Within the family, as the lines between the two genders of male and female are blurred more and more, we have long begun to experience the consequences that we are running towards as a society.
While it is true that we have, at one time or another, distorted and demonized many Christian doctrines, including this one, when properly understood in it’s full scriptural context, complementarianism sings a much different song and brings a greater value to both men and women as equal but different.
What is a Complementarian Family?
In the Bible, we read that the order in which God created us plays a significant role in how are to live our day to day lives. Since woman was made to be a helper for the man (Gen 2:18), the man by nature is in a position of authority over her. While some may see this as chauvinism that results in female oppression, what they are really seeing is a distorted perspective of the truth.
The Role of Men in Family
The man, as the head of the house, is the one who holds the heaviest burdens. It is his role to defend, fight and provide for his family. When decisions are to be made, he takes into consideration the input and desires of his family and out of love for them, makes the choice that he believes is the best option (Eph 5:23, 28-29, 33; Col 3:19; 1Pet 3:7). Whatever the outcome of those decisions, the responsibility lies on him and not his wife or children. Drawn out, this means that full responsibility is on his shoulders; from ensuring that his children receive proper education and discipline, to managing the household finances and seeing that he is the first to sacrifice, be it his dinner or his life (Eph 5:25).
The Role of Women in Family
The woman, as the helper of the man, is the one who comes alongside and assists her husband under submission to his authority (Eph 5:22; Col 3:18; 1Pet 3:1). Sometimes this is lived out by helping to maintain the home, raising the children while he is at work, teaching and disciplining them in his absence, helping manage finances, finding bargains for needs, cooking meals, or anything that may aid him in his responsibilities.
When properly lived out, the man is seen as the first authority of the family because he is the first servant of the family (Much like how Christ is in authority over the Church [Mat 28:18] and servant of the Church [Mk 10:45; Jhn 15:13]). Because he is called to sacrifice more, work the hardest and give the most, he holds the position of authority in the household.
Really, the man that the Bible instructs us to be, is the contemporary manifestation of a knight in shining armor who protects and provides for his wife and family and is willing to sacrifice anything, even his life, to guard and serve them.
Unfortunately there those who lean heavily on one side or another of the pendulum and therefore distort this doctrine. On one side you will have boys who favor chauvinism while seeking independent rather than collective value. On the other side you will have boys who are emasculated pushovers that are emotionally and physically trampled on by everyone, including their spouse. But note that the men are in the middle, whom recognize that there is equality in value, but a difference in roles.
A Beautiful Doctrine
To understand the elegance and beauty of this teaching, we can look at two events in the Bible. The fall of man and Jesus’ earthly ministry.
In Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve eat of the forbidden fruit, God calls out to Adam (Gen 3:9) even though it was Eve who ate first (Gen 3:6). The responsibility of the disobedience is placed on the man (Rom 5:19), and as a result, the Lord tells Adam that in order to provide for his family, he will have to work hard all the days of his life (Gen 3:17-19).
Additionally, throughout the Old and New Testaments, we read about how all of humanity has been corrupted and defiled by our disobedience to God. Though we have accumulated a debt to him that we can never repay, deserve a wrath that we can never escape and turned our hearts against him who has gifted them to us, God came down to our level as the man Jesus Christ to pay the unpayable debt, to serve an unloveable people and offer us an unending life with him.
From these two stories, I believe we can extract exactly what is meant in Ephesians 5:25, where husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church.
- Just as Adam was responsible for Eve’s disobedience in failing to properly lead her, so is the man to take responsibility for the failures and mistakes of his family that are the result of his leadership.
- Just as Christ was willing to give up his life for that of his bride (The Church), so is the man to be willing to give his life for hers. (Eph 5:25; Rev 19:7-8)
- Just as Christ provides for his bride, so the man to provide for his family. (Luk 15:22-34; 1Tim 5:8)
- Just as Christ represents us, so is the man to represent his family. (1Cor 15:22)
- Just as each member of the trinity is equal while fulfilling different roles, so each member of the family is equal while fulfilling different roles.
A Reflection of God
Scripture tells us that the Father is above all, he sent Jesus who is under his authority (Jhn 3:15; 5:37), and both the Father and Jesus sent the Holy Spirit who is under the authority of both (Jhn 14:16; 15:16). We see a similarity in the roles of the family, where Christ is the head over all, the man is under the authority of him, and the woman is under the authority of both (1Cor 11:3).
Though this Biblical doctrine is a very hot topic that many feminists despise and many chauvinists distort, it is still just as important that we and understand and abide by it’s instruction and practice today. The Bible never gives evidence that it was a cultural norm, but it does tell us that it is natural standard (2Tim 2:12-14). If we seek to be godly men and women for the glory of God’s kingdom, we ought to respect and obey this teaching about family, regardless of our personal feelings and opinions.
- Piper, John, and Wayne A. Grudem. Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: a Response to Evangelical Feminism. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006. Print.