My View on Women’s Roles

I had no intention of writing this. It never crossed my mind. Then Sarah’s book hit the blogosphere, and then Ally wrote a post, and my friends linked to this post on Facebook, and I read through Rachel’s old posts.

To be honest, part of the reason I have pretty much avoided writing about this subject is because I have very little desire to debate others about the role of women in the church. Not because I think I’m right or I’ve landed on some eternal truth, but because I often find discussions such as these to be rather fruitless and distracting. Fruitless in that they do not advance the Kingdom and distracting in that they take our eyes, however briefly, off of Jesus Christ as our Head.

However, I’ve had people email me over my three years of blogging with greetings that begin with “As a fellow complementarian…” Or “As another like-minded egalitarian…” These emails make me laugh because never once have I ever referred to myself as either of these titles, nor would I ever.

But, what happens when you have a blog is that people assume they know you. They assume they’ve got you all figured out. If you write about your marriage a few times, they wrongly believe they have been given a full and clear look into its intricacies and intimacies. One post about my sex life a night in my bedroom does not make. Sorry.

My Own Marriage

So what does my marriage look like? Perhaps that’s a good place to start.

Practically speaking and in terms of household duties, my husband and I share a fair amount of them. He’s happy to wash dishes because he knows I despise it. He changes dirty diapers, bathes dirty children, even scrubs dirty toilets. I do the majority of the housework, but I am also the one who is home most of the day–raising and rearing those little beasts precious angels.

Jonathan is about as hands-on of a dad as you get, happily jumping in when I am in pain, or exhausted, or at my wits end. He’s engaged, present, and does a nearly perfect job of making time and spending time with his children. Sometimes, while he’s washing dishes and I’m wiping kitchen counters, I’ll ask, “Hey babe, can you change the baby’s diaper when you’re done, please?” And Jonathan will sharply reply, “No.” And we look at each other and then start laughing at the absurdity of his response. He’ll then say, “Can you believe some men do that? Ridiculous.”

In all of this, he tells me again and again that I am his “number one ministry.” He is fully devoted to me and our marriage. I can see it in the way he serves me, hear it in the way he honors me, and feel it in the way he loves me. I have never once doubted that he sees me as his peer and, really, if you asked him, he’d probably say that I’m “better” than him or “smarter” than him. Which isn’t true, but it’s nice.

In everyday life, the ins and outs, the ebbs and flows, we are equal and happily content to serve and bless one another. From an egalitarian perspective, we are about as egalitarian as it gets…

Except, there’s this…

Jonathan is also the head of our home.

And this is where I’m flippantly disregarded by egalitarians and wrongfully identified as a complementarian.

But, I believe this: For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Ephesians 5:22-24

How does an egalitarian explain this verse or, for that matter, so many others (Col. 3:18; Tit. 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1-6)? I have never heard an adequate explanation for “the husband is the head of his wife” from an egalitarian. Does this verse mean my husband trumps me in decision-making? Perhaps, but in all truth, we have never had this happen. If there is a big, looming decision to make, God always brings unity.

Spiritual Authority and Non-Hierarchical Leadership

What I do take Ephesians 5:22-24 to mean, however, is that my husband has a certain spiritual authority in our home and over our home. I cannot put it into words exactly. I can only say that I have witnessed it. I have watched the Spirit move or Satan be rebuked because of Jonathan’s spiritual authority.

That is not to say that I lack authority in Christ Jesus! Of course not. I, too, have the very Living God within me, but just as God sees fit to place greater responsibility among some, I believe he also places a greater spiritual authority and, thus, responsibility upon husbands. This argument may make some people uncomfortable because it is neither quantitative nor qualitative. Also because it would cause some to assume that, as a wife, I am less than.

However, God is not opposed to leadership. In fact, God honors leadership. Scripture is ripe with examples of both men and women exercising leadership. I do not believe, however, that God subscribes to a form of hierarchical leadership. There is a distinct difference between a marriage where leadership takes shape naturally and spiritually and a type of hierarchical leadership. Jonathan is not my “boss.” If anyone is our “boss,” it’s Jesus, but Jonathan is still in spiritual authority and, as my husband, reminds me often that “We must both submit to the headship of Jesus Christ.” And in doing so, my husband shows love to me.

Lest we also forget to read on in Ephesians where we are also told that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”

My Own Church

So, what about my own church? What do women’s roles look like in my local expression of church?

Beyond my home, how do women operate and serve and minister in my church (the church that my husband and I planted, mind you)? It has been jokingly and yet accurately said that our organic church is packed full of powerful, outspoken, and confident women. This is completely true.

The women in this part of the body are actually, in many ways, bolder and more vocal than our male counterparts. Many of the men in our body are the strong silent types, choosing to offer words of wisdom at the most opportune moment. Many of us women, however, are loud, outgoing, even inappropriate at times…choosing to not always censor ourselves for the sake of truth-speaking.

