Whether one claims to be complementarian, egalitarian, or any other arian, the rules God, our authority, has given are the same. What behavior does God authorize for a husband?
1. As part of the body of Christ, a husband is to submit to his wife, Ephesians 5:21, I Peter 5:5.
2. A husband is to love his wife as he loves and cares for his own body. He is to sacrifice for her, doing what it takes to benefit her—even at the expense of NOT getting what he wants. Ephesians 5: 25-31
3. A husband is to esteem his wife as better than himself, Phil 2:3
4. A husband is to treat his wife as he would want to be treated if he were her. Matt. 7:12
5. A husband is to demonstrate God’s agape love to his wife I Cor 13.
6. A husband is to guard his tongue. James 3
7. A husband is to honor his wife so his prayers won’t be hindered, I Peter 3:7
8. A husband is to have the fruit of the spirit, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, and this is to show up in all his dealings with his wife, not just at church.
There are likely more, but this is sufficient.
With a commandment list like this, why would any husband prefer to be a complementarian? If he is a complementarian and he has the job of making that final decision, this list requires him to make the decision his wife wants.
God did not give him an exception clause. He is always to honor, love, submit to and sacrifice for his wife, all the while esteeming her better than himself. This is the commandment of God, not of the egalitarians.
It seems to me the egalitarians are easier on the husbands. Egalitarians teach that husbands and wives are to divide responsibilities based on gifting, not on pre-fabricated roles that may have both spouses struggling to pretend to be what they are not. They also teach couples to come up with solutions both spouses feel good and at peace about. That means neither of them make a final decision that hurts their spouse, and that both seek to find a solution that pleases them, yet pleases their spouse as well.
Life in egalitarian families is win-win, while life in complementarian households frequently has one spouse being the loser while the other gets things his or her way depending on whether the husband obeys the command to sacrifice for his wife, or whether he indulges in sinful self-pleasing.
Again, if complementarian husbands truly live in obedience to God’s word and authority, they will always sacrifice their own wishes, desires, needs in order to serve their wives.
But even with the complementarian rules, which give a husband authority over his wife, a husband has the authority to set up a relationship where neither spouse overrides the will or preferences of the other. The husband can use the authority he believes God has given to him to live by the Golden Rule, to honor his wife, to esteem her better than himself, to lay down his wishes in favor of his wife's, and to use disagreements as a means to learn to know one another better as they search for solutions each spouse will actually like. But when he does that, it is important that he tell her that he considers her his equal, not just for salvation and in the eyes of God, but in his eyes, too. Only then will she be free to totally be herself, to fully entrust herself to her husband, and to be all God has made her and called her to be.
Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" See www.wanetadawn.com A Mennonite woman fights to save her family yet keep her faith.
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