Suppose, for a moment, that you saved me from a horrible fire when I was a little girl. I escaped unharmed, but you almost paid with your live and have horrible burn scars.
Assume, now, that a few business owners say they want to celebrate you and your great sacrifice, and celebrate [fill in your name] principles at work. You were friendly when you saved me, and they will celebrate by being friendly with their workers. And just like I should be very grateful for your great sacrifice, the workers should celebrate [fill in your name] principles by acting very grateful – they should willingly work overtime at short notice, accept low pay, obey all commands immediately…
Will you think these employers are celebrating you, or that they are trying to pull a fast one on the workers? Many of the ways complementarians try to “portrait the gospel” make me think of the story above. (It is just a coincidence that Tim Challies is the guy I will quote now. It really could have been almost any complementarian blogger or writer.)
We compromise God’s standard for sexuality when we leave the gospel out of the marriage bed
Christians consistently have trouble extending the reach of the gospel from salvation all the way to sex. Yet the gospel isn’t just about that one-time commitment; it’s about how we live today and every day. It extends through every part of life.
The gospel says, Whatever my marriage is to be and whatever our sexual relationship is to be, it is to be a part of that portrait of Christ and the church. When I am considering sex in this way, I’m first asking, Would this look like an accurate portrait of Christ and the church? What reflects Christ giving up his life for his bride? What reflects the church joyfully submitting to Christ? This completely reorients us away from self, from self-love and self-service, and orients me toward my spouse. This portrait of marriage does not come to an end when we close the bedroom door. – Tim Challies
What does the gospel say? The gospel say we were in utterly dire straits. We were on our way to hell. We did things God cannot tolerate. But God still loved us. He made us valuable at the start, and we still were, to him. Jesus was willing to leave all the riches of heaven to persue us. He died a painful death to save us. He accepts all who say “yes” to him.
Anyone who claim the man must play Christ’s part in showing a gospel picture, should tell the man to take a drug addict or prostitute, leave everything he has behind to persue her, and accept her just the way she is. Even that will only be an approximation, as the man still did not create her. When the man does that, he can do as Jesus did – love her to the point where she may, or may not, choose to submit.
If you are male, you cannot “portrait the gospel” by providing for your wife, financially, as well as she (or her parents) provided for her when single. The gospel is not some mediocre equivalent to other methods.
You cannot “portrait the gospel” by merely being a considerate lover – the gospel talks about the only way to God. But many men would, if she was married to them instead, have been able to do that for her.
If you are female, you cannot “portrait the gospel” by treating a man who did not rescue you from a terrible fate, a man who is not the only way to God, as if he did and is.
Gomer the prostitute (who had other lovers after marriage too), married to Hosea the prophet, had a marriage that reflected the gospel. If you claim your marriage does, and the husband was not infinitely more moral or infinitely richer than the wife at the time of marriage, you are wrong. Your marriage do not reflect the gospel.
What Jesus came to do is infinitely bigger than what even very good husbands do. What submissive wives do for husbands, on the other hand, is often bigger than what they do for Jesus. From Jesus, there are a few written commands in the Bible. (There is also hearing from Him in your quiet time, but that is not nearly as straightforward as listening to a human husband.) If a woman obey both the commands from Jesus and the commands from a husband who talk to her every day, she will do a lot more for the latter.
So, in these so-called “gospel portrayals”, we make the person playing Jesus do an infinitely smaller role than the real Jesus, and the person playing the church play a much bigger role. That gives a very skewed gospel portrayal. This disproportional gospel is no longer the good news, but legalism.
There is another way to understand it. The Bible do not actually say marriages should picture the gospel. I think we should regard the gospel as the picture instead: Look at Jesus, and see an example of how you should give your best to help your spouse. Look at how the church responded to the sacrificial love of Jesus, and learn how you could yield when your spouse have your best interests at heart. This way, we look at the gospel and understand better how to love. The other way, we seem to underestimate what Christ came to do.