I have the privilege of knowing many Christian women who love Jesus, believe the Bible, respect their husbands, and have a strong distaste for any beliefs or behaviors that contradict the Scriptures. I have empathy for the struggle these Christ-honoring women have with those who advocate “gender equality.” They have long heard the significant men in their lives, including their pastors from the pulpit, declare the Scriptures teach that though women are equal in worth to men, they are not equal to men in authority. Men, it is declared, are designed by God to be “over” women in Christ’s church, are the God-ordained authority in Christian families, and are the ones to whom Christian women are to “submit as unto the Lord.”
If you are one of those women who struggle with the notion of gender equality because you believe it contradicts the Scriptures you love and the Lord you serve, then I would encourage you to read this short primer from a man who loves the Scriptures as much as you (and believes them to be the inspired and infallible Word of God), desires to honor Christ in his family and his church, and has as strong of a distaste for beliefs or behaviors that contradict Scripture as you. In other words, I am a conservative, Bible-believing, Christ-honoring, evangelical – just like you. There are 5 important things I want to remind your identity as a Christian woman.
1. The only spiritual authority in your life is Jesus Christ, for you are called a “priest unto God.”
Christian men who teach that Christian women are “under the spiritual authority” of another man – be it their husband, or their pastor, or their father – have substituted the authority of a man for the authority of Christ. When the Bible calls a Christian woman a “priest unto God” (Revelation 1:6; I Peter 2:5), it means that nobody comes between you as a woman who follows Jesus and Jesus’ authority in your life. There will always be gifted men and women who come alongside you to encourage you, to give you wisdom, and to help you in life – but nobody else has authority over you. The world lives by the concepts of authority and power, granting positions of power and authority to people so that they can rule over and control others. Jesus said to His followers, “This is not the way it shall be among you. Whoever wishes to be great among you must become your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26). Notice, Jesus did not say the great ones in His church are His servants; Jesus said the great ones in His church are your servants. Meaning, any man who demands your submission and uses power or authority to dominate and rule over you is contradicting the teachings of Christ, and is a man that should be resisted for his own good.
2. You are no more released from the obligation to love your husband than your husband is released from the obligation of submitting to and serving you.
When the Apostle Paul gives instructions for how a Christian man and woman are to relate to one another in the family and the home (see Ephesians 5:21-33), he says that husbands and wives are to love each other as Christ loves the church and to serve each other as Christ serves the church. For some reason, evangelical conservative men who love the Scriptures unintentionally skip or ignore Ephesians 5:21, where Paul says we all – men and women – are to submit to one another by serving one another. It’s almost as if conservative, Bible-believing Christian men and women think that the role in marriage is for the husband to love, and the wife to submit. No, not at all. The role in a Christian marriage is for both the husband and wife to love each other and to submit to each other. In a shame-filled, curse-filled home, the husband and wife will attempt to manipulate and control the other person, always fighting to get ahead and above the other. But in a grace-filled home where Christ is Lord, the man and the woman are always seeking to serve the other, fighting (if you will) to come under and support the other person. (See this article for a more detailed explanation of a curse-filled home). By the way, for the man who says, “But if I serve my wife, then I’m not reflecting Christ’s power and authority over the church. When does Christ ever serve the church?” – Answer:Jesus Himself says that in His Kingdom, He (Jesus Christ) serves His church (see Luke 12;37). Therefore, the Christian husband is just as obligated to serve his wife, as his wife is obligated to love her husband like Christ loves the church. It’s mutual love, mutual submission, and mutual servanthood.
3. The image of God is as much seen in the woman He created, as it is in the man He created.
Many Christians have an image of God as a man. The invisible, immortal God is “not a man.” In fact, God will often represent Himself as female. God says to His people: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:15). In Calvin’s commentary on this verse, the great orthodox theologian writes,
“God did not satisfy himself with proposing the example of a father, but in order to express his very strong affection, God chose to liken himself to a mother, and calls His people not merely children, but the fruit of His womb, towards which there is usually a warmer affection.” (John Calvin)
In Genesis 1:27 it is said, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; maleand female he created them.” The male and the female were created by God. The male and the female both bear the image of God. The male and the female are both included in the Hebrew word adam (man) –“So God created (adam )… He created them.” Notice that God says “so that they (the man and the woman) rule over the animals.…” (Genesis 1;26). The male and the female were both designed by God as equals in the co-regency of the world God created.
Any system, any society, any organization that places one gender as an authority over the other, whether it be patriarchal or matriarchal in nature, is a direct violation of the command and design of the Creator God. When God calls and gifts a person to accomplish a task, restrictions to the accomplishment of that task never take the form of gender. The notion that women can’t do some spiritual things that men can do in the church or in the home – like teach, lead, etc. – is a contradiction of the Scriptures themselves.
4. Your identity and worth as an individual should come solely from who you are by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and not your marriage.
Jesus said, “At the resurrection, people will neither marry nor be given in marriage…” (Matthew 22:30). Marriage is something that is not eternal. At some point, marriage will end for everyone. If a Christian marriage comes to an end, it is possible for the newly single Christian to find the same fulfillment and joy here and now that he or she will experience eternally. A divorcee who trusts Christ, a graced widow or widower, or even Christian singles who have never married have as much personal value, identity and significance as any married Christian. In fact, it might be said that there is an advantage for the Christian who is not married; he or she has the opportunity to understand how to function individually now as Christ intends us to function eternally in the resurrection. .
Since all marriages will one day end for everyone, then there should be little emphasis on the form of one’s family, and a much greater emphasis on the function of individual Christians within whatever kind of family unit they are in. What is our function or purpose as followers of Jesus? We are to love others as Christ has loved us (John 13:34). When we learn to function in love, we never fail; even though the form our family once took has come to an end (I Corinthians 13:8).
5. Discover how God has gifted you, love and serve other men and women, and never back down from a servant leadership role, even if you find yourself leading men.
For years I have sought to show that the teachings of the New Covenant Scriptures and the emphasis of Jesus Christ concerning leadership and service in the Christian church and Christian homes is based on giftedness and not gender
. Your identity as a Christian woman is found in the grace of God in Christ, and His callings and gifts to you. Avoid placing restrictions on yourself because you are a woman.
May God, by His grace, set you free to be.