I’m just thinking out loud here. But the more I ponder this Biblically, the more strongly I feel. I stumbled across a blog article that started as a positive shout out to something John Piper said and descended into a complementarian v. egalitarian debate. And the sides weren’t clear. It got all mixed up. One particular comment on the husband’s rule as outlined in the curse of Genesis 3:16 stuck out to me and made me think. Is the husband supposed to RULE the wife?
Huh? Why is that even a question? Why would anyone even ATTEMPT to use that language positively? It’s the CURSE. Didn’t Christ come to redeem us from the curse?! Isn’t oppressive rule by a man a sign of the curse and not redemption? I thought, even as a complementarian, that was obvious.
But that thought when voiced on that particular comment thread was quickly followed with a diminishing of any role in the church and home for men/women and husbands/wives. So can you believe the man is not supposed to RULE his wife (and how can you NOT Biblically?!) and still be a complementarian? I think so. In fact, I have great confidence the more I look at the precise way Scripture talks about husbands and wives IN CHRIST in the New Covenant that we can and must hold to both.
Obviously, in the New Covenant, there remain issues of role and authority. There are limitations on women, if you want to think of them that way. If you can indeed call the limitations placed on Christ or Paul in ministry limitations, then I guess you can call those on women limitations as well. But really, it’s just a call to be like Christ in a specific manifestation of His humility. All are called to love, but the husband is called to give a particular example of love. All are called to submit, but the wife is called to give a particular example of submission. Furthermore, the husband is clearly called the head of the wife as Christ is of the church. So there is definitely still in the New Covenant issues of role and authority. But it must be viewed distinctly different than the curse. In fact, I think it is DEAD WRONG to positively use the terminology of husbands “ruling over” their wives today.
I found it very helpful to simply look up the definition of rule and lead in English dictionaries. Scripture doesn’t use the term LEAD, but when you put together the individual instructions to husbands in the New Covenant, I think this term best sums it up for today’s English speakers.
Rule: to control or direct; exercise dominating power, authority, or influence over; to decide or declare judicially or authoritatively; decree:
Folks, that is clearly in Scripture the CURSE.
Lead: to go before or with to show the way; conduct or escort:
And THAT is the picture Paul paints of marriage in the image of God, particularly in Ephesians 5.
Some may call this semantics, but even so, if semantics was ever important, it is on this point. God calls us through headship and submission in marriage to reflect beautiful, important things about He and His Church. Things about the New Covenantal, redemptive relationship between Christ and His Body. And it is DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT than the curse. May we always note that clearly in our writing. And may we, as complementarians, correct this among ourselves whenever we hear it emphasized incorrectly.