Gender differences aren’t a mandate, but a description

Proverbs 21:19 : It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman. 

1 Timothy 3:11-13 : In the same way, the women[c] are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 5:22-28Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.

Why does the Bible focus so much on gender roles? Are biblical gender roles only a cultural construct, or are there deeper spiritual truths reflected by gender? When people are satisfied in Christ, do they manifest the indwelling of the Holy Spirit differently by gender?

So many biblical women were satisfied with God, but acted in ways that were altogether counter-cultural. Whether it was Esther providing for her people in the face of persecution, Rahab’s quick thinking, Mary Magdalene’s unwavering love for Christ, the risks that Mary (and Joseph) took to ensure that Christ even came to adulthood, or various other biblical heroines, women have been very involved in the story of the gospel, even if they have not always been held in high esteem within their own cultures.

While many women in the Bible are painted as simply coalescing to the traditions they were raised in, the narrative of Christ’s coming throughout the New and Old testament and the decisions many people had to make were radical for both genders. While in the United States, we’ve come up with a very strict sense of what it means to be a woman or man following Christ, we often forget that simply following Christ in the first place is radical. To count a Savior who was defeated by earthly standards in order to exceed Heavenly ones as more valuable than your family, homeland, income, etc. is a pretty backwards concept. To really follow Jesus, you have to be willing to do it all wrong.

May I suggest that gender roles as depicted in the bible aren’t what we’ve made them out to be? I have considered these questions for quite some time, and I deeply believe that each of the verses I’ve included above represent one of two descriptions. The first quotation from Proverbs represents a woman who is unsatisfied. The other two verses represent families that are satisfied, and capable of building up one another. I really don’t think the original authors of these scriptures intended for them to become some cultural, spiritually-castrated set of rules and regulations for how men and women are “supposed to behave”. I think Paul gives these illustrations in order for his audience to know what satisfied people look like, and to try to be like them.

To some extent, men and women are different, but shrouding gender differences in a bundle of cultural assumptions limits the beauty that God is able to bring out of each man or woman. While it is true that leadership in men and women can come off differently depending on the people we’re comparing, Christ alone is the reason any of us can come to be satisfied in the first place. The great joy here is that on an individual level, we have Jesus and we are capable of being grateful and submitted to what he did for us. To some extent, if we become more and more filled with Christ, a lot of these other attributes and gifts will follow, regardless of how they are demonstrated, or the role of gender. Tradition isn’t a bad thing. Individual differences aren’t bad either. Ultimately though, the love of God as demonstrated in Christ surpasses all things, gender differences included. It is a lot easier to focus on God’s love for you and reciprocate with what little you have than to force yourself into roles and duties that don’t follow from being satisfied in the first place.



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I am a teacher-to-be who loves people. I am not afraid of many things. I like to explain my thoughts logically on a very birds-eye view level--I was born thinking that way. I follow Jesus Christ, and I accept only that label to describe my identity--that I am a child of God, as are infinite others, regardless of their other identities. Christ is my one thing.

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