More than that, both men and women in the church are viewed as equals–fellow heirs with Christ–brothers and sisters equally empowered by the same Spirit through the same God. Women teach in our gathering. Men teach. Women prophesy. Men prophesy. Women lay on hands. Men lay on hands. Women instruct, admonish, and equip. Men do the same.

Within my marriage, the same holds true. Jonathan receives from the Lord through me easily and often. I have admonished and corrected my husband and he, the same for me. I may submit to him as the head of our home, but we both submit to the Lordship and sovereignty of Jesus Christ.

The practice and reality of Jonathan as head of our home and me submitting to him is so natural that it is almost never discussed. It just is, like so many things in the Spirit. It simply takes shape and holds its form. Perhaps having children helps further draw out the need for a husband to serve as a spiritual head. Regardless, we move and breathe and live in the truth of Ephesians 5:22-24 in both contentment and peace.

And this is where egalitarians call me a liar. How could that be? How dare I say that our marriage mirrors that of the egalitarian ideal in all areas except that my husband is the head of our home and I’m not afraid of the word submit?

A lack of hierarchical leadership within a marriage, however, does not also mean a lack of leadership as a whole.  Our organic church and marriage for that matter operate much the same way, in that when hierarchical leadership is not present, natural leadership emerges. This leadership is lateral non-hierarchical.

Furthermore, the concept of equality is not a Biblical one. Nowhere in scripture does God elevate or espouse the concept of equality, at least not the “equality” people reference when discussing women’s roles. It is a man-made notion. The Bible says of our Lord, in fact, “…though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…” Philippians 2:6-7

Jesus is not the Great Equator. He is the Great Uniter. Christ doesn’t sell us equality. He offers us Oneness and unity in Him. This may sound like semantics, but it certainly is not. More than that, Jesus came as a servant–to serve not to be served. I also do not believe God ever intended for men to “lord over” their wives or exert their authority as husbands in some controlling or unhealthy manner thereby demoting women to second-class citizens within their own marriages.

This is the example Jesus has given us to model within marriage when He said:

“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

A Third Way

The caricatures and opponents of both complementarians and egalitarians assume that I must be barefoot and pregnant–squelched and somewhat oppressed–the first delighted, the second disgusted.

But, both are so painfully wrong.

I find a measure of absurdness in both arguments. The Creator of the Universe chose the model of marriage to represent Himself and His love for the church. Of all the things in and upon the earth to symbolize Himself, He chose marriage–to signify His sacrifice, His eternal love, His jewel and treasure–us His bride. And yet we, in our limited, finite, ignorant little minds, deduce that marriages can only look one of two ways: good or bad, depending on your side of the aisle.

The vastness and immeasurable treasures of the Lord do not, and cannot, be forced into a right or left column. Somewhere, in the middle of these two sides is where I believe Jesus is and lives. As has been my experience in following after Christ, all too often, the mystery of Him lies somewhere in the middle–in the gray and the unknown and the beauty that we can taste and feel but cannot fully grasp…at least not yet.

My friend and author Frank Viola references this “middle” when he refers to the “third way” in his book Jesus Manifesto–a place that embraces neither the left or the right, but rather a movement forward. This resonates with me. I’ve always looked upon Christianity and all of its sects, theologies, doctrines, and man-made constructs and thought “There must be more…” And very often, that more is a third way.

It is a different way of seeing what God is doing and who God is. In his book of collected sermons, Strength to Love, Martin Luther King Jr. hints at this this idea when he writes, “…there is and always will be a penumbra of mystery surrounding God.”

Christians want to argue and debate over words like “headship,” “submission,” and “authority.” When I very much doubt that as Paul wrote these words he was idealizing or even referencing either an egalitarian or complementarian form of marriage. It’s preposterous to assume so. Instead, I suspect that Paul was referencing spiritual realities, where headship has little to do with decision-making and chores, but rather much to do with a kind of sacrificial love–you know, the kind Jesus displayed on the cross.

I would even argue that Paul is telling us to be open to something altogether new and different–not a marriage built upon man-made notions and expectations–but instead built upon the Foundation that cannot be shaken. A third way–because as Paul writes:

“‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

This mystery, which we can catch glimpses of here and now, but which remains partially cloaked and forces us to reach beyond ourselves and our own ideals to instead seek the face of the One Who Knows. He has a perfect, glorious, and holy picture of marriage for each and every one of us, where His indelible grace abounds and His love abides. A third way…a marriage not bound by the philosophies of man or emotional ideals, but filled with His freedom, reflecting His love to all the world.


