The temptation is always there. When discussing gender equality, it’s easy to let righteous anger in the face of injustice eclipse the call to represent Christ well, even in painful disagreement. On the other hand, we can become so concerned with unity in the body of Christ that we are silent in the face of injustice. I spoke with a brother about this struggle. He turned me to the Lord’s Prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer enjoins us to cultivate a certain mindset and heart position, one that aligns us with the heart of God when we pray: “Hallowed be thy name.” I’ve found that the desire for God’s name to be hallowed is the most important factor in praying for and discussing biblical gender equality.
Practically speaking, if I go into a discussion wanting to be personally right, I will cause destruction and make it very difficult for my brothers and sisters in Christ to hear my perspective. But if the position of my heart is that God would be supremely and universally adored, loved, and honored, my spirit changes.
Now, it’s not about me. It’s about God. Instead of focusing on making my own case, I can demonstrate how patriarchy dishonors God. Subordination and inequality distort God’s character and his gospel.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with advocating for ourselves against injustice. But as Christians, our motivation for refusing to go along with doctrines of subordination should not stop at, “I won’t go along with this because it’s abuse.” Though this is true, the fundamental position of our hearts should be, “I won’t go along with abusive doctrines because they do not hallow the name of God. They bring reproach to his name and are repellant.”
As Charles Finney said, “It is no uncommon thing for ministers, through misapprehension, to misrepresent the gospel so as to grossly repel, rather than attract, the human mind” (Lecture LXIX 14[ii]).
Gender equality carries a lot more clout when we believe that it is a cornerstone of God’s kingdom.
Complementarians often state that their belief honors God. They easily accept that men and women are equally created in the image of God, but they also appeal to a “divine order” which accuses women of blaspheming God if they do not submit to their husbands. But I believe the root of this conviction is a misinterpretation of the gospel.
In order for Jesus to lay down his life for all classes and types of people, he must love us all equally. The curse of female subordination (Genesis 3:16) was broken when Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (Galatians 3:13). With light from the Holy Spirit, Christians must apprehend the liberty of Christ and ask themselves, “Which doctrine, egalitarian or complementarian, really hallows God?”
When we adopt this heart position, we allow God to put his heart in us. This allows us to feel compassion and understanding for those who have followed after complementarian teachings, and that compassion can help us share the egalitarian perspective in a firm but respectful way.
After all, we have all followed error at some point in our lives. But Christ loved us, suffered for us, and died for us before we changed our ways. In fact, his example of love and long suffering is what encourages us to repent.
When we have this heart, we can walk in the liberty of Jesus Christ. Instead of trying to prove something, we sincerely and supremely want God’s name to be correctly apprehended and honored. We can love others without expecting them to agree with us.
Equally important is that we don’t smile silently in the face of injustice. The line of righteousness is a very fine one to walk. When Jesus called out the Pharisees, he was protecting those whose voices were not valued or heard. At the same time, he had no pleasure in the self-hardening doom of the Pharisees.
Scripture reminds us that our true enemy is not flesh and blood. When confronting other Christians, we need to remember that the heart of God is for all people to repent. He does not delight in condemning anyone.
Finally, let’s remember: we are praying to “Our Father.” Not my Father, or your Father, but our Father. This offers great hope when we encounter Christians who deny biblical gender equality. We can recognize that it’s not up to us to change their minds. God is their Father, too. He knows how to get their attention. I can make an intellectually convincing argument about equality, but only the Holy Spirit can reveal it as truth to their hearts.
Christ frees us to calmly present our views, maintain our position, and pray for the Lord to liberate others. God’s ears are open to the prayers of the righteous. When words alone cannot persuade, let’s ask God to do the work that is beyond human power.