Christianity 201

May 16, 2019

Compelling Vision for the Family

by Clarke Dixon

Does Christianity have a compelling vision for family life? Some ancient religions required child sacrifice. That is not a compelling vision for family at all! Some would say that the Christian vision for family is likewise not compelling. It is too rigid, too patriarchal. Does the Christian vision for family make you think “that sounds right, that is consistent with a good and loving God” Is the Biblical vision for family beautiful, or ugly? It is beautiful, for the following reasons.

There is a beautiful vision for parenting.

To begin with, child sacrifice was strictly forbidden under the Old Covenant law. God’s people were to be different from other peoples of that day who did indeed sacrifice their children. The place near Jerusalem where people sacrificed their children was eventually used as a garbage dump, as it was despised by God’s people. It was called Gehenna, which most English Bibles translate as ‘hell.’ God’s people were expressly forbidden from sacrificing their children. This already was a positive step for family life!

But is there anything else about parenting? If you happened to read through the entire Bible this week, you might say, “I did not see too much on parenting.” If parenting is all about technique, then yes, the Bible does not say too much. However, if parenting is about character, then the Bible has much to say. Let us consider one example from Galatians:

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV)

Not only will those who “live like this” not inherit the kingdom of God, they will also make life miserable for their children.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:22-24 (NIV)

Those who live like this, on the other hand, will be appreciated by their children who will have great examples to follow. Who wouldn’t want to grow up with parents whose character is marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control? Techniques in parenting will vary according to culture, but the character of a parent can make for beautiful parenting in any society.

Character development is also good for marriage, which is also great for family life. This brings us to our second point.

There is a beautiful vision for marriage.

While we find polygamy quite often in the Old Testament, things are different in the New Testament. In speaking about marriage, Jesus focused, not on the people from the Old Testament who practiced polygamy, nor on the law, which allowed for polygamy, but on the creation account:

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew 19:3-6 (NIV Quotes from Genesis emphasized)

This return to the original vision for marriage paved the way for women to be on a more equal footing. Polygamy naturally leads to someone being in charge of “the clan,” a supreme leader. Monogamy more naturally allows for the possibility of an equal partnership.

Further, the Biblical vision is of covenant faithfulness and loyal love between two people. Such covenant faithfulness, based on God’s covenant faithfulness, is a beautiful thing and enables family life to be settled and stable. It is a beautiful thing to grow up in a home where one’s parents are in love, with each other!

There is also beautiful vision for leadership and submission in marriage:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:21-27 (NIV)

Perhaps that does not sound beautiful to everyone. Women being under the thumb of a controlling man sounds ugly. However, let us dig deeper. When leadership is about control, it is ugly. When leadership is about care and responsibility, it is beautiful. Notice the focus on the lengths Jesus went to in his care of, and love for, the church. He was willing to die for the church! There is a great expectation placed on men here, and one that was not prevalent in that day. Likewise, when submission is about giving control over, it can be ugly. When submission is about trust, it is beautiful. When a man loves a woman the way Christ loves the church, trust is built. This passage is not about men taking control without building any trust. It is about harmony in care and trust. It is a beautiful vision that was quite radical and woman affirming in its day. And let us not forget verse 21! Love, trust, and mutual submission makes for great family life.

There is beautiful flexibility in the Biblical Vision for Family.

Although Jesus focused in on the creation account of marriage, something you do not find in the New Testament is a push for everyone to be married with children. Jesus himself affirmed that not everyone will be married with children in Matthew 19:10-12. The Ethiopian eunuch was welcomed into the Kingdom in Acts 8. Paul encouraged people to remain single in 1st Corinthians 7, or get married! While married with children is a beautiful vision, it was not an expectation in the New Testament church. It should not become an idol on ours. If you are single, or have no children, you are not a second class citizen in the Kingdom of God. We do well to ensure that no one is a second class citizen in our churches.