Do you agree or disagree? Where do you stand on this subject? Are you a complementarian, egalitarian, both, or neither? Do you find these discussions helpful or hurtful?

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110 thoughts on “My View on Women’s Roles”

  1. I’m confused… that about sums it up. But I appreciated reading your viewpoint, absolutely. I don’t believe in a complementarian way, completely, I don’t think that works for my husband or I. Yet I don’t know if egalatarian suits us either… I think it does. I’m not sure. Confused, as I said. I find the discussions, and others, helpful when they come from a personal, storytelling viewpoint which doesn’t judge others, and not helpful and bewildering when they come from a place of “you’re wrong, I’m right”. How are we really to know which is the perfect way? People who have perhaps studied this more would have a lot to say to that question!
    Thanks Nicole!

    1. Sarah,
      I’m sorry, are you confused by this post or rather the debate as a whole? I think based on what you commented, you and I are sympathetic to one another in that neither side “feels right” or “fits.” per se.

      And the perfect way, as you mentioned. Yes! That is it, isn’t it? “This is the way…walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

      Thanks for sharing Sarah!

      1. I love how you said that, in decision making, God brings unity. That is so true and how I feel He meant it to be from the beginning. He doesn’t want us doing it on our own anyhow. The husband is the head of the family but is also lead by the lord out of love, not out of control. :-)

  2. Nicole, you consistently amaze and encourage me, thanks. We track together in so many of your postings.As a dish washing and toilet cleaning (and formerly diaper changing) husband I pretty much 100% agree with your post. The use of titles to try and pigeon hole us is one of my greatest frustrations. For many years I did that to others and tried to do it to my self, I am so glad that those years are in the rear view mirror.
    Having been around a few organic brothers, and seen how they encourage the body to function corporately and individually it was an eye opener, refreshing and revealing. FV as well as Jon Zens and Milt Rodriguez in particular, from their writings, ministries and a couple from their personal lives have been incredibly helpful.
    How could you examine how Christ himself related to the men and women who he had contact with and not see this humble servant leadership He did not see Himself above doing even the most lowly task(washing dirty stinky feet) in serving His brothers and sisters. Shouldn’t we also have this attitude among us ? Is that not the true leadership that we need in both our marriages and our churches ? I say yes, so until this happens, keep up what you are doing, we all need the encouragement, even those who don’t know it yet. Thanks. John Morris.

  3. We recently had a sermon on the topic, and the pastor’s wife (a friend of mine) put it this way: Marriage is like a road trip. You choose the destination together, you plan the route together, you prepare to leave together, you navigate together—but only one person can be in the driver’s seat. If the passenger reached over and tried to grab the wheel or step on the gas while the other was driving, it would be chaotic. And dangerous.

    Our marriage is equal (although, let’s face it, my husband does the lion’s share of the housework. I stink at it), but the final decisions come down to my husband. He’s the one in the driver’s seat, and I don’t envy him. That’s a lot of pressure. That Ephesians verse says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR HER.” So, yeah, I need to give my will over to my husband, but he has to give himself over to me entirely by being willing to DIE for me. He’s being asked to give up his actual life for me—not just his days or his choices, but his life, his breath, his blood. For me. Because he’s my husband.

    So, you know, I think wives actually got the easy part of that deal.

    1. Rachel! So good to see you. I like the car analogy. I can see how egalitarians though would discredit it by saying that Jesus did away with the car altogether.

      I admit that this discussion is a lot more complicated and nuanced than I imagined. So much of what I wanted to communicate I couldn’t even put into words.

      I appreciate you highlighting the fact that husbands are told to give themselves up for their wives. Such a powerful and important point in the whole role discussion. Thanks for sharing and commenting here. Hope to see more of you.

    2. I think perhaps that an ‘egalitarian’ stance might say that JESUS is the driver of the car and that husband and wife together ‘work our their own salvation’ as a team, pouring over the maps, taking note of the scenery, and trusting that the driver knows the road a heckuva lot better than they do.

      That famous passage in Ephesians 5 always gets truncated in discussions like this – it begins with verse 21, not verse 22 – in fact everything after verse 21 is a series of dependent clauses. We begin with mutual submission. We BEGIN THERE. Personally, I’m tired of labels, primarily because I happen to believe that the word ‘complementarian’ is a GREAT word that has been appropriated by a certain segment of the church. I love the word because, of course, we are complementary to one another, by design and for good purpose. But we are also mutually submissive to Christ.

      So I guess I would prefer the word mutuality in describing my own marriage of 48 years. The buck stops with Jesus, not with either one of us. And we work together, talk together, pray together and decide together. And there is great gift and freedom in that truth. Gender roles are stifling and counter productive to the work of the kingdom. The gifts of the Spirit are distributed throughout the body, to all parts of the body and within an individual marriage, as well.

