How I Became an Egalitarian: Marital Strife

This is Part 11 in a series that began here.

The Bible study on 1 Timothy 2 and its sequel on Genesis 2 and 1 Corinthians 11 pretty much blew everything out of the water for Sam and me.  After the first study, we came home and had a long discussion about it.  At first, we were united in how we marveled over the way Pastor Dora had opened God’s word to us.  We asked evaluative questions like, “Could this be true?  How come we never saw these passages like this before?”  But because it had really felt like she opened God’s word to us — the conclusions were so logical and clear — those questions sprung more out of awe than disbelief.  We knew, though, that accepting it meant facing the “now what?” question.  Sam and I both knew that “now what” meant restructuring everything we had believed and understood about gender roles.  We were on the precipice of a great upheaval.

As we discussed the Bible study, Sam shared that from his earlier experience on the mission field, he could agree with women teaching, but to have full authority as pastor — that was another story.  When he articulated that thought, I got angry.  I felt personally offended, though I did not understand why fully at that time (since my understanding of my calling was still clouded).

Our conflicted opinions propelled me to get to the bottom of it all.  I got out of bed that night and started studying the passage again.  Sure, this is what Pastor Dora had helped us realize, but is there really support for all of this?  Did other Christian scholars come to the same conclusion?  Somehow, he and I both knew that our whole gender role paradigm hinged on this passage.  If it was true that Paul was not prohibiting women from teaching and having authority, then it could also mean that God made men and women to be image-bearers of equal value and worth.  The implication would be that males were not superior or more spiritual than females and nor were they to be at the top of a hierarchical pyramid.

So we began to dig into this passage as well as others.  Every day, I would read scholarly journal articles about these passages, and every night, Sam and I would hash it all out.  The conversations were sometimes calm and rational and sometimes heated with high emotions.   It was hard work to keep pushing to come to an agreement on these passages — a little like rolling out dough or scrubbing out the burn marks in a pot — but we knew we had to resolve this issue.   And so we talked and debated over the issue for days and weeks and months.

The more we read and the more we talked about it, the more it became clear what the Bible was really saying.  The Spirit gives gifts according to how he chooses.  God calls people based on who he has gifted, and that giftedness is not based on gender.  Both men and women can be called to be pastors, teachers, preachers, and evangelists.

We also explored the Ephesians 5 passage on marriage, in depth (Here is the series I wrote on this passage).  Our conclusion there was that marriage is a partnership between two equals.  Submission is not a command for just the wife but the husband as well.  We submit to one another as we are submitted to Christ.  We realized as we studied the passage that we had been under the misguided belief that the husband was to be the spiritual leader.  The Bible never teaches this.  The Bible never teaches that I had to bury vision that God had revealed, just because he had revealed it to me and not Sam.  Instead, the Bible teaches that the Spirit has been poured out to both men and women.  As Christians, both men and women have the ability to hear from God and to lead out what they have heard.  In  marriage, wives don’t need to take the backseat.

Where there is Truth, there is freedom.  Where there is the Spirit, there is freedom.  And Sam and I felt, for the first time in our marriage, true freedom.  Gone was any strife that we had been feeling because we had been trying to fit a prescribed mold of marital roles.  And gone, at last, was the strife from needing to hash out these passages.

But were we ready to call ourselves egalitarians?  And what would be the implications?

Click here for the next part in the series.

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