Since there is flexibility in not forcing everyone to fit the pattern of married with children as set out in the creation account, is there also flexibility with leadership within the family? Can it be based on giftedness and capacity rather than gender? My wife takes the lead in a number of areas of our family life. She is so much more capable than I am in those areas!

Proverbs 31 is often thought to be about “the virtuous wife.” It is often pitched to women, that they should be more like that Proverbs 31 ideal. However, I think it pitched to men. The lesson of Proverbs 31 for men can be summed up as “don’t micro-manage your wife, she excels without your interference.” Proverbs ends with this instruction:

Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. Proverbs 31:31 (NIV)

This description of the capability of a wife must also be considered a part of the overall Biblical vision for family. The flexibility of the Biblical vision for family is a beautiful thing.

There are those who say that even if they became convinced that Christianity is true, they would still not want to be a Christian because it has a very patriarchal and constrictive vision for family life. Indeed, some Christians live out a constrictive and patriarchal vision. However, the Bible gives us a vision for family which is a beautiful. This is another aspect of Christianity that is compelling. What the Bible teaches about family life is indeed consistent with a good and loving God.


This post is part of a series called “Compelling” which begins here. The full sermon can be heard on the podcast which is found here.

March 17, 2018

Paul’s Advice to Married Couples

Last year we introduced you to the writing of Don Merritt at The Life Project. He’s currently working his way through 1 Corinthians. The Apostle Paul begins talking about family life in chapter seven. For an introduction to that, click this link. For today’s piece, click the title below. At the end is a link to a third part in the series.

If you are married

1 Corinthians 7:1-7

1 Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. (NIV)

Paul addresses himself to married couples in these verses; that is something that becomes clear as we read through it, and even more clear when we get to verse 8 and he addresses the unmarried. Essentially, his message to the married is that they should restrict themselves to sexual activity within the marriage, and that in this, neither partner should deprive the other of marital comfort except by mutual consent for a time of prayer (7:3-5), and then to come together once more so that Satan cannot exploit human weakness to lead them away from righteousness.

This seems to me to be in general accord with Paul’s teachings for husbands and wives elsewhere in the New Testament (see Col. 3:19 ff. and Eph. 5:29 ff.). It has a practical component in that he recognizes the fact that humans are sexual creatures, and that a man or woman who is unfulfilled in that area is more likely to be tempted to stray than one who is not. There is also a deeper recognition, although Paul seems reluctant to mention it here as he did in Ephesians 5: The physical union of husband and wife is illustrative of the union between Christ and His Church, and thus it must be respected by everyone.

Now we come to something quite interesting which may explain Paul’s general attitude toward this issue:

I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. (7:6-7)

Verse 6 tells us that nothing in the preceding verses is a command, for it is a concession. Whenever I read this chapter, I get the impression, rightly or wrongly, that Paul takes a rather dim view of sexuality. I ask myself why he would do that, and I never have a satisfactory answer, not even enough to be sure that he had the view I think I see, so I always just move on…

Yet my vague impression remains.

Look at the last verse: Paul concludes his thought by making the issue revolve around spiritual gifts, as so much of this letter does later on. Sex is not a spiritual gift, but celibacy is, so when Paul says that he wishes everyone could be like he is,(which is celibate) doesn’t it seem that he is telling us, between the lines, that he has the spiritual gift of celibacy?

I tend to think so.

Spiritual gifts are given by God at His sole discretion, so we can’t run out and get one on our own, and if we could choose our gifts, I doubt that most people would choose celibacy. Yet for Paul it was different, for I highly doubt that he could have served God the way he did if he had a wife and family back home to support.


Continue to part three from this chapter: Comments About Family Life

January 25, 2018

Redefining Family

by Clarke Dixon

Who feels more like “family” to you, the family you were adopted or born into, or a group of friends? There was an article some time ago which lamented the breakdown of the family. Though I don’t remember much about the article, the author looked at how tv shows were helping to redefine family with “Friends” leading the way.  Many shows portray one’s family members as the last people you would go to for empathy or understanding. However, one’s friends are portrayed as always being there for love and support. With family being redefined in our day how are we supposed to define family? Jesus tells us in Mark 3, and you may be surprised:

31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:31-35

Considering the importance placed on family in Old Testament law, Jesus’ redefinition of family was shocking to the people of that day. It may be just as shocking today. We may find ourselves asking if Jesus should have been a better Christian and taken the opportunity to affirm the importance of family. Instead he redefines his family as those who do the will of God. What are we to make of this?