      Trying to shoehorn every single male and female into a particular box does nothing but limit the good work that God has entrusted to us. It seems to me that to say that one of us ‘got the easy part of that deal’ is to unfairly load the husband with expectations that are not biblical and to unfairly diminish the importance of the wife to the functioning of the marriage, home and larger community. We are called to work together, both of us, in mutual submission, with love and honor and respect flowing both ways.

  4. I really like the drivers seat analogy Rachel. I think often the image created is one of a Chinese taxi in which one of the the two (woman or man) is on the bike while the other is in the carriage behind expecting to be delivered to their destination. Nicole, great post. I work in a relatively moderate church, so we have a wide range of thoughts on this topic that do often distract us from the main goal. A healthy home and a healthy church is one of co-leadership, but someone and not everyone needs to grab the reigns. On the equality thing, what would you say to Galatians 3:23?

    1. Alan, if I may:

      Galatians 3:23 – 29 are the infamous “neither Greek nor Jew, male nor female..” passages. Indeed, in Christ there is no gender. But authority in Christ has to do with His enabling, His empowerment, and not whether or not we have anatomically-correct parts.

      No woman is restricted nor prohibited from The Spirit and His workings this side of Heaven, and men by default are not automatically given The Spirit in such workings. However, in marriage, the covenant of marriage, there are definitive roles and positions that we are called to fulfill and walk in. Hence, it is His authority that we walk in, both men and women, both husbands and wives, because He is a God of order and purpose.

      When husbands love their wives as Christ loves The Bride and when wives respect their husbands as The Bride is to respect Him, things work according to His authority. Simple.

  5. Two passages grabbed me:

    1. What I do take Ephesians 5:22-24 to mean, however, is that my husband has a certain spiritual authority in our home and over our home. I cannot put it into words exactly. I can only say that I have witnessed it. I have watched the Spirit move or Satan be rebuked because of Jonathan’s spiritual authority.

    2. Jesus is not the Great Equator. He is the Great Uniter. Christ doesn’t sell us equality. He offers us Oneness and unity in Him. This may sound like semantics, but it certainly is not. More than that, Jesus came as a servant–to serve not to be served. I also do not believe God ever intended for men to “lord over” their wives or exert their authority as husbands in some controlling or unhealthy manner thereby demoting women to second-class citizens within their own marriages.

    Brava, Nicole. You nailed it. Plain and simple.

    Marriage is a covenant, not an agreement or a business deal. Covenant does not say, “As for me, I will do this or that as long as you do that or this.” No. Covenant says, “As for me, I will (fill in the blank), regardless of whether or not you do (fill in the blank).” Covenant is not quid pro quo. Far from it.

    Having said that, my marital covenant is based solely on the truth that we, as redeemed and saved persons brought into The New Covenant, have equal worth in the eyes of our Father, but vastly different roles. You cited the diaper-changing example, and I had to laugh a bit, because men are consistently portrayed as being “anti-diaper changers” within the normal marriage example. (Most of that is for humorous effect, because I have yet to meet any true father who would not change a diaper should it need changing. But it’s amusing to laugh about it.) Changing a diaper is hardly a proper example of spiritual authority, but I get your gist.

    In my marital covenant, there are three of us: me, my bride, and Christ Jesus. Both of us submit to Jesus and to one another, but should there come a decision to be made wherein my bride and I disagree, I make the decision for our House, knowing full well I am accountable for said decision. I tell my bride that she is not the one who stands accountable for our marital covenant, and she is relieved of such responsibility. It falls on me, sine in The Big Picture, it falls on Jesus regarding His covenant with His Bride, that being us.

    My wife does not wish to be the husband, and I have no desire to be the wife. It works out swimmingly well for us as we walk in that truth. But for the record, it has only occurred maybe four times wherein I took complete control of a situation and exercised my spiritual authority, telling my wife she needed to submit to my decision. (My marital covenant is a partnership wherein I have 51% of the stock, if that makes sense to you) Only four times in 9 years. And I was held accountable for those times, believe me. My bride was blameless and not responsible.

    My bride provides me with ideas when I have none. I simply ask her what she is feeling about so and so and listen to her response. An easy example would be if I ask her where she would like to go out for dinner. In ten seconds she will come up with ten different restaurants, and I will in turn decide upon which one we will go to. Simple. Not a great example, but it’s all I have right now. :)

    Is this to say we never see eye-to-eye on anything? Of course not! Many times we finish each other’s sentences, and therein is the unity of Christ. The times when I have taken control are the exception, but a necessary one when warranted. In any partnership there is to be equal value, like 50/50. This holds true for marriage. But in our marital covenant, we have a three-way split, so to speak, with Jesus being the third partner/leader/boss/Lord. And He makes His mind known through my obedience to His voice and Spirit, becoming the tie-breaker when warranted.

