Cultural Preferences or Biblical Absolutes?

by Mimi Haddad | November 11, 2009

How often do we hear Christians talk about "gender roles" as if they are biblical absolutes? Recently I was speaking to a group of college students who, like many people their age, are exploring their calling professionally and relationally. And they are working through their upbringing as it impacts their vision for the future. One student told me that all of his female friends wear pink and long to become housewives and mothers while his male friends wear blue and wish to work outside the home. He wanted to know my thoughts. I told him that wearing pink and becoming a housewife is wonderful for many women, but it is not a biblical absolute for all women. Scripture does teach of the many responsibilities of marriage and parenting, but the Bible does not suggest that all women are to become homemakers and mothers just because they are women!

We cannot allow our cultural experience of gender to overshadow the teachings of Scripture as it relates to gender. While we may be tempted to encourage young women to pursue home economics, in reality the Bible is filled with many examples of men doing women’s work. Consider the textile abilities of Paul, Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:3)—all three are tentmakers. Remember that Jesus cooked for the disciples (John 21:9), he washed their feet (John 13:8), and wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). Paul’s description of the spiritual gifts are never described as male or female, nor does Paul state or imply that the spiritual gifts are given along gender lines. (1 Cor. 12:7ff, Rom. 12:6-8 and Eph. 4:11) In fact, the spiritual gifts equip both men and women as evangelists, prophets, pastors, teachers, and apostles. Scripture also provides examples of women who served Christ as prophets (Ex. 15:20, Judg.4:4-5, Acts 21:8-9, Luke 2:36ff, 1 Cor. 11:3-5), evangelists and teachers ( John 4:39, John 20:17, Acts 16:13-17, 40, Acts 18:26, Rom. 16:12, Phil. 4:2-3), and as apostles (Junia, Rom. 16:7).

While we celebrate the gift of gender, like any gift from God, it cannot become the primary lens through which we view our personhood and our capacity for service. Though secular culture may sexualize nearly all of human existence, and while Christian culture may attempt to orchestrate life in terms of pink and blue, Scripture offers another message. Let’s be bold in attending to God through Scripture rather than allowing culture, even Christian culture, to direct our lives and the passion and gifts God has given us. As Paul encouraged Timothy to fan into flame his God-given gift (2 Tim. 1:6-7), let us help one another perceive how broad, high, and wide God may use each of us and the gifts we each possess. Let’s allow God's voice in Scripture to redeem our cultural expectations of women and men, allowing the gifts God has given the Church to have their fullest impact in this world!