First, Jesus redefinition of family as those who do God’s will is good news for those with no family, or whose family has abdicated their role. You might lose out on the ideal family, but you never need lose out on a family. This, of course, speaks to the nature of the Church. If one’s experience of church is to just show up, sing a few songs, hear a sermon and go home, then we are missing out on part of what God’s will for the church is. Reading the New Testament, you never get the sense that people just went to church. You get the sense that they are the church, in relationship with God and with each other. While some churches practically demand a quiet sanctuary prior to worship as a sign of reverence, I pastor a very noisy church. I prefer to look at the positive side of this and celebrate the fact that people are relating to each other. Many churches, including ours, are known as being friendly. However, churches need to go beyond just being friendly, to being family.

Second, Jesus’ redefinition of family is good news for world peace. We have family everywhere, and that family transcends political, racial and language boundaries. Moving from Ottawa I do not miss city life. I do, however, miss the diversity we enjoyed at Fourth Avenue Baptist. Each Sunday I could look around and see people from Jamaica, Russia, Iran, England, Northern Ireland, Haiti, Benin, and often other nations besides. My favourite Sundays were the combined services with a primarily Congolese church. We would worship in up to four different languages with our love for decorum before God Almighty mixing wonderfully with their excitement about Jesus. One is reminded of what’s ahead:

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb . . .  Revelation 7:9

Third, Jesus’ redefinition of family is not a rejection of our genetic family, but a call to enter into it with passion. When someone does the will of God as the brother or sister of Jesus, it is good news for one’s family. What is the will of God within family life? We can think of specific instructions for a wife to “respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:3), and for husbands to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Such sacrificial love and mutual respect is good for family life. We can think of instructions for children to “obey your parents” (Ephesians 6:1), and for parents to not “provoke your children to anger” (Ephesians 6:4). Many other passages pointing to God’s will for us are beneficial for family life also. Like, “love one another” (John 13:34), and “do to others you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31). Those things work well in family. Also “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), and “Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4). Sobriety and faithfulness are always good for family. And one more on God’s will:

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Many a dysfunctional family could use more justice, kindness and members who walk humbly with God. Far from a call to renounce family, God’s will is that we do family well.

Finally, Jesus’ redefinition of family points forward to the wonderful possibility of being God’s child. You may say, “But Pastor, I try to do God’s will and find it impossible to always do it. I always mess up at some point”. Keep reading the Gospel of Mark until you get to that place where Jesus prayed “remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36). God’s will was that in Jesus’ death and resurrection death should be defeated and we would be reconciled to God. Jesus did the will of the Father and now we have the wonderful opportunity of being adopted into His family, not because of our perfection in keeping His will, but because of His.

Should we be surprised that Jesus redefines family? We should not be surprised for it is an act of love and grace. God calls us into a new kind of family, then calls us and enables us to do His will within our family of origin.

 All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV.

Listen to the audio of Redefining Family at this link.

August 24, 2017

How Inclusive Should We Be?

by Clarke Dixon

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household”  Ephesians 2:19 NIV

This is a wonderful verse that fills us with joy at the thought we are considered part of God’s family, members of His household.  Yet this verse also may create sour feelings within us as we consider just how large, or perhaps small, this household is.  We may look at loved ones in our family or to good friends and wonder, perhaps worry is the better word, if they too are part of this family of God. Of course it is our desire that they be such and the thought they may not be fills us with dread.  We want to feel inclusive.

In my personal Bible reading I am again introduced to the many tribes of Bible times; Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites among others. In our day within Christianity has sprung up two new tribes, which are really quite old: the inclusivites and exclusivites.

