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THE DANCE OF LIFE
COMPLEMENTARITY IN GENDER
Our little walk into one area of male-female specifics, in the form of authority/eldership has approached the threshold of the total interlocking relationship of man and woman, in their connubial bliss - or disaster, if the case be so in the absence of the Lord of life and His directions.
It is time to consider the matter more broadly.
1. The Setting
In Ephesians 5 we find a resource par excellence. Here the chapter FIRST contrasts the past with the present, the children of darkness with the children of light, and makes it clear that children of darkness act like it, and that there is no common ground. ALL THAT is first of all to be avoided. Hybrids in terms of the children of God, do not exist! NO FELLOWSHIP with the unfruitful works of darkness, whether in mouth or procreation, toil or coveting, or indeed in any form of uncleanness relative to HOLINESS is the prescribed amount. NONE!
The melody of the Christian heart, its grand gratitude to God and the mutual forbearance and understanding shown in the presence of the maker of all and of the differences of all: this is focussed first. THEN comes the consideration of how MEN and WOMEN related in their life profiles.
2. The Situation
WIVES are to submit to their husbands - as to the Lord. This means of course that NOTHING which is AGAINST the Lord is done for husband or anyone else. What commands you obey FOR the Lord do not alter the fact that anything CONTRARY to the Lord is outside the limits. Thus Colossians tells wives to "submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord" - . Descent to the squalor of committing sin is therefore not included: that would be idolatry, not submission. YOU HAVE THE SAME THING WITH
What a male dominated affair! some, thoughtless, may retort. Not so! But it IS a Christ ruled matter. Thus husbands have quite as demanding a place:
3. The Protests
Perhaps someone will say: BUT the husband maybe physically stronger. WHO will adjudicate this matter? The answer to that is
i) that these people, if born of God are not IN IT for what they can get out of it
ii) that there are laws and procedures in many societies which might appear to favour women; and even if these resulted from misuse of women, in part, they are there now. A time even came when women were to have in some places a QUOTA so that IRRESPECTIVE of merit, they had to have a certain portion of jobs. True something in the opposite direction may have operated; but this is NOW.
iii) that in any case, that is society, an unblessed and mostly pagan affair, in which people do NOT accept the rule of Christ. The point at issue is the Christian home, not the threshold to hell or some secular upstart society without the knowledge of God or of His will.
iv) that where there is sincerity, then the strength of GOD is the important matter, and that He is well able to chasten.
v) that physical strength is FAR from the most important in almost any walk of life.
vi) that there is a reciprocity which exists, abuse it as you will, and that ONLY when this is acknowledged in practice is there the happiness of reality, so that both suffer, and hypocrisy inflicts its own penalties on the perpetrator.
Apart however from these, and from all such considerations, there is the simple fact that WHERE CHRIST IS, whether in the child-parent relationship, or the man-woman relationship, there is a source in the MAKER present in the MADE. In other words, Christ as the Creator is then surveying and purveying in the scene He created.
4. The Spirit of Mutual Ministry
Thus the SACRIFICIAL SPIRIT IN THE MAN, WHO IS TO SEEK TO DELIVER THE WOMAN IN ALL THINGS, is matched by the OBEDIENT SPIRIT in the woman, who is to seek to minister to her husband. Now she MAY minister in her career by providing INDIRECTLY to her husband; but the MEANING of the relationship was spelled out from the first, she is a help meet for him. If therefore her career becomes obsessive, or dominant, THAT CANNOT SATISFY THESE CONDITIONS. SHE MUST be able to minister in this way and in that, she is a pivot in the home, whether she has a profession or not, and it is for her to ensure that whatever the ingredients of her way of life, THEY CONTRIBUTE in the end to her mission as married.
This spirit of mutual ministry is potentially as delightful as it is apt to the MANNER in which we are formed and indeed formulated by our Creator. OF COURSE the husband is no dictator, for HOW then would he be sacrificial to his wife; and OF COURSE the wife is no nagging inferno, for how then would she minister help to her husband.
In fact, both have the pattern clearly set before them, and if it be followed, how great is the development, like different parts of the lily in its harmonious total design, of the overall design. What wonders can then be wrought! If it be not followed, then it is nearly boring to see the almost unending multitude of foolish and inaccurate facsimiles of the original document, now defiled.