    I look forward to your post on the roles of men. :)

  6. What if we simply stripped this down to its barest bones?

    Consider: husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves The Church, (which means caring for, leading, loving, and maintaining them), and wives are to respect their husbands as The Church does Jesus, (which means submission to His authority).

    Now then, HOW this is actually done in the really real world of life this side of Heaven seems to be up for debate. But how can we put limits, rules, regulations, and expectations on anything of The Spirit when Christ has not given these things? In other words, how can we speak to something that Jesus has not spoken to?

    Guys, love your wives.
    Gals, respect your husbands.
    In doing so, both of you have fulfilled His commands, and isn’t that what it’s about? :)

  7. I appreciate the thoughtful post, Nicole. And you’re right; your marriage doesn’t sound much different than most egalitarian marriages. You two sound like quite a team! That makes me happy.

    My only pushback is that even after warning against caricatures you resort to a few when talking about egalitarians. We are not all afraid of the word “submit.” (We just believe it goes both ways.) And we do not all simply disregard the parts of Scripture we don’t like. That’s not fair.

    I’ve committed multiple posts to discussing the New Testament household codes to which you refer.

    Once here:

    And then in a 5-post series, which I link to here: (See especially “Four Interpretive Pitfalls Around the New Testament Household Codes” and “Aristotle vs. Jesus: What Makes the New Testament Household Codes different.”)

    We can disagree on the interpretation and application of these passages without accusing one another of not taking the Bible seriously.

    1. Rachel,
      Thank you for taking time to comment here. I spent some time reading through the posts you linked to over the last week. I certainly wasn’t trying to address everything on the subject in one post, however.

      That being said, I never suggested that egalitarians don’t take the Bible seriously, but rather from my perspective choose to hold fast to certain verses over others. And the same can be said of complementarians. We all use scripture to make our case, as it were.

      And this may sound like a cop out, but when I wrote that I don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing the parts of scripture I like or don’t like–I really was only referring to myself. But I can obviously see how the assumption there is that I’m attacking egalitarians. Point taken and received.

      I do find it interesting to note, however, that you see us as disagreeing on our interpretation and application of these verses. I do not see a vast and wide difference, but the lenses through which I view this subject have changed and that may be why.

      Thanks for the comment. Truly.

    2. Donald,

      I never said I only submit to my husband when he submits to me. Never. I am responsible only for my own submission. And I’ve stated that multiple times on my blog and in my book on this topic. What I mean is that egalitarians believe that BOTH men and women are called to “submit one to another” (Ephesians 5:21), that submission is not an exclusively feminine virtue. But obviously, each person is responsible to respond to the call to humility/service/submission and cannot wait on the other to do so.

      The rest of your comment is totally ad hominem and not worth engaging.

      1. Rachel,
        I agree and as I said in this post, my husband and I both submit to one another, in Christ. But that mutual submission to one another under the sovereignty of Jesus does not eradicate or undermine my husband as a spiritual authority in our home.

        I guess that once again, and the point I tried to end on, was that why must they be mutually exclusive? I live in, and know of so many marriages, were both concepts exist in practice and in joy. God is so rarely a God of “either or.” On this, He has led me to “both.”

    3. Donald, she is exactly what you think that she is. Rachel inserts herself into other people’s events and websites to call attention to herself and push an entirely anti-Biblical belief system that she tries to pass off as Christian.

      And she’s about as arrogant as you can get when you’re not one her slobbering fans. She whines about being “accused of not taking the Bible seriously” as a way to try and avoid people seeing through the fact she takes positions that do not line up with Scripture and as such spit in the face of Christ.

      People coddle her because she’ll take to her website to slam people that point out her heretical position so that the mob of worldly driven fans will attack en masse.

      She is simply not living a Christian life and she absolutely refuses to accept the fact what she wants to live is not in line with Scripture. I wish she would just admit she’s no longer a Christian and drop the facade because then she would be engaging in honest debate.

      1. @Jason–where is the love? Your post really saddens me. Love your God with all your heart soul and mind–and you neighbor as yourself. Who is your neighbor?

  8. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” ~ Jesus

    as we learn to Love we ‘see’ the treasure in one another, and from this we lovingly submit to one another (Eph 5:17) in doing so relationships are formed, understood, expressed (I do not like the term built when looking at relationships). Love is the currency for all relationships, I ‘see’ this Love expressed in Nicole & Johnathan’s marriage/life.

    Jesus is the answer, He provides all…all of our needs to live and Love.He so freely gives of Himself…all of Himself, and His Love. When we are found ‘in’ Love we begin to learn how to Love as we have been/are Loved, and this Life.

    good ‘stuff’ Nicole

    1. Jim,
      Your words here: food to my soul and just the reminder and word from God I needed, as I sit here feeling a bit flustered and shaken by what I wrote.