Inclusivites don’t handle well the thought of anyone not being found in God’s family and so they will make it as big as they possibly can.  There are two ways to do this.  One is to declare that all roads lead to God.  The second is to declare that the only road to God is through Jesus, but that God will ultimately put those on another road on a detour that will get them on the right road.  Hence, your fears over the journeys of your loved ones are put to ease.  And you get a pat on the back by society for being inclusive.

Then there are the exclusivites.  They tend to think that God’s family is very small indeed, in fact it is made up of only people who think and act just like them.  Like the old joke that God will separate the Baptists from everyone else in heaven because He just can’t bring Himself to break it to them that they are not the only ones there.*  Mind you, I have not met very many exclusivites in my travels, even among Baptists.  It is far more common in our day to meet an inclusivite.

How do we deal with our anguish over God’s family and the thought it is not big enough to include our loved ones?  Should we join a tribe?  Perhaps the inclusivites so that can think our loved ones are okay and that our fears are much ado about nothing?  Or the exclusivites who sometimes end up redefining loved ones as those in the ‘club’?

Ephesians 2 suggests a way forward.  Here is the short route:

  1. Be solid on Biblical theology:  Which in this case means being solid on who the “you” refers to in our verse above.  See verses 1,2, and 11.
  2. Recognize our default position, yes, even ours: See verses 1,3, and 12.
  3. Recognize the amazing grace of God in our passage: See verses 4-8.  And then recognize that this grace is not just a theological term that pastors like to use, but a reference to the amazing generosity of God.
  4. Recognize how fences and walls between peoples are destroyed in the Kingdom and family of God.  See verses 14-18 and Galatians 3:28.  It is like John Lennon’s “Imagine” only it is not left to the imagination as a pipe dream, but to the will of God as a sure thing.
  5. Recognize that God’s family is not primarily about destiny, but about identity.  See verses 15,19-22.  We tend to only look to the future, fretting about who God will “let into heaven” and then we get annoyed with Him when we think our loved ones, or anyone else for that matter, will not be there (and we may even insinuate that we are more generous than God). We should look instead to who is recognizing the Father and demonstrating a ‘family likeness’ to God’s family right here and now and consider who’s will is at work in that.  And while we are at it, let us consider our own family resemblance.

Finally, we do well to follow the example of Jesus who was inclusive in His invitation to the Kingdom and inclusive in His service to others.  But Jesus did not throw open the gates of heaven by denying the truth of sin and the damage done to our relationship with God, rather He became that gate. That feeling of tension that we may feel over the household of God is a good thing.  It inspires us to the noble task of evangelism, being inclusive in our invitation and service, and always ready to point to the gate.


Read more at www.clarkedixon.wordpress.com

*Clarke is a Baptist so he’s allowed to say that!

April 7, 2015

Loving the Unloveable

We linked to Garrett Kell before at Thinking Out Loud, but I believe this is the first time here at C201. He is a Baptist pastor in Alexandria, VA. There are many good articles to see, be sure to look around after clicking the title below:

Loving Christians Who Are Tough To Love

“Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John 4:21

After love for God, the most basic mark of the Christian is love for other Christians (Matthew 22:36-40). But love for our fellow blood-bought brothers and sisters isn’t always easy.

As a pastor friend of mine used to say:

To live above with saints we love; Ah that will be glory,
To live below with saints we know; Well, that’s another story.

Just because someone is a Christian, doesn’t mean they are easy to love. Sanctification is a slow process (sometimes really slow) that doesn’t transform our personality quirks, theological peculiarities, and sinful tendencies over night.

Love requires patience—and perspective.

Help from Heaven

Having an eye toward eternity helps our hearts to love even the most difficult of believers.

John Newton captures what I mean in a letter he wrote to another pastor who was about to write a letter to a fellow Christian he strongly disagreed with. Here’s a portion of his advice,

As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him…you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write.

