Redeemed Roles

Series: Marriage East of Eden, by Rosie Moore

“Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them”. (Col 3:19)

I’ve always loved watching my parents dance! Rock n Roll, Swing, Jazz, Waltzes— even in their eighties, my dad still leads my mom across the floor, much to the amusement of their teenage grandchildren!  Fifty years ago, they were probably awkward and stood on each other’s toes, but today they move comfortably in unison. My dad is clearly the leader and my mom keeps in step. Their dance reminds me of what the Bible teaches about marriage in Ephesians 5:22-33: Equal in value and worth; one in heart and purpose, yet distinct and complementary in roles. Marriage is not supposed to be a lifelong battlefield or an oppressive prison, but a rhythmic dance choreographed by Christ Jesus himself. The dancers are an imperfect husband and wife living and growing together, in step with their Redeemer, and in step with one another. This is the redeemed marriage, which is as foreign and radical today as it was when Paul wrote his letters to the first century believers.

Before you burn this blog, let’s dismantle a few cultural roadblocks which have twisted our understanding of authority into something archaic, evil and oppressive to those who submit to it. Let’s cling instead to the truth of servant leadership that Christ taught and lived out (Eph 4:21Phil 2:5-8). As King of Creation, Jesus expressed ultimate authority. And as the suffering Saviour, He expressed ultimate submission to God His Father. In our own marriages, let’s turn to Jesus and take our cue from His surprisingly radical authority and submission, rather than from our culture’s ideas on these things.

So, what does the Bible say about authority in our imperfect marriages?

No apologies.

There’s no way to explain away God-ordained authority in marriage. As offensive as this idea may be to minds that have marinated in feminism for the last sixty years, it’s taught without apology throughout the Bible (Eph 5:22-25Col 3:18-191 Peter 3:1-7Titus 2:4-5). Each text teaches a wife to respectfully submit to her husband, as to Christ, and a husband to lovingly and sacrificially lead his wife as head of their family.

So, in the partnership of two spiritually equal human beings, the husband bears the primary responsibility to lead the marriage in a God-glorifying direction. He is committed to his wife’s physical, spiritual and emotional maturity (Eph 5:26-27). He is to be considerate and humble, treating his wife as a sister in Christ, not an object who exists for his own convenience (1 Peter 3:7). For “no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church” (Eph 5:29). And the woman is to love her husband by supporting him in that godly undertaking (Eph 5:22-24). Each must do their own verse, as an expression of their submission to Christ as Lord. If I’m honest, I think the wife’s job description is a whole lot easier than the husband’s!

Alongside their distinct roles, both husband and wife share the common duty to love each other and submit themselves to Christ as Lord (Eph 5:211-2).

Headship and submission is like the mantlepiece within which love is encouraged to burn brightly between husband and wife, bringing warmth and blessing to everyone near them for generations to come. It is a godly legacy that will be passed on to your watching children. But it is also radically counter cultural.

Cultural roadblocks.

Even as I write, I can hear you say, “This picture sounds so warm and cozy, but you’re living in a dreamland! Most marriages are as frosty as the Arctic! What about the scourge of gender-based violence in our society? What about abusive husbands and women’s rights? Doesn’t man’s headship mean woman’s inferiority and oppression? Isn’t patriarchy everything that’s wrong with the world?”

Given the nature of our fallen world, it is natural to be suspicious of authority. We see its abuse everywhere we look. All of us bring baggage to the idea of authority. We carry baggage from the dysfunctional marriages we’ve seen and those we’ve personally experienced. We also carry ideological baggage from the ideas we’ve been taught as fact since the rise of feminism in the 1960’s.

Listen to the solutions proposed by two radical feminists:

“Under patriarchy, no woman is safe to live her life, or to love, or to mother children. Under patriarchy, every woman is a victim, past, present, and future. Under patriarchy, every woman’s daughter is a victim, past, present, and future. Under patriarchy, every woman’s son is her potential betrayer and also the inevitable rapist or exploiter of another woman” (Andrea Dworkin).

