Few Christians would argue that blatant sexism is okay. Yet, sexism with “good intentions” is still sexism. I am one of many women who have been hurt by the church’s teaching that women have equal value to men but not equal opportunity. I am one of many women who has bought into the lie that men can do more than women can in the Church and in the family. I am one of many women who finds my value being determined by the church rather than by Christ. I am one of many women who is tired of her talents, gifts, and passions being suppressed by the church.
I realize that I don’t have the historical or traditional view. Let me be very clear: I am arguing that women are called to and capable of being in leadership in the church. I am arguing that, even with “good intentions”, limiting women in the church and in the family is blatant sexism, and is not of God. I do not believe that God gave women gifts that aren’t allowed to be developed and used. I do not believe that God created women to be a sidekick, an inferior being, or a listener at all times. I believe that when the church limits women, they are limiting themselves, their community, and their faithfulness.
My opinion means nothing if scripture doesn’t back it up. Opinions that aren’t biblical aren’t valid. I am someone who would rather believe truth than something that sounds good but is unsupported. I am going to go through each argument for why women should not be limited in the church and the family.
Let me just say now: If you can’t read this with an open mind and open heart, just don’t read it. It’s not going to build community, change hearts, and facilitate relationships if you read this with the goal of creating a fight. If you do have questions or comments, please respectfully send them to me privately. I do not engage in comment debates.
My main point is this: READ SCRIPTURE IN CONTEXT. Although there are many scriptures about this issue, I want to address the most used ones.
(1) Consequence of Sin: Genesis and the Gospel.
When you truly understand the meaning of the Gospel, you understand that the broken relationship between men and women is not what God intended and created. Before the Fall, men and women had equality in their value and opportunity. Both men and women were created in the image of God and the fullness of God. After the Fall, God said to Eve that her husband now had authority over her (Genesis 3:16). This is not the relationship God intended. The consequence for sin included broken relationships between man and woman, husband and wife.
But what we forget is that we are not under the Old Covenant anymore. The Old Covenant was based on humans redeeming themselves through good works, such as sacrifices and following the commandments. Now, we live in a forgiven world. We live in a world where what matters is what Christ already did for us. We are called to live in the fullness of Christ, which includes God’s intended relationship between man and woman. After numerous conversations with both “egalitarian” and “complementarian” pastors, teachers, and individuals, I deeply believe that the divide between what men and women can do in our world, and especially in the church is a sign of Christians constantly forgetting that they’re living in a New Covenant. We are no longer slaves to our sin, to measuring up, to performance, to labels, or to gender. Continuing to tell women that they cannot lead, teach, or hold a position of leadership is the Church being stuck in a pre-Christ world. The consequences God gives for our sin have already been taken by Christ. We not only need to live in freedom as individuals, but as a Church.
God didn’t intend the Fall to continue. We have already been redeemed. We need to live in our redemption. And that includes the redemption of the male-female, husband-wife relationship. But then why are there scriptures that point to different roles for men and women in the New Testament? Context.
Side note: Yes, we are still called to righteousness, as these good works declare His glory to others and are a natural result of a changed heart. But He has paid the price. Of course, there are still earthly consequences for sin. I’m not saying God punishes us, because that punishment has already been taken by Christ. I’m saying that when we hurt people in our lives, our relationships suffer.
(2) Wives, submit to your husbands: ex. Ephesians 5.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is head of the church, his body, and is Himself its Savior. How as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”
There are a few places where this theme is discussed by Paul in his letters. What’s important to notice is that, in context in its full scripture here, Paul is telling all people to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ, and then continues to specifically point out that wives are to submit to their husbands. If you study the history behind this passage, it is very very clear that Paul believes all people are to submit to each other, but the wives in the city of Ephesus were not submitting to their husbands. The issue here is not that wives are only to submit to their husbands. The issue is that all people are to submit to each other, but the women to whom this letter was written needed direct correction for their lack of submission.
Submission is an act that honors God. We are to submit ourselves to each other and to the church because of how it fosters relationships, strengthens the church community, and is a representation the Trinity. Without getting into it to much, the understanding of biblical scholars is that the Father, Son, and Spirit are all fully God and each fully submit to each other. When God’s people do the same, we are representing His fullness.
(3) I do not permit a woman to teach: 1 Timothy 2.
I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
Again, this passage is taken out of context 99% of the time. When you look at the history of this letter, this is a letter from Paul to Timothy. We have to remember that a letter captures something bound in time and place, even though it can be widely applicable to today. This letter is written to Timothy while he is living and leading in the city of Ephesus. Again, the city of Ephesus had a lot of issues at this time, including false teachers and women who wouldn’t submit. Looking deeply at the history, it can be easily seen that Paul is forbidding women of Ephesus to teach because they are false teachers. Paul is not forbidding all women in all places for all of time from teaching. Context is so important. If you look in Paul’s other letters, he doesn’t say this to other communities.
Someone will also point out that I cut off the last section of the scripture, so I’ll address that. It says:
For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
-1 Timothy 2:14-15
Again, context is so important. This kind of talk is exclusively spoken between Paul and the city of Ephesus, whether through his letter to them or to Timothy. There’s a difference between sanctification and salvation. The Greek word used for “salvation” in this passage really means sanctification. Sanctification is the process by which we come more and more like Christ between when we become Christians and when we go to heaven. Thus, it is understood that this passage shows an example for how the women who were false teachers can become more like Christ through raising children in the truth, faith, love, and holiness of God.
So what does this mean?
Men, if you are called to preach, please preach. Women, if you are called to preach, please preach. Men, if you are called to children’s and student ministry, do that. Women, if you are called to children’s and student ministry, do that. Husbands and wives, submit to each other. Men and women, submit to the church.
And ultimately, church, you need to value women. We are more than sidekicks. We were made in the fullness of Christ, in the image of God. I don’t doubt that Christians value men and women, but limiting opportunities is still sexism. This is hard because I’ve bought into this lie almost my whole life, it’s not just a problem with men, it’s a problem with all of us. Church, do more than value women. Realize that you have a huge pool of underutilized gifts, talents, and passions within your congregation.
Questions/comments can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
I am a pretty busy person, so if I don’t respond within a couple of days, don’t be worried.