John Piper’s Message to Ray Rice (Special Episode)


Lightly edited transcript of the Ask Pastor John podcast.

On Monday of this week, new video surfaced of NFL football player Ray Rice — perhaps we can say at this point, former NFL football player — seen knocking his fiancée unconscious in a casino elevator with punches to her face. It’s very disturbing, and it undermines his previous story that he slapped her and she hit her head. When this bombshell video clip released online this week, there was a chorus of outrage, of course, and it has been unanimous. Rice has been suspended indefinitely from the NFL. He played for the Baltimore Ravens, who are playing the Steelers right now. The Ravens organization now admits to a total failure in addressing the situation prior to the video release. The football commissioner himself is under fire right now over the timing of when he was made aware of the graphic elevator video. Pastor John, from a creation standpoint, we believe God created men and women distinctly. So why do we know inherently that men are not to mistreat women, but to protect and serve them? And in this situation, what do complementarian Christians say to Ray Rice?

Complementarians have a very special word for Ray Rice, and the thousands of men like him. So let’s clarify what we mean by “complementarian” so that the word will land with understanding. Complementarians say men and women are different in deep and important ways, not just physical and surface ways, and that these differences God has designed, for our good, have profound influence on the way we relate to each other and what roles God wants us to take up.

The word complementarian (spelled with an –e– in the middle, not an –i–) comes from being complementary to each other, that is, each being a complement to the other, like in doubles competition in Olympic ice-skating. The moves of the man and the woman complement the other. Together they make something beautiful to watch that is more than just each of them excelling on their own.

This means that complementarians don’t think all the roles defined for us are based merely on competencies. So in a relationship you don’t just ask: Who is smarter? Or more articulate? Or physically stronger? Or faster? Or a better reader? Or neater? And so on. You ask, more significantly and more fundamentally: Is the man as man,created by God with a built-in deep sense — an inclination, a disposition, something deeper than cultural, deeper than societal, deeper than upbringing — a sense of responsibility deep in his soul to nurture and provide for and protect and take life-giving initiatives with the women in his life?

Complementarians answer that question yes. Man — as God created him, not as sin has distorted us, butman as man — senses deep in his masculine soul, “It is my special responsibility to show special care for and provide for and protect and be hope-giving and life-enhancing and woman-ennobling in the initiatives that I take in relation to the women in my life” (knowing this will look different from one relationship to the other, say, to the woman who brings the mail to the house or the bank teller or the woman police officer or his wife or his daughter or his mother).

But in every relationship he will know himself to be a man relating to awoman. And he will shape his relationship according to these deep, caring, protective, honoring, initiative-taking, God-given, impulses.

So complementarians base all of this on the teachings of the Bible, teachings like:

“Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them” (Colossians [3:19]).

Interview with John Piper
Read more at Desiring God

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