*Two disclaimers: 1. This post is more of a general essay, rather than one that does biblical exegetical work. I’ve done that in other posts. 2. If you are new to my blog, I don’t actually write about gender issues that often…it is in spurts. This is a spurt!*
The conversation about gender roles, and the differences in a complementarian vs. egalitarian approach, are typically about women. The egalitarian view promotes the freedom of women to serve, in church and home, based on their gifts and abilities – rather than based on their gender alone. It makes sense that the conversation revolves so much around women, because it is women who have historically been restricted, unable to utilize some of their God-given strengths.
However, it has recently become more apparent to me how freeing egalitarianism is to men! I realize not all complementarians can be lumped together, but comps do teach male leadership in the home and church. Some are more extreme than others, and could be labeled patriarchal. But the point I am getting at is that…
Complementarianism puts a terrible burden on the male.
A burden that the man was never intended to bear.
In Genesis 1 and 2, God gave man a female partner, and together they were to rule over the earth. Adam could not do it alone.
It is true that with the Fall in Genesis 3, this good design was corrupted, but should we base our marriage relationships on Genesis 3, or on Genesis 1 and 2? In various complementarian sources, the man is portrayed as the unilateral leader of the home. Some comps emphasize that a man will certainly take his wife’s opinions into consideration, but he is nonetheless the one in authority and has the final say.
I read in a complementarian book that a man should not consider getting married unless he is certain that he is ready to be the responsible one for his family. It said he must be willing to take blame for anything that goes wrong in his family. He must have the strength to hold up his family. If the man can not say “yes” to these things affirmatively, then he should not get married.
Of course, anyone (male or female) who is contemplating marriage should, rightly, consider whether they are ready to take this step in life. However…
- A man does not have to bear this responsibility alone. His wife will bear the load of responsibility with him. Man and woman together bring strength to a marriage.
- Why should total blame be placed on one? What an unfair burden. No matter how godly a spouse or parent you are, not only do other people have free will, but we live in a fallen, broken world awaiting the final redemption. Things will go wrong and family members will make bad choices, despite positive guidance. There are certainly times that we should accept blame and responsibility for certain problems, but there is something off-balance when blame is exclusively placed on one.
- If a man begins marriage with such certainty that he can be the strong leader, this actually troubles me. Is this the right attitude? Total confidence can be an indicator that you are not ready for a task, and lack humility. Some healthy self-doubt is a good thing.
Complementarianism also assumes that all men have the gift of leadership. But not all men do. What about them? Of course, just because we don’t have a gift does not mean we will never exercise it. Not having the gift of evangelism or encouragement, does not mean you never have to share your faith or encourage others! Likewise, even those without a leadership gift will at times lead others.
But if you are a man without leadership proclivities, that is okay. Take a deep breath. You don’t have to be forced into a box where you do not belong. You and your wife can lead the family together. Again, you do not have to bear this burden alone.
By the way…Egalitarians do not think men and women are identical. Neither do egalitarians think that men and women are interchangeable. Rather we see a flexibility for each person to be the unique individual that God has made them. Personality types, gifts/talents, and life circumstances should be taken into consideration.
Jeremiah was emotional and cried a lot, but God used him. Deborah had leadership skills, and God used her. It appears that Priscilla and Aquila had personalities/abilities that did not match male and female stereotypes – nonetheless, they were a powerhouse couple in the early church.
Each marriage will look a little different as the husband and wife unite as one, and bring their unique personalities, experiences, and abilities to the table. This is how God intended it from the beginning. Men and women are to be a blessed alliance.
Men, you too, have the freedom to serve based on your gifts and abilities, and don’t have to be confined to a falsely imposed and culturally conditioned “gender box.”
Egalitarianism is good news for men, not just women!
**** Here is a related post from the blogger at Jesus Without Baggage: 5 Ways Christian Patriarchy Harms Men