“The nuclear family must be destroyed… Whatever its ultimate meaning, the break-up of families now is an objectively revolutionary process…. No woman should have to deny herself any opportunities because of her special responsibilities to her children… Families will be finally destroyed only when a revolutionary social and economic organization permits people’s needs for love and security to be met in ways that do not impose divisions of labor, or any external roles, at all” (Linda Gordon).

The problem is that if we allow our ideological baggage and bad experiences to define what manhood and womanhood are, we will be be swept away by the cultural tsunami, which leaves only hatred and misery in its wake. Our current society is living proof of that, with exponentially rising rates of divorce, single mothers, fatherless children, gender-based violence and every other type of abuse and neglect. After 60 years of feminist ideology and #MenAreTrash and #MeToo, there is still an abundance of passive men, abusive men, men engrossed in porn, men who neglect to lead their families, men who cannot even govern themselves or make their own beds, men who are completely confused about their role and identity. There is still an abundance of abused women, aggressive women, resentful women, distracted women, depressed women, overworked women, women who are completely confused about their role and identity. Despite women’s rights enshrined in law, in reality male domination and female victimhood remain the norm. Feminism has proved to be a terrible counsellor. No, if we want whole marriages, we must not seek counsel from our bankrupt cultural norms. We need to cling to God’s truth and do marriage God’s way, for “you, however, did not come to know Christ that way” (Eph 4:20).

Christ’s way.

Scripture shows us a much better way than male domination or feminism. It involves the redemption, not the destruction of a husband’s authority in the home. Marital roles are actually not about who does what in the home, but they are ultimately a worship issue. Do we submit to God’s revealed will in this area of authority?

On his final journey to Jerusalem, Christ offered a radically different picture of roles and authority than our culture. He showed us that authority doesn’t need to be toppled, but redeemed. His disciples, James and John were jostling to sit in the places of honour (Mark 10:35-38). Like us, they saw everything through the lens of personal power and glory. They expected a Messiah who would operate the way worldly politicians do, wielding power for personal gain. But Jesus’s response to his disciples was striking.

Not so with you! Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:31-32).

Jesus’s role was not to deny his own authority, because it was God’s gift for the mission to which He was entrusted. On the contrary, Christ showcased his power over nature, sickness, demons, the Pharisees, sin, Satan and death. He exercised his authority for good. Moreover, Jesus’s role as God’s Son was to meet people at their level, to be a blessing to them and ultimately to sacrifice himself for the people He loved, his Church. He didn’t use his authority for his own gain or benefit. Against every human instinct, Christ entrusted himself to His Father and gave His own body for His Bride. He showed us what perfect authority and submission looks like in a fallen world. What an example to spur us on!

Jesus knows the way authority is abused in our world, as it was in the Roman Empire. But He says to Christian husbands and wives today, “Not so with you!”  Jesus redeems our roles. He shows us with his life that a husband’s authority is God’s gift for the purpose of expressing love to his wife and presenting her holy before the Lord. Leadership is about service, not a thirst for control. And a wife’s respect for her husband signifies that she has entrusted herself to Christ’s care and submitted to His authority as Lord of her life (Eph 5:33). If we neglect or rebel against our God-given roles, we will never mature into the godly men and women the Lord intends us to become over a lifetime. This is the way the great Choreographer leads husband and wife in the dance of marriage. Let’s follow in His footsteps, even if we stand on a few toes as we learn!

Join us next Friday for some practical implications of Redeemed Roles:

Part 2: Portrait of a redeemed husband.

Part 3: Portrait of a redeemed wife.

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them”. (Col 3:19)

It’s not my fault! Demolishing the idol of blame.

Series: Marriage East of Eden

“It’s all your fault! You drove me to it! I’m sorry you’re upset by what I said, but I just had to get it off my chest!”

Last week we saw how each human sinner is born with a natural tendency to cloak our sin and play the victim. It’s a universal idol that first raised its head in Genesis 3:10-13 and it’s been the predicable pattern of this world ever since. When life is tough, we become experts at creating scapegoats out of anything and anybody in our line of sight: My colleague…my boss…my children…my past…the system… they’re all to blame, except me! Sadly for marriage, the first person in sight is often our spouse and closest neighbour! It is the “flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones” who bears the brunt of all our struggles. Isn’t blaming a lot easier than being accountable?