This mutuality is in essence like a dance of life, a lead and response, a suggestion and a return, a matter of symbiosis at its height, of different ways of contributing to the common good, of diverse details in the one mould, of slants and subtleties, of learnings and leanings, of love and appreciation. The children then are supremely blessed, for the spirit of service, mutuality, sacrifice and tenderness is presented to them in the laboratory of marriage.
How blessed is such a home, where material goods are less than spiritual seemliness, where talents are used but never abused, where complementarity is married to development, and development to love, and love to truth, and all to mercy!
5. Some Applications
In such a setting, merely as one small application: How ludicrous the very concept of the woman being an elder, which is to have governance not only over the house of marriage, but over the house of the Lord, His building, the church! Thus the elder is to have set an example over his OWN house before considering the broader work in the house of the Lord (I Timothy 3:4-5), and even deacons should have shown such an example (I Timothy -13). The "supervisor", translated "bishop" in the Authorised Version, must be "the husband of one wife", a singular feat indeed for a woman, be her mode what it will be!
It is perhaps forgotten by many in what immense ways the woman in the home (and this does not imply she has no career) can contribute in wisdom, in imagination, in tenderness, in faithfulness and reliability, in perception of the growing lives of her children and astute management to forestall needless crises; and how much to her husband in ways like these, but not at all the same! The mothers of the land can bring on a generation which is nurtured or denatured, developed or devastated, to no small degree. The fathers, in such a complementarity would contribute a steadfast example and help with direction and knowledge of matters of authority, as the wife more in matters of discretion, discernment and character of living for her children.
LOVE OF POWER by man; LUST FOR POWER for women, UNRELIABILITY BY ALL, NO SPIRIT OF SACRIFICE AND SERVICE, NO SENSE OF CALLING TO MUTUAL WONDERS OF PRODUCTIVITY, how would this relate to ANYTHING in the kingdom of heaven, where, as Christ stated, it is TOTALLY UNLIKE the world of the nations, where people love to domineer, or lord it over others, or presume into high notions of themselves (Matthew 20:25-26). Such is in GENERAL noxious, and in particular, in relation to marriage, resembles and abortion more than a birth. And marriage has its birth! It is NOT something merely that happens; it is an affair of the most grand, in which developments are far more searching than is any sport, and results far greater!
Indeed Jesus asked this, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And forthwith, He produced a child, and said,
Although technical ignoramuses, scarcely able even to FOLLOW what is
clearly set before us in the procedures for the formation of children (oh yes!
we can TALK about what we increasingly begin to find happens as the child
grows, but we do not CREATE this, merely procreate with this construction
apparatus available over the months of gestation, together with this incredible
seeming silent building, both an operation and a spectacle provided for, as by
an inheritance which a privileged young person is given by an ancestor!): yet
we may participate.
Just as eldership is a particular case of male-female relationships as in marriage, and has purvey over many a married situation, being limited thereby; so marriage is a particular case of serviceability, reciprocity, humility, complementarity and specialised duties. Without this knowledge and practice, the home is in store for grief, and the church for foolishness indeed. It has comes near to lacking the first understanding of the complemental qualities to be found in the creation of God, not only in one body, but in families and flurries of talents, in specialisations of many orders; of the interwoven intricacies, the gracious co-ordination; or if it has, it has aborted this understanding that it is on the threshold of either hypocrisy or a carnal complacency that spells ruin, if not sooner, then later.
From such follies let every church and home speedily deliver itself - which names the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord. To such wonders, let all however direct the life, so that the Grand Canyons may become fields of flowers, the skies places of symbolic attraction, where the Grand Composer has made His power and His beauty to be signified: for indeed, every valley will be exalted, the rough places made smooth. Let us begin now; for though the Lord must first return, would you not, at that, be found in place! HIS is a most beautiful place.
In fact, as Paul indicates in Ephesians 5, the whole field of marriage is an illustration of the mutuality which should be between a man and his Maker, a woman and her Creator, any saved soul on earth, and the Redeemer. As such, it has an illustrative power which has the additional wonder that it is more than illustration; it is, if you will, a kind of walking, talking parable in which we may participate; and then it has the wonder of its own form as well.
