Dear men in the church,
Some of you may be aware that there’s a teensy little debate over the role of women in the church. Should women be elders? Should they be allowed to teach? Can they be involved in leadership? To what extent?
And I wish it was as simple as one person’s opinion verses another person’s, but I realize everyone is trying to justify their answer with the Bible. Because in truth, I’d like to believe most of us in this debate care an awful lot about what God has to say.
So guess what? I’m not going to sit here today and re-debate the same old same old. (Not that I mind a good two way conversation.) I’m not going to start a protest outside your church’s men’s breakfast gathering, or challenge you to a public scripture boxing match.
But I am going to ask you to listen to my story.
Recently I saw a John Piper tweet about women teaching men in seminary, followed by a hailstorm of comments from dissenters and allies alike. And as I processed the comments and the emotions that arose, I had a moment of clarity as to part of why the debate is so hard for me:
It makes me feel like I’m not enough. And it always has.
I grew up as a pastor’s kid, compliant and rule-following, with the exception of whatever rebel stories my mom has on me. And by a young age, I soaked up the belief that men were the head of the house and of the church and I saw the verses that seemed to back that up. From what I gathered, that meant that there were clear and present limitations on what women could do in the church. (Again, not getting into debate here.)
But I realize, despite my fairly balanced religious upbringing, that all these Bible verses were making me nervous. See, I had a growing suspicion that I wasn’t as good as a man…that God maybe saw me as less. In fact, as I read the Bible, I worried that I had two strikes against me in God’s eyes: I wasn’t Jewish (the race that God chose to reveal Himself through) and I was born a female.
Not much I could do about that.
I remember asking my dad once for all the verses on women in the Bible and asking him what God really thinks about us females. I needed to know then, and now, that God’s love and value over me wasn’t tied into my sin, my talents, or my gender. And he graciously supplied me with not one or two verses, but many, covering women from Old Testament to New. And he helped me to see the value of women in the Bible as a whole.
Anyway, as the debate rages, I see the way many people quickly end a discussion about women in the church by pointing to a verse and saying, “Well, that’s what God says. End of story.”
And like I said, it’s not that using the Bible to back up your belief is wrong. (I think it’s actually important.) But please be aware that in debating certain passages, we may be overlooking some very black and white verses that share exactly what God DOES think about women.
And in the intensity of the debate, in the angry back and forth, I think you may not realize the unintended message that some women are internalizing: that we are not worth as much in God’s eyes.
I’m not sitting here asking you to give us dignity.
To borrow from John Perkins, God has given each one of us dignity, and we can’t give it to someone else we can only affirm or deny that God-given dignity.
I’m simply asking that even if you never see women’s roles in the church differently, that you would acknowledge and affirm the God-given worth of women through your words and actions.
Because the Bible also has a lot to say about our worth.
Both men and women were made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27).
God promised to pour out His Spirit on both men and women (Joel 2:29).
We are co-heirs of life with men (1Peter 3:7) and as children of God we’re co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).
Before God we’re not more or less than men, but one in Christ (Galations 3:28).
Further, Jesus valued women, taught them, encouraged them and called them friends. I never saw Jesus diminish or devalue a woman.
Whatever our roles, our value and ability to be used in God’s plan is undiminished by gender.
What does all this have to do with you? I’m simply saying this: it’s still a process for me to fully allow the truth of God’s love and worth to seep in between every crack of who I am, regardless of my gender, race, qualifications or role.
Maybe as a man you’ve never wondered if God sees you as any less than a woman. And maybe you’ve never thought that a woman was less valuable before God.
All I’m asking is that you acknowledge that.
All I’m asking is that when you look your wife in the eyes, you affirm her dignity, worth, and God-given gifts. I’m asking that you consider what it means that God sees you both as equals.
All I’m asking is that when you teach your little girl about what God says about women in the Bible, that you make sure you start by teaching her that God loves her, LIKES her even, just as she is. That she’s not “second-best” or “second-choice”.
I challenge you to teach your daughter that God made her with a plan in mind, and whatever her role or future, it’s no less important than your son’s.
All I’m asking is that when you interact with that woman who serves alongside you in your church that you see her as an integral part of what God is doing in His Kingdom.
And if you find yourself in a sharp disagreement with someone, man or woman, please remember they equally bear the image of your Creator.
And to all the men I know in my church and beyond who have encouraged, mentored, challenged, affirmed me and even disagreed with me in love…thank you. Because YOU are part of why I’m growing to see myself as God truly sees me. And I hope to turn around and do that for others.