If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab concerning Absalom, are very applicable: “Deal gently with him for my sake.”

The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself.

In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.

You can read the letter in its entirety here.

Remembering Empowers Love

Let’s consider three reflections from this letter to help us love our “tough to love” brothers and sisters in Christ.

1. Remember how God has loved you.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

God serves fresh grace to our hearts when we recall the ways He has loved us. It would do you (and others) well if you take a moment to consider how Jesus has loved you.

Think of His persistence in pursuing you, even in spite of your resistance to His pursuit.

Reflect on how many transgressions He has blotted from your account with His own blood.

Consider specific ways He has shown you compassion despite of your defiance.

God has been kind to you. His heart has been tender toward you. If you are in Christ, He has forgiven your debt in full. Shouldn’t your love for others be affected by His love for you?

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11

2. Remember that we will soon be with them in eternity. 

There will be a day when all God’s children will stand together before His throne of grace. On that day, all disputes will be forgotten and all irritations will be abolished. Why allow those quarrels to steal love from your brother on this day?

I’m not in any way suggesting that all disputes are small or all disagreements are insignificant. There are weighty things in this life, some which are very difficult to endure. But what I am suggesting is that all of our relationships must be guided and guarded by the fact that one day we will stand alongside our fellow Christians before the Savior who died for them.

That kind of perspective helps us to extend love to those who are not so easy to love. Perspective grants us patience and compassion. Let the sourness of a relationship today be overcome by the sweetness of that everlasting day to which you are traveling together. Ask the Lord to help you see others in light of the love you will share together in the eternal dwelling Christ is preparing for you (John 14:1-2).

3. Remember that you aren’t so easy to love either. 

Spurgeon rightly reminds us “if you cannot bear with your imperfect brother, take it for certain that you are very imperfect yourself.” Our inability to love others perfectly is a faithful reminder that we don’t have it all together either.

Humility about our own lovability serves as a gracious help in extending love to others. What sinful patterns do you have a tough time fighting against? When have you said hurtful words? Where do you still have room to grow in spiritual maturity? How do you think those shortcomings affect those around you?

I’ve found that when I’m concerned with confessing my own sins before the Lord, I’m less irritated with the sins of others. Regularly confessing your sins to God keeps you downwind of yourself and helps you to remember that you’re probably just as as tough to love as the next person.

 

Though no relationship will be perfect on this side of eternity, I am convinced that the more our hearts are set on heaven, and the more that we are sobered by our own need for a Savior, the more our love for others will reflect the love of Christ—including those who are tough to love.

January 30, 2014

Women’s Role In Marriage

In the early days of Christianity 201, where the motto is, after all, “Digging a Little Deeper;” we weren’t afraid to tackle controversial topics. So today, I am including an article by author Mary Kassian that appeared at the True Woman blog. This is part two of a three-part discussion, the link to part one is below and I encourage you to watch for the third. While you may not agree, there are many scripture links here that are worth clicking. And if you’re single, or male, or both, remember that marriage is often used in scripture as a picture of Christ’s relationship to His Church.  To read this at source, click here.


FYI: This is Mary Kassian’s second post in a three-part series on the complementarian view of male-female relationships—what it is and what it is not.

In the movie The Matrix, the main character, Neo, is offered a choice between swallowing a red pill or a blue pill. The blue pill would allow him to remain in the Matrix, an illusionary computer-generated world. The red pill would lead to his escape out of the Matrix and into the real world. It was an either/or scenario. He couldn’t have it both ways.

The Evangelical world often frames the discussion about gender roles in “either/or” scenarios. Women are led to believe they only have two choices: They can choose to swallow the red pill of mutuality or the blue pill of complementarity—but not both.

I want to firmly stake the claim that complementarity and mutuality are not either/or concepts. The exact opposite is true. Complementarity embraces mutuality. Complementarians desire mutuality as much as egalitarians do. Our point of difference is not mutuality but rather our respective views on the means whereby this will be achieved.

