Complementarianism? What the heck does that mean?

This blog post is in response to a series of sermons that my church did few weeks ago on the roles of men and women when we dove into the scriptures concerning head covering in 1 Corinthians. The issue of roles concerning men and women seem to always be controversial because its not only relevant in how things ought to function in marriage, but also the church. People just don’t like to be told what to do or how to live, and once someone says “do it this way”, our rebellious nature says “no, I’ll do it my way”.

One of the reasons why we picked our church when we first moved to Washington was because it adheres to a complementarian point of view. I know that’s a big fancy word or label (and I hate, abhor, detest labels) but I want to try to explain what it means. This word cannot be found in the dictionary and the definition found in Wikipedia is “ok”…..however its vague and is zero help in explaining it practically and functionally. Definitions and descriptions are good in that they are good starting points, but to put “flesh” on something is always a better way to explain hard concepts. At least it is for me. 

Complementarian comes from the word complement. 
Like maple syrup complements pancakes. 
Or water complements sunshine. 
Or milk complements cookies. 
Simple right? 

Yesterday I shared with a few women at church a brief synopsis of how I grew to embrace a complementarian stance years ago….5 to be exact.  From what I understand, there seems to be push back or even a complete misunderstanding of what it means. There is confusion in how it ought to look, marriage wise, and some even think that it is one and the same or closely related to an egalitarian perspective (which is another fancy label I will explain shortly) and simply chalk it up that these two vastly different viewpoints as a miscommunication of semantics. It’s not just semantics. Practically and functionally, they are not the same.

This is my attempt to put “flesh” on what complementarianism is to me in my marriage and how God, through a series of personal and church experiences revealed to me that this view of marriage made the most sense, Biblically. Though difficult to live out, I have had much help from a very reliable source – the Holy Spirit. Accepting and or even agreeing with  the definition of complementarian theoretically is vastly different and easier than accepting it in real time, in real life, in real marriage. Everything always looks nice and tidy on paper.

This blog series will touch on a few topics that are typically hot button issues within the context of any  marriage and I will share how these issues functionally  evolved to reflect a complementarian position in my marriage. 

This particular post is just an introductory of sorts….but I will be delving into the following topics. 

1) Money
2) Ministry
3) Children discipline
4) Household duties
5) Roles in the church

I thoroughly understand that each marriage is different, and how each marriage works functionally will never fit into a mold to reflect “classic complementarian” across the board for all topics I just mentioned. Please be advised that this blog series is not going to be a manual of sorts on how to make your marriage look more complementarian. 

I am simply writing this series to help others see what I personally had to work through, enduring much tears, confusion, frustration, and repentance on my part…..with my end result a resting of sorts….and trusting. Resting and trusting is nice. Not easy….but nice. 

I used to be a feminist. 

To understand feminism, we can think of this mantra:

Anything you (man) can do, I (woman) can do better.  I (woman) can do anything better than you (man), especially because you want to OPPRESS me. (that last part is typically yelled)

In a nutshell, its a belief system in which women feel and operate as if men are unnecessary simply because men are only instruments of oppression and pain. 

After God saved me and gave me a Christian husband and a boy child to call my own, feminism excruciatingly was ripped from me and I replaced it with a more comfortable shoe called egalitarianism.

Egalitarianism is the understanding that men and women are created equally and can be interchanged equally.

Their mantra would go something like this:

Anything you (man) can do, I (woman) can do THE SAME. I (woman) can do everything THE SAME as you (man).

It is a belief system that assumes that men and women are created equal in function. Men are no different than women and women are no different than men. Completely interchangeable.

It also seemed to be the best approach and the most compatible with Christian marriage, at least that is what I believed for long time. I married my husband shortly after becoming a Christian and every Christian marriage I was exposed to functioned under egalitarian principles so I assumed it was the most Biblical approach. To be honest, I had no idea other approaches existed.

I had no frame of reference for what marriage ought to look like due to being raised in a single parent household and grew up hearing “men are no good” most of my life. So, by default, feminism took up residence in my mind and heart until I was 33. Let me just add, its almost impossible to hold onto feminist’s principles once one get’s married, especially if one is a Christian. I learned that the hard way.

As I looked around in my new, albeit extremely foreign, world of “Christian life”, I simply tried to imitate what I saw. Granted, at the time, I had no idea that I was formally replacing feminism with egalitarianism, but I can look back now and clearly see that it happened.

Even though the majority of Christian marriages I knew operated as egalitarian, the church operated vastly different. I wish I can say that how a church functions is supposed to be completely separate or different from how marriages ought to function, but I cannot. They both play a major role in each other – the church and marriage.

When I read the following verses there is no way I can conclude that church and marriage are two completely separate entities.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 

 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.  

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  

This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  

However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
(Ephesians 5:22-33)

to be continued……….

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