If then we have found an essential soundness, design, categorisation, differentiation, wonder of complementarity, with the one overall construction called mankind, it has certain consequences.
One of these has already been seen in depth: that of eldership. Another is found in marriage and the Christian home.
Another is of course the crucifixion of design called perversion, where instead of the authority in the church being misused in eldership misplaced, the reproductive specifications are abused in the "home".
With this go the whole gamut of glorious differentiations, such as gender, which in perversion are then as misplaced as are cogs which instead of intermeshing, rub on their face surfaces, not at work for the purpose of their construction, but rather for their destruction. Psychically, physiologically in terms of disease protection in some things inbuilt for normal relationships in marriage, socially and in some respects mentally, where there is also a trend towards specialisation in terms of certain normal facilities in each gender as has been shown by research into infant capacities: in all these things there is a divergence from design, and an intrusion of assertive imagination into the grand imaginations of God who made our imaginations: but not for counter-design action.
As the Bible says of this
type of thing, of those so involved ...they are "receiving in themselves the penalty
of their error which was due". "Leaving the natural use," they "commit what
is shameful", so that "even as they did not like to retain God in their
knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind". (See also The Morals of God are not for Sale,
In fact, the whole subject of gender is used extensively in the Bible as an illustration for misuse of the name and power and the glory of God by human persons, as if, in the case of Israel, idolatry could be seen as adultery, or spiritual flittiness, to coin a term, could be conceived as fornication (cf. Ezekiel 16; 23; Hosea). Many are the examples of this approach, right to the point of Revelation Chs.13,17. If as we have seen, marriage conceals a parable of divine love, so its misuse evidences a diversion from God and a distortion of spiritual realities in the human format, itself in the image of God. The error is therefore more than episodic, it is foundational.
There is an old saying, "That that is, is; that that is not, is not. Is that not it? It is."
The creation has already been judged, from the beginning, and from the flood: the next judgment will be final (John 5:19-23, Matthew 24:35, II Peter 3:8-13, Hebrews 12:23-28, Isaiah 51:6). It is wise to be prepared (Matthew 24:45-51, Genesis 6, Romans 8:20-24, II Peter 3:3ff., I Thessalonians 5, Matthew 25:1-13, II Thessalonians 1). According to God's fear, so is His wrath, to His wonder so is the woe, to the provisions, so is their abuse (cf. Psalm 90:11). Is it not then more than wonderful that the God whose provisions are so precise, whose love is so intimate and yet so public, whose holiness is so intense (cf. Hebrews 12:1-2,29,14). .. yet has that common touch - for the people loved the Lord Jesus Christ to the point that the priests had to engage in espionage in order to mafia Him away to a swift crucifixion a night trial. The common touch however has an uncommon, indeed a unique provision.
It is called the Gospel, which is the power of God to salvation - a deliverance which is eternal, apt, legal, precise, wise, gracious, effectual, personal and which looks clinically at our sins and evils, in order to pardon, to empower, to reproduce spiritually, back to the beginning in the image of God (Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:9-10). It is done in holiness by Him who is harmless and higher than the heavens; but who is judge of all who not only sin, and so deserve damnation, but refuse the remedy which cost Him so much and which is so abundantly sufficient for those who repent and return to the Lord, their Maker and the only Saviour the world has ever had from the abuses of the flesh, the mind, the spirit and the life of mankind (Acts 4:11-12, Hebrews 2:1-4, John 15:21-13). The repository of rubbish is not eager to claim its own - indeed, said the Lord, THIS IS THEIR CONDEMNATION, THAT LIGHT HAS COME INTO THE WORLD AND MEN LOVED DARKNESS RATHER THAN LIGHT" (John ). Why ? Because their deeds were evil, we read.
The most glorious provision of life, after all, is for its restoration to its design, in this, that it is the Designer Himself who has made us for Himself (cf. The Singing From God, Ch.11 in Biblical Blessings, and Question 6, in Questions and Answers - the Word that Speaks) ; and in finding Him in this gracious way, we find