripture related to gender roles and marriage. This shows a fundamental lack of understanding in the purpose for marriage.

Our society is attempting to strip all meaning from marriage and family by blurring traditional understanding of what constitutes marriage, family, and even parents. But the Bible is far more black and white on the subject than many realize. We are being told that marriage is not really important, but if you do get married it’s just for benefits and tax breaks. The Bible however has a deeper, more eternal purpose for marriage.

In Ephesians 5:22-33 Paul speaks of the marriage relationship and reveals that the greater image that is to be conveyed is that of Christ and His church. Marriage is not simply about benefits, tax breaks, sex, kids, or anything else. Marriage is designed to picture the relationship Christ has with His church. Marriage is an institution designed and defined by God to make us holy, bring Him glory, and show Christ to the world.

But just as many in the world have distorted the image marriage was designed to present, so have many well intentioned Christians. Whether this is due to neglect, ignorance of God’s Word, sin, or something else is not the point. The point is that as believers, people that claim to know Jesus and live by the Bible we have an obligation to know what Scripture teaches on this critical issue so that we may effectively witness to those around us by our lives.

What change is needed in your marriage and the roles you and your spouse are responsible for today? Maybe, like this recent article by Reggie Joiner states, as a husband you need to increase the amount of help you give your wife around the house…the inside of the house! Or maybe, as this article from Nancy Leigh DeMoss discusses, as a wife you need to slow down and concentrate on the “Godly work” of your home. Wherever you might be today, whatever might need improvement, I can assure you that it will be worth the effort. Any time we do something that shows Christ to a lost world it is not wasted time or energy.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I need to go wash the dishes and clean the kitchen. (Then I’m watching football.)

For a little more information on complementarianism, watch this short video featuring John Piper, Russell Moore, and Greg Gilbert. If the video doesn’t appear automatically, please refresh your browser.

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