The ultimate Scapegoat

But there is good news for husbands and wives who have repented, taken up our cross and followed Jesus! The only blameless man who ever lived shifted all our blame and all our spouse’s blame onto Himself. On the cross, Jesus Christ became the ultimate Scapegoat, who took the blame our many sins deserve. The same Lord who commands us to love our spouse has shown us what genuine love looks like, and his Holy Spirit empowers us to love in this way. He is, after all, the source of love.

The good news of the Gospel is that we no longer have to follow the default pattern of this world (Rom 12:2), which ends in hostility and divorce. We can build the one-flesh intimacy God intended for our marriages. But first we must resolve to stop hiding and blaming. We must demolish the idol of blame as though our one-flesh union depends upon it. Because it does.

Demolishing the idol God’s way.

In the Bible, God gives Christians a blueprint for dealing with conflict and disagreement in relationships, so that we don’t resort to blaming and shaming. These four general principles are as relevant in marriage as they are in every other relationship:

1. The real War.

The battle starts with you! You’re in spiritual warfare and home is where the ultimate enemy (Satan) finds ample opportunities to strike (Eph 6:14-17). God can use everyday conflict with your spouse to help you root out the sin of your own heart and to serve His good purposes. So, let’s remember that the conflict itself is not the root problem, and your spouse is not the enemy! Make sure you fight the real battle with the armour that Christ has provided.

2. The danger of offence.

“An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city” (Prov 18:19). Solomon warns that a stalemate results if one spouse digs in her heels and stubbornly refuses to let go of her offence. Offence becomes a stronghold from which there’s no escape. That’s why, in Matthew 18:15-16, Jesus tells his followers to meet face-to-face with a brother or sister who has sinned against him and to communicate his grievances clearly and honestly.

So, in marriage, we talk directly with our spouse, rather than resorting to emotional outbursts, slander or withdrawal. We don’t run off and gossip to our best friend or mother if our husband has offended us! We don’t generalise or caricature our spouse, but we give examples of actual conduct, so that our spouse can understand how they have offended us and make changes. We centre our discussion around the truth and resist the urge to judge our spouse’s motives. And if we reach a stalemate, we’re to call in an independent arbiter from the church to judge between us and help us to restore the relationship. Offence must be stopped in its tracks if we’re to guard our one-flesh bond.

3. Mind your own logs!

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt 7:5).

It’s not just your spouse that needs to change! When you take the plank out your own eye, you need to describe yourself accurately, so that you can change. You needn’t be afraid to look at yourself, as you won’t find anything there that will surprise God or that He cannot cleanse and transform. I love the pattern David lays down for us in Psalm 51:3-4. Remorse and repentance are not the same thing! Repentance is about being restored to God and changing direction, not just saying you’re sorry to get something off your chest.

When we first confess our sins and selfishness to God, our confession creates a soft, gracious heart from which to apologise and make amends. You cannot discuss our spouse’s faults unless your own heart has been humbled before the Lord. Take time to listen to how your sin affected your spouse before you launch in with your complaints. And be ready with practical ideas of how you’d like to work together to change these patterns in the future. Marriage is not a contest, it’s a collaborative effort.

4. Choose the wisest approach that fits your knowledge of yourself, your spouse and the need of the moment:

a) WAIT“It is to a man’s honour to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel” (Prov 20:3). Rather than calling out every instance of failing, we need to be patient with our spouse, as God is with us. “Bear with each other” is a good formula for a great marriage! The world’s pattern of venting every thought and emotion is not a godly pattern, and it bears terrible fruit.

b) CONFRONT“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbour, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord”. (Lev 19:17-18)

These two beautifully balanced verses point out two common pitfalls in mishandling conflict: Some of us hate our brother in our heart by nursing grievances and incubating a silent grudge. But some of us hate our brother in our heart by playing tit for tat. Moses says that it’s actually unloving and sinful not to speak up and reason frankly with your neighbour (Lev 19:17). But it’s equally wrong to take vengeance and repay evil with evil.

