On the way back from our recent trip to Adelaide, Arthur and I listened to this talk by Matt Chandler of Village Church on sanctification in marriage. The ‘sanctification’ bit is pretty thin on the ground, as is his exegetical work at times. And the first 10 mins of the talk were just annoying – too much talking about how controversial what was coming up was, not enough actually getting on with it. However, I was encouraged by the spirit of this talk.
Matt Chandler’s a complementarian. Regular readers of this blog will know that Arthur and I avoid that label not so much because we disagree with the view but because the picture and execution of it is often so far removed from the generosity and partnership of marriage in the Bible. But these are exactly the characteristics that Chandler seeks to capture in his exposition of 1 Peter 3.
Here are two things I liked about the bit to women:
- it wasn’t prescriptive about role or limited to a certain type of woman (other than being married)
- it gave practical suggestions for how to change things you’re unhappy with without being domineering; interestingly, he happily suggested that wives could ‘gently lead’ their husbands to lead the family
Here are two things I liked about the bit to men:
- the call to see your wife flourish and to proactively work for that; in fact, Chandler’s definition of a man who manages his household well was not that his wife falls into line with him but that her gifts are being enlivened.
- it expanded the male role – Chandler was clear that playing Transformers with your kids when you get home exhuasted from work and then doing the dishes is every bit as manly as working hard all day.
But there was one idea I hadn’t heard before that was intriguing. Chandler admits he didn’t get it from the Bible – he has just found it useful. It’s this: 90% of the time, Christian couples agree but 10% they don’t and after discussion, prayer, etc in a complementarian marriage, the husband makes the call. Even if he is totally considerate of his wife, this still gives him the trump card and the power in the relationship. For this reason, Chandler says, because he makes those decisions, he lets his wife win every other decision – how the home is decorated (even his study!), what couch they get, what movies they watch, who they have over for dinner parties, where they go on vacation, etc.
Now, I do have some problems with this view. For a start, I wouldn’t want to make all those decisions – marriage is not about getting my way so sometimes I want to watch Arthur’s (boring/weird) movies! And there’s a lot of pressure if you’re making those decisions on your own – it can even be an excuse for the husband to buy out or be lazy. Also this view does smack of a tit-for-tat kind of idea.
But what I like about it is the reluctance to use power for one’s own gain. Chandler’s point is that he wants his wife to feel that her opinion is valued, honored, even deferred to in the majority of things in their marriage. He doesn’t feel that his ‘headship’ needs to be expressed in micro-managing every decision. He trusts his wife and is willing to go with what she wants even when it doesn’t suit him. Now, that doesn’t sweeten the fact that submission is still on the cards, but it does self-consciously attempt to steer husbands away from controlling their wives or abusing the position that God has given them. It puts service and deference front and centre.
Like I said, I’m not sure I agree with the idea or its execution, but I like the spirit that stands behind it.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.