Last Saturday I performed a wedding ceremony for the first time. It was for a young couple that I have had the privilege of getting to know over the past few months. Back in May I baptized both of them and welcomed them into the fellowship of our church. The wedding was a very special event for me, not only because it was my first wedding to officiate, but also because it was the wedding of two friends.
I have a personal policy of guidelines that I use to determine what weddings I will perform and that provides information concerning my views on marriage, family, and gender. Whenever a couple asks me to perform a wedding, I provide these guidelines to them, ask them to read over them, and then to let me know if they still want me to officiate. These guidelines clearly explain my views of the roles of men and women, namely, that of male headship in the home. After reading over the guidelines, the couple still wanted me to do their wedding. After several sessions of premarital counseling where we discussed issues including the roles of husbands and wives in the home, they still wanted me to do their wedding.
At the wedding I read three passages of Scripture: Genesis 2:18-25, Revelation 21:9-10, and Ephesians 5:22-33. I explained that marriage is an institution of God that goes back to the beginning and awaits us at the end. The marriage of the first man and woman is a pattern of all marriages to come, which points us to the union of Christ and his church. In this union, husbands play the role of Christ, and wives play the role of the church. I told the groom that his role was to love his bride as Christ loves the church, namely, in a self-giving, sacrificial way that seeks her good above his own. I told him that it was his responsibility to lead his family, to provide for his family, and to protect his family. I told the bride that her role was to submit to her husband’s godly leadership and help him carry it through. I told her that most of all, her husband needs to know that she respects him. I told them both that they are equally made in God’s image, but to be equal does not mean to be interchangeable (although I didn’t say it at the wedding, I think one would have to conclude that if men and women are interchangeable, then homosexuality is no different from heterosexuality).
I gave a robustly complementarian message. The couple seemed very pleased with how it all went. After the wedding, a number of people complimented me on the message. I don’t say this to blow my horn, but simply to make a point (which I will get to in a second). A few of those who complimented me were men, but the majority of them were women. In fact, one young woman who complimented me is a member of my church and is engaged to get married. Her wedding is scheduled for 2009. She was the most enthusiastic about my message, and she told me that she wants me to say some of the same things about the roles of men and women at her wedding.
It is quite possible (in fact, quite probable) that some people were offended by the message but simply didn’t express that to me. I will say, however, that I was surprised by how many people–women especially–gave a resounding affirmation to the complementarian theology that I proclaimed. This in no way proves that complementarian theology is correct (Scripture proves that); it does, however, seem to undermine to some degree the idea that complementarian theology is oppressive to women. Most women I know would be thrilled to see their husbands take on a Christlike, self-giving, strong, protective leadership role in the home, and they would be happy to submit to that kind of leadership. While the egalitarian view of the sexes seems to be dominant in mainstream culture, I doubt that it is quite as dominant as most people think. And within the church, it is still the minority position (and has been throughout the entire 2,000 years of the church’s existence).
There is certainly a wrong way to preach and teach a complementarian theology. But when it is preached right, taught right, and lived right, it truly is a beautiful thing. And many people–far more than you might think–will be glad to embrace something so beautiful.