Sermon by John Piper
One of the 30-year theological trademarks of Bethlehem is the way we understand God’s purposes for how men and women relate to each other in family and church and society. If you want a name to put a name on this understanding, we would say we are complementarian — based on the word “complement” (with an “e” in the middle, not an “i”). In other words, we believe that when it comes to human sexuality, the greatest display of God’s glory, and the greatest joy of human relationships, and the greatest fruitfulness in ministry come about when the deep differences between men and women are embraced and celebrated as complements to each other. They complete and beautify each other.
The intention with the word “complementarian” is to locate our way of life between two kinds error: on the one side would be the abuses of women under male domination, and on the other side would be the negation of gender differences where they have beautiful significance. Which means that, on the one hand, complementarians acknowledge and lament the history of abuses of women personally and systemically, and the present evils globally and locally in the exploitation and diminishing of women and girls. And, on the other hand, complementarians lament the feminist and egalitarian impulses that minimize God-given differences between men and women and dismantle the order God has designed for the flourishing of our life together.
So complementarians resist the impulses of a chauvinistic, dominating, and abusive culture, one the one side, and the impulses of a sex-blind, gender-leveling, unisex culture, on the other side. And we take our stand between these two ways of life not because the middle ground is safe place (which it is emphatically not), but because we think this is the good plan of God in the Bible for men and women. “Very good,” as he said in Genesis 1.
In fact, I would say that the attempt by feminism to remedy the male abuse of women by nullifying gender differences, backfires and produces millions of men that women cannot enjoy because of their unmanliness, or cannot endure because of their distorted, brutal manliness. In other words, if we don’t teach boys and girls about the truth and beauty and value of their differences, and how to live them out, those differences do not mature in healthy ways — but dysfunctional ways. And a generation of young adults comes into being who simply do not know what it means to be a mature man or a woman; and the cultural price we pay for that is enormous.
The way I would like to approach this is move from the general to the specific: a word about being human, an illustration about being male and female, and then a specific text to show the Biblical roots.
First, a word about being human. My first Sunday at Bethlehem, July 13, 1980 in the evening I gave a message titled “Life Is Not Trivial.” In it I said,
Every human being now and then feels a longing that life not dribble away like a leaky faucet. You’ve all tasted the desire that day-to-day life be more than a series of trifles. It can happen when you are reading a poem, when you are kneeling in your closet, when you are standing by the lakeside at sunset. It very often happens at birth and death.
I quoted Moses from Deuteronomy 32:46, “Lay to heart all the words which I enjoin upon you this day, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no trifle for you but it is your life” (RSV). Deep in every God-created human being, bearing the insignia of humanity in the image of God, there is a longing for life not to be meaningless. Not be trivial, frivolous, inconsequential.
To read the entire sermon or to download sermon audio and video, please see: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/god-created-man-male-and-female-what-does-it-mean-to-be-complementarian
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