For years we have had this collection of short articles posted on line and we slowly add to them as new topics come up. We don't claim to have all the answers, but we're sharing how we see things. As we all share, our perspectives are widened, and it becomes easier to lay aside fear and dead religion and to choose instead pathways of freedom, boldness, and love. We hope you enjoy the mythbusters.
Myth #14 -- Men Are In Charge Of Women
We believe in equality of men and women in both marriage and ministry. Widespread misunderstandings and mistranslations resulting in gender hierarchy are damaging to people, marriages, and to the Body at large.
The greater principles of the Gospel should be all we need to guide us in all of our relationships. The greater principles of love and mutual servanthood should be in effect within marriages, rather than being set aside for man made doctrines of hierarchy. Gender hierarchy in both marriage and ministry is a form of spiritual abuse.
As it related to the cultures of it's time, the Bible was always radically releasing to women in both marriage and ministry. We'll look at Ephesians, chapter 5, to highlight how Scripture is mistranslated and mistaught when it comes to this subject.
The Letter to Ephesians - For Us, But Not To Us
Ephesians is not a letter written to Western marriages. It is a letter written to Christians who were living in a culture where marriage was a type of slavery. Young teens were wedded to middle-aged men in order to bear them a legal heir. It is difficult for us to imagine the level of degradation and hopelessness these wives must have experienced... perhaps more than the slaves since freedom would never be a possibility. Paul was not intending to set up gender hierarchy in marriage in these passages any more than he was endorsing slavery by encouraging slaves to submit to their masters. He was simply referring to the slavery that was already a part of their secular culture. If you really want to understand the truths in this passage, it is crucial to take into account the extreme cultural situation that Paul was addressing. Women were on a level with children, perhaps lower. They had no rights and no voice. Take a look at middle eastern cultures and women today to get an idea of what Paul was dealing with.
Paul, The People Reformer
Paul saw social reform as a by-product of healed people who had a new vision for life... a vision that left no one out. He had a heart for the kings and leaders of those nations as well as the slaves. That is why he did not teach Christians to rebel from the established order.
Paul was not a social reformer-- he was a people reformer. In all of his writings he encouraged men and women to maintain the outward forms of their culture, as long as that form did not directly conflict with their faith, so that the Gospel would not be lost to that culture. In matters of the heart, however, he called for total, immediate revolution.
Submit to One Another
Paul tells all Christians to "submit to one another". By "submit", he means "underset". A perfect example is his own stated goal of seeing everyone else as greater than himself so that he would never condescend to another. Paul's directive to men was more powerful, in light of that culture, than we realize. The encouragement to love their wives as Christ loved the church is not a general illustration, but a specific one. He reminded the men of the low position that the church had been in before she was redeemed... that she needed washing and cleansing until she could be 'presented' as a bride to Christ. The word "present" in the Greek is literally translated "beside-standing". We stand as perfect as Jesus before God, and therefore just as qualified to inherit the Kingdom. Because men had authority in that culture, they were to use their position to lift the wives to equality in the relationship, thereby washing them from the shame of their positions in that culture. Paul was not setting up gender hierarchy and he is not placing the husband as a mediator between the wife and God. He was describing how husbands would accomplish the "submit yourselves one to another" with their wives in spite of their culture. He was telling the Ephesian husband how to serve the wife. It is vital to understand this part of Scripture, not only so we can understand God's intent for marriage, but so we can grasp our position in Jesus.
Love and Respect
Paul encouraged wives to respect their husbands. Likewise, the admonition to love the wife, specifically in a way that would lift her, would be a complete departure for Ephesian men. Many people teach from this passage that women are created to need more love, and men just naturally need more respect. But Paul is not being a psychologist here. King David said to Abigail, "...lo, I have respected you..." before he married her. We all need love and respect. Paul is not getting into fluffy, flowery philosophy here, either. He is being completely practical. What Paul is going for is a healed Ephesian marriage that would, by it's wholeness and peace, rock Ephesian culture without bruising a reed.
The Heart of Scripture Reversed
It is wonderful that today in secular American culture, the rights of women have grown to near equality as a result of the women's movement started by evangelical Christian men and women early in the last century. What a sad irony that the fallen secular Ephesian system of gender hierarchy that Paul tried to peacefully heal is being revived in fundamental western evangelical circles! The result is a divorce rate that is higher now in the Body than in the world.
The Fall, When Male Dominance Began
I can't close without throwing light on an Old Testament word that is wrongly used to drive a huge nail into the coffin lid of gender hierarchy. Eve was created as a "help". The Hebrew word for "help" is "ezer". Everywhere else in the Old Testament that it is used, "ezer" describes the coming help of God, or, in a few cases, an army. In short, there is no hint of hierarchy in it. In fact, logically, one could defend the case for a superior woman with it. The Lord blessed male and female and gave them both dominion. It was when we fell that death, sickness, and male dominance entered the world. God told Eve that she would seek relationship, but would instead be controlled. Doctrines of hierarchy still exist because what God predicted is still in the hearts of fallen people even after they find God - they seek to control or be controlled. But in Jesus, these things are redeemed.
"Order", The Excuse for Hierarchy
So what next? How does an equal marriage function? Who leads? The answer is the Spirit. Again, it is only in the absence of His Spirit that we fall back into a role-based order. This type of relational structure creates an outside appearance of order that is false and crushing. It is the authority of the world and of man, not of God. True order comes from serving each other and following Jesus. There are no mediators, not even husbands, between God and humans except Jesus. Order in marriage and ministry is not achieved by bringing heavy-handed roles to bear. Order is a by-product of healthy people who are led by His Spirit. In the absence of His Spirit, people will begin to lean on role-based religion. The result will be strained, performance-based relationships, and crushed, hurting people. The effects of these man-made doctrines are staggering, leading to high statistics of emotional and physical abuse within Christian homes. Don't be unequally yoked. That verse is commonly applied to the marriage of believer to unbeliever... but if we are both believers, the yoke should be equal.
Real Men Have Equal Marriages
An equal marriage is a place where a deep friendship based on trust, love, and mutual servanthood can grow. From this foundation, a fruitful and healthy family and ministry can grow, too Few people seem to understand that ministry itself is the by-product of whole, joyful, loved, released people. How silly it is to be fooled into thinking women are spiritual for denying the gifts He gave them. The gifts that God gave all of us without regard to race, age or gender, were meant to be expressed. Revival is always historically accompanied by women flourishing in ministry. The degree to which we limit women in marriage and ministry shows how far we are from enlightenment and revival.
For more info, cbeinternational.org... filled with great resources.
Blessings, Wendy Francisco