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Together: Reclaiming Co-Leadership in Marriage

On July 08, 2015

Love and Marriage—can you think of many other words that have such life-giving potential? At the upcoming Christians for Biblical Equality "Becoming New: Man and Woman Together in Christ" Conference, we have the privilege of leading a workshop titled, "Together: Reclaiming Co-Leadership in Marriage." We invite those in attendance to consider a pre-fall marriage perspective—before sin entered the story. 

In the beginning [1] the triune God (Father-Son-Holy Spirit) created humankind in his image according to his likeness.[2] Male and female he created them.[3] Maleness and femaleness are God's gifts, reflecting his creativity. In the beginning in paradise the husband and wife became one flesh,[4] celebrating their nakedness without shame.[5] In the beginning the man and woman were both commanded to carry out the dominion/stewardship and procreation mandates.[6] In the beginning together as one they enjoyed mutual equality and shared authority. 

In the beginning, we see no evidence of headship, hierarchy, patriarchy, female subordination, or the husband designated as the wife's leader, authority, or spiritual cover. In the beginning before sin, things were "very good."[7]

However, the man and woman were not alone in the garden. Satan, disguised as a serpent, deceived the woman. And both the woman and man ate the forbidden fruit from the tree that God had instructed the man to avoid. 

Sin brought many negative consequences. Before sin, the couple was naked without shame,[8] but after sin came shame, blame, fear, and control. The couple's eyes were opened and they knew that they were naked [9] (shame), the man blamed the woman and God [10] (blame) and the woman blamed the serpent [11] (blame), they were afraid [12] (fear), and they hid and covered themselves [13] (control). This became the first of many destructive shame-blame-fear-control cycles between men and women. 

In place of the man and woman co-leading together as reciprocal servants with shared authority, Eve was told that her husband would rule over her.[14] This male rulership marriage view opened the door to centuries of hierarchical and patriarchal abuses of women and marriage.

But, God is so good... and in the fullness of time, God took on human form and came to earth. Jesus Christ came "to seek and save that which was lost."[15] Through his victory over Satan and crucifixion on a cross, Jesus reclaimed that which was lost—the shared authority that sin stole from the woman and the man.
  
In the New Testament, Jesus reaffirmed the shared authority of men and women in a culture that was extremely abusive to women. Jesus' radical one-flesh marriage perspective was so counter-cultural that even his disciples were dumbfounded.[16]

We believe Jesus' birth, life, death, and life-giving resurrection enable couples to affirm mutual equality and mutual authority. And together, a husband and wife can reclaim their original purpose as co-leaders.

In our CBE workshop, we will contrast hierarchical, complementarian, and egalitarian marriage perspectives. We will share real life experiences co-leading together. And we will offer what we call the "Traffic Light Principle" as a practical tool to help couples in their decision-making process. 

Rather than focusing on gender or spiritual gifts, the "Traffic Light Principle" invites a husband and wife to live out the most important spiritual discipline--practicing the presence of God. The Holy Spirit dwells in all of us as followers of Jesus Christ [17] and invites us to take every thought captive to him.[18] The "Traffic Light Principle" helps couples purposefully put God first,[19] trust him,[20] and ask for wisdom.[21] Including God in our decision-making process as a couple has been an important spiritual discipline; we wait to make decisions until we both have 'green-lights' from him.

After thirty-nine years of marriage, we continue to marvel at God's two becoming one--naked without shame marriage design. We also resonate with the Bible passage that says: "those who marry will have troubles."[22] Throughout our marriage, we have experienced troubles, and truth be told, we still experience troubles. However, we try to reframe marriage troubles as opportunities rather than obstacles. This encourages us to trust God, advance in intimacy, and reflect and reveal God's love and goodness to each other.

We love being married, and we believe marriage has so much untapped gospel-advancing potential. Having worked with couples for decades, as we review the overall negative church marriage/sexuality culture, we wonder, wouldn't it be just like God to invite followers of Christ to return to marriage as he originally designed... in the beginning? The good news is that men and women can choose to live in mutual authority,[23] be reciprocal servants,[24] and humbly live out God's original intent for marriage. And this will provide countless opportunities to advance God's love and tell others about the maker of marriage.

All that is to say, similar to early church leaders Priscilla and her husband Aquila taking Apollos aside and explaining to him "the way of God more accurately,"[25] we pray for opportunities to take men and women aside and explain to them what we are convinced is the way of God more accurately [in regard to marriage]. We believe co-leadership and shared authority in marriage more accurately aligns with God's plurality, oneness, and his original intent for marriage.

Notes

[1] Genesis 1:1
[2] Genesis 1:26
[3] Genesis 1:27
[4] Genesis 2:24
[5] Genesis 2:25
[6] Genesis 1:26b; 1:28
[7] Genesis 1:31
[8] Genesis 2:25
[9] Genesis 3:7
[10] Genesis 3:11
[11] Genesis 3:12
[12] Genesis 3:10
[13] Genesis 3:8
[14] Genesis 3:16b
[15] Matthew 19:4-6
[16] Matthew 19:10
[17] 1 Corinthians 6:19; Rom.8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16
[18] 2 Corinthians 10:5b
[19] Proverbs 3:6 LB
[20] Proverbs 3:5
[21] James 1:5
[22] 1 Corinthians 7:28
[23] 1 Corinthians 7:4
[24] Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:3
[25] Acts 18:26

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