  • Complementarians claim we achieve mutuality by embracing God-given male-female role distinctions.
  • Egalitarians claim we achieve mutuality by embracing the fact that no such distinctions exist.

The question is definitely not about which viewpoint upholds the dignity, honor, full personhood, and mutuality of woman. They both do. We merely disagree on the route the Bible says we must take to reach the destination. But this disagreement is no small matter.

Acknowledging the Both/And

Complementarians believe God created male and female to reflect complementary truths about Jesus. Role distinction and mutuality in a redeemed male-female relationship reflect characteristics of the Godhead and of Christ’s relationship to the Church. Yes, practically, this involves males stepping up to the plate to head up both individual and corporate church families. But no, this doesn’t logically necessitate wooden, unilateral relationships where men boss women around. On the contrary, complementarity solicits cooperation, togetherness, and mutuality. It calls for a profound reciprocity.

Complementarity solicits cooperation, togetherness, and mutuality.

Instead of either/or, authors of the Bible acknowledge the both/and. When they discuss distinct male-female roles, they almost always frame up the conversation within the context of male-female mutuality. For example:

  • The Genesis creation account emphasizes that male and female were both created in the image of God and that both were given dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:26–28).
  • In Ephesians 5, Paul correlates the relationship between a husband and wife to the relationship between Christ and the Church. He advocates distinct gender-based roles but emphasizes the “one flesh” and “one body” nature of the relationship. He emphasizes that “we (male and female together) are members of his (Christ’s) body.”
  • In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul points out differing roles in the Godhead and draws a parallel to the husband-wife relationship: “the head of every man is Christ, the head of the wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (v. 3). He also emphasizes male-female mutuality: “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman” (vv. 11–12).
  • After directing wives to submit to husbands, Peter is careful to direct husbands to honor their wives. He reminds men that women are “heirs with you of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7).

Complementarians ought to clearly acknowledge the “both/and” nature of complementarity and mutuality when we speak of gender roles. To fail to do this paints an incomplete picture. In male-female relationships, as in the Body of Christ as a whole, our differences ought to be the foundation and catalyst for a profound unity and mutuality.

Complementary and Mutuality in Marriage

In His Word, God has given us some sex-specific assignments. He instructs me to respect my husband as the team leader of our family unit. He instructs my husband to be a good leader—a self-sacrificial, loving one who looks out for the best interests of his wife and family. But He also gives us both a host of instructions about His expectations of everyone. Though we’ve been assigned different positions, there are many clear responsibilities my husband and I have toward one another as followers of Christ. They include the instructions to:

The Game Plan

All of our common responsibilities are to be carried out in the context of relationships in which God has delegated some individuals—like the husband of each family unit—the additional responsibility to provide loving team leadership in his respective corner of the field (Eph. 5:21–32).

Yes, it’s true that some Christian men don’t take their assigned responsibility seriously. Yes, it’s true that men fail. But the same could be said of women. When I read the list, I am conscience-stricken about my own short-comings.

The fact that some people don’t carry through on the game plan doesn’t mean the plan is a bad one. Nor does it mean we should hold a collective mutiny and declare a free-for-all. It just means we need to work harder to execute the game plan in the way God has designated.

August 28, 2013

God’s Default Design for Marriage

With so much discussion taking place these days about marriage, it is important for believers to be firmly grounded on this subject when it arises. This appeared at the blog Faithviews; as always you’re encouraged to read at source.

