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Biblical Models for Family and Community

Time to call out some false teachings. The biblical model for marriage, family and community is about individuals drawing closer to God, working in unity with one another, and loving one another.

circle model
Our God reigns. God's followers serve mutually.

This article shows several models for family and community and the biblical rationale for each. Specifically, it contrasts Complementarian and Egalitarian views of marriage. Let us stop human labels to limit a person's activities.

Complementarian

Egalitarian

Men and women have equal value but God designed each gender for certain functions. Men have leadership and authority while women have submissive and subservient roles.

Men and women have equal value and must use their God-given gifts to build up the body of believers, to speak, teach, or lead as they are gifted and individually called.

God designed that men be unlimited in their roles and that women be limited to certain roles at home, church, and society. Men have dominion over the world and women support men and bear children.

God designed that all people have the freedom to do the functions they are gifted to do. God told the first man and women to be co-rulers with dominion over the world and blessed them to procreate together.

Since the leader can make unilateral choices and have a tie-breaking vote over-ruling a woman, the choices of the submissive woman are limited, and the power structure is unequal

No one can make unilateral choices or overrule another person; believers need to pray to God to ascertain any decision. The power structure is egalitarian.

The husband is the head of the family and the man is the head of the church; women report to men.

God is the head of the family and Christ is the head of the church, the foundation and fulfillment of the church.



venn diagram
Venn Diagaram: God's Call; Personal Gifts

Men and Women both need to approach God individually, and this brings them closer to each other. It is difficult to be equal when one's freedoms and choices are limited by someone else. In another post, I provide biblical references showing women and men are equals.


Jesus himself provided a model of serving one another when he washed the disciples' feet at the Last Supper. Each follower of Jesus needs to model Jesus in serving one another. Jesus showed that love is more important than laws. Jesus provides the example of sacrificial love and servant leadership for both partners to follow (John 13:14-17). Jesus washed the feet of men and women disciples. I write about women at the Last Supper here.


Men and Women are equal heirs to God's realm, and both are called priests who can come boldly to God, and who can show others the goodness of God. I write more about Peter's view of marriage here.


egg
Model of God's image

All genders are made in the image of God, and because God is a Spirit, humans each are in God's image. In the illustration, each human is like an egg, containing both male and female characteristics. I write more about God's gender here. When the Bible says God made humans in the image of God, male and female, it means that each human reflects the full image of God. An individual is not a partial reflection of God. Marriage is not required to reflect the full image of God.


Paul says that in Christ, there is no wall dividing people groups (Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 2:14-16, Colossians 3:11, Romans 10:12). Male and female are different, but there is no difference in their rights or freedoms.


Men and Women are both told to be gentle, kind, loving, and nurturing (Galatians 5:22-26). Men and women are both told to be courageous and strong, firm in faith and in love (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). Men and women are to be bold in God's power, love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). God calls all believers to use their talents and gifts, whether it is teaching or speaking (Romans 12:6-8).

triangle
God is the leader of the family

"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15). This does not mean that Joshua was deciding for his wife; he is proclaiming that he and his wife both agreed that the Lord would be the Lord of their household.


When God is the ruler of our hearts, he is the leader of our marriage, church, and community. God commanded Christians to be his image, to represent God to the world, to be caretakers of the earth, to serve, give, and provide for one another. By loving one another we show that we belong to Jesus.


God is the head of each believer and the head of our marriage and families. Jesus is the sole mediator between God and humans. As we draw nearer to God, we can draw nearer to our spouse. Paul tells all believers to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21). Paul points to the submissive wives of the Greco-Roman norms to show husbands how to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:22). Paul uses the unity of the husband and wife to show the unity of Christ and the church. Paul never says to follow the pagan model of marriage. In fact, Paul flattens the hierarchal marriage for those who are in Christ. Husbands are to love and serve their wives as Christ loves and serves the church (Ephesians 5:25). I write more about Ephesians here.


I explore how the church may have misunderstood Paul's writings here.  


God is the leader of the family
umbrella
Jesus is the sole mediator for each person to approach God

Christ is the head of the church, being the source or beginning of the church, just as a spring of water is the head or source of a river. I explore many biblical references to head and cornerstone here.


Harmful Teachings


The teachings that husbands save or sanctify their wives or shelter and protect their wives are not biblical. God is our saviour, sanctifier, shelter and protector.

Seeing a husband in the role of God is idolatry.


Men and Women are both commanded to provide for their families. There were many wealthy widows in first-century Rome and many female heads of households. Paul says that the church does not need to support them. He warns wealthy widows against living for pleasure. Paul speaks to both women and men when he says "Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5:8). Telling a husband he must provide for his family puts undue pressure on the husband while limiting the contributions of the wife. In some cases, it puts the wife in an untenable position of not knowing the financial situation of the household.


umbrella
When Christ shelters his people, any other umbrella comes from man

The harmful illustration of several umbrellas showing a husband's control over his wife and children came from Bill Gothard, who taught that the husband was the protector and authority. This unbiblical teaching has enabled a power imbalance in marriage that has led to abuse. That's right, Christians who believe in a male power hierarchy have levels of intimate partner violence similar to non-believing patriarchal marriages.


Wayne Grudem bases subordinating women to men using his view of the Trinity as a hierarchy. In recent decades, Complementarians have supposed that male leadership is part of God's original design. The historic church supported male leadership as a result of The Fall in Genesis 3. Portraying Jesus submitting to the Father as a one-way hierarchy opposes the historical truth of Christian orthodoxy. For centuries, the accepted Christian teaching is that the Trinity is one God made of three equal persons. Jesus is our Lord and God. The Bible shows Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus (John 14:11). It is mutual. Seeing Jesus as less than God is unbiblical. Likewise, the teaching that marriage follows the example of a hierarchal Holy Trinity is false. The Trinity provides a model of equality, with each individual of the Trinity being equal, using their unique gifts. It is as a circle of equals, not an authoritarian power structure, that we attract others to God. I discuss the historical view of the Holy Trinity as three equal persons here.  


I hope that these images and biblical excerpts demonstrate the true biblical model for marriage, family, and community.


 

Elaine Ricker Kelly uses her experiences as a woman in business to inspire and empower women at home, church and society. She was an investment and insurance advisor for thirty years, has three grown daughters, and is passionate about writing to encourage girls and women in leadership. Elaine Ricker Kelly Author is LGBTQ+ affirming Christian empowering readers with Christian fiction about women in the Bible and early church and Christian blogs about women in leadership, church history and doctrine. Her books include:

  • Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold, Book 1

  • The Sword A Fun Way to Engage in Healthy Debate on What the Bible Says About a Woman's Role

  • Because She Was Called: from Broken to Bold, Book 2, A Novel of the Early Church, imagines Mary Magdalene's trip to testify before the emperor












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