Sometimes ideas run deep down inside us and we cannot even pinpoint where they came from. For most of my life, I thought I was biblically accurate in believing that men and women were made completely different and were meant by God to have different roles. This was especially true within relationships and families. The man was made to be the head of the household and always lead the woman. Cleaning, cooking, and raising children were primarily the woman’s job. It was what the Bible taught. And it made sense to me because I believed that men were designed and equipped to make decisions and manage others, while women were better at household chores and nurturing children. Thankfully, my ideas were challenged.
During my junior year of college, I took a gender studies course that caused me to stop and think deeply about what I believed, why I believed it, and where those strange ideas came from. It gave me a passion to study and understand how God created us as men and women. I came away from the class transformed, with a new found freedom in Christ.
In class, we examined the evidence both for and against gender equality within God’s Word. I had always thought that, because of verses like 1 Corinthians 11:3 and Ephesians 5:23 where Paul says that husbands are the “head” of their wives, men were supposed to be the leaders. But my view was challenged when our class studied the creation of Adam and Eve. Initially, before the fall, the relationship between man and woman was a partnership in which each person worked together. God called them both to be fruitful and multiply, and he charged them both with ruling over the earth and every living thing (Gen. 1:28). God created both women and men in his image (Gen. 1:27). And, the lordship of men over women began after the fall when God told Eve that her desire would be for her husband and he would rule over her (Gen. 3:16). It had been right there in the text all along, but I had never seen it. My eyes were opening, and I began asking more questions.
I knew that Jesus died and rose again to deliver us from sin, from what separates us from God, and from the curse that we brought upon ourselves (Gal. 3:13). If Jesus died to free us from the curse, then is it possible that the lordship of men over women should be overcome through the power of the blood of Jesus instead of promoted as a kingdom reality? Doesn’t a partnership between both genders seem like a more accurate picture of living in the freedom that God desires for us? These questions encouraged more questions, and I found my views on men and women completely transformed.
It hasn’t simply been a transformation in my head, either—it has big implications for how I think about my future. For the longest time I dreaded marriage. Don’t get me wrong—I wanted to be in love, but I just didn’t want to be in a relationship in which I felt that I had no say. I struggled for much of my life to find my voice, and now that I felt I had found it, why would I want to give it away? This kind of thinking plagued me—I wanted to be married, but I also wanted to have a voice. I believed that marriage meant that I must follow some guy around and do whatever he thought was best. I found myself thinking, “If I ever find a guy I actually want to follow, then I will finally get married.” I laugh now thinking about this, because through studying God’s Word, reading articles, and discussing these issues in class, I can finally see how God created both women and men to be leaders and to have a say in marriage. God didn’t make me to follow a guy around—he made me to be strong and confident, and to glorify Jesus! If and when I get married, I will work together with my husband as an equal, so that our marriage will glorify Christ and express a unity that is supernatural.
My paradigm has most certainly shifted in my ideas of a healthy and biblical marriage, but it has also shifted in how I understand the role of motherhood. I used to believe that if I wanted to be married and have a family, then I would have to forfeit a career because a woman’s job was solely to raise the children. God had ordained it. But I now see that God calls women to do great things besides birthing and raising children. Consider Ruth and Naomi, Esther (my favorite!), the prophet Anna who spent her life worshipping God, and Mary Magdalene. Consider too the woman at the well. Jesus showed her that her identity should no longer be wrapped up in a man, but that she should spread the good news of Christ. Having a family and being a mother is valuable, but I now understand that, just like these biblical women, my identity rests solely in Christ. I also see how both the husband and the wife must work together to raise a family. Both men and women have different strengths and weaknesses, not because of our gender, but because we are all uniquely and wonderfully created. And families benefit when both mothers and fathers use their gifts and invest in childrearing.
In class, we learned about a term called “modern sexism.” Modern sexism is a view that denies the reality of gender inequality and sees no need for men and women to stand against it. Modern sexism says that people working for women’s rights make a big deal out of nothing. Examples include denying that women are treated differently in the workplace or in marriage, or idealizing men and doing everything for them because of a belief that they are stronger and more capable. I see this type of sexism all around me. As I think back on how my views have shifted, I see how I thought like this, too. Calling this out as sexism has changed the way I understand myself and the people around me. It has fueled me to learn more about gender equality and speak out more against sexist comments and biased views. Not only do I seek to learn more, I want to challenge others to do the same. God has transformed me from the inside out, and I feel so blessed to now understand his heart for women and men. This is one of the many things I love about God: he always surprises me. He has a way of opening my eyes to worlds I have never known and empowering me to a freedom I have never experienced.