The Divine Pattern of Marriage

By Nancy Eskijian

Nancy Eskijian is Senior Pastor of Bread of Life Foursquare Gospel Church in Los Angeles, California, and author of Restoration NOW!, nominated for 2012 Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year. Her latest book, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex and Gender and the Bible, What’s Hot and What’s Not According to Scripture, deals with the issues of same-sex attraction, abortion, gay marriage and other issues affecting today’s culture.  Along with being a pastor in an inner city church, Nancy worked for several years as a lawyer in the position of Vice President and Senior Counsel for a major Southern California corporation. Visit www.RestorationNowMinistry.com for more information.

marriage         Much has been written about the Supreme Court of the United States opening the door for same sex couples to marry. While any nation may pass civil laws and call same sex unions “marriage,” enabling rights and privileges under the law, such unions have little in common with the Biblical significance, intention and definition of marriage. For those of us who believe in the God of the Bible as the originator and Creator of life, then we accept that everything flows from Him, and all relationships have a spiritual dimension, especially marriage. In the beginning God created man in His image. Genesis 1:27 – 28 (NKJV) states: 27So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

Let’s ponder that statement for a moment: gender is part of the very image of God, and that is why it is so important and non-negotiable. We also see that God blessed them, male and female, as individuals and as a unit, with the charge to be fruitful and multiply. There are many things we can have and be in this life, but not everything is blessed. In the scripture, we see God blessed their individual identity and unity, releasing them to multiply and exercise dominion, as the rest of the scripture goes.

In Genesis 2:23, the creation of woman and the origin of marriage are described further and merged together.  God put Adam into a deep sleep and took a rib out of Adam’s side.  Genesis 2:23—“23And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man 24Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”   That’s why husbands are to love their wives for no man hates his own flesh.  The oneness means that she is physically part of him. It’s now personal—the woman is taken out of his side.

Jesus Himself reiterated the Genesis scriptures in Mark 10:6 – 9 (NKJV) 6But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ 7‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Here are a few important points that express God’s order, intent and revelation in marriage from a Biblical perspective:

1.  From the beginning of creation, God created male and female, and He physically designed them to be joined together and they reflect His image. He blessed their gender and unity as “one flesh,” forming a new creative order. Similarly, when we come to the Lord we merge with His body spiritually through the Holy Spirit and become a new creation, His body, and bride, under the new covenant, taken out of His side, the second Adam.

2. The married couple leaves family of origin to start something new. The Lord sets out a personal governmental order, the family unit, with husband and wife, mother and father, if there are children.  The man departs from one home to create another governmental structure with himself and his wife.  As believers, we leave an old life to be merged in Christ for a new life under a new headship.

3.  As the man cleaves to his wife, neither is to be self-identified any more, but instead identified with the new family unit. This is an important spiritual point, too, as we enter into Christ. We are no longer just self-identified, but part of Him under the new covenant.  Marriage reflects the divine purpose of God to form a new covenantal order.

4.  The family unit is where the Lord sets out human sexual order, because it unites God-ordained and God-designed creations, for sexual relations, and to be fruitful and multiply.

5.  Reproductive order:  A new creation has occurred (man and woman as one) to give birth in the natural to other new creations (babies), just as Christ is married to His church, (a new creation), and that union expands His family (spiritual babies).

6.  God’s stamp of approval is on marriage because it reflects a divine pattern of Christ and His church. So, the union reflects a divine order.

In short, the human covenant of marriage, as revealed in scripture, expresses a deeper spiritual pattern. It has roots in heaven just as other profound realities in the Bible. God’s relationship to His covenantal people, Israel, is described in the Old Testament of the Bible as marriage. The relationship of Christ and His church is described in terms of marriage.  There is the marriage supper of the Lamb. The New Testament instructs husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. The mystery of marriage is the mystery of Christ and His church:  Ephesians 5:31 – 32 (KJV) 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” That doesn’t mean that marriages are perfect. It just means that the pattern is perfect, expressing something on earth as it is in heaven.

The earthly relationship of marriage is a reflection of a divine pattern, for unity, fruitfulness, fulfillment, responsibility, and a divine covenant. In fact, all of creation and redemption (God’s act of love to give us a new life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ) is reflected in the marriage relationship and covenant.  This simply cannot be altered by men and women in black robes or by popular vote.

December 1, 2012

Fear of Intimacy Due to Shame

This is a topic that probably affects more people than you realize. Although it is directed more at married people, or those desiring to be married, there are also some general principles here. (I also think that even for single people — divorced, never married, widowed — mediating on Biblical marriage exposes us to God’s heart; what he desires for all.)