      Thank you once again, friend.

  9. Wow, Nicole. So beautifully and gracefully done – as usual. A wonderful post that somehow captured all of the important and left out the excess. ️ Thank you!

  10. You made an almost indescribable point, make sense to me. You have such a way of communicating that wows me every time! And also? I felt like these words were genuinely and uniquely “you” and not words taken from sound bites of this debate. I loved what you began with too- how it all doesn’t really matter. When Jesus transforms us, and the Spirit leads, we don’t even have to know how to act, we just do. We are lead to love and sacrifice and submission and we find ourselves in unity. Even on the times where my husband had to make a choice for us, I saw his heart be drawn to mine by The Lord, and mine to his. It’s like in our organic church, in this upside down kingdom, it’s not impossible to realize that we can have 100% agreement on any decisions we make as a body together. I don’t feel like you confused this debate, I feel like you simplified it.

    1. Carrington,
      Oh friend, reading your comment just felt like a warm blanket being wrapped around me. Because you know. When I say that I see marriages blossom and grow and live and move in the “bothness” and in “the middle” you are who I am referring to. I see it in your marriage, the way you parent together and share the work of married life–and yet you both submit to one another and can still call Wade the head of your home. It isn’t so hard, as you said, when we allows Jesus to change us and the Spirit to lead us.

      And this: “Even on the times where my husband had to make a choice for us, I saw his heart be drawn to mine by The Lord, and mine to his.” Oh my word! Yes! Truth and beauty.

      Thank you friend, for walking along side of me, living life with me, and believing in who Jesus has made me to be.

  11. I think it’s interesting that you cite Eph 5:22-24 several times and never make any mention of verse 21, which the rest hinges on. As you probably know, the word “submit” does not even appear in the original text of 5:22, as it is a continuation of 21. I don’t think it’s helpful to ever cite 22-24 without the rest of the thought Paul is expressing here. Also, I’ve never understood how it is right to hold onto this when we’ve let other parts of the chapter go (i.e. slaves submit to your masters). It seems to me that citing 5:22-24 to make your point is essentially proof-texting, since it requires ignoring what comes before and what comes after. Not trying to be snarky, this method of hermeneutics just baffles me. Appreciated the thoughtfulness of your post.

    1. Gail,
      Fair question. To be clear, while I never directly quoted Ephesians 5:21 I did say in the post, ““We must both submit to the headship of Jesus Christ.” And in doing so, my husband shows love to me.” Now, I don’t prescribe to the idea of “mutual submission” at least not in the purely egalitarian way of thinking.

      I would say undoubtably that Jonathan and I submit to one another, but we do so under the Headship of Christ. This is an important distinction because it still places my husband as the head of our home. Also, I have heard it stated that Eph 5:21 does not specifically refer to husbands and wives, so much as all the brethren. We are to submit one unto each other, as brothers and sisters in Christ.

      I wasn’t purposefully leaving out or running a black magic marker over verse 21. I was simply focusing on verse 22-24 for the purposes of this post. Based on what I had written, I rather assumed the action and necessity of verse 21. Not a perfect answer, but it’s not a perfect post. Just the place the Lord has brought me.

      Thank you for the comment and question.

      1. Thanks for the explanation about verse 21. It is hard to get my head around, though, the idea that other brothers and sisters submit to us and we to them, and yet there is another dynamic at play in the home that seems like unilateral submission. Just seems inconsistent to me. But I appreciate hearing your heart and how you see things, especially your openness and gracious spirit. It has certainly been an interesting discussion!

  12. Nicole,
    I enjoyed the post as I do all of your viewpoints and opinions. I have been on somewhat of a journey on the “women’s role in the church” idea and this is a nice compliment to what I have been studying. I would like to recommend an awesome book that does an amazing job of covering this topic. The book is called “Fashioned to Reign” by Kris Vallotton from Bethel Church in Redding, CA. The book is a very powerful read and has some of the best thoughts and ideas on this very topic. The imagery in the book is amazing as well. You may have already read it but if not please do!! Thanks for the blog!!


  13. Nicole,

    I always enjoy your posts–this one is no exception, I appreciate the respectful tone of your piece. I must say I am an egalitarian through and through. I was raised in a church which was complimentarian, I understand and respect the view–I simply believe that my marriage is to be mutually submissive. It’ works great for us. I can’t think of a time in our 22 years of marriage where there was an occasion where a decision absolutely had to be made and we were at a standstill and couldn’t work it out–leading to one of us stepping out and making the decision that the other was so against. I can’t see there ever being a time where this would happen. Anyways– keep up the good work…your brother in Jesus….kevin

  14. Great post, Nicole! Thank you so much for sharing your heart. You mentioned a bit about how your church operates – but I am wondering what your take on 1 Timothy 2:12 is. Do you believe this applies to all women or specific women Paul was addressing? If the first, how is it different in a house church setting verses another church?