In truthful confrontation, let’s remember that God is the ultimate judge of you and your spouse, “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom 14:1012Lev 19:8). He is the silent witness to each of our relational encounters. Our responsibility is to speak up and reason frankly with one another. But at the same time, it is our responsibility to  do everything to safeguard the dignity of our spouse as we speak the truth. That’s how we will love our nearest neighbour as we love ourself.

c) YIELD“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”. In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul points out that in conflict, being right and doing right aren’t always the same thing. It’s not about winning the argument, but about how you can best love and minister to your spouse. If something isn’t helpful for your spouse, don’t get stuck on who’s right and who’s wrong. Don’t pursue your rights at the expense of your relationship. Always seek the good of your spouse, even if it curtails your freedom (1 Cor 10:23-241 Cor 8:9-13).

The Sweet Fruit of a Peacemaker.

Whether you choose a), b) or c) in resolving conflict, is a matter of wisdom. Seek the Lord in prayer and ask Him for the wisdom you need to make everyday choices which yield the sweet fruit of peace and order in your home (James 1:5). James contrasts the fruit of godly and worldly wisdom in relationships: “A good life, deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom…but where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness (James 3:13-18).

Are you seeing evidence of this sweet fruit in your own marriage? Or are you tasting the bitter fruit of envy, selfish ambition and disorder? Perhaps it’s time to go back to biblical principles and submit to the wisdom from heaven.

Don’t buy the lie!

It is Satan himself who whispers slander about your spouse in your ear. Every time your husband fails you, every time he offends you, every time you feel hurt or disappointed, the Accuser is whispering slander in your ear about your spouse. He is interpreting your wife’s motives to convince you that she means harm towards you. He is tempting you to think that you’re your own moral compass, so it’s always her fault, never yours! Don’t buy the lie! Use conflict as an opportunity to grow up and deepen your relationship: Don’t take offence easily. Mind your own logs. And choose the wisest godly path to resolve disagreements. That’s how you’ll be a channel of Christ’slove to your spouse.


Oh Lord, we long to be wise in our marriages! Free us from the idol of self which makes us think we are always right, and that our rights are all that matter. Help us to hear your voice clearly in your Word, so that we will not listen to the voice of slander and blame in our own hearts. Give us the apt words to speak graciously and frankly to each other. Help us to see our marriage as a one-flesh union, so that we will regard our spouse’s pain and progress as our own. Empower us to be more like you, and to seek out little and big ways to minister to our spouse for their good and their godliness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

It’s not my fault! The idolatry of blame-shifting

Series: Marriage East of Eden

“The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Gen 3:12-13)

Blame-shifting is an idol inherited from our ancient ancestors. It’s an insidious idol of the heart that threatens to poison our relationships, especially the unique one-flesh bond of marriage. Left to rule the roost, this idol can lead to an abusive marriage in which a manipulative husband uses every trick in the book to avoid being held accountable for his own behaviour. A wife may play the victim or get angry and aggressive if her husband fails to show her the sympathy she feels she deserves. As Christians, we must recognize that blame-shifting is an idol that has set itself up in every human heart since the Fall. It is a tendency that is in each one of us as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve.

The original ‘victims’

Genesis 3 tells us that every marriage has an Enemy, and that enemy is not our spouse! Notice that Satan slithered in by stealth to tempt the first married couple (Gen 3:1). He didn’t announce himself as the Enemy. And yet, before Adam and Eve knew it, Satan had slandered God’s goodness and his Word (Gen 3:4-5). He convinced the first humans that God was a killjoy and that they could judge for themselves what is right and wrong.

Then, instead of taking responsibility for their sin, Adam and Eve blamed each other, blamed God and blamed Satan (Gen 3:12-13). Adam accused Eve, and even blamed God for giving him his wife. “The devil made me do it!” said Eve. They created scapegoats to divert from their own guilt. In today’s language, Adam and Eve played the victim card. Their rebellion was everyone else’s fault except their own.

