It's nice when, after you've finally decided to wade into an Evangelical brouhaha, the controversy suddenly dissipates.
Last week, I was alerted to an article written by Jared Wilson, a member of The Gospel Coalition. The article was written as a response to the popular Fifty Shades of Grey books and was supposed to show how a complimentarian understanding of the roles of men and women is a powerful antidote to the degrading relationships described in those books. Complimentarianism is the view that men and women are equal before God and have distinct roles in the church and home.
The article was poorly executed. I won’t go into the specifics because Jared has apologized and removed it from The Gospel Coalition’s site. Suffice it to say, some of the language utilized to describe the sexual relationship between a husband and wife felt harsh and domineering to many readers.
Egalitarian readers of the article—those who would argue that there should not be a distinction in roles on the basis of gender—were upset. Many went too far, accusing Jared of advocating marital abuse when his intention was clearly the opposite. Jared seemed to be doubling down, arguing that the critics weren't understanding his point.
I was reluctant to enter the discussion. I really like Jared and felt like much of the criticism crossed the line and didn't address the essence of what he said. At the same time, I was concerned about the picture of complimentarianism that was being painted by one of our own. I had decided to venture into this conversation when suddenly it was over. As I said, Jared apologized and most graciously accepted his apology.
Controversy over (mostly).
So why am I wading into the conversation?
I fear that the term "complimentarianism" is being compromised. In our current discussions, we are using words like "leadership" and "headship" to emphasize the very character traits Scripture warns us against in Genesis 3 at the fall. Put simply, men, our job is not to "rule" our wives! When I use the term complimentarian to describe my position, I fear that people misunderstand what I mean. They—complimentarians, egalitarians, patriarchs—all impart secular views of authority and leadership and import them into the discussion.
I want to advocate a different understanding of leadership and authority, and, therefore, complimentarianism. It is an understanding based not only on Paul's words to husbands in Ephesians 5:22-33 but also Jesus' words in Matthew 20:20-28 on leadership. To do so, I don't want to use the imagery of a CEO or a coach or a father to describe the role of a husband. Instead, I want to use some of the violent images from Aurora, Colorado.
The tragedy in the early hours of Friday, July 20, 2012 at a theater showing a screening of the new Batman movie was horrific. In terms of casualties, it is the worst shooting in U.S. history. One aspect of the story that is garnering more attention today is the similarity in the stories of three of the twelve fatalities. A quarter of the people who perished in that theatre were men shielding their girlfriends from the bullets of a madman.
These men who died were not perfect men. You can read their biographies and learn of their frailties. But all of them, at that last moment when it really counted, flung their girlfriends to the ground and sacrificed their lives for them. Even the left-of-center website Slate noted the “ingrained” impulse in men to protect women thatwas brought out in the tragedy.
This is the image of complementarianism I wish to communicate to my sons and other men in the church. Our role is not to be served by our wives. Our role is to sacrificially give up our lives for our wives on a moment by moment basis.
This means not only throwing our bodies on top of them as a deranged shooter is on the loose. It means doing the laundry, cleaning the house, caring for the children, cooking dinner, being quick to apologize and a million other tiny things.
Men, love your wives as Christ loved the church.