    1. Emily,
      Great question! Happy to engage, although I can’t go into all of it here and now. I will say that our organic church as specifically addressed and taught one another on this verse and others like it. We have taken into account historical, cultural, and spiritual realities of the time when doing so. As a body, we do not believe, as a result, that this verse applies to women in the church today.

      If you’re interested, however, I would recommend Frank Viola’s thought on Women in Ministry. It is powerful, life-changing stuff. At least for me. It very clearly articulates much of what I feel and believe about women in the church/leadership.

  15. You… Are so good at explaining this! Thank you. This is how I feel… and the blessings of this kind of marriage are nothing less than God inspired and ordained. Man is not so clever to come up with the mystery of how this works.
    Thank you for sharing!

  16. Not that I’m in any position to speak up (since I’m a woman – haha), but I long ago grew tired of the marriage roles debate. Because neither side was answering all my doubts and neither looked like my marriage. I had some tough questions about the natural roles of women and men, and about the verses where women are clearly leading in a front position of the church.

    This post – is beautiful.

    My husband and I work together – and we submit to one another. I do the finances, he works. Because we are a military family, deployments have shown us that we are each just as capable at keeping the house and making decisions as the other. And yet, we work even better together – in harmony.

    I get in “trouble” a lot because my spiritual gifts are teaching and discernment while hubby’s are less “leader-like” and more in line with a behind-the-scenes servant.

    We know couples where their marriage is more complimentarian. It’s just their natural dynamic. I would say ours is more egalitarian in nature – even though I am barefoot in the kitchen with all the kids at my feet – #homeschoolproblems.

    I’m rambling – but THIS: “A third way…a marriage not bound by the philosophies of man or emotional ideals, but filled with His freedom, reflecting His love to all the world.” So much THIS. A marriage that is focused on Christ is going to be strong, and in harmony. Each marriage is going to look different. How can they not, if we agree that each person is unique? But in Christ, it will be a perfect union.

  17. Nicole,
    It really upsets me that you would allow disrespectful comments to remain on your post. You’ve replied to every positive comment and completely ignored the attacks on Rachel. I understand not wanting to encourage more angry posts, but allowing people to attack someone whose writing you actually used in your research for this post is very upsetting. If you don’t want to take a stand against that type of energy on your blog please at least delete them.

    1. Donald,
      I pretty much know how you feel about Rachel, but this isn’t the forum to air your grievances against her. You know too that she and I rarely (if ever) agree on well, anything. But, I have never found her to be anything other than willing to engage, respectful, and approachable. That’s saying something for a blogger as popular as she is.

      Like I encouraged you earlier friend–some rebukes, or admonishments, or corrections falls on deaf ears. Some soil is ripe and some is hard. More than that, you are far too smart to let emotions guide your thinking or comments here. If you want to debate, please debate the topic respectfully, but let us please not attack a person’s character. God judges the heart of man. We can address words, theology, and doctrine but let’s leave the inner parts of a person to the Lord. Thank you, friend! Love to you!

    1. Wow. Talking about sensitive issues like this requires a safe place to ask questions and respectfully disagree with each other. I absolutely do not think Rachel is a saint, and I’m fairly certain she can fend for herself, but she is a person and those comments were not about different mindsets or beliefs, they were a direct attack on her, as a person.

      Because I think people should be respected my entire lifestyle was assumed to be a certain way and I was accused of being judgmental. The hypocrisy of that is amazing.

      These conversations are incredibly important, but they can’t happen without respect.

        1. Ellen,
          As I commented to Angela: “Agreed and to set your mind at ease, I have directly addressed the off-topic, snarky, and mean comments privately with both parties involved.” As well as here on the blog as of now.

  18. “…Not because I think I’m right or I’ve landed on some eternal truth, but because I often find discussions such as these to be rather fruitless and distracting. Fruitless in that they do not advance the Kingdom and distracting in that they take our eyes, however briefly, off of Jesus Christ as our Head…” Right?? I love this.
    As a recovering “black and white” thinker, I gravitate towards a lot of what you talked about under “A Third way”. There is so much more value in seeing the good both sides of an arguement have to offer, and an opportunity for unity that I think we, as believers, miss. Thanks for deciding to “enter the conversation”. :)

  19. Nice post, Nicole. I agree that neither camp has a monopoly on the truth, and your third way is the most all-encompassing. It is a testament to the brave woman you are to speak your mind on as divisive a subject as this, as exemplified in these comments (who *is* Donald Borsch?).

