I am so grateful to Rachel Held Evans for this Week of Mutuality and for all of the others linking their thoughts together regarding mutuality between men and women.
I was brought up with traditional gender roles, i.e., women cook and men manage the money. I was also raised and nurtured in a church tradition where women were not able to hold any ecclesiastical office. While I never fully embraced these divisions between males and females, it remains a part of my background. However, I have come full circle from these in which I share in the cooking and laundry and my wife manages the money. I also fully support and advocate for the inclusion of called and qualified women in all church offices just the same as called and qualified men.
One of the arguments that I hear at times, regarding the roles between men and women, is the founding of this distinction between men and women with the words which are spoken at the time of the Fall. I think that it is important to note, first of all, that Adam was with Eve, standing right next to her, when she ate of the fruit. It is difficult to make the argument that women are somehow “weak” or “easily tempted” because Adam didn’t protest, I can only imagine that he was also brought in by the craftiness of the serpent (Genesis 3:1-6).
After they experienced shame for the first time, and God discovered this, there came a series of condemnations. First, God condemned the serpent to crawling on its belly and put a mutual hatred between the serpent and humans. God then tells the woman that she will have pains in childbirth and the famous line “‘yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you’” (Genesis 3:16b, NRSV). But this is not where this passage ends. God goes on to speak to the man: the ground will be cursed, it will be harsh, and the man will toil and sweat in order to eat of the ground as long as he lives.
We must note is that in this passage everyone was cursed in some way, no one received a “get out of jail free” card. In my view, the major thrust of this passage is that everyone involved is imprisoned in some way, everyone is a captive in some way. Furthermore, this is most definitely not part of God’s good design — this was the result of sin! So to argue that men are to rule over women out of God’s design is simply not accurate. This was not the result of God’s design, this was the result of a fallen world and a broken order.
So then, what shall we do? First of all, we must recognize inconsistencies in our thinking. I do not toil in the ground ravaged with thistles and thorns in order to eat. I purchase food from a supermarket, someone else grows them with the assistance of fertilizer and other modern technologies. Of course, no one recognizes this as sinful or against God’s order.
More theologically, because we are all living in a post-Easter world, we must view the implications of Genesis 3 through the lens of Christ. One of the themes that Christians often emphasize is the freedom that we have in Christ, rather than slavery to sin. This freedom, of course, is not only freedom from something, but also freedom for something. In Christ, we are freed to follow in God’s desires, and we are free from the final grip of sin. In fact, Galatians could be seen as essentially one treatise on Christian freedom.
It is in this book that the famous passage of mutuality is found: “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:37-29, NRSV). While I do think that Paul was most directly making an argument that those who are grafted into Christ are equally a part of God’s covenant, I think that the implications of this go beyond that particular argument.
If Jesus was the perfect human, and if Christ’s work of redemption has already begun, than we must believe that the broken order is, ever so slowly, being put back together.
Even further, I think that, in many ways, our understanding of the work of Christ has implications for this discussion. Do we believe that Christ died to save our souls from hell so that we can go to heaven after we die? Or do we believe that Christ is redeeming the entire creation, freeing all of creation from the full power of sin, and recreating the creation to its original design? I view the work of Christ in the latter manner, and I think that this informs my egalitarian views.
I do not see any solid evidence (or real evidence whatsoever) to support the notion that men were designed to be in a superior position to women. From my perspective, this division was a result of sin . Although we are not fully freed from sin, we are shielded from the full consequence of that sin (as well as from the total bondage of sin). If we believe that Christ’s work is the undoing of the Fall, then it would be important that we, as the Body of Christ, try to live into this original design.
I cannot see how God’s original design included a patriarchal or hierarchical structure between males and females. I simply do not understand how we can argue that men and women have particular “God-given roles” (of which the males happen to be given more power, prestige, and authority) in which we must remain to be faithful.
I strongly believe with my heart (and think with my mind) that we are one in Christ, not only in covenantal unity, but also in mutuality and full equality between the sexes.