“It’s no accident that the Bible teaches that men should be the leaders. They are more rational, while women are more emotional.” How many times have you read or heard something like this?
Trouble is, none of it is true. The Bible does not say that men should be leaders rather than women. And men are not more rational than women, nor are women more emotional than men. This is true of men and women in the Bible, and it is just as true today.
God created men and women to work together, each using whatever gifts they were given by God. God gave many men genuine gifts of leadership and the sound thinking and emotions needed to be good leaders. And the Lord gave many women genuine gifts of leadership and the sound thinking and emotions necessary to be good leaders. Most importantly, he called all of his followers (men and women) to be servants to each other. Jesus never told any of his disciples to exercise authority over others.
If we read the Bible without preconceived ideas about “roles” that men and women should play on this earth, we can begin to see its true teaching. Unfortunately, most of us have been brought up with predetermined concepts of what the Bible says that men and women should be like and in what ways they should serve the Lord. This is usually based on one or two verses in the New Testament (often taken out of context) and ignores other parts of the Old and New Testaments that teach and show both women and men as strong leaders, called of God to lead his people.
I recently read an article that stated, “The gymnastics required to get from ’I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man,’ in the Bible to ’I do allow a woman to teach and to exercise authority over a man‘ are devastating to the authority of the Scripture…” But, we have many places in the Bible where women do have authority over men, with God’s approval and direction. Has the author of the above statement not read about Deborah who was chosen by God (see Judg. 2:16 and chapters 4-5,) to lead the nation of Israel out of many years of bondage to full freedom? Deborah was not only the top official in Israel, but also became the leader of the army when Barak, who was supposed to be commander, was afraid to take the army into battle without Deborah! Together with Deborah, they defeated the enemy and sang a song of victory! Didn’t God know he was not supposed to use women in such roles?
Or have these “men only” leaders of our day not read about Huldah, the Old Testament prophet who was the person of great influence in the greatest revival of the Old Testament? Both the king of Israel (Josiah) and the high priest recognized her as a prophet of God and came to her for help and advice. Apparently neither Deborah nor Huldah were “too emotional” to be strong leaders who were used mightily by God in his work.
The same writer quoted above also used 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35 to indicate that women were not meant to be leaders in God’s work: “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” If this is to be taken literally, then women should not teach anyone in church—including other women and children. In fact, they should not even sing with the congregation because they are to keep silent! I’m sure even the writer does not take that verse literally! What church would he go to?
Actually, there is no verse in the Old Testament Law (the “Bible” of the early church) that says women are to keep silent in church. Neither does it ever say in the Old Testament that women are to obey their husbands — but it does say once that Abraham was to obey Sarah, his wife! (Gen. 21:12).
Proverbs 31 describes the “ideal wife” as one who has a business, takes care of the poor, sees that her family is well cared for, and is praised by her husband and children (v. 12–24). This does not sound like the women referred to in 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35.
The Apostle Paul, who wrote those verses in 1 Timothy 2:12 and Ephesians 5:22–24 that are so often quoted against women, also wrote 1 Corinthians 7, which is rarely quoted by the people who insist that only men should be leaders in the home and have authority. 1 Corinthians 7 is the only place where Paul wrote exclusively about marriage (not using it as an example of something else). In this chapter Paul gives exactly the same instructions and commands to husbands and wives.
The Bible is full of examples of men who were highly emotional. The biblical stories about Saul, the king of Israel, are one long tale of an emotionally disturbed man who finally took his own life. David had his emotional problems, too, as did King Josiah and many other kings of Israel.
The women who are mentioned in the Bible are largely those who were strong emotionally. Sarah, the wife of Abraham, as well as Hagar, the slave of Sarah and the second “wife” of Abraham, demonstrated great emotional strength in the midst of painful circumstances.
In the New Testament, we find many strong men (most of the apostles) and many strong women. At the crucifixion of Christ, the twelve disciples all fled for their lives, but many of the women followers stayed at the foot of the cross until Jesus died. The women were the ones who went to the tomb on Easter morning and met Jesus there. Jesus told them to take the greatest message of history (his resurrection) to the disciples who had gone into hiding. The women did as they were told, but the disciples did not believe them until they ran to the tomb to see for themselves.
In the early church, women and men both played key roles. Romans 16 mentions ten specific women who were apparently well known and/or leaders in the churches in Rome. Paul describes these women with the same roles or functions as men. The terms include deacon, protector, fellow worker, hard worker, and apostle (Junia). In fact, Junia is called “prominent among the apostles.”
The Genesis 1:27 account says that God created human beings in his own image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God gave the same command to both the man and the woman: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” The command to “rule” or “subdue”’ was given to the man and woman together. Verse 2:24 says “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
To be true to the Bible means that we consider all passages in their cultural, historical, and literary context. Anything less means that we are not using the rational abilities given to us. And our emotional capacities (of both men and women) must be directed to our love for God and our neighbors—as