Wedding bells are ringing at Calvary Chapel Turlock as a few of our young couples are approaching their special day of matrimony. So accordingly, I've been thrust into the role of pre-marital counselor. These foundation-building sessions have been great as I really enjoy getting to know the individuals involved and helping them prepare for their walk down the aisle and a life of wedded bliss. Our times together are dedicated to listening, discovering, and learning. I always begin the first meeting with Ephesians 5:22, as we simply march through the straightforward roles God has established for husband and wife, and then we discuss some of the natural ramifications of those roles.
As we hash through the basics of our job descriptions within the marriage covenant, I am struck by how little the church does to emphasize and teach these roles in a general sense to the greater body, and especially to our youth. The core duties for both husband and wife are quite clear from scripture, but it seems that most of the instruction on these particular requirements either comes from the home or it doesn't come at all. The church at large seems a little negligent in equipping its young for a life of marriage.
Now if you're a "through-the-Bible" kind of church like we are, you will only encounter role differences between men and women when you arrive upon them in the dedicated flow of scripture. We find their delineation in only a handful of places at best, and most notably in Ephesians 5:22-33. So you could theoretically teach through the entire Bible in twelve to fifteen years, and only specifically cover the roles of husbands and wives four or five times. Once every few years whether you need it or not!
Now many would argue that God must have intended it this way, and if He wanted it otherwise, He would have given our role differences greater occurrence in the Word. Perhaps. But do we feel this way about tithing? Though we may not teach on financial giving constantly from the pulpit, we do repetitiously receive our tithes and offerings on a weekly basis, which though unspoken, is a bold and consistent form of instruction and example. No one could sit in our churches for long without coming to the clear conclusion that sacrificial giving is extremely important, whether or not it is addressed overtly in a sermon. The same goes for worship and fellowship.
As I'm thinking through issues of the family recently, and considering our young couples on the verge of committing themselves to one another in marriage, I recognize that Christians as a whole are often as misinformed about our assigned role differences as the world is. There doesn't seem to be a clear Biblical standard emanating from the church as much as there is a common surrender to the culture and its definitions of man and woman. And worse, sometimes the church is intentionally unbiblical in its interpretation and application of our God given roles as we mimic the world in form and thought. The church, in some cases, has been a culprit in gender confusion, and therefore, marriage confusion.
I have three daughters and one son. I do not want them standing clueless at the altar someday, bewildered as to what is expected of them when they slip that ring onto the finger of their beloved. Nor do I want them seeking out marriage counseling because the first years of matrimony were a tangled maze of role confusion and misunderstanding. God has defined expectations, and they are different according to our sex. But are we teaching our young people that fact? Do they have a foundational understanding of their assigned roles? As I look around the church in general, I have to say "no."
So what should we do to raise our youth to understand what God expects of them in marriage if it is only addressed specifically a handful of times in scripture? Because although I want the youth at CC Turlock to grasp in confidence their roles, I don't want them to neglect the rest of scripture to do it. They need to learn the whole of the Bible, but still master the foundational issues of life and family from a Biblical perspective. I believe the answer lies in gender specific application.
Our youth group, like most evangelical youth groups, meets midweek. They have a time of fellowship, a time of games, a time of prayer, and a time of study. One of its great strengths is a dedicated time of separation between the sexes to apply what they've just heard in the study. The women take the young ladies aside, as the men take the young men aside, and instruct them how to apply what they've just learned within the specific confines of their role differences.
Take for instance the subject of purity. That's a great study and very needed in a nation where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now says that 25% of teen girls have an STD. Yes, one out of four teenage girls in America has been subjected to a disease that comes solely from sexual immorality. It's rampant and out of control. But the life of purity and the needed safeguards for sexual virtue are going to look very different between the sexes. That which is alluring and tempting to a teenage boy is very different from that of a teenage girl. Quite simply, the application of Biblical instruction often needs to be gender specific to be effective, thorough, and complete, regardless of the subject matter. Not only is the lesson driven home more effectively, it is absorbed within the context of our role differences.
Dividing our youth group into male and female for practical application of the Bible study has been one of the most valuable aspects of the ministry. It teaches our young people that they are in fact different, and that God has a different calling for them based upon the sex that He gave them. God created them fundamentally separate, why not work within the confines God established all the way back in Eden? I pray that when these youths get ready to tie the knot, they will not only know their Bibles comprehensively, but that they will know their God assigned roles within marriage, and that their matrimonies would truly be wedded bliss.