Our source today is Royal Farris, pastor of Life Connection Church in Euless, Texas who blogs at e-Royal. Although we’ve linked to him before at Thinking Out Loud, this is his first appearance here. You’re encouraged to click through, where you’ll find the full 37-minute sermon for which this is the outline: Shame Leads to Fear of Intimacy. You can then browse the blog for other topics and sermon videos.

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.  He freed me from all my fears.  Ps 34:4 NLT

 Living under the fears of rejection and failure lead to shame and road blocks to healthy, honest, intimate relationships.

 In male/female relationships we have confused intimacy with sex.

 Shame:  I am what I am and I can’t change.

 Living with Shame

 1)    Feel like everyone is better than you.

 2)    Keep making the same harmful mistakes over and  over again.

 3)    The glass is always at least half-empty.

 4)    The world is against you and you feel sorry for yourself.

 5)    Resist investing in relationships.

 6)    Resist taking risks to improve situation.

 7)    Loss of creativity or imagination.

 8)    Always looking to rescue others in order to feel better about yourself.

 9)    You never feel good about your appearance.

 Get a New Intimate You

 First … Get intimate with God .. Spiritual Intimacy

 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.  Eph 4:22-24

 Identity, Purpose, Bible Study, Prayer, Church, obedience

 Gallop poll: Couples who pray together 3-4 times a week have a divorce rate of 1 in 1052.

 2)  Practice communicating intimacy.

 …you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. 1 Pet 3:7

 1)    Make the time to talk.

2)    Develop like interests.

3)    Practice active listening

4)    Ask questions to find out who your spouse is.

5)    Practice giving undivided attention.

6)    Say what you mean.

7)    Talk about physical relationship. (Married)

 One of the greatest hindrances to building intimacy between a man and women is sex outside of marriage.

 3)  Share emotional intimacy.  (Honesty)

 4)  Enjoy physical intimacy.  (Married)

 Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.  1 Cor 7:5

November 20, 2011

Personal Accountability

The Message, Prov. 2717 You use steel to sharpen steel,
   and one friend sharpens another.

Currently there are different ideas about the concept of having personal accountability, or more particularly, the idea of having an accountability partner.  I am quite sure that, as with so many areas of Christian endeavor, there are pluses and minuses to systems of this nature.

However, I think those of us who live much our spiritual lives online need to be especially challenged in this area, simply because we may find ourselves deriving spiritual fulfillment from the Christian sector of the internet, at the expense of other types of ministry that would give us more personal contact, and would leave us less likely to be anonymous, or to pretend we are something other than we are.

Accountability is particularly stressed in men’s ministry.  Pastor B. J. Rutledge recently shared ten accountability questions with his men’s group, but if you’re woman reading this, I believe B. J. has rewritten this to have more general applicability.   This appeared on his blog under the title, Accountability is a Non-Negotiable.

This past Sunday [November 13th] we talked about overcoming those Fatal Flaws that have the potential to destroy your influence, marriage, family and life.  One of the four keys to overcoming Fatal Flaws is accountability; it is non-negotiable.

A number of you asked me about the Accountability Card used for years in my Men’s Small Group.  Here are the questions if you’d like to make your own card or a similar card.

1.  Did you spend quality & quantity time seeking God?  Share a Quiet Time highlight.

2. Did you talk with, communicate with, pray with and encourage your wife regularly?

3. Did you spend special time, encourage and pray with each of your kids regularly?

4. Did you expose yourself to any movies, videos, magazines, internet sites, etc, that were immoral, pornographic or encouraged lust?

5. Did you interact with a (man/woman), in any way that was not pleasing to God?

6. Did you memorize your verse for the week?  Share it with me.

7. Did you attempt to share the love of Christ with anyone this week?

8. Did you demonstrate integrity and Christ-likeness in your business or ministry affairs this week?

9. Did you just lie to me about any of these?

10.  What are some of your struggles right now?