Are men and women equal?

Yesterday I happened upon this article written in critique of an Acts 29 Church in Raleigh, NC.  It is entitled,

The Vintage church in Raleigh attracts young college students, but does its anti-women stance collide with its public image? 

I was born in Philadelphia and have lived all but 2 of my years north of the Mason-Dixon Line.  Being one of three girls, I was taught to be self-sufficient, independent to pull my own weight.  I am quite comfortable on my own, and I will admit that there have been occasions when “living in a man’s world” can be aggravating.

But I am convicted that the Bible is the Word of God (2 Tim 3.16), that He has given us standards for holiness (1 Peter 1.15) and that He has written His Law on the hearts of believers such that we would know how to honor Him (Jer 31.33).  And Jesus Himself stated:

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

– John 14.15

The author of this article assumes that for men and women to have gender-specific roles within the body of Christ is to devalue women.  In fact, she quotes a professor claiming that this Church, and by association probably all Acts 29 churches see women as subservient.  And He claims that that is part of their appeal.

Subservient.

If he would have said submissive, I would have walked away from the topic, even though we all cringe at the thought of submission; men and women alike.  But this author would have us believe that reformed traditions have a class system whereby women do not question a ban of male headship over them, stay home and make babies.

Subservient.

I do not go to this church, so I cannot speak to their stance specifically, but I do know much about the Acts 29 network and I would be shocked if they teach that women are subservient to men.  However.  When God created Adam and Eve and they sinned, God gave them very specific curses that plague our genders until this day:

To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.”

Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;
Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.

Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;

By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.”

– Gen 3.16-19

Adam’s curse was that it would now be extremely difficult for him to provide for his family.  The ground was literally cursed because of him, and it fights back against him while he tries to provide food.  Eve’s curse was quite simply great pain in childbirth and a role of submission to her husband even though her spirit longs for control.  Is there any man or woman out there who has not felt the sting or weight of these curses?

The Old Testament then outlines God’s Law and the woman had a peculiar place.  To approach God in His holy tabernacle and temple, one must be clean, and the woman was not considered clean while menstruating.  Women also had the role of leaving their households and moving in with the husband’s family, thus the installment of the dowry or bridal price, to help offset the woman’s family once she was gone.

But when Jesus came and fulfilled holiness by becoming sin on our behalf and offering salvation through faith alone by grace alone, this fundamentally altered the way everyone approached God.  God no longer resides in the holy of holies, the very back of the temple where only the high priest could enter.  God no longer requires sacrifice or external ceremony because Jesus was the final sacrifice and cleanses the sinner from within.  No longer are only the men from the tribe of Levi able to stand before God, but everyone!  All people.  The rest of the tribes of Israel.  Jews and non-Jews.  Men and women.  This was world-changing for men too!  And when Jesus declares a woman clean, she can now pray and approach God when she is menstruating.  Men and women can both approach God after they have had sex (sex used to make one unclean before God for a few days).  We are washed and purified from the inside out.  That is why Paul said:

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

– Gal 3.26-28

We all receive the same salvation.  We all receive it by faith through grace.  We all can pray and approach the throne of God with confidence regardless of race, gender or social status.

But does that make men and women the same?  Physiologically one might laugh at that question.  No, it is physically impossible for men to have babies.  Women, of the whole, are smaller and physically weaker than men.  We are clearly different from one another.  And in the setting of a family, there are roles that cannot be adjusted, physically.  Women will carry the baby if a child is born naturally to the family.  She will nurse the child with milk that she produces.  And she, unless she happens to be super woman, will have to take at least some time off work during the birthing process.

God has established and outlined roles in the home and in the Church whereby He expects us to live.  Men are to love their wives “as Christ loves the Church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5.25).  Men are called to love sacrificially.  To always put his wife and her well being before himself, and to be so dedicated to her that he would die for her.  Women are to respect and submit to their husbands, as the husband does to God.  Picture this with me, a man who loves his wife so much that he does everything that he can to serve her and make her happy.  Is that hard for a woman to respect and submit to?  And a wife honoring her husband and caring for his needs, is she hard to please?

This is the curse for women.  We are under the leadership our husbands, and our spirits want control.  But this is not a blanket statement.  All women do not have to submit to all men.  Just because I am a woman, does not mean that any man can exercise authority over me.  Only my husband would have that role.  And my father gets that responsibility (or joy?) while I am not married.

Then we have the divisive question of women in leadership.  The Bible is extremely clear, that the role of pastor is for a man.  You can see outlines of the qualifications for leaders in 1 Timothy and Titus.  Is it demeaning to say that women may not be pastors?  Only so much as it is demeaning to say that men cannot have babies.  That’s just how God made it.  And it has been this way from the beginning, it is not cultural but natural, and Godly.

We do see Scriptural examples of women serving as deaconesses in the Church.  We also see in the Old Testament Deborah who served as a judge and military leader.  One of the greatest, in fact.  God is not saying that women are lesser, and He does not limit our freedom or abilities in any venue.  He has only given us a specific role in the home and church, and that is not demeaning.  So if you want to be president, or a General in the military, follow Deborah’s lead and rock the world!  If you want to start your own company and be successful in business, you will be the almost cliche Proverbs 31 woman!  God blesses that.

Jesus is fully God, He is the Lord of our lives and the universe and He will be the final judge at the end of the age.  He is in all things, above all things, and the Savior of the World.  But Scripture tells us that He submits to God the Father.  While He was on the Earth, He only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5.19).  Jesus is no less God, but He played the role of following the lead of God the father, making complete the trinity in relationship.  Women, in the home and in the church, get the same role as Jesus.  And men get to be servant leaders.   This is not an allowance of tyranny for men, this is is an expectation of self-sacrifice.

Our core problem is the same all the way around.  We are all seeking our own power, prestige and “rights”.  We as women do not want to be considered inferior, and we feel slighted when God says that pastors are to be men.  We feel like someone is trying to control us when God gives the male leadership over the home.  This is not God’s problem and it is not devaluing us, it is a pride problem.  We want to prove ourselves.  And men, when they exercise their role as authoritative and not putting their wives’ desires and needs above their own are falling victim to pride as well.  When we, as people, submit to God and become servants of one another, women will be loved and cherished and men will be respected and honored.  Let us follow Jesus’ example:

“It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

– Matt 20.26-28

Let’s get over ourselves.

man-and-woman-bathroom-signs

One comment on “Are men and women equal?

  1. Jessa says:

    Thank you so much for this Alison! I read the article based on the headline, and was a bit shocked at how it maligned this church and Acts 29 as a whole. While there are clearly people who do misinterpret and abuse these gender roles, I am so thankful to see a woman (who I know well to be a strong, independent, capable woman!) address this issue in favor of Biblically outlined gender roles. Our church is an Acts 29 plant in Nashville, and Jordan is part time staff. I fully align myself with what I see in Scripture regarding gender, and I have never once felt any less than supported and respected in all I do as a wife, mother, and full time musician by our church leadership. I could say so much in response to that article and your post, but I will suffice to say I agree it is indeed our own pride and self-serving that causes us to bristle at the thought that men and women are different. It also frustrated me to see the condescension and negative attitude in the article toward those who hold more fundamental beliefs, as I believe respecting one another is the only way to achieve any real dialogue on these issues, which you have done here well. Thanks for sharing!

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