Wednesday, March 23, 2005

an egal's eye view

The other night some guys got together and began to discuss the topic of women. All of these men were married and were in their 30's (or look like they are in their 30's). I found myself in the minority not only as the only single guy there but as the only guy there with an egalitarian view of marriage.

Now, to the credit of these men, they all seem to be good husbands. They all seem to have successful marriages. And while their view could be considered a "complementarian" view of marriage, they all deeply respect, honor and cherish their wives. But I wondered why we could agree on so much, in terms of what marriage looks like, but not agree totally.

Many girls grow up in the church and Christian culture and are taught things like, "Your man needs to be a spiritual leader." To which I don't disagree. But somewhere along the way that phrase transitioned into, "Your man needs to be THE spiritual leader of the house/relationship." Now that last statement, I have issue with.

Saying that the husband is "THE" leader assumes that the wife is not leading, or at least is a secondary type leader. I disagree with this thought. My understanding is that Christ is the head of the house, not the husband. Both husband and wife mutually submit to each other as Eph. 5:21 calls for. And as both submit to each other, they do so out of reverence for Christ.

My married friends and I talked for a good hour about where they disagreed with me. I believe that both husband and wife lead. They do so in different ways. Both husband and wife bring their gifting to the table and lead out according to those gifts. Have you ever noticed how the very same girls that demand that their husband or boyfriend be "the spiritual leader" of their relationship also tend to pray much more than their man? So who is it that is "spiritually leading?"

My friends said that though both are servants in the home, there is just something different about the husband leading. Well, to that I say that both husband and wife lead differently. But one is no more "the" leader than the other. But aren't guys supposed to make the decisions? To that I say, they make some decisions and wives make others. The decisions are based on their giftedness, not necessarily on their gender.

So what if the husband and wife can't agree? Shouldn't the husband make the final decision? After all, isn't he the head? Well, by "head" if you mean "will give up his entire life for his wife" as Eph 5 says, then yes. He is the head. Which means he needs to be the first to submit. So who is it that is making the final decision? I say both do.

At Horizon Church, the leadership makes sure that with any big decision, we don't move forward unless we have a consensus. Which means that everyone has to agree to the decision that is being made or at least submit to it. Its not majority rule. There is no CEO making the final decision. If we can't come to a common decision, then we don't move forward. I think this would work beautifully in a marriage. I suspect this is what happens in my friends' marriages too, whether they want to admit it or not.

Why does this work? It works because both husband and wife are mutually submitting to each other. And they submit to each other after they have submitted their desires and their life to Christ. They seek God's will together. After all, scripture says that when two people become married, they become one. So if there is one that has the final say, it is the one that is formed by the union of the two.

Many of us guys grew up in churches that warned us that it was our responsibility to be the "spiritual leader" and the "head" of the house. Most of the women in church today grew up learning the same thing. They learned that they should look for a "spiritual leader." While some of this was a good thing, we may have overlooked the fallout.

Without realizing it, we were telling our girls that they not only can't but shouldn't be leaders. What if instead we told them that we are all called, as Christians, to lead others to Christ. We were all called to lead. Without realizing it, we kept our women from serving in roles where their giftedness could be used for the Kingdom of God. We inadvertently made it seem like men had a "special" role in the family while women were only good for "submitting."

I hope that our own daughters won't grow up with these man-made limitations on the gifts that God has given them. Women, what are your gifts? What are you good at? How do you relate to God? Take all of those things and lead. Lead in the church and lead in your family.

If you are great at making decisions, then lead out in that in your marriage. If you are good at nurturing then lead out in that. If your prayer life is deeper than your husband's, then you should be the one to lead your kids in how to pray. If you have a calling that moves in your life, then lead in that calling. And when you lead, submit. When you submit, serve. And as you serve, you lead. And the same goes for the men. Men, lead out in your gifting. As you lead, submit to your wife. As you submit, serve. And as you serve, you lead.

Maybe in the next generation of families and churches our daughters and grand-daughters will finally be free to participate powerfully in the kingdom of God. Until then, its up to this generation of men to both submit to their wives and lead. Its up to this generation of women, young and old, to both submit to their husbands and lead. And hopefully together, we can do this out of reverence for Christ as our submission is ultimately to Him.


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