Men, Women & Biblical Equality

To be perfectly honest, when I was growing up, I never thought much about gender issues within the church.  It just wasn’t something that came across my radar on a regular basis, and as a kid (especially a male kid), I really had no reason to ponder such things.  Men were pastors and deacons, and women worked as secretaries and ran the nursery.  That’s just the way it always was.  It was normal, and everybody seemed to be okay with it.  Why rock the boat, right?  But since I’ve been married, my wife and I have had numerous conversations about Biblical gender roles, and I’m man enough to admit that I had a few things wrong in my understanding.

First of all, I have always been unfairly biased against female pastors.  The whole thing just never sat well with me.  Now, I never believed that women were somehow inferior, or that they were incapable of teaching, or that they should “remain silent” in church.  So why did I have a problem with them preaching?  I think my prejudice arose not from the simple idea of a woman being a pastor, but from what that idea represented to me.  Growing up (and even today to an extent) I always associated female pastors with liberal, watered-down, politically correct churches, and I did not want to be involved with those places.  In fact, my best friend and his family once attended a church with a female pastor, and whenever she prayed, she would call out to “Our Heavenly Parent.”  Ugh.  So for me, female pastoral leadership was just one element among many other progressive, feminist, new age, weirdo ideas that seemed anathema to all I had ever known.  But as you may have guessed, the stance I took greatly offended my wife, and I eventually realized that it was never really based on anything valid or concrete.  It simply bothered me… just because.

However, recently I read an short article called “Men, Women and Biblical Equality,” which is available online at the following LINK.  Basically, the article provides scriptural references and explanation for the equality of men and woman in all things, including serving in the church.  Of course, a lot of the subjects mentioned in the article have never been issues for me (nor are they for most Christian men), including the fact that both men and women were created in God’s image (duh), that Adam was no less culpable than Eve in the Fall, and that the Holy Spirit comes upon men and women alike.  Again, I don’t think these are really areas of contention, and if they are, I can only imagine that it’s by a small, very lonely minority.  But the article also states that “both women and men are called to develop their spiritual gifts and to use them as stewards of the grace of God,” and that those gifts “are to be recognized, developed and used in serving and teaching ministries at all levels of involvement: as small group leaders, counselors, facilitators, administrators, ushers, communion servers, and board members, and in pastoral care, teaching, preaching, and worship.”

Believe it or not, I had literally never thought of it that way.  It really seems like a simple idea.  How could I have missed it?  The Bible never says that only men get certain spiritual gifts and that only woman get others.  Instead, take a look at 1 Peter 4:10-11:

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.  To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.

There are several female prophets mentioned in the Old Testament, including Deborah, the only female judge and a badass who lead a successful military campaign against the king of Canaan.  Then in the New Testament you’ve got Lydia, a reputable businesswoman and supposedly the first European convert to Christianity.  Of course, the most commonly cited example is probably Priscilla, a missionary who (along with her husband Aquila) took Apollos aside and “explained the way of God more accurately.”  Paul also mentions Phoebe, a Roman woman who was probably a deacon in her church, as well as Euodia and Syntyche, two women who “labored side by side” with him in the gospel.  Clearly, Paul didn’t have a problem with women preaching or serving in leadership roles, so why should I?  Yep.  I admit it.  I’ve been an idiot.

The other major issue that I’ve come to understand differently is the idea of submission in marriage.  In the fifth chapter of Ephesians, we often read the verse that says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord,” and we leave it at that.  Therefore, I always got the idea that the husband is in charge and must shoulder the full responsibility for running the show and leading his family.  But later on, Paul also says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  Yeah, it’s that last part that really got me.  As he gave himself up for her.  What could be more submissive than self-sacrifice?  Of course, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble by simply reading the previous passage, in which Paul encourages us all to “submit to one another in the fear of God.”  Facepalm.

Bottom line?  With regard to these issues, I’ve been kind of a dope and can admit when I’m wrong.  I wrote this article for two reasons — first, as a sort of public apology to my wife for being stubborn and thickheaded, and second, as an encouragement to other likeminded men out there.  Hopefully we can all learn to look beyond “tradition” and our often deep-seated prejudices so that we can avoid offending and alienating all the strong Christian women who want to serve.  Thanks and gig e’m.

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