    1. That’s an understatement. The phrase “pompous ass” also comes to mind. It is an exhibit of anything else BUT a Christ-like spirit.

  20. as we ponder these questions of Love, submission, and respect, it may be helpful for us all to take a step back, and to look at us…the body of Christ and remember we are His bride. we are the fulfillment of the Proverbs 31 ‘woman’, we are the Shulamite woman in Song of Songs.

    when Paul admonished us to no longer regard one another according to the flesh, it can be seen he was referring to viewing ourselves ‘in’ The Spirit, redeemed, reunited, and renewed, and rejoicing as His bride.

    ” See, then, how exactly ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil; because of this become not fools, but — understanding what [is] the will of the Lord, and be not drunk with wine, in which is dissoluteness, but be filled in the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the God and Father; subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of God.” ~ Paul

    1. awesome our life is hid in Christ (spirit) but we exist in the flesh and must follow the divine order for this life in the flesh to maintain harmony in the spirit.

  21. I got married in September and it wasn’t until a few months before I found someone else who held your view, Nicole. Our marriage counselor shared all these heretofore new ideas, and I was so relieved to hear them because the other two (only two) views that the church was shouting about didn’t sit well with me.

    I’m so glad we’re not the only ones now!

  22. We are egalitarian. We started off complimentarian and as we both grew to understand more about it, read more widely, hear from other healthy egal couples we slowly made the transition. Honestly? it’s not THAT much different from how we were operating before. We both believe if a couple is doing egal right & doing comp right YOU LAND IN THE SAME PLACE. Both roads -done correctly- have literally the same outcomes. But then that’s just basic 101 obedience to God.

    Our marriage has been so hard and challenging as well that it seems no approach is ever going to be “perfect” for us…other than straight up each of us 100% committing to loving one another daily in action. That’s all there is for marriages as weary and broken as ours.

    God is faithful though, that’s all I know. I don’t mind discussions like these…I tend to learn from them. I am a bit defensive against comp marriage but only in that it threatens me and I see my brokeness in regards to my fears of being controlled.

    Anyway, thanks for writing this out for us!

  23. I totally wrote what I thought on your IG but I really enjoyed this piece. Thank you for yor thoughtfulness, I considered writing something similar titled “the C word”, maybe still.

  24. Nicole, I entered this post through a tweet you put out there. I thought ‘hmmm..Nicole always writes from her heart. This should be a good read’. And it was. I just don’t understand why people have to get on the comment section and “correct” the blogger when all they are doing is speaking from the heart. It gives a feel that people get threatened if another speaks honestly and it didn’t fit in with their belief. Honestly, it does not further the Kingdom (as Nicole said)…She was being real . It very frustrating to see sisters and brothers “correct” others on line…it is like some hunt for it and get some sort of satisfaction from it. Feels like pride. : (

  25. Although this is a bit late, I just wanted to say that was an interesting article regarding roles in marriage. I myself am not in neither the comp or egal camp as see some flaws on both sides. I posted on my blog my own views of the theology regarding headship and roles in marriage if you like to check out for yourself.

  26. I myself am not completely in the comp nor egal camp and rather go beyond both these groups in understanding true the biblical meanings and doctrines. In fact, that is what my blog is all about. I like what you said, very interesting points.

  27. Born Again Christians DON’T care about murder victims and think that murdering innocent children is just a BIG DEAL, so long as the serial killer who does proclaims Jebus as his “personal savior”.

    Born Again Christians think that it’s OK to MURDER people just as long as you say the magic words and as jebus into your heart.

    Born Again Christians think that murder is no more evil than stealing a piece of candy and that it’s just a big deal.

    Born Again Christians do not care that Valentina is dead.

  28. I loved this post! I agree with you wholeheartedly, and will be reading it again. I don’t know what I am (complementarian or egalitarian), but I WILL say that I have always felt that in a home of believers, with maturity and sincerity, the natural ebb and flow of headship and submission will exist. I didn’t really learn much about the expression of submission, as a wife, until I read the book “Love and Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. Book practically gave me a panic attack. I was not exactly anywhere remotely close to where I was supposed to be. Submission is scary for some women — especially Type A’s (eh hem…). But I think the fear comes from a lack of trusting the husband. Heavy stuff. Great stuff! Again, loved the post, sister.

  29. and a woman I do not suffer to teach, nor to rule a husband, but to be in quietness,
    – Youngs Literal Bible 1 tim 2:12 is that really in the bible?

  30. Hello, Nicole. We met a while back when you and your husband hosted a 30th Birthday Party for Juice.
    Anyways, this is the first post I have ever read of yours, and I found it very well-written and insightful! I hope it is not true that you are done blogging, even though I see it has been over a year since your last post. But, you still have your page up so maybe there’s hope???
    Keep it up and God bless!

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