The father of one of my sister’s friends focused his PhD research on the plight of poor women in third world countries. His investigations revealed that before and above any other cause, that is to say, one of the problems foundational to the survival of women (and by extension, their families) was the problem of getting enough water. He found that it was typically the women to whom this menial task was assigned and they spent inordinate amounts of time finding and transporting water for their families leaving little or no time for betterment in other areas. This still occurs today in certain places.
As a result of this investigation, the researcher focused his life’s work on efforts to facilitate clean water in poverty-stricken countries. You might say he worked to free women from having to carry the water for everyone else, literally, so they could help themselves out of poverty and, by extension, help their communities. This anecdote reminds me of the danger of restricting women’s roles in the church.
In some patriarchal sects, women are taught that they exist primarily to serve men and rear children, to put it simply. In the more extreme patriarchal groups, women are not allowed to seek higher education or even to work outside of the home except in certain situations. In short, women in such patriarchal groups take on servant roles, doing the care-taking tasks of daily life with few if any other options available to them. Like the women in the PhD study, they are very limited in their choice of life plans and pursuits. Tending to home, spouse, and children are, of course, high callings, and certainly illustrate Christ’s servant leadership, but these specific roles are also taught as virtually the only roles for women in some groups.
Patriarchal men, on the other hand, are free to pursue their needs and goals in whatever way they believe suitable and they are free to enjoy the full range of whatever “spiritual callings” they may.
What is wrong with this picture scripturally? Consider:
- The flesh profits nothing; the spirit gives life (John 6:63). Salvation comes from receiving Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior not by performing roles determined by body parts.
- “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NIV). Spiritual, not physical DNA determines equality in the Body of Christ.
- “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV). Our roles in home, workplace, or church are not tantamount to salvation.
- The Holy Spirit gifts each “man” (hekastos: each one, each man, each woman—Strong’s) as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11), the decisions of a few as to who gets to do what in the Body of Christ notwithstanding.
- Those who believe wives must still suffer the curse of being “ruled over” by husbands (Genesis 3:16) have yet to realize Jesus became “cursed” for the sins of all (Galatians 3:13).
But the bigger picture for all Christians is this: Jesus did the foundational work for us—He “carried the water” of propitiation for sin that all might rise from the poverty and ultimate ineffectualness of man-made religious systems.
Because of Jesus, women are off the hook.
Men are off the hook, too.
Because of Jesus, all are meant to enjoy and profit from the complete range of callings and giftings assigned by the Holy Spirit meant to edify the entire faith community. When one or more are denied access to betterment, so to speak, like the women in the PhD study, all ultimately suffer.
Public domain picture from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Martung_woman_fetching_water.JPG