There is a difference between “husbands” and “men” just as there is a difference between “wives” and “women.” In conversations of gender roles, this is often garbled. Often times, sermons are given about husbands and wives, and the teaching focuses on what the dynamics of the relationship ought to look like. However, the meaning often gets extended from husbands/wives to men/women.
It is not the same thing at all to say that women (all women) need to submit to men (all men) as it is to say that a man should be the head of a household or lead his family. In church communities, many people end up getting married and therefore find themselves in a husband/wife relationship. However, not everyone does. It is a logical leap to say that since we may think a man should be in charge of his families, we also think men should be in charge women (or the church) in general. Those are different things.
One text which often gets brought up is 1 Timothy 2, in which Paul instructs the church at Ephasus, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” The strict complementarian position is that this scripture applies to all men and women of all times. Another (perhaps much better) way to read this scripture is that Paul was giving specific instructions for a specific church at a specific time. The church at Ephasus where Timothy was serving was in a time of crisis and disorganization. Paul’s letter gets down to business with specific instructions on how they need to operate to fix the problems. (Read more on this here). Given the way Paul praises Phoebe, Apphia, Junia, Priscilla, Lydia, all women who certainly were not silent in their churches and ministries, it seems impossible that Paul could intend this rule of women being silent as a universal command.
In order to realize this truth and intent of this passage, we have search out a bit more context than simply plopping open a Bible and quoting verses at women. When we read at face value, we can quickly end up like Jimothy here and suppose women are only fit for teaching home economics or giving massages. Certainly Paul didn’t think so.
Does God’s gifting or stereotypical gender roles dictate who does what work in my community?
Are young people in my congregation encouraged to exercise their gifts or simply please those in charge?
Have I (actively or passively) kept people around me from exercising their gifts freely?
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