The following article draws extensively from tim+anne evans' new book,TOGETHER: Reclaiming Co-Leadership in Marriage, which is available for purchase from CBE's bookstore.
The majority of marriage sermons, books, and seminars focus on different infallible interpretations of a handful of controversial marriage texts. This often results in confusion surrounding the issues of equality, headship, submission, and authority.
After many years of marriage, counseling couples, and leading REAL LIFE marriage gatherings, we've reached the conclusion that there is much misinformation and confusion surrounding marriage. For this reason, whenever we have an opportunity to speak or teach, we begin by asking a question: What is God's mission, his purpose, for marriage? That question is often met with a blank stare.
Since we believe it is important to be able to articulate the "why" behind marriage, we have developed a simple 4-R acronym to help describe God's marriage mission. A man and woman enter into covenant with God and each other, and they "become one." They are invited together to:
- Reflect and Reveal: God's plurality and nature; mutual equality; both made in God's image.
- Rule: co-lead together; mutual authority; both given the dominion (rulership) mandate.
- Reproduce: be fruitful and multiply; both given the procreation mandate.
Let's go back to marriage in the beginning. Before sin entered the marriage story, the husband and wife were invited to co-lead in mutual equality and with mutual authority.
In the beginning ... there was no: inequality, patriarchy, hierarchy, male headship, or man designated the leader or wife's spiritual cover. Both the man and the woman were made in the image of God, reflecting and revealing the diversity, character, and goodness of God through their relationship with God, each other, and every life they touched. Before sin, male rulership, hierarchical and complementarian marriage views were nowhere on the marriage radar.
In the beginning ... both the man and woman were given the dominion (rulership) mandate, together, reflecting the unity, oneness, and diversity within the Godhead.
In the beginning ... both the man and woman were invited to reproduce. This procreation mandate is not limited to biological parenthood; it includes adoption, foster parenting, and caring for spiritual children. Parenting allows us to remember that "it's not about me." While fatherhood and motherhood are important, the highest calling is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind...[and] love your neighbor as yourself."1
Throughout the creation story God described everything he created as "good." But after he created the first marriage, God declared all he created as "very good." Apparently good was not good enough to describe the very good of marriage. To unmarried readers, we want to point out that the fulfillment of God's purposes in life is not limited to marriage. "To the contrary, the Bible teaches that believers who can manage singleness find greater fulfillment in lives of celibate service than if they were married."2
What if God's original, in the beginning, very good marriage principles of co-leadership (mutual equality and mutual authority) were reclaimed and restored? That would be a game-changer for many marriages.
This is just one reason why we begin our book with this prayer:
May the God who is both great and good
make your marriage stronger and your hearts braver.
May He create not only a willingness to die for your marriage
but also a passion to live for it.
The majority of husbands and wives we talk with would be willing to die for their marriage. But, what if couples made it a priority to passionately live for their marriage? After working with couples for decades, we believe marriage is one of the most untapped resources for positive change.
God is on the move, inviting husbands and wives to go back to marriage in the beginning. As we survey the current marriage landscape, we are excited about the questions people are asking. Especially the Millennial generation. They want more than what traditional marriage views have to offer. They are eager to reclaim God's original co-leadership marriage principles. We eagerly anticipate the next chapters in God's ongoing marriage story.
1. Matthew 22:37, 39
2. C. Peter Wagner, Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow (Ventura, CA: Regal, 1974), 44.