As I continue to listen, research, and learn more about human sexuality and the differences that characterize men and women, I have noticed, as many have, a particular theme that tends to marginalize many good men and women who fail to fit our “biblically” prescribed gender roles and characteristics.
What I often hear descriptive of women are these: counselors, helpers, nurturers, and followers (those that submit to leadership). What is descriptive of men is warrior, protector, provider, and priest (or spiritual leader). What we fail to realize is that many godly men and women in the bible have decided to completely disregard how we believe God made them to function. Funny thing is, God did not seem to mind. In fact, he loved to call on those who could best serve his purpose, despite whether or not they conformed to cultural standards of gender. He used, for example, Deborah, as a prophetess and warrior-woman, to protect, fight, and lead his people into battle, securing victory over their enemies. For some odd reason, in all our lectures about how biblical women should act, a bold and aggressive Deborah fearlessly using her authority to glorify God on the battlefield is neglected as an example of a “biblical” woman used by God. This, sadly, is reflective of the way in which the church views what is and is not appropriate for a woman to do, merely because such acts and qualities fall a million miles away from our so-called bible-based list of sex-stereotypes. After all, a biblical woman is a submissive subordinate, not an authoritative leader; a gentle nurturer, not a bold fighter.
However, this marginalization is not only done to women, but to men as well. Men who are the pastor’s husbands, the stay-at-home fathers, the laundry-doers and chefs of the home. The men who think it is a significant part of who they are as men to be nurturing fathers to their children and nurturing husbands to their wives. Men whose egos are not damaged simply because their wives bring home a bigger pay-check than they. Men who decide to treat women as their equals, instead of their subordinates, and allow decisions in a marriage to be made mutually, instead of using the “man” card to get their own way. Men who value the leadership, the boldness, and the abilities of their fellow-coworkers in Christ, male or female. Such men, whether or not they are the main provider of the family or make most of the financial decisions in a marriage, have chosen to love and serve in the ways in which God would have them, unmoved by legalistic ideals that men are not true men unless they extend authority over their female counterparts.
The marginalization of such godly men and women must stop, but it will only stop when our attitudes about what constitutes biblical manhood and womanhood change. When we stop regarding women as only nurturers, and see them as leaders and fighters as well. When we allow men to retain their manhood even when gender roles are reversed. When we see people as people—with different callings and gifts to be used for the kingdom—instead of seeing a role. Because if our goal is to merely uphold strict sex-roles, then we have missed out on why God made men and women different in the first place. Unless our purpose is to allow people to be used by God, determined by the gifting and callings which he decides to place on people despite our traditional gender-roles, then men and women will always be limited by their own ideas of what makes them a man and a woman, instead of how God sees them: as a man and woman redeemed, reconciled, and gifted with abilities and passions to be used to serve the kingdom of God.