Tragically, each of us carries into our marriage this idol of blame to protect ourselves and hide from our guilt. We look for solutions out there, to avoid looking into our own rebellious hearts, which do not worship or love God as we ought. We pretend to be the poor hapless victims of other evil people or circumstances.

Worshipping at the altar of blame.

So how does this idol of blame rule and reign in our day-to-day marriages?

Being married to another human being is inevitably hard, because the moment we turn away from God, we naturally turn our backs on each other. We offend and get offended far too easily. We get stuck on who’s right and who’s wrong, instead of acting to build the other in love. It doesn’t take long before we think our spouse is the enemy, instead of the issue at hand. We get angry and aggressive, or we ‘stonewall’ honest conversation and build walls. We manipulate our spouse’s emotions and put him/her on a guilt trip. Without help, we’re often blind to what’s really going on in our relationships and our own heart, so the destructive cycle continues.

Blaming and complaining.

The blame game is nothing new to human relationships. It’s what the Israelites did in their distress, when they blamed God, Moses, the water and the manna that God provided generously in the wilderness (Ex 16:2-5Num 11:4-614:2Num 20:2-521:5). Remember how they even turned on Moses when God judged them for their incessant grumbling (Num 16:41). When we blame and complain against our spouse, the Lord hears our grumbling and it greatly displeases him (Num 12:2). Blame-shifting is no small thing to God, because it is an idol of the heart that steals our devotion and gratitude to Him.

The child of entitlement.

James says that grumbling results from not getting what we want or expect (James 4:1-3). It is the child of entitlement. But in reality, when we blame our spouse, the one we are really complaining against is God Himself (Ex 16:8). Blaming is just another way that we grumble against God and slander our neighbour, instead of loving God and the nearest neighbour that God has provided—our spouse.

Believe me, I’m not speaking here as a Christian who has demolished this idol in my own life. Far from it! I still struggle against the powerful urge to put myself at the centre and worship at the altar of blame. It doesn’t take much to unleash the little narcissist in me, besotted with my gripes and grievances, searching for anyone and anything to blame. I hate not getting what I want or expect! “I’m tired, that’s why I’m in a bad mood! If only God would fix this person/system/situation, I would be a much more godly person!” When I look through the lens of entitlement, I attack or become defensive and demanding. I pity myself and am easily offended. Worst of all, I’m usually guilty of the very same things I point out in Pete! That’s because we become like our idols (Ps 115:8135:18Jer 10:14). The sanitised term is ‘projection’.

The antidote to blame-shifting.

The Fall demonstrates our natural tendency to shift blame onto others. But the Gospel points to Christ, who was truly blameless, and yet shifted all our blame onto Himself. He is the only effective ‘blame-shifter,’ and He also calls Himself the Bridegroom. The Lord who commands us to love our spouse has shown us what genuine, self-giving love looks like in the way that He loves His Bride, the Church. He calls us to turn to Himself as the source of love. He doesn’t simply command us to love our spouse and then leave us to do it on our own. He also empowers us to exercise this unnatural kind of love towards our spouse, as we love Him.

Moreover, our Creator-God has also given us the blueprint for godly relationships. In the Bible, we find many practical principles for dealing with conflict without resorting to blame. Given our sinful nature and the dismal state of marriage in our culture, Christian couples would be foolish to ignore these principles, which run radically counter to the pattern of this world. We cannot ignore God’s ethic without suffering serious shipwreck in our marriages, and indeed in all our relationships. Next week we will look at four of these principles in part 2.


Oh Lord, you are the Groom and we are the Bride. We know our marriages are supposed to reflect the beautiful unity of the Trinity– Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but so often they don’t. Help us to know the depth, length and breadth of your great love for us, so that we will be a conduit of this gracious, forgiving, faithful, enduring love to our marriage partners. Free us from the idol of blame which makes us think we are always right, and that we are entitled to have whatever we want. Teach us to be more like you and to work for the good and godliness of our spouse. In Jesus’ name, Amen.