This article was first featured on JoryMicah.com as “The Great (Unnecessary) Christian Gender Debate”.
“Mom said I’m in charge, so you have to do what I say.”
Anyone who grew up with siblings can attest to the cringe-worthy effects that statement has. Parents go out for the evening and give instructions to tidy up the house. An older brother or sister comes in, tries to pull rank, and what you thought was going to be an easy job quickly becomes a battle of wills.
This may sound familiar and bring back memories we can laugh about now, but for many, this scenario hits far too close to home in a different way: the power struggle between children of God.
While Godly structure is appropriate, the way we are defining and propagating it has detrimental effects not only on marriages today, but also our children, our churches, and ultimately, our call to fulfill the Great Commission. Like children whose parents have gone out for the night, we are arguing about who is in charge instead of getting to work cleaning the house.
With complementarianism zeal to decode Biblical passages about authority and headship, the focus turns completely away from specific instructions given to all of us to love and serve. We hit a road block when Complementarians set themselves up to decide in what capacities others are allowed to serve.
My challenge today is to question the necessity of the Complementarianism vs. Egalitarianism debate itself. We do a great disservice to ourselves and our efforts to spread the gospel by focusing on headship.
We step away from following Christ when we take our eyes off the task at hand and start looking around at who is and isn’t leading and/or being led. We set ourselves up to judge instead of love. Unfortunately, as long as Complementarians insist on debating, Egalitarians will be forced to engage.
The people who are truly loving and serving are much too busy to be concerned about who is boss. The whole message of the Gospel is servant leadership. This is why we have no record of Jesus telling the disciples that He is in charge and they were required to submit to him. Can you imagine?
Jesus was not concerned about making sure the disciples knew he was “the head”. He was too busy washing their feet. An unhealthy emphasis on headship is in stark contrast to the character of God. It does not ring true to the nature of Christ. Jesus says He is “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29).
And yet so many women who want to be “good Christians” acquiesce not only their place but also their ideas, will, dreams, and oftentimes their self-worth and identity to the heavy-handed “leadership” found in complementarian thought processes. As an aside, I think it’s more than a little ironic that the Greek word for head κεφαλή-“Kephale” is a feminine noun.
A husband who is truly obeying the call of Christ to serve and submit to his wife will never be found discussing or condemning his wife for lack of submission, nor would he feel the need to establish dominion as head.
In marriages that seek to define who is “over” the other, love quickly starves and weeds of resentment grow where grace once flourished. I can tell you firsthand marriages like this fail. They may not always end in divorce, but they die nonetheless.
Many women are living in marriages void of love and kindness, spiritually and emotionally dead, because their husband has established dominion as being “head” and thinks that is what good leadership requires. It is a reversal and a mockery of what Christ intended.
While it is good and necessary to define boundaries and roles (based on gifts, not gender), we learn from Jesus’ example that labels in and of themselves do not equate to true servanthood and leadership. A strong man and/or woman of Christ will never have to have this debate. They realize simply doing the work of serving and loving fulfills their role and obligation.
Complementarianism is a slippery slope that leads to placing restrictions on how God uses individuals. Saying God designed certain people for certain roles is altogether true, but to then decide what roles those are based on gender is an abhorrent act of self-righteousness that sets oneself up as equal to God Himself.
I can’t help but wonder how many more people would be residents of Heaven at this very moment if the other half of the world’s population were given the opportunity over these past two thousand years to evangelize from a pulpit freely. The Great Commission is to be adopted by all.
Yes, there seems to be (at first reading) passages that could call into question whether or not a woman should hold leadership roles, and I understand wanting to obey scripture, but in the case of unclear interpretation (which is only the fault of the uneducated reader) wouldn’t a person rather err on the side of spreading the gospel? If a person wants to tell others the good news, why stop them because of their gender? What are you truly fighting?
Whether or not women should have leadership roles becomes a moot subject if we are all serving. The doctrine behind the argument is unnecessary if it is being observed correctly. The debate as to who follows who, becomes pointless if we are all following Jesus.
It is a curious system in that the orders and demands are only applicable to oneself. There is no way to force them on others. In fact, they become obsolete when placed on others because one has to forfeit their own position as servant in order to become judge. It is not possible to be in two places at once. One can either point out how others should serve and submit, or they themselves can serve and submit.
Let us back up the debate and focus on the task at hand: spreading the gospel. The good news. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
The only power struggle the Bible encourages is to “outdo one another in showing honor,” or “Prefer one another in Love” (Romans 12:10). In Greek the word is “Proēgeomai–προηγέομαι: To go before and show the way, to go before and lead, to go before as a leader”.
In other words, strive to outdo each other in how much you can lead each other in love. The debate we should be most concerned about is how good we can be at serving others. All arguments about gender will be null and void in light of the true servant love Christ